African adventure – Cape Town, South Africa – part 2

Friday morning and we were delighted to finally see the mountain without any cloud or wind – so quickly checked – and the cable car was open. Hurrah!

So we quickly booked some fast track cable car tickets on line and then booked an Uber to take us up there. There was a cruise ship in town so there were lots and lots of people around….luckily we had the fast track tickets as the queue was over three hours long at this point! Was fantastic and the scenery was just beautiful. Will let the pictures do the talking……

Coming down in the cable car we realised that the traffic was at a standstill and that we may have a long wait for an Uber – so decided instead to get on the hop-on hop-off tourist double decker bus and see where it took us. We purchased 48 hour tickets and set off. There are a number of routes and we knew that the blue scenic route was going to be closed on the Saturday because of a marathon so decided to do that first. By now we were running low on cash and the weather was heating up so returned to the hotel via the ATM.

We got back, changed into shorts, and then headed back out on the bus to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. We enjoyed walking around and doing the canopy walk and spent some time just enjoying the scenery and views. We were there for a few hours – particularly enjoying the abundant bird life – so decided to call it a day and returned to the Waterfront where we enjoyed happy hour in Time Out.

We then returned to our hotel room, having navigated more African groups of dancers and singers entertaining the tourists, sorted out some laundry and then went out for dinner. We find the Grand Cafe and it was absolutely superb. Fantastic food and ambience. Great fun. Finally it was time for bed.

Saturday we headed back out after breakfast – this time we were going to try out the red route. We got off in the middle of Cape Town and joined up with a walking tour guide. This was 90 minutes long and we certainly wouldn’t have done this on our own without a guide. These guides work purely for tips so a great service. Was fascinating to learn more about the history of Cape Town and enjoy some very familiar architecture along with some even more familiar faces.

Back on the bus we decided to take some time out and got off at Camps Bay beach. Here we were met by dancing groups of kids and lots and lots of vendors who wanted to sell us something. Richard wanted a wooden monkey so we got that with our last few Rand we had left in our pockets that day. It wasn’t peaceful on the beach as we were constantly being pestered – in a good way not aggressively – but enough was enough so we headed across the road and found a nice restaurant for lunch which was lovely, just enjoying the sights and sounds of this beautiful area.

We then returned towards the waterfront and walked towards Grand Africa which is billed as a beach bar – well it was kind of, but the seating was grubby, the drinks were expensive and the service was definitely lacking – and that was after walking through a sketchy area to get there. This place was listed as one of the top places for sundowners – it was mega busy – but we didn’t feel it so decided not to wait for the sunset and left. We obviously walked a different route back! We decided to return to Time Out which is really a food hall with lots of different offerings and a few bars – very popular place. We had a snack and a bottle of wine and chatted to a couple from NYC who were in Cape Town for a few months filming a TV series along with their cute kid Rusty. We then went back to the hotel and had another glass in the lounge but this was absolutely empty and quiet so decided to take the glasses back to our room and finish off the night there. By the time we got back the laundry had been delivered – what a great service! So the final glass was in front of the TV and so to bed.

Sunday we had a leisurely start and checked out what we wanted to see for the day. Decided that we needed to recharge our batteries and the sun had come out so went to the pool (which was located in a sister hotel across the road) for the day. We relaxed, enjoyed a fab lunch and great wine, before returning to our room to get cleaned up for a night out – and yes we were the only people there so had a very personal service from the fantastic waiter. We headed back to the Grand Cafe as it had been so good but sadly it didn’t live up to our expectations this time. Oh well, never mind. We returned to the hotel for pontoonies and called it a day.

Monday morning we packed our bags in preparation for our departure the following day and headed back to the pool. And relax……smashing. Another great lunch too…. Later on we returned to our room to get ready for our last evening in Cape Town which was on a champagne sunset sailing cruise – sadly the monohull schooner we were booked on was not operating so we were moved onto a catamaran. Bit of a shame that. But the guys were great and promised they would get the sails out – and they did – and they served us lots of sparkling wine with nibbles and they even allowed me to helm, although I wouldn’t recommend this with a glass in one hand LOL. We enjoyed a fantastic sunset on the water and was sad to get back to dry land again. We decided we weren’t hungry so had a few drinks on the waterfront before returning to our hotel for a pontoonie and to bed.

So that wraps up the Cape Town part of our African adventure. I will be blogging the rest of the trip later as I’m having a total hip replacement tomorrow so will be out of action for a little while. So in the meantime bye for now.

Jan

African adventure – Cape Town, South Africa – part 1

Monday 8 April finally arrived and we excitedly left home mid afternoon to make our way around the M25 towards Heathrow Terminal 5. As it was a train and tube strike day we expected very heavy traffic but actually it wasn’t too bad. We were pretty early so the check in and security were easy and fast – best ever experience with British Airways. We then found somewhere to have a snack and a couple of drinks before heading to the gate at 9pm – which was a very long walk – and that’s when the experience completely deteriorated – it was absolute chaos! Eventually we got boarded and of course we were next to some screaming kids…. Just what you need for an eleven and half hour flight, not! We were seated in the exit row to get more leg room but that wasn’t quite such a good idea because, of course, this is against a bulkhead which is where the bassinets reside… Never mind, lesson learnt!

The flight itself wasn’t too bad after the kids finally quietened down. We both dozed on and off and had the most terrible dinner ever but at least the wine was good. Soon it was time for a reasonable breakfast before we arrived into Cape Town on Tuesday morning. We got off the plane and joined the queue for immigration. This was worse than Miami – a complete horror – with a couple of bored and uninterested officials chatting away to themselves. Don’t think we even got a welcome to South Africa. Finally, an hour later, we were cleared in and went to the baggage carousel – which was on a go slow allowing about six bags through at a time. Another hour later and we were reunited with our bags….phew! We were very grateful that we had tracker tags in our bags at this point so we knew that they had arrived with us, not sure how calm we would have been otherwise LOL.

We then picked up a local SIM, met Francois our driver, and were driven to the Victoria and Alfred hotel on the waterfront. There had been a horrendous storm over the previous weekend and the front was still moving through so we arrived in drizzly rain. Check in was very fast and we quickly unpacked and rested up before heading out to the waterfront – checked out the dancers and bands entertaining the tourists – before deciding to have dinner in the pub. Absolutely fantastic fillet steak and beautiful wine, amazingly cheap price too, so we returned to the hotel where we had a final drink before heading to bed.

Wednesday we were supposed to be going out with Francois for the day but the weather was still rough and the Chapmans Peak Road was closed because of some landslips – so deferred this to the following day. All sorted we headed down to breakfast – the cold buffet was good and the hot offerings were average so we needed to consider our choices going forward.

After breakfast we walked (in the chilly drizzle) to the Aquarium which was huge and had some interesting scientific displays. So enjoyed that although it wouldn’t have been high on the list of things to do. At this point we still had not seen Table Mountain as it was cloaked in a tablecloth of clouds. But excited to be here all the same….

Afterwards we headed to the Victoria Mall and into Woolworths (think M&S) for some supplies for our room. Back to the hotel we stashed our goodies and got changed as the weather had got warmer and drier – yay. We then booked an Uber to Bo Kaap – checked out the museum and wandered around admiring the brightly coloured houses. We then continued with the aid of Google Maps to find Charles Cafe which had been recommended by our Hayes and Jarvis concierge Meghan (who was amazing throughout the whole trip). We had to walk past an encampment of homeless people so I felt a bit vulnerable but only carrying a bit of cash and no jewellery Richard was absolutely confident that we would be fine and we were, thankfully, but I didn’t enjoy the experience! We found the Cafe and settled down to have a Cape Malay curry lunch – OMG absolutely fantastic. Not hot in spice terms but absolutely laden with superb flavour. Was great.

We then headed back to the hotel in another Uber for a relax before returning to the waterfront for a few drinks. We started off in the Irish pub – because it had live music – but it was skanky, absolutely horrible and filthy dirty, so we moved on. We then went back to the pub from the night before – again because they had live music – but the service was rubbish and the band not good so we called it a day (without even having a drink after a 30 minute wait) so we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a drink and then to bed. Had been an interesting first full day in Cape Town.

Thursday we headed out to meet Francois after an improved breakfast experience and we drove down towards the Cape of Good Hope and admired all the millionaire residences along the way before finally reaching the Chapmans Peak Drive. This is listed as one of the most scenic drives in the world and we thoroughly enjoyed it with Francois knowing exactly where to stop so we could take photos and make the most of the experience.

We arrived at the Cape of Good Hope and as we entered the nature reserve we saw ostriches, some deer, wild tortoise and baboons along the way – wasn’t expecting that LOL.

We headed to the lighthouse and got the tram almost to the top – at this point I sat down and left Richard to do the walk alone. The steps were very steep and deep and my legs just didn’t want to play. So I rested up while he embraced the moment although he found it tough going too…. On his return to my level, we wandered around through all the lookouts and enjoyed the spectacular views. And yes there are two lighthouses here…the first one could not be seen from far enough away at sea and resulted in many shipwrecks on this treacherous coast, so another one was built.

Leaving the Cape behind we headed to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. We paid our access fee and walked to the beach but the tide was in and there were no penguins close by although some were swimming around. So walked the boardwalk around the headland and then we found them nestling in the sand – fantastic!

After that we carried on back towards Cape Town stopping off first at Hout Bay and checking out the hotel we had booked for the last part of our trip. Then it was to a fish village and caught up with a seal having a laze as the fishermen had finished for the day. Back to the hotel and relax….had been a long day. Oh yes and we came across this little fellow taking in the sun.

