On the water again – briefly

We had a great road trip from Montenegro through Croatia, Italy and France and now we had arrived in Calais to catch the ferry over to Dover for a few weeks in England to visit our family.

Coming off the ferry in Dover

As ever, we loved being on the ferry – it’s always wonderful to be on the water again – whatever the type of vessel we sail on and how ever brief the trip!

Our first stop after alighting was just round the coast from Dover close to Southampton where our sailing buddies Sue and John were house sitting.

Our sailing buddies Sue and John

We hadn’t seen them since the end of October when they left for their exciting adventure on a series of cruise ships that started in Spain and progressed all the way to Antarctica. A trip of a lifetime so there was much to catch up on as well as plans to be made for the forthcoming sailing season in Greece and Albania.

One of Sue and John’s charges at the house they were looking after

From there we drove to my sister Julia’s house in Beckenham. We had timed it perfectly as she had organised a birthday dinner that night for our elder sister Sarah and quite a few of the the family were going to be there.

Happy birthday Sarah

As always, Julia had cooked up a storm and we had a fabulous meal and a wonderful evening.

As always, Julia had cooked up a storm
My siblings and other family

While we were staying in Beckenham with Julia we had some more lovely family catch ups, went on some beautiful walks in local parks and one day went up to London for a day in the brilliant British Museum.

St George’s Church Beckenham (where our mother’s ashes are scattered)
A visit to a wonderful nursery with members of the family
On the way to the park – this road was more puddle than a suburban street!
Glorious daffodils
Glorious blossom in one of the parks

There is so much to enjoy in this absolute gem of a museum that each time we visit we have a job trying to decide what to see. This time we opted for the treasures from the Sutton Hoo ship burial site (featured in the excellent Netflix movie “The Dig”)

The brilliant British Museum

This amazing discovery, made 1939 in East Anglia, is the richest intact burial known from early medieval times anywhere in Europe.

Stunning gold objects from the Sutton Hoo burial site
A replica of the stunning and iconic
Sutton Hoo helmet
A stunning reconstructed shield based on one found at Sutton Hoo

Inside the burial mound the archeologist Basil Brown discovered the imprint of a decayed ship with a central chamber that was full of treasures. It is thought it could be the final resting place of an Anglo Saxon king.

The imprint of a decayed ship in which the body of an important figure from Anglo Saxon times was placed

We spent quite a long time at the Sutton Hoo exhibit but also saw some other fabulous items from other archeological discoveries.

A hoard of Viking silver

From Beckenham we drove to Suffolk to catch up with Jonathan’s brother Simon and his partner Ruth and meet their young black Labrador Nero for the first time.

Introducing irresistible Nero

Nero was delightful company and full of beans! More animal introductions occurred when we went to visit my nephew and his wife and daughter in their new home in Cambridge. Here we met two beautiful fluffy and very tame rabbits and a delightful and happy little dog called Pickle.

Pickle and friends

Later we went for lunch in a wonderful traditional pub in Grandchester near Cambridge called the Blue Ball Inn. Mischief the dog came with us, as did one of the rabbits. It’s hard to say which received the most attention but I think it was the bunny!

The traditional pub The Blue Ball

The pub had a cosy fire and was very welcoming both to humans and other animals! On one of the walls was a painting of all the dogs that are “regulars “ at the pub.

Inside the pub – a cosy open fireplace
The pub was very welcoming ….
…..to both humans and dogs

Back in Suffolk we had a wonderful lunch out – a belated 70th birthday treat from Simon and Ruth – at the Leaping Hare Restaurant in Stanton.

Off to lunch
One of the llamas in the grounds of the restaurant
Inside the Leaping Hare Restaurant
Always fun with these two

Our next port of call was Cambridge to visit my sister Sarah and her husband Martin who were very hospitable. We had a lovely lunch with old family friends Lorely and Peter and our eldest great niece joined us for a couple of days which was great. More lovely food prepared by Sarah (a superb cook!) was very much enjoyed!