Later on after cleaning ourselves up we got another Uber to Gold for an immersive African dining experience. 14 course taster menu and we loved most of it – Richard’s favourite was the ostrich and mine was the pie. Sadly the seats weren’t the best as we were up on a balcony and although the dancers and singers came up to entertain us think the experience would have been better on the lower level. But never mind was great fun! Didn’t think we’d have to paint our faces though LOL.

So that brings to an end the first part of our stay in Cape Town. More to follow shortly.

Bye for now, Jan

Adventure to the Far East – Part 4 Singapore

Thursday 23 November was our last day at sea on the way to Singapore where we would disembark the ship and enjoy a few days in the city before returning home. We had a leisurely breakfast in our suite supplied by the butler then completed the laundry / packing and lounged around by the pool. We had a late lunch at the Grill then enjoyed the sights as we pulled into Singapore right next to Sentosa Island and under the cable car. There was a lot of ships and again, another very tight manoeuvre into the slip, but it was all done perfectly. Great job!

In the afternoon we had a snooze before getting ready to go ashore for our final excursion. We had to clear immigration first so went quite early to meet our group. We were then taken into the City and did a short river cruise – was lovely to see it all lit up.

After the river cruise we headed back on the coach to the Gardens by the Bay where we were wowed by the music and light show amidst their Supertrees – was absolutely fantastic! Leaving the magical trees behind we headed to the Fullerton Hotel for a Singapore Sling and then taken back to the ship. All the while we were in the coach we were treated to a cultural chat so that was very interesting too to find out how this island nation works.

Back on the ship we found that Christmas had arrived – the staff had obviously been very busy in our absence. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving Buffet dinner in the main restaurant before retiring to the bar to catch up with friends as we would be saying sad farewells to them in the morning.

Back in the cabin with finalised our packing and put our cases out to be collected with the supplied labels – all in different colours – had a final drink on our balcony and retired for the night.

Friday morning we were up very early and headed to the main restaurant for breakfast. All the time we were waiting to be called to disembark – our tags were light blue – and then around 9.00 am it was our turn. We headed off the ship saying goodbye to the staff who had looked after us so well during our time onboard, collected our bags, cleared customs and immigration and got picked up in a very nice Mercedes. We arrived at the hotel and were completely blown away by it – the Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay. OMG it was just stunning. For those of you that don’t know Singapore is known as the Garden City and, when this hotel had been renovated, they had decided to bring the outside in. It had to be seen to be believed!

We checked in – got an upgrade, an early check in and a late check-out, and went to our room to explore. Very nice it was too with spectacular views over the water.

We then decided to go and explore – not wanting to waste a moment of our time – so walked to the National Museum enjoying being in the sun, although the humidity made the stroll more of a trek LOL. We were lucky that there was going to be an English-speaking tour of the Museum within 10 minutes of our arrival so we waited for that and enjoyed being shown around. This took almost an hour and was very informative.

After the tour we walked to the tube station and picked up our travel cards which you can easily top up in machines at every station. Got a map and worked out how to return to the hotel which happened to be linked to the Marina Mall. In the mall we were tempted by the street food on offer so had a late lunch, and delicious it was too.

Quite tired now we headed back to our room and had a snooze before luxuriating in the fabulous shower and then got ready to go out again. This time we headed over to the Bay Sands area and wandered the crazy mall first – lots of Christmas trees and high-end shops – clearly where the Crazy Rich Asians go to shop LOL. Anyway we wandered down to see Spectra, the light and water show, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Amazing! After the light show we headed off on the tube again to China town and had some dinner before returning to the hotel for a last glass of wine before retiring for the night.

Saturday morning we walked to the Singapore Flyer and purchased tickets. We were then shown into our own pod – totally unexpected – and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the area. And of course we had to get a silly souvenir photo.

Afterwards we walked along the waterfront to Raffles and queued to get into the Long Bar. This had been renovated and wasn’t quite as authentic as before especially with the music being played – who goes to a 1900s colonial bar to listen to Guns and Roses?!? Anyway we enjoyed our Singapore slings and the peanuts were great. There is something very decadent about just dropping all the casings on the table / floor LOL.

After Raffles we walked to Clarke’s Quay and, of course, it started raining, hard! So we popped into an Indian restaurant and sat on the waterfront enjoying a very early supper of curry and Tiger Beers. Very nice it was too. After our time in the Quay, and in a break from the rain, we headed to the nearest tube station and headed back to the mall. We picked up a couple of bottles of wine and returned to our hotel and room where we watched the light show again over the Bay before settling down to a quiet night in with movies and wine.

Sunday morning after a nice hotel breakfast, we got a tube to Chinatown to explore more thoroughly, before then heading onwards to Little India. We enjoyed the sights and sounds very much but again got a bit defeated by the humidity. We then returned to the hotel by tube and spent a few hours by the pool and enjoyed just relaxing inbetween rain showers.

In the evening we headed out again and went to the Marina Bay Sands area – last time we were in Singapore we found a fabulous champagne bar on the top with great views. But, of course, the weather didn’t want to play ball so we just ended up in a top level bar and Richard braved the elements for the required photo!

Afterwards we headed to Satay Street for dinner – but, this time, satay didn’t appeal in the rain so we ate in the attached food hall and had an Indian Thali dinner. Looked great but sadly wasn’t that good…..oh well, never mind.

After dinner we returned to the hotel, had a drink in the lovely bar, and then returned to relax in our room once again before bed.

Monday morning was our last day so we spent the time by the pool relaxing and then returned to the room to finish packing up. We checked out at 3pm then relaxed in the hotel before being picked up to go to the airport for our late evening flight home to London. We had thought we’d return to the Mall for more street food but were completely blown away by the robot deliveries of food so decided to stay put and had our lunch delivered. Such fun!

Later on we headed down to collect our bags from the concierge and waited for our car – the time came and went and no-one was seen. Hmmmm….not what you need….so I decided to go outside and check on a couple of vehicles that were parked up. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, one of them was our transport. Don’t know whey he didn’t let us know he was there but never mind we arrived at the airport in good time. Checking in was a breeze as we had done it on line in advance, bags were deposited, and we took ourselves off to sit and relax in Changi Airport before boarding the plane.

The Singapore Airlines plane turned up promptly, we got a notification that our bags were loaded on (how good is that!), and we boarded. We had lovely seats and great service. What a way to end the most fantastic adventure. Hope you have enoyed travelling along with us.

Our next adventure is to South Africa and Zimbabwe so will blog again after that. So all there is left to say is Happy New Year to you all. Hope it is full of good health, happiness and love. Take care.

Bye for now, Jan

Adventure to the Far East – Part 3 Da Nang, Ha Long Bay and Nha Trang, Vietnam

Thursday 16 November was another day at sea. Sadly the predicted storm had materialised and it just rained and rained and rained….. In between biblical showers we did find some time to have bubbles in the jacuzzi but that was about it for the day in between chatting to cruisers that we had become friendly with. We had lunch in the buffet restaurant and later on headed for dinner in the Grill. We managed to get a table undercover but it wasn’t great – the food was good – but there was a chilly wind blowing. So we headed down to the fifth floor bar and enjoyed catching up with Robert and Nanette (Canada) and Craig and Leanne (Australia) along with others from time to time. The pianist / singer in the bar was great and we enjoyed listening to her quite extensive repertoire.

We then decided to call it a day – the weather had certainly put paid to lots of fun this evening – so headed back to our cabin where we did a storm watch. We had 50 knots of breeze and the waves were crashing over our balcony and up to the sixth floor above so we got soaked but thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a pretty bumpy night overall to be fair. And yes everyone thought we were mad when we said we had a great time LOL.

Friday we pulled into Da Nang and yes it was still raining….sigh…. We had an excursion to Marble Beach but cancelled as there was no point sitting under an umbrella on the beach getting cold LOL. We had a leisurely breakfast and morning and, finally, the rain stopped around 11 am. So we hopped on a shuttle bus into town and went for a wander – we enjoyed seeing the statues / the Dragon bridge and the local markets. But we were pretty worn out in the very high temperatures and humidity so stopped at a local pavement cafe for lunch. We were the only ‘almond eyes’ in there and luckily they had a menu with pictures so we could pick something out. We had two dishes to share and you could see the gazes of the locals on us. Clearly this was not a place that saw tourists very often but they were very friendly and we were given lots of nods and smiles as we ate. Was really good food. The bill was a ridiculously cheap £5 so we tipped the guy and OMG you would have thought they had won the lottery. He showed all the staff and they all smiled and bowed to us as we left. Was a humbling experience and we were certainly glad to get off the beaten track.

Back on the bus we headed back to the boat for a rest. We went to the 5th floor bar before dinner and headed to the Show Lounge to watch the Vietnamese show put on by local artists. This was fun and then, with Robert, Nanette, Craig and Leanne, we all headed to dinner in the main restaurant. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed socialising with them all. We then headed back to the bar for more after-dinner drinks before heading to bed. So what had started out as a bit of a damp squib turned into a good day.

Saturday was another day at sea. The day started cloudy so we headed to breakfast having first put some clothes in the washing machines. We then put it in the driers and headed back to our room to hang it all up. By now the sun had eventually come out so we spent the rest of the day by the pool. Sadly I had stomach problems at this point so guess that meal the day before hadn’t been so good after all…..

This was not advertised as a formal night on the ship but, as we were booked into La Dame (the up-market French restaurant on board that had an upcharge) we decided to go for it. On arrival in the bar we met up with Robert and Nanette – don’t we all scrub up lovely! We then rendezvoused with Larry and Elaine (from Kent) who we had met previously in Singapore and Bangkok whom we had arranged to have dinner with.

Anyway to La Dame – we had very high expectations of this restaurant, particularly as the service on the ship was so good, and this was supposed to be the best of the best. Well we were sat down by the French Maitre’D and immediately given the menus and served champagne and water whilst we perused them. The first thing we all noticed was the upgraded linen, glassware and cutlery to the rest of the ship so all good so far. When we disclosed we were happy with the ship’s normal wine list and did not wish to upgrade by hundreds of dollars a bottle the service suddenly changed. Hmm……wonder if he gets commission on how many bottles he sells? Anyway we chose our meal from the fancy menu and settled down to enjoy it. It was lots of theatre with cloche-covered food being delivered and then all the cloches being removed at once by four waiters. So great in that respect.

But the Maitre’D spent all his time schmoozing the others guest who had clearly purchased very expensive wine while we waited to be served with more….. Oh well, never mind. Overall we had a good time – the food itself was excellent – and we had great company but this lack of attentive service was a real disappointment. Oh yes, the dress code was strictly adhered to everywhere on the ship – the main restaurant even had a supply of jackets for men that turned up without wearing one – but not here. It seems that the more money you have and the higher status of your suite entitles you to do just what you like….. Rant over!

Sunday we knew that we would be pulling into Halong Bay and this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip. So we got up very early and watched as the ship made its way through the fantastic scenery as the sun came up…. Words cannot describe how beautiful this was.

Having tied up alongside a behemoth cruise ship we got ourselves ready to depart the ship. We walked the dock and got onto our allocated Junk Boat – along with Craig and Leanne who were also booked on this excursion. We motored around this stunning area until we arrived at Sung Sot Cave along with hundreds of other tourists.

The entry to the cave is one way only and up a very steep row of steps – so Craig sat this one out on the boat – whilst we got up and started the trek. It was very tough but actually the tourists slowed down the procession so I didn’t feel too rushed to keep up as I picked my way carefully. Felt a bit like climbing Everest – check out the queue LOL.

The cave did not disappoint – absolutely beautiful – and the views from the exit point were amazing. We then got back on the boat and headed back to the ship through the stunning scenery. So I’ll let the photos do the talking….

Back on board we spent the afternoon by the pool and then decided to sit on our balcony for the sailaway. At this point others that had been on different excursions returned and took some photos of us so we have this moment captured for prosperity LOL.

Most people were back on board by now although there were a few that cut it very fine in terms of timing with some anxious crew pacing the dock. Finally the ship’s gangway was pulled up and we were ready. At this point a gaggle of influencers turned up and started their poses, videos etc. Clearly trying to make out they were getting on the ship and departing. Was hysterical to watch – check out the weird outfits too.

Finally we set sail so got cleaned up and headed to the main restaurant for dinner and, sadly to say, this was the worst meal of the trip. Or rather I chose badly. We absolutely loved the soup so had that for starters then I chose a Vietnamese dish off the ‘local’ menu. OMG it was so strongly flavoured with ginger it nearly made me cry….got Richard to taste it too just in case it was me and he said he couldn’t eat it either. When I put my spoon and fork down the waiter rushed over to check and I said, sorry, not to my taste. At this point he wanted to feed me so bad but I resisted everything on offer (it took a couple of glasses of water to even get rid of the taste) but eventually gave in to some hand-made chocolates at the end of the meal LOL

Monday was another day at sea where we backtracked down the coast of Vietnam towards Nha Trang. We had a leisurely breakfast in the main restaurant and then spent the day by the pool – but it was very windy and chilly although, thankfully, it had stopped raining. But we perserved and, when we got too cold, we just went and sat in the jacuzzi for a while to warm up LOL. We had a Chinese buffet lunch and then gave up on our sunbeds – by which time we had bumped into Robert and Nanette again (not difficult on a ship with capacity for only 392 guests) – so spent a very jolly time in / out of the jacuzzi and in the pool bar keeping hydrated. After resting up in our cabin we had a few drinks in the bar before taking ourselves off to the main restaurant for dinner again. This time I played safe and had a beautiful steak whilst Richard enjoyed the lobster. Again the food was fantastic.

Tuesday morning we awoke to the sounds of the anchor chain being deployed as we had arrived into Nha Trang. As we had to go ashore by tender – the first and only time on this cruise – and needed to be ashore by 8am we decided to have breakfast in our room. So ordered it for 6am and, on the dot, our butler was there with our order. Such a great service, certainly takes the pressure off when you need to be somewhere.

The excursions were very organised – as we were going off via tender – we had to meet up in the show lounge so we could all be taken together and filled up a whole tender with the same tour group. Worked really well. Ashore we met our tour guide, got on the coach and were taken to a local place to pick up our Pedi-Cabs. These are individual (motorised) cycles ridden by locals who took us through the sights and sounds of Nha Trang. OMG it was so funny watching the locals react to us as well as trying to keep an eye on Richard who was ahead of me – most of the time – as his driver was speedier than mine. Although, at the end, he was puffed out and my driver had to push him along instead LOL. Was a real fun excursion.

After getting off our respective pedi-cabs we visited a local market and had a soft drink whilst waiting for everyone else who was clearly spending the last of their Vietnamese currency on anything they could get their hands on LOL. Back to the boat we got the tender that was organised and waiting for us. Back on board we had lunch and sat outside on the deck at La Terrazza for the sailaway (and yes it was raining again). As we pulled away we said our sad farewells to Vietnam. Had been an amazing experience and we definitely would like to return to explore another day.

After lunch we were going to sunbathe and enjoy the pool area but, guess what, it rained hard again. So we decamped to the pool bar and chatted to others while we tried to stay dry. The weather certainly hadn’t been our friend on this trip…..

That evening we went to our final dinner at The Grill and, this time, we used the Hot Rocks to cook our food. Richard’s steak wasn’t too good – think he chose the wrong cut – but mine was fabulous especially twinned with a jacket potato and some salad. Sometimes you just want simple fare!

We decided to have an early night and headed back to our balcony for another night watch before turning in as the ship moved towards our final destination, Singapore.

Wednesday was a sea day – another lumpy one with big seas. We had a leisurely morning doing a bit of packing and planned an afternoon by the pool but, unfortunately, it rained again. Oh well, never mind, time for more laundry LOL. This was our final night at sea and was another formal night – so we headed to the bar and then to dinner with Mo and Jo at La Terrazza. This was lovely and we then headed back to the Observation Lounge for an evening of frivolity. Mo and Jo were determined that we were going to keep the bar open late so we joined in with the karoake and continued partying and dancing to the DJ’s tunes. Was a lot of fun!

And that’s the end of Part 3 of our Far East Adventure. Come back soon for the next instalment.

Jan

Adventure to the Far East – Part 2 Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

On Friday 10 November we had boarded our ship, the Silver Whisper, and after a very nice buffet lunch we explored the ship for a little while particularly liking the statues and the orchids which were in abundance everywhere. We were then called to Muster Stations, a legal requirement for all passengers to attend. This was well organised and, luckily for us, the station was on our deck so we didn’t have too far to go.

After a few drinks in the observation lounge – watching the biblical rain hammer down on the commercial ships around us – we retired to our cabin for a few hours before getting ready for dinner (and we may have tested the complimentary champagne while we were at it LOL). Our butler had asked us what we would like supplied in our cabin and this had miraculously appeared by the time we got back. A very good first impression of the service.

For dinner we had our first restaurant reservation at La Terrazza, a small Italian restaurant. The menu was extensive (although fixed throughout the voyage) and I enjoyed the pasta with Richard opting for the beef dish as both of us had already eaten our body weight in Thai food so far on this trip. The wine flowed, although not by the bottle on this ship (which is ultra all-inclusive), but the servers were so attentive that wasn’t a problem as we were constantly topped up – they only stopped pouring when we told them to LOL.

After dinner we headed off to the Show Lounge where local Thai musicians and dancers had come onboard to entertain. We enjoyed the show before we headed off back to the Observation Lounge where we watched the ship manoeuvre out of the very tight dock without the use of tugs (although they were in attendance). Was pretty impressive! After that we headed back to our cabin and enjoyed watching the departure from Thailand from our cabin’s balcony in our robes sipping on more wine. This seemed to be a feature most nights LOL.

Saturday was a sea day so we had a leisurely start and wandered down to the main restaurant around 9 am. We were surprised that there were very few people around – it seems that most guests had butler service breakfast in their suites. We enjoyed being served a la carte from the very extensive menu, rather than visiting the buffet, and this became our preferred breakfast option.

Afterwards we took ourselves off to the pool. We found a couple of beds and proceeded to enjoy the jacuzzi and lazing around most of the morning along with a few glasses of bubbles. We had a salad lunch poolside from the buffet and then continued to relax including a dip. We met quite a few other Commonwealth cruisers – from the UK, Canada and Australia – and it was quite the mix with some Germans, Italians and Americans making up the rest. Sadly the weather had other ideas for us and showers forced us back to our cabin for a snooze in the afternoon.