Sarah and Martin’s welcoming
wood burning stove
Our family friend Lorely at the lunch table
Jonathan always wants to admire Sarah’s hand crafted harpsichord when we visit ….
…..It’s easy to see why

Before we left Cambridge we visited our Mum’s old college – Girton – where an oak tree that Mum had grown from an acorn has been planted in her memory.

At Mum’s oak tree with Sarah

We found the young tree quite easily and we’re glad to see it was going well, had grown since we last visited and even had some tiny green buds appearing on its gangly branches.

Girton College – the first Cambridge
women’s college

While we were at Girton we had a very quick look at the People’s Portraits exhibition which was on display in the corridors and in the cafe at the college.

One of the exhibits in the People’s Portrait Exhibition

The exhibition was a millennial event organised with the idea of representing ordinary people from all walks of life, and thereby offering a picture of the United Kingdom as it moved from the 20th century into the 21st.

There are now around 60 fabulous paintings housed at Girton which tell fascinating stories about their subjects.

Just part of the painting of the Fowey Lifeboatmen (Devon)

From Cambridge we returned briefly to Beckenham. While we were there we took a day trip to a lovely park in Tunbridge Wells to meet up with one of my nephews and his family.

A day trip to Tunbridge Wells to catch up with my nephew and his family

It was the first time I’d met the very newest member and it was so fantastic to have lots of baby cuddles with my youngest great nephew.

My beautiful great nephew

Last year we had an Easter egg hunt for our gorgeous great niece and although she was only three at the time she had remembered it and was looking forward to another hunt this year!

Time for an Easter egg hunt!

Fortunately we had brought along some chocolate eggs with us and we hid them around our picnic spot – much to her delight!

Look the Easter bunny climbed a tree
Yay! Found another one!
My sister Julia and I on the children’s play ship

Our final call was to Ramsgate on the Kent coast – one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century – to visit my eldest niece and her husband and to see their fabulous new home for the first time.

Ramsgate harbour has the distinction of being the only Royal Harbour in the United Kingdom. Being so close to mainland Europe, Ramsgate was a chief embarkation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

Ramsgate Harbour – the only designated “Royal Harbour” in the United Kingdom

Arriving on the English coast definitely called for fish and chips for dinner which we bought on the sea front and ate in the van which was parked overlooking the famous harbour. Delicious food with a great view!

Nothing like English fish and chips!
The sandy beach near the harbour
Fishing nets, balls, windmills and buckets and spades – all British seaside icons
An old Victorian pub – the Queen’s Head
Harking back to Ramsgate in its heyday

While we were in Ramsgate we wanted to go into the famous Ramsgate tunnels which were used during World War ll to shelter the townspeople from enemy bombing raids.

The entrance to the Ramsgate tunnels

Unfortunately we just missed out on joining a tour but we were able to go into the start of the tunnels and visit the interesting museum there.

Inside the Ramsgate tunnels museum
A picture of life in the tunnels during World War ll

For sailors such as us, no visit to Ramsgate would be complete without a visit to the Sailor’s Church which is situated right on the quayside.

The Sailors’ Church

Opened in 1878, the church provided spiritual guidance and physical help for the men and boys who made up the crews of the sailing smacks that fished out of Ramsgate in the nineteenth century. It was dangerous, arduous work, especially for the young apprentices who were called Smack Boys!

Blue carpet reminiscent of the sea, timber ceiling to emulate timber framed boats and models and pictures of boats scattered round

When the apprentices were ashore, they were provided with some comfort in the rooms above the church and later, in the Smack Boys Home next door.

A model of a Ramsgate fishing smack

The church has a lovely, peaceful, atmosphere and is a must visit for members of the sailing fraternity – if only to pay your respects to all the brave sailors who have “rallied forth” from Ramsgate harbour in years gone by.

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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