Later on we headed out to dinner at The Grill – another restaurant reservation – an outside restaurant on the pool deck. We enjoyed our dinner here and were surprised that, already, the waiter had worked out our wine preference and a bottle was on hand nearby to keep us topped up continuously. Very dangerous LOL. This is a casual dress restaurant but it was formal night everywhere else on the ship so we dressed up accordingly. In fact, the ‘casual’ dress still required men to wear a shirt and jacket but no tie – and most women were pretty ‘dressy’ most nights. No jeans after 6pm on board either. All very grown up!

After dinner we headed to the Show Lounge and watched an Australian comedian. He was really funny and we enjoyed his humour. After the show we headed to the lounge and listened to the DJ and joined in with the dancing. Was a fun night – eventually we retired to our cabin for more pontoonies on the balcony before turning in.

Sunday was a bit miserable so I took the opportunity to do some laundry (there is one on every other floor and are all complimentary). Back to the cabin we hung everything up and headed to the Italian restaurant which was the venue for the main buffet lunch and enjoyed the variety of dishes on offer.

In the afternoon we hung out by the pool and chatted to other cruisers enjoying the warmth if not the sun. Later on we got ourselves cleaned up and headed to the main restaurant for dinner. The menu was huge and you can have as much as you want in any order – literally! Two pages of staple items stayed the same throughout the voyage but the rest changed every three days – so no worries about getting bored. Oh yes and caviar was available at any time on demand…..

After dinner, and a few more drinks in the bar, we headed back to our cabin as the weather was picking up. We had 35 knots and big seas – so we had a bit of a stormy night shift on the balcony – was fantastic!

Monday morning we pulled into Ho Chi Minh City having traversed the river and pulled up around 6am. During the night I went to the loo to find our bathroom flooded – oh dear – so as we were going out very early for our first shore excursion we reported the problem. We just dumped all the towels on the floor to soak up the water in the meantime to avoid it spilling over onto the carpet.

For the first time we had breakfast in the buffet but the egg service was very slow and it was pretty busy as a lot of people were getting ready to go on their first shore excursion. We had to wait for eggs and tea – this ship doesn’t have tea / coffee stations so you have to wait for the servers to bring you pots etc. You don’t even make your own toast! Not quite the buffet experience we are used to LOL. Anyway, breakfast over, we headed down to reception to collect our Vietnamese landing cards and copies of our passports – they hold the originals for the duration of the cruise – to enable us to go ashore for our first excursion. This ship really is all-inclusive and that includes the excursions…not something we are used to…but it was nice to have it all organised for us.

Being a small ship I had visions of small numbers on this first tour but we were on a coach with about 24 other people – including Mo and Jo, two Canadian girlfriends who had come on this cruise whilst their husbands had gone hunting. Craig and Leanne (Australians we had met the previous day) were on this trip too. So all very social and jolly. This trip was the Saigon Street Food Experience and the first stop was the food market. This was interesting with a real diversity in the goods on offer – check out some of the fish offerings! Apparently there is no tax if you buy in the market but there is in the shops so people prefer the market for meat, fish and vegetables. But for everything else they buy it all online LOL.

We then headed to the Street Food market and enjoyed tasting some of the items there before being taken to a very nice restaurant for lunch. OMG they just didn’t stop feeding us. It was all delicious but way way too much… And all this food / drinks were free of charge and included in the excursion which was pretty impressive.

After lunch we boarded our coach back to the ship and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool as the sun had come out. Many of the cruisers stayed in the City and came back on the shuttle buses later but we had had enough so decided to make the most of the pool area. Was lovely, especially sipping bubbles whilst sat in the jacuzzi.

We headed back to our room and the leak had been fixed – and we were visited by an endless stream of officers to check we were happy with the service – yep no problems. The funniest thing was that Richard had left his best shoes by the side of the bed rather than putting them away in the dressing room – and has a result they had been polished for him whilst we had been out. Seriously LOL.

After relaxing for a while we couldn’t be bothered to go out again – especially as we weren’t really hungry – so we ordered room service. At this point the butler turned up and brought us a cheese board and champagne to enjoy in our room whilst we waited for dinner. So we sat on the balcony and enjoyed that. Then dinner was served by our butler who had set up our coffee table with a ‘topper’ and white linen – the works. OMG how amazing. Didn’t think I would enjoy being pampered like this but I could certainly get used to it. Richard tried to help the small Indian female butler but she shrugged him off – the table top was very heavy – so he eventually had to give in and let her do her job….. She was very happy with us – apparently because we used the magic words ‘please and thank you’. That made me sad that there would be people who wouldn’t even have the decency to be polite to her.

The ship stayed overnight in Ho Chi Minh city again – and we had another excursion the following day to the Mekong Delta. So Tuesday morning we had another buffet breakfast in prepration for an early start. At 8am we were off the ship and meeting our guide. This time it was in small minibuses and there were only eight of us on this tour. There were multiple other minibuses following a similar itinerary but we were kept apart and only bumped into familiar faces at the ‘rest stops’ where we got to use Western toilets LOL.

Anyway we had about two hours on the bus heading towards the Mekong Delta and it was interesting coming away from the sky-rise prosperous city into the country where the more familiar paddy fields came into view. Our guide was amazing and actually came from the farming area so gave us a real insight into their culture.

Arriving at the Delta we boarded a private boat just for our tour. Again there were other boats but they were all following slightly different itineraries so we would not invade any particular venue. We experienced lots of things getting on and off this boat during the day. This was precarious in places climbing onto the steps built into the river bank which were steep and without hand rails. I was quite cautious – you know my history LOL – and Richard made sure I was safe at all times. He was very attentive and I was grateful for his concern.

We first ended up at a honey manufacturer and, of course, Richard had to hold the bees! No way I was doing that….I just purchased some Royal Honey instead LOL. We enjoyed tasting the different products – and rubbing them into our skin – along with a delicious green tea.

Moving on we next went to a Snakewine producer and, of course, Richard had to try that too. I don’t know how his stomach manages to cope with the stuff he is willing to try on these trips LOL.

This was also an artisan workshop and we greatly admired some of the mother of pearl inlaid products they produced here plus the skill involved in using egg shells to make artworks. Just amazing.

Next stop was seeing how rice paper – for spring roll wrappers – was made. Very interesting. Then it was rice sweets, popped rice (think rice cakes) and popped noodles (think noodle cakes). Really interesting and informative. And we enjoyed tasting all of it LOL.

Then it was an artisan workshop primarily dealing in paintings and ceramics. Absolutely beautiful stuff. Then finally we went to an old house and our guide explained about the placings of the photographs – linked to status – and the significance of the shrines.

Afterwards we headed back down the river to a fantastic restaurant (which was part of a tourist resort) and had the most amazing lunch. Lots and lots of food, again, and all of it very good although I have to admit to passing up on the ‘special’ river fish.

After a leisurely late lunch we then headed back in our minibuses towards Ho Chi Minh. The traffic built and we got used to weaving in and out of all the motorcyclists. They carry everything on them, from fridges, to family groups, to pets, in fact just about anything you could think of. We even saw a washing machine going along…. There are special motorcycle lanes and it was scary! Can’t imagine how there aren’t more accidents – they buzz around inside and outside of each other with no signals or even brake lights. Just phenomenal to witness! The methodology for crossing the road in Vietnam is to walk straight and don’t make eye contact with them – they will go round you, but if you make eye-contact then it becomes a challenge to see who will wimp out first. I can guarantee that it will be you LOL.

Back on board, after a long day, I was struggling a bit after all the climbing up combined with the most uncomfortable minibus seats because they are built for small Asian people not Westerners LOL. Anyway, small price to pay for such an amazing experience! So I rested up for a while and then we got ready for dinner in the main restaurant which was just fantastic. Was fabulous along with great service and an abundance of our favourite wine LOL.

After dinner we headed back and had a pontoonie on the balcony before calling it a day watching the brightly lit dinner boats plying their routes up and down the river. Absolutely spectacular!

Wednesday morning we were ashore for the 8am excursion start. This was billed as the Saigon Discovery and we did enjoy the sights such as the historic French buildings, the Post Office, a Buddhist temple, the Opera House, and the splendid Hotel Rex rooftop bar. So here are a few photos of the day to whet your appetite. Thankfully this was on a full-sized coach so no problems with the seat sizes that day LOL.

Sadly it was over all too soon and we were heading back to the ship to prepare for an afternoon departure from the port. But not before we enjoyed more motorcycle antics which just made us laugh on our journey around the city. Ho Chi Minh city blew us away – wasn’t sure what we were expecting – but certainly not a buzzing metropolis with high rises (including one with a helipad) and a lively night scene…. It had been a real eye opener and a fantastic introduction to Vietnam.

Back on board we sat in the Panorama Lounge and enjoyed a sail away drink as we headed back out to sea. We then had another meal in La Terrazza before returning to the lounge and joined the sail away party and even indulged in a bit of dancing to the resident DJ. At this point we had a warning from the captain that we were going to be heading into a storm and to hold on tight….oh goody, looks like it might be fun! As we left the shelter of the river and turned left towards Da Nang the seas picked up and got quite lumpy. This was already proving to be a challenge to some of the other guests so the party ended quite quickly after and we headed to our balcony to enjoy the sea (and the rain)…

And that’s the end of Part 2 of our Far East Adventure. Come back soon for the next instalment.

Bye for now.

Jan

Adventure to the Far East – Part 1 Bangkok and the River Kwai

At 4am on Tuesday 7 November we left home and made the journey around the M25 towards Heathrow Airport. We arrived in good time and checked in on arrival with Singapore Airlines.

We then headed through security and had a good breakfast to set us up for the day. We boarded the first plane of the day at 8.30 am and settled into our nice premium economy seats and settled down for the 14 hour trip. Sadly the immediate neighbours were pretty inconsiderate and took up all the overhead locker space so we ended up with our hand luggage (admittedly not that big) under the seats in front. Never mind…. We had a good flight with great food (having utilised the amazing ‘book the chef’ option prior to departure) although the drinks service was quite slow – but we were happy to request more LOL.

We finally arrived into Singapore on Wednesday morning and found our way through the transit route towards our next flight to Bangkok admiring the indoor rainforest on the way.

We boarded at 9.30 am and found that the plane layout had been changed and our booked seats were different than expected – so we didn’t have great ones – and it was packed. We were relieved that this was just a short two hour hop so we just got on with it. At least the food and drink service was good. We arrived into the madness that is Bangkok airport and quickly cleared customs and immigration sighing with relief that our luggage made it through with us. We were supposed to be picked up by a private taxi but couldn’t find the driver with our name on (as expected), so made our way to the main taxi hub and there was our name on a long list. Eventually after lots of phone calls by the Thai taxi staff we were supplied with the private transfer that had been booked for us – which was a very nice Mercedes so all good.

We arrived at the Shangri La hotel in Bangkok and it was very nice indeed – we were very happy albeit very tired after such a long haul.

Sadly our room wasn’t ready so we headed down to the pool terrace bar to have a few drinks while we waited. At this point I realised that I was missing my jacket – I returned to reception who kindly checked the CCTV to find that I didn’t have it with me on arrival. Damn! Luckily we had the car driver’s number so the manager called him and asked him to return the jacket – yes it was in the car, and he would return it, but only if we paid for the privilege. This left a bit of a sour taste as we had tipped him generously on arrival and, although we would happily have paid him to return the jacket (for fuel / tip etc) but demanding a fixed sum was a bit much. I asked the manager what would happen if I refused to pay and the answer was, well you won’t get it back! Hmmmm….so we had no choice but to pay….and finally the jacket was returned. Not a great start!

While waiting for our room I tried to book the hotel’s riverside Thai restaurant for dinner but it was fully booked according to the app. So I walked to the restaurant – as I saw a woman organising the place for the evening – and managed to get a dinner reservation for 8pm. This turned out really well as they had local dancers performing in the restaurant that evening. Oh yes and did I mention it was raining?!? Really hot and humid with showers…. Never mind…..

We finally got to our room which didn’t disappoint especially the view over the pool and river – so had a restorative sleep and got cleaned up.

We then walked down to the restaurant for dinner and had an excellent meal and enjoyed watching the dancers. After dinner – as the rain had finally stopped – we wandered the riverfront and admired the views and the river traffic. But our bed was calling so we headed up and called it a day.

Thursday morning we had a fantastic breakfast – so much choice, particularly for Asian palates. We were picked up at 7 am by Tiger, our tour guide, and the driver. We were whisked off in our private minivan towards the River Kwai, enjoying the views along the way. Quite different in the country once you escape the madness of Bangkok. We visited the Jeath War Museum (Kanchanaburi) which was built on the site of one of the PoW camps and this was quite eye-opening. The terrible and brutal conditions these poor guys endured – it was amazing that any of them made it home. We also found out about the local Thai guys and their terrible losses too at the hands of their Japanese slave masters. Approximately 30,000 PoWs were involved in the construction along with 200,000 impressed labourers from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singpore, Burma and Thailand. Of these more than 16,000 PoW’s and 100,000 impressed labourers died. An interesting start to our adventure but very sombre and moving, especially so close to Remembrance Sunday in the UK.

We then (carefully) boarded a boat (private again which we were surprised by) and motored down the river towards the famous bridge. The boat was pretty uncomfortable – no seats so sat on the floor – but we enjoyed the views as we meandered down the river.

Then the bridge came into sight and I admit to feeling quite emotional at this point.

We then disembarked the boat and walked the bridge. This is the original bridge built by the PoWs (from Ban Pong, Thailand, to Thanbyuzayat, Burma) and covers a distance of 258 miles. It is said that for every railway sleeper laid at least one person lost their life – a sobering thought – and explains it being known as the Death Railway (officially the Burma Railway). The bridge was bombed towards the end of the war and the flat section in the middle is the only new piece recreated – the rest is the original although the foundations have been encapsulated in concrete since. This is still a working railway and the trip was timed perfectly for us to watch a train cross the bridge. This was an amazing experience and we felt very grateful to have been able to visit.

Leaving the bridge we headed off to the Erawan National Park and had a local chicken lunch – which was very nice – and paid for by Tiger. All refreshments were supplied as part of the tour, including cold water, which was very welcome! We then got changed into our swimmers and started hiking up to the waterfalls. This was steep and tough – there are seven waterfalls in total – and we asked Tiger which was the best one. He said number three so we walked directly there. It was a tough hike for me (as I need the second hip replaced at some point) especially in the heat. But we made it and then went to get into the water and the minute we put our feet in we were being bitten by the fish! OMG… We found an alternative (and precarious) entry and made it towards the waterfall itself and enjoyed it but the biting fish darting at us left me slightly underwhelmed so we didn’t stay in the water for too long LOL.

We then headed back down and visited number two and number one waterfalls, enjoyed the views, but decided not to get back into the water. Arriving back to the car park we had showers and got changed back into our clothes in preparation for the next stage of our tour.

We then headed back to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (DonRak) which is the main prisoner of war cemetery for victims of Japanese imprisonment while building the Death Railway. So many young men who are laid to rest here….very sad…. We left a Poppy Cross on the main monument and paid our respects.

After this we headed back towards Bangkok and rejoined the crazy traffic. Back at the hotel we got ourselves cleaned up again and headed to Jacks Bar on the waterfront which had been recommended by one of Richard’s friends. As we took a seat I realised that this may be a cash only place and we were out of Thai Baht at this point! So I asked whether they took cards and they didn’t – so we went for a wander and found a nice restaurant called Mazurro near by. We had a good dinner and then returned to our hotel for a nightcap (stopping at the ATM on the way). We went into the lounge and there was a singer and pianist entertaining the guests so we sat for a while and enjoyed the show before returning to our room for the night. Had been a very long day.

Friday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and checked out. Our private transport from the hotel to the ship was at 12 noon so we got ourselves ready and headed to reception to await our driver. There were lots of other Silversea guests but they were being whisked away to the ship in minibuses – but, as we had booked privately, again we had a lovely Mercedes taking us. Was a long drive in the pouring rain!

We arrived at Laem Chabang port about two hours later but the driver didn’t know where to go…..the ship is quite small (in comparison to other cruise ships) so wasn’t that visible in the commercial port. We drove around, got some directions, and then as we drove past a turning I spotted the ship so told the driver and he turned around and got us there. We exited the vehicle – tipped the driver much to his delight and surprise – and were immediately met by cruise organisers. Our bags were whisked off and we went to formally register, get our cruise cards etc, and then boarded the ship (in the pouring rain again sigh…)

Our cabin was ready immediately and we were introduced to our cabin steward and our butler (yes, really LOL) so we quickly unpacked and headed off for some lunch (in the rain).

And that’s the end of Part 1 of our Far East Adventure. Come back soon for the next instalment.

Bye for now.

Jan

Our first full year at home….

It’s hard to believe we have been home for just over a year. And, yes, the blog has not been much of a priority. After all you originally viewed this site to keep up with us on our travels and you may not be interested in our home lives (although future travel blogs are to be expected – more of that later). But for those of you far away who we don’t get to see very often, I thought it was time to post an update on what we have been getting up to…

Christmas Day 2022 we spent at home, alone, for the first time in many many years. As we had changed the window blinds and curtains we now had more space in our lounge bay window so our tree felt a bit small but we persevered with it. A larger version definitely on the shopping list for this year LOL. Boxing day we were welcomed over to Rachel & Neil’s home to spend the day with their wider family including the kids of course…. Was lovely to spend this special family time with them all. We had so much fun we failed to take any photographs which is a bit of a theme so bear with me – must try harder!

We then headed to Mudeford in Dorset to join Carolyn and Ron at their seaside lodge and we had a fantastic time with them celebrating New Year’s Eve. I even had a bit of a boogie at the dinner dance which was the first time in a very very long time, fantastic! Here are some photos of the NYE silliness…..

Back home early January we started to decide what else we wanted to update in the house. Have to say we weren’t enjoying winter at home and the heating bills would have been horrendous if it wasn’t for the new energy-efficient boiler we had recently installed. And I can’t remember the last time we saw snow!

We eventually agreed on a list of tasks and invited trades to give us quotes. Once we had made our selections it was up to me to manage them whilst Richard continued to work full time in London. He is enjoying being back at work and is still debating when he is going to retire (again) for good so watch this space. It is good timing that his industry is pretty buoyant right now and chartered electrical design engineers appear hard to come by if the number of job offers he receives on a weekly basis is anything to go by. So very grateful that he is willing to do this to top up the kitty towards the home improvements.

First task was getting the ceilings skimmed in the lounge, hall and dining room to get rid of the old-fashioned artex so once the new plaster had dried out Richard painted all the ceilings. The new blinds, curtains and radiators in the lounge look really nice so pleased with all that. Replacement sofas, ceiling lights, carpets, and wall mirror were all ordered and now it was just a matter of getting them all to arrive in a sensible order…. Oh yes and we got a large smart TV too amongst other things.

Come February and I was at the six month date post surgery. Yay! Finally allowed to get back on an airplane so, we headed off with Carolyn and Ron over to Lanzarote for a relaxing week in a villa. We had a lovely time – a few hiccups with the accommodation – but thoroughly enjoyed getting some winter sun.

We arrived home and Richard returned to work. Now it was time for me to get organised. We had ordered new carpets for the whole house so I had to make sure rooms were ready for the guys to move furniture around. All our breakables were packed up and stored, it felt like we were moving house! I took the opportunity to clear some old stuff out too – now this is not something I enjoy doing – so it was a huge sigh of relief from Richard LOL. Anyway it was a mad time but eventually the carpets were removed and the new ones were laid. Fantastic – very happy.

A couple of days after that the new sofas turned up and we put the room back together again. Really pleased with how it all looks now. The majority of the discarded items we sold online and our original sofas were purchased by a couple of young men who were going to deliver them to Zimbabwe for their parents! Stuff that didn’t sell we put up on Freecycle and it all got taken away pretty quickly. Anyway here are a couple of pictures of our lounge as it looks now – very happy.

We also took delivery of new furniture for the conservatory so this was finally finished too. And this is the end result. Looking forward to sitting out there more often now.

Come Easter we headed off on a mini cruise to Amsterdam from Southampton. We had a great time and was glad to be back on the water again although the ship was a bit bigger than what we are used to LOL.

Returning home we continued with the house updates. This time it was the front drive, front garden and back garden. The years of neglect showed here and it really was not recoverable. So we decided to go for it and have it all done – we chose a resin drive to be different from our neighbours and we wanted a bit of a wow factor. Here are the before, during and after pictures of the front.

So now I have flowerbeds but no flowers – and there was a lot to fill. Richard found this online company that design flower beds for you, supply the tools, plants and plans and you do the hard work putting them all in. So here are the first batch going in and the front garden just planted….

So onto the back garden. The patio needed cleaning, the wooden decking was rotten and again I wanted flowerbeds. Here are the before pictures, Richard hard at work painting fences and the after pictures showing the garden just planted. What a transformation!

Then it was time to focus on the front guest bedroom as we were expecting Helen and Lester – previous owners of an Island Packet we had met in Australia – to visit us at the start of their UK tour. So new bedding, curtains, runner, cushions etc and voila we have a new look. Needs decorating really but we ran out of time….. Throughout this time Richard continued to work really hard during the week whilst I enjoyed any spare time to catch up with friends and be that “lady that lunches” that I enjoy so much LOL. It has been really lovely to re-engage with friends and be able to see them more than once a year which was the norm pre-Covid. And of course that means there is over two years of news to catch up on with them all… Weekends usually get reserved for friends and family that we both see as a couple so we continue to be pretty social.

Our Australian friends arrived into London on the Eurostar train from Paris. We then spent six days in London as tourists, including a West End show and an overnight in town. They were pretty amazed by the architecture and the history which, of course, we take completely for granted. A good time was had by all. Then it was time for them to pick up their hire car and head off around the rest of the British Isles.

Richard returned to work and I continued to be out and about as well as maintaining the garden and house (although Richard doesn’t trust me to use the new mower to cut the lawn LOL). And, if you wondered how the new plants have fared, then check out the gardens now. A couple of casualties – two caused by a neighbour’s cat deciding that the leaves were just too tasty annoyingly – but they have been replaced and I am loving having a garden to tend again.

A month later Lester and Helen returned and we spent a local day together before escorting them back to St Pancras. As they went through customs and immigration we headed to the local champagne bar in St Pancras overlooking the outgoing Eurostar trains – so we toasted them farewell.

So that’s about it for now but we have a few trips planned – which I’ll blog about on return. Hoping for some better weather we are planning a UK staycation and then a couple of big trips after – one to Asia and the other to Africa. All very exciting! After that I have ideas but am banned from booking anything else right now LOL.

Before signing off I need to respond to the question we are continuously being asked. “Do you miss the boat?” Well, we miss Morphie of course but not the work involved in keeping her in tip top condition. I mean who could miss varnishing all that wood LOL. What we REALLY miss is the freedom of the lifestyle. Huge change for us but so long as we always have future travel plans then I’m happy.

Anyway, that’s it folks, bye for now. Take care of each other and keep healthy.

Jan

Settling into life at home

Having arrived home in early June we were treated to the spectacular events of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. An amazing event and it was great to be home watching it – who could not fail to be entranced and entertained by the sketch with Paddington Bear.

We thoroughly enjoyed a few social events before we were both struck down by Covid – so all our socialising came to a dramatic halt as we kept ourselves isolated to recover. During this time, we had a heatwave with exceptionally high temperatures and that is not what you need when you are ill in bed without air conditioning! Never mind, best laid plans and all that….

Once we had recovered, we organised some work on the house which felt somewhat neglected after 10 years of travelling across oceans with Morpheus. We definitely miss our girl but don’t regret the decision.

Then Richard was suddenly taken ill with chest pains…oh no, not again! I rushed him to hospital, and they admitted him with a suspected heart attack. He remained in hospital for four nights during which time they did lots of tests including an angioplasty. The Australian stent was looking good and nothing else untoward was found so they eventually put this event down to an angina attack but agreed we had done the right thing by taking him into hospital. Phew, so relieved to have him home again with no further ill-effects. We were impressed by our treatment at the local hospital especially in the light of press reports of 24-hour waiting lists at A&E etc but there was some evidence of the chaos in the system when I picked him up because there was a very big queue of ambulances outside waiting to discharge their patients.

First job at home was new blinds and curtains for the lounge and dining room so we had some fun choosing and ordering them.

By now it was time for me to go into hospital. Richard dropped me off at noon (covid restrictions stopped him from accompanying me) and by mid-afternoon I was under the knife having a total hip replacement. I recovered really quickly that night and even made a few phone calls. But the following day things went downhill so I was very grateful that Richard was allowed to visit. I had an adverse reaction to the medication but thankfully, on the fourth day, I was released home. Grateful to be back, it was now time to work hard to regain my mobility and get used to my new hip.

In the meantime, Richard had decided to put his name out there as available for work and, literally within hours, he had a number of offers and started work shortly afterwards. So, he is a commuter again but is enjoying working in London. In the meantime, I stay home and work hard on my exercise regime.

Next job for the house was the facias and guttering which needed a good spring clean. We then organised to have new cladding installed and took the opportunity of having a new alarm system fitted too. Think it looks pretty good. Oh yes and with the huge spikes in energy costs we decided to replace our aged and inefficient gas boiler with a new ‘smart’ wifi system so we can control everything from an app on our phones!

Then the whole country was plunged into mourning with the death of our Queen. Was so very sad and poignant to watch the 24-hour wall-to-wall footage of events which culminated in a public holiday when the whole country shut down to watch the funeral processions and the first rendition of God Save the King. Phew….certainly a moment in history….and no-one does pageantry like we do! So very proud. The fact that people were willing to queue for 24 hours to see the Queen while she laid in state says it all really.

Next job around the house was the conservatory – we wanted to have a proper tiled roof so this space would be a proper garden room which could be used in all weathers. We found a contractor who would also do the licensing and signed the deal. The guys turned up on time each day and thankfully by now I was wandering around the house so was able to be on tea and sandwich duty LOL. We were both really happy how it turned out. Now it just needs painting, decorating and some new furniture…. And the garden is next year’s project!

After a long time of mostly being stuck at home we finally ventured out for Richard’s 65th birthday and had a great lunch in Brighton Marina sitting out the rain.

Afterwards we headed along the prom to pay our respects to Mum and to wish her a Happy Heavenly 92nd birthday. Still miss her so much. It was a really stormy windy day, and the sea was raging, certainly glad not to be on the water!

Moving on we headed to Worthing as we were staying in a small local brewery with B&B rooms. We had a lovely evening, good food, and a great sleep in a huge bed with quality bedding. Sadly, the breakfast was a bit of a letdown in the morning.

We then headed out to Arundel and met up with my nephew Jamie and family who are visiting the UK from Australia – their first time back to the UK in a very long time. So was great to catch up with them and had a traditional Sunday lunch before staying in their Air BnB for the night before we said our sad farewells – see you in Australia! – and headed out to return home.

Our journey home was severely disrupted by the Just Stop Oil protestors who caused chaos by climbing the Queen Elizabeth Bridge which meant complete gridlocked roads in the area. Thanks a lot guys!

So back at home we are planning our next adventures. So far, we have a villa holiday and a short cruise booked for next year. Richard is planning to retire for good on his next birthday so bigger / longer trips are being planned beyond that. In the meantime, I’m continuing the physio, am fully mobile, and really looking forward to returning to my life as a lady that lunches when all the medical restrictions are lifted….

Bye for now, Jan

How we sold our boat in Australia

So, you have made the decision to sell, how do you go about selling a private yacht in Australia? This blog reflects our experience of selling a foreign-flagged boat and is not meant to be a ‘how to do it’ just to give some insight into the process.

Importation valuation

A foreign-flagged vessel cannot legally be sold in Australia unless it has been imported first. This can be done by using a recent bill of sale but, for us, having purchased Morpheus in 2008 the original purchase price was too far removed in time to be of any use, especially as we had done so many upgrades for long-term cruising. So we employed a marine surveyor to value the boat for importation purposes. We had our in-water survey done in Bundaberg, Queensland, and it took about two weeks to get it organised.

Prior to the survey date we were requested to put together some notes to assist the process. We listed the age of Morpheus; age of the installed equipment such as sails; solar panels; electronics; engine age plus hours; water maker; batteries; outboard; dinghy; gas installation eg gas bottles / stove / BBQ; electrical installation eg 110V with step-down transformer to plug into 220V shore power; any maintenance requirements eg cutlass bearing / rudder bearing / stuffing gland / fibreglass waxing and polishing / interior and exterior varnish. We were quite detailed even down to the fact that the galley tap needed replacing….

You should not present the boat in tip top condition as the import valuation will be the starting point for the tax calculation so the lower the valuation the better. The cost of the survey was AUD $700 (November 2021).

We received the survey about three days later. The valuation was a bit higher than expected so we requested a breakdown but were told that this information was between the surveyor and customs only. So, basically, it is what it is! A bit frustrating but what can you do?!? Contact details: QLD Surveys Pty Ltd www.qldsurveys.com.au

Importation process

The next step is to get the duty / tax worked out. The official forms are not particularly straightforward so we decided to hire an importation broker to help us through the process. This broker was recommended by the cruising community and we dealt with her entirely via email and we found her very helpful, responsive and efficient. The cost was $600 which included all the official communication / documentation with the relevant authorities. Contact details: Bronwyn Revell, DMS Global Pty Limited bronwyn@dmsglobal.com.au

We supplied the following documents:

  • Completed / signed Letter of Authority (to deal on our behalf)
  • Photos of our passports
  • British registry documentation for Morpheus
  • In-date control (cruising) permit for Morpheus
  • Wood pratique document (received on arrival into Australia, so don’t lose it!)
  • Valuation survey and receipt
  • Morpheus details – type / age / owners / builder / country of origin / HIN number.
  • Dinghy – age / brand / model and value in Australian dollars
  • Details about the outboard – age / brand / model and value in Australian dollars

Then there are some other details needed:

  • Alcohol – how much did you have on board at the time of arrival into Australia. Yes, seriously! We just said that we did not recall but it was definitely within the duty-free limits in force at the time of arrival.
  • Tobacco products – we had no products on board.

Itinerary

You need to put together an itinerary for the voyage to Australia, including dates, so, for example we listed (just the ports of entry / departure):

  • Departed Bay of Islands, New Zealand, bound for Bundaberg, Australia, on 28 May 2019.
  • Arrived Savusavu, Fiji, on 7 June 2019
  • Departed Lautoka, Fiji, on 8 August 2019
  • Arrived Port Vila, Vanuatu on 14 August 2019
  • Departed Port Vila, Vanuatu on 27 September 2019
  • Arrived Lifou, New Caledonia on 29 September 2019
  • Departed Noumea, New Caledonia on 23 October 2019
  • Arrived Bundaberg, Australia on 29 October 2019

So the last foreign port before Australia was Noumea, New Caledonia (6 day passage). So why is the last foreign port and passage period relevant? Well, the costs associated with getting to Australia are actually part of the taxable calculation.

Sailing costs (all in Australian dollars)

Essential costs: This is where you would itemise the cost of essential navigational items eg charts / tide tables / pilot books etc – but it is PRINTED documentation only. All electronic sources are not allowable.

Quarantine: We had no quarantine costs linked to ourselves or the boat on arrival into Australia.

Crew: This is where you list the crew wages / forage allowance and repatriation costs if applicable.

Victualling: We quoted victualling at $25 pp per day x 6 day passage.

Australian Customs entry fees: We entered Australia as part of the Down Under Rally which included all customs entry fees including the wood pratique, so recorded the rally fee of $495 for this element.

Medical supplies: We had a huge amount of medical supplies on board so simply looked up the cost of a Cat 1 Medical Kit for offshore sailing and recorded the purchase price.

Fuel supply: This was a difficult one! We topped up our diesel tank to full capacity at Total Cap Moselle (duty free) in New Caledonia post check-out. We managed to find transactions on our credit card statements so calculated the per litre cost and then calculated usage (and cost) on passage.

Official overseas cost: We included our marina fees at Port Moselle Harbour, Noumea plus the cost of the clearance and agent fees to depart.

Insurance: Both yacht insurance and personal travel insurance are based on annual policies – so we calculated daily rate multiplied by six day passage.

Spent in Australia on the boat since arrival: This is for new items only not regular maintenance elements. We included (supported by receipts) new solar panels; main sail worm drive bearings; gooseneck bearings; rigging inspection; new genoa tracks; new canvas; refurbishment of outboard; new coolant pump; gas bottle recertification; regalvanisation of anchor chain and new Rocna anchor

Duty / tax calculation

Follow this exact order to get to your calculation. If you supply the details Bronwyn will calculate it for you and let you know liability before proceeding:

  1. Valuation of boat less cost of valuation survey equals $?
  2. $? from 1 above less cost of additions added to boat in Australia equals $?
  3. $? from 2 above less quarantine costs equals $?
  4. $? from 3 above less Australian customs fees equals $?
  5. $? from 4 above less importation brokers fees equals $?
  6. $? from 5 above less 1/11 of this residual amount equals $?
  7. $? from 6 above less total of essential sailing costs (essential sailing costs + crew + victualling + medical + fuel + official overseas + insurance) equals $?
  8. $? from 7 above divided by 1.05 = $? CUSTOMS VALUE

So you pay the following: $? customs value + 5% duty (of customs value) + total of essential sailing costs = VOTI + 10% (of VOTI) = GST

So, as an example: $100,000 customs value + $5,000 duty + $1,500 total essential sailing costs = $106,500 VOTI 10% of VOTI = $10,650 GST.

So TOTAL PAYABLE (on a $100,00 customs value boat) = Duty $5,000 + $10,650 GST = $15,650

Please note: Australia and the USA have a trade agreement to import boats without duty however this is for new boats being shipped or sailed directly to Australia only. USA-manufactured boats who take their time crossing the Pacific are not exempt for import duty.

Selling privately

After importation (about a week or so after all documents have been submitted to the broker) you receive all the relevant customs documentation including a ‘permit to sell’. You will need this to list the boat. We decided to go it alone without a broker having been quoted 7.7% by a boat broker. As Island Packets are not particularly well known in Australia we didn’t think they would add any value to the process.

Important note – if you sell the boat within 90 days of the boat being imported – the customs can come back at you for the differential between the import valuation and the sales price you achieve. So you need to build this into your timelines to avoid any problems.

We then got busy doing all the improvements/maintenance in preparation for Morpheus being listed. In no particular order we varnished, waxed, polished, had new standing rigging installed, painted a new bootstripe, antifouled, serviced engine and sails etc etc. In our spare time we did lots of research into online advertising and decided upon BoatsonLine and YachtHub (which come together in a bundle for $34 for a year). We hired a storage unit nearby and cleared the boat of all our unnecessary clutter. We then cleaned cupboards, did some interior varnish work, cleaned upholstery, replaced taps, shower head, installed fresh water head for the toilet etc etc. Finally ready for viewing we took a selection of photos to go with our advert.

We drafted the advert, loaded up pictures then decided on the final value we would place on Morpheus. Quite difficult as Island Packets are not commonly available in Australia we checked out similar boats in the USA (although most were not to the same high specification as Morpheus) and then added the costs of importing the boat (ignoring the cost of actually getting the boat to Australia). Happy with our decision we published the advert and crossed everything flexible.

During our research we came across issues about gas and electrical installations. Electrics were fine as we had a ‘safety’ certificate and our leads were PAT tested despite not being Australian. As we were selling in Queensland the boat needed to have a gas certification (this is not the case in other Australian states). We were pretty irritated that we would have to strip out a really good quality fully-operational Force 10 cooker as part of the process as it didn’t have the right Australian label! If we didn’t sell Morpheus we would not be changing any of this so we made sure to add the clause to the advert that ‘Australian compliance would be at the purchaser’s cost’.

Within 24 hours we had a viewing….at this point we were on the hard without any rigging…but the couple were very keen. They turned up – hippy chick / influencer types – and clearly knew nothing about sailing. They gushed about Morpheus but we weren’t keen so didn’t contact them again. And, as expected, we didn’t hear from them again either.

Then we had another viewing and the guy said ‘don’t sell in the next 10 days, I want to bring my sons to check her out’. Very interested and quite hopeful. Oh yes and we had a couple of nutters who wanted to send us the money straight away if we shared our bank details….

It then went quiet and we heard nothing for a week or so…. The interested guy didn’t come back to us so we called him for feedback and he said that his wife had talked him out of it. So we finished our chores, got Morpheus all beautiful, and then decided to go out and about visiting friends.

After another week of radio silence we decided to drop the price and immediately got a flurry of new enquiries. By this time we had completed the boat refit, amended the advert to include new shiny photos, and based ourselves in Hope Island Marina for the viewings.

In the meantime we had received quite a few questions about how to safeguard the transaction for both the seller and the purchaser. We had contacted some lawyers about an escrow banking facility and the legal paperwork but they never got back to us – so we employed a boat broker just to do this element for us for a flat price (which equated to less than 1% of the sale price, as opposed to the 2.2% we had been quoted elsewhere). Really worth doing as he walked both us and the purchaser through the legal elements. We also, at this stage, updated the advert to reflect this facility. Highly recommend using this service. Contact details: Ian MacKenzie www.mackenzieboating.com.au sales@mackenzieboating.com.au

Finally we had a potential purchaser who wanted to make an offer and negotiate the price down by 10%. We explained our reasoning behind the price and the fact that we had already discounted the boat from original asking price so declined the offer. Think this was a bit of a shock to him but, eventually, he accepted our price as we explained that, if the survey found anything, we would negotiate from there.

We then did our paperwork with the broker who outlined the sales process. In Australia it follows the following format:

  1. Offer is accepted and deposit (usually 10%) is lodged with broker in escrow. Paperwork is drawn up. At this point we were blindsided as it is illegal to sell a boat without a gas certificate – we weren’t aware of that – we thought that this compliance element would be done in preparation for Queensland registration. As we had a full asking price offer we took the hit and managed to get it sorted out within a week.
  2. The purchasers come on board for a sea trial which we did the following weekend.
  3. Then the following week we hauled Morpheus out for a full structural survey (at the purchaser’s expense). The surveyor found nothing although he spotted the electrical sockets and the purchaser wanted to change it all to Australian standard. Fine we said – pointing out that we had paid for the gas install – and that the advert said it would be at the purchaser’s cost so he agreed to pick up that bill, we shook on it, and the deal was done.
  4. On a set date – about a week after the survey – the offer goes unconditional which means that the purchaser loses their deposit if they pull out. Then on a set date the deal is done, the money exchanges hands, and we left the boat.

In terms of our timings – we advertised originally 5 February and the money hit our account on 21 April – and we left Morpheus behind. We returned to the boat to do a final handover on the following Saturday and we were done! Time to learn to love being a land lubber again…. Hope you have found this latest blog useful and informative.

As an aside we are thoroughly enjoying our time at home so far seeing friends and family and, on a personal note, I’m having hip replacement surgery in August. So that’s it for now – once I’m back on my feet we’ll be planning our next adventures – so have a good summer everyone and watch this space!

Jan

Sydney to London and home!

After a couple of days at my nephew’s house in the Central Coast, NSW, Richard was still struggling to shake off a cold which he had picked up in Tasmania, so we decided to get tested for Covid (24 May). We had to have a negative test at the airport before we would be allowed on the plane to come home so thought it was the prudent thing to do. The guy at the clinic said that it was possible Richard was positive as although he didn’t have the traditional symptoms of loss of taste / smell etc his cold could be the sign and, as we were living in someone else’s house, he should isolate immediately until the result was known.

So we went home, told the family what had transpired and – absolutely confident of a negative result – they said it was fine for Richard to come down to have dinner with us. But we decided to be cautious and he stayed upstairs so got dinner delivered to his room, watched a few movies, and I joined him later for the night.

At just gone midnight the phone pinged and, stupidly, I picked it up to check. OMG Richard was positive! Thankfully I was negative…. What a damn nightmare….. So I woke him up, told him he had to isolate in this room for seven days (according to NSW rules) and I moved downstairs to share the sofa with Budd for the rest of the night. Stressed out by the news I certainly didn’t get much sleep.

In the morning I spoke to both Jamie and Hayley and offered to move out as we didn’t want to put the whole family at risk. They were happy for us to stay and quickly tested everyone and they all came up negative! Phew….so very grateful to them for letting us stay in the circumstances. But that meant Richard was stuck upstairs being fed and watered whilst I had to finish all the packing…. First, though, I checked the airline rules and it was definitely a negative test to get on the plane or, alternatively, a doctor’s note to say that the patient was fit to fly which required more than a week’s gap. So I phoned the airline to see whether we could just move our flights out by a week – and the answer was no! They couldn’t find an alternative route and they couldn’t offer us a flight until the end of June. OMG Australia really didn’t want us to leave! Very distressed by all this the family were amazingly supportive and Jamie and I sat down and worked the internet hard to get a resolution. We found one – rang up again – to be told that we couldn’t change airlines the credit was only with them and no refund at this late stage… So absolutely devastated yet again.

So I decided to put all my efforts into the packing and organising and, finally, managed to get it all sorted within our (original) luggage allowance. Feeling a bit better having achieved something, after dinner, I had an early night and did actually manage to find an alternative routing home – with the same airline – for the following week. But it was nasty! A 12 hour layover in Los Angeles is not anyone’s idea of fun…. Anyway, by this time, Richard was feeling much better so we did a RAT test. And it was negative!

We had a long conversation and decided to take a gamble and stick with our original flight plans praying that Richard would return a negative result on the official airport pre-flight test. Jamie and Hayley were happy for us to return if we didn’t make it onto the flight so at least we knew we had a roof over our heads if we needed to unpick it all. In the meantime the Sydney rental car company had rung and insisted that I return the car as it needed servicing and it’s registration was expiring…yes, seriously! Oh no, I said, not going to happen. Not going to drive two hours into the City – incurring lots of tolls – when it was their error. There are local offices nearby so I’ll go there and swap the car out. The girl was going to drive the replacement up from Sydney and offered to drop it off but I didn’t want to be constrained by timings so decided to go to the nearest Central Coast office instead. When I got there they tried to palm me off with a VW Polo – I refused! I was driving a mid-sized VW SUV and needed the room for our luggage….so I sat outside while they all ran around like headless chickens and finally found me a MG SUV. Not great, bit basic, but at least it was big enough…. Was not impressed to be honest!

So the rest of the week was taken up with cooking for the invalid, delivering ice creams on demand LOL, and trying to take the load off Jamie and Hayley as they were both working pretty hard. So I kept busy and did a few trips out to the shops and even to the Gosford waterfront just to chill for a little while when the rain stopped and the sun came out.

On the Monday morning Richard was finally let out of quarantine so we had lots of hugs with the family and took some photos before we said our sad farewells.

Budd looked completely dejected but it was probably because he realised that he wasn’t going to be able to scrounge another doughnut out of me. He has definitely mastered the starving hound look so very well under those big eyebrows LOL.

We drove to the airport and were pretty nervous about it all – although we had both returned another negative result the night before. We parked up in the car rentals area, walked into the terminal, and went straight to the testing centre.

We had our tests and then went and had coffee and a toastie whilst we waited. After 30 minutes we got the amazing message that both tests were negative! OMG I was so damn relieved – we just looked at each other and I nearly burst into tears all over again. This had been a really difficult time for me emotionally – especially as I’m used to being with Richard 24/7 and it was just plain weird with him not being there constantly….. This old girl is definitely turning into a bit of a wimp!

Elated we returned to the car, having nabbed a couple of trolleys on the way, and proceeded to the airport hotel. We were lucky that our room was ready early so we checked in and dumped all our gear then, whilst I was uploaded all the tests results etc onto the airline app, Richard took himself off to return the car keys. OMG we really are going home! We had already decided not to eat at the hotel – the last time wasn’t great – so later on we wandered into the terminal and treated ourselves to a McDonalds. Yes, seriously! Then we returned to our hotel room and lazed around enjoying a celebratory glass of wine.

Tuesday 31 May we left the hotel very early and were in the international airport terminal by 7am. We had to queue to check in (online system had fallen over) but that was fine. The airport wasn’t as busy as we had anticipated and we got through the whole security system and near to the gate by 9am having stopped for a bite to eat along the way.

We then flew Sydney to San Francisco and were relatively impressed by the United Airlines Premium Plus Cabin – only three rows, good seats (like domestic US 1st), and enhanced food offering on china with proper cutlery. So pretty happy. We arrived into SFO and made our way through the long immigration line, got checked in, picked up our huge array of bags and, with the help of a sky cap, re-checked the baggage for our next flight.

We then sat at the next departure gate for a long while before finally boarding for the flight to London. Again Premium Plus and everything was the same but the servers were nowhere near as nice and we had to physically go and get drinks as they didn’t answer the call buttons. Oh well, never mind!

Arriving into Heathrow – absolutely shattered but very happy – we gathered all our bags up, cleared the immigration line (which was pretty long and tedious) and shuffled our way through to the arrivals area. And there we had the biggest shock with our friends Ron and Carolyn waving “welcome home” banners waiting for us. Well we had been in Australia for 809 days!!! What a wonderful surprise – felt quite emotional yet again LOL.

Finally we were crossing the threshold of our home after 54 hours travelling. Had been an epic journey and it was lovely to open the door and just go to bed! We were so grateful to Clive and Val who had spring cleaned the house for us so it was ready – thank you both so much!

Since then we have been relaxing at home and really enjoyed watching the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee coverage. Loved the pageantry and who could not have enjoyed tea with Paddington Bear? Such a special weekend of festivities – felt very proud!

So, finally, after purchasing Morpheus back in 2008, leaving her in the US Virgin Islands until we finally went cruising in November 2012, we have sailed 33,466 nautical miles. So we only reached Australia but it is only 21,600 nautical miles around the world if you follow the equator so this puts our travels into a bit of perspective. We obviously miss Morpheus but the time was right to say goodbye and we have no regrets…..

We have had the most amazing adventure of our lives – we have definitely lived the dream – and we have many more dreams and adventures waiting for us around the corner once we get our ageing bodies fixed up a bit LOL.

Right now we are very excited about seeing all our friends and family again and looking forward to all the amazing reunions ahead of us. There will also be some sadness about those who passed away during our travels and whom we never had the opportunity to say goodbye to. So lots of change and I’m not sure how we’ll cope with being land lubbers again for a while but, have to say, am definitely enjoying the unlimited hot water, the access to a dishwasher and washing machine very much so far LOL. Oh yes and got very excited at Sainsbury’s where I could buy alcohol in the same place as our food! And, then of course, there is the delights of M&S food – and only fellow Brits will understand this one….

So that signs us off for this season. There is one last blog to come as I have had lots of questions about how to sell a boat in Australia without a broker – so will do that at some point. In the meantime just going to enjoy being home!

Bye for now

Jan