So I said goodbye to sunny Spain. Sadly left the mew Mediterranean garden and the heat behind to catch the delayed flight to London. Down the long and winding road. Again. This time singing to… More
So. We saw the house in the middle of March. On Tuesday we completed. Whilst we were at Chelsea having given the lawyer power of attorney to sign on our behalf. Miss Chelsea. Never. So we went to Chelsea on Tuesday as usual. I went again on Weds. You can never get enough. Then first thing Thursday I got on that flying machine and whoosh. I was off. First on the plane. Last off. Eager to get going up that long and winding road.
We were expecting to complete next week. Not this week and for a number of reasons RHS Chatsworth being one we weren’t coming out for another two weeks. So time for the Estate Agent to get a few things done for us. Sort out some locks being one. But we completed early. Being impatient. I am here early. Excited. Not Arf!
Boy we’re there keys. Lots of them. The vendors said there were keys. It’s like Fort Knox. Ian will be happy. You don’t notice little details when you view!
So I arrived. On my own. Ian not arriving until the next day. In a foreign land. To a house that I had dreamed of and which was in front of me. Did I get emotional. Huh. Yes. It was scary going in. Not because I was scared scared but because we had only seen the house three times. Some people pooh pooh love at first sight. So do I generally – unless it’s cake. Or a plant. But I fell in love with the garden. Straight away. No hesitation. No thoughts on how I would manage to keep it as is let alone change anything. So big breaths and all that …..
And I’m in. First reaction – no lock on the front gate! But I’m two weeks early. It’s Spain. Manyana. A word I’ve been told to get used to. I open the gate – the smell of honeysuckle mixes with the scent of Jasmine greets me. I’d forgotten how much I love that smell.
The garden is as lovely as I remember. More lovely now as it’s ours. Debbie whose garden it was had been panicking about the lavender hedge. One part of the garden not on the simple irrigation system. She needn’t have. It was fine. Before I opened the door I went to check that the timers had been put on the taps. They had! Good old Victor had been. The Estate agent had given me a plan of the areas for the zones. I have yet to work that out. That’s for another day. So I’m in. The house is just as I remember. Just as well really there is no going back at this stage.
So down go the bags. A quick whiz around and straight out into the garden. A cuppa tea in hand. We have been left an array of garden tools.- a wheelbarrow. Hedge trimmers. A chain saw! I find the secateurs. I’m an avid deheader. That’s my mother’s influence. She couldn’t resist walking up the path without deadheading her roses. Or anyone else’s to be fair.
The tools . All neatly hanging on the wall. So armed with the secateurs I wander around snipping here and there as I go.
A trug soon filled. It’s exciting to find the plants. The scented Lavender path. Honeysuckle. Jasmine –
I counted three varieties of Jasmine this one a sweet smelling Jasminum azoricum – a new one on me. But I’m going to try it in London. It flowers all summer.
A pineapple guava, whose name I got from a request to my friend Sara Venn. The flowers and fruit are edible. I’ll try the flowers next week.
There is olive , citrus, bird of paradise, a black bird of paradise something I’ve never seen before and had passed by twice thinking the plant was a banana. Not noticing the flowers half way down the plant.
Succulents who’s name s I have no idea.
So am I happy. Hell yes. A good sleep and I’m wakened on Friday morning I think by the sound of the bell on the gate. ( it sounds grander than it is. Trust me. ). Well I think I heard something and get up. Throw some clothes on.
Look out of the window to see that the bell may have been rung. But we have no gates. They are on the back of a van. Being manhandled by a young man. A young man who speaks no English. My limited vocabulary in Spanish of ordering a coffee. Asking for the bill. And toothpicks is no good in situations like this. So between us we speak Spanglais. I ask him how long they will be away ( we are having a lock fitted – I know more keys) at which point he sticks two fingers up. By that I am meant to understand two. Two what.? Hours. Days. Weeks. I understand the word hours. But do I believe him.
In 2 hours the gates are back. With a new lock. Hung back in place and two of them this time knock the kitchen door with 3 more keys.
All whilst Mr Wifi is on the roof pointing his aerial across the valley so I can get access to the other important things in life. Calls via Tu for a start as the signal is a bit iffy. Social media. Emails. Skype.
So we have lift off. A front gate with a lock. And wifi. Not the lock. That doesn’t have wifi. What more could I ask for. I don’t suppose they deliver pizza round here. On horseback.
I have fun looking at plants. Looking again. And wondering what on earth I do. We have a slope behind the house. It has almonds. Some figs. Nespera/loquats I’m not sure if those olives are on our bit. Next time I see the previous owner I will have to ask.
I decide to go for a swim. Which I do but it may say it’s 22* but to me that’s like swimming in the North Sea. So I’m in and out as fast as Ian Thorpe in the Olympics. I have a confession. I hate wet swimming trunks. Hate them. Always have. Trunks that stick to your legs. That and those crappy hotel shower curtains that stick to your bum. Hate them.
So. I get out of the pool and quickly get out of the trunks as usual to change into a dry pair & wrap myself in a towel. Just as the bell on the front gate rings. I can’t ignore it – they may never come back. It may be the plumber. Or the Estate Agent. Ha . It’s the neighbours coming to say hello! The last time I took my top off in public was 1986. What a way to greet them. Lovely neighbours too. With a bottle of red and a card to welcome us both. So I’m off and in quick time I had thrown on some clothes. But I looked shifty. They will have thought I’d been skinny dipping. Not at 22* I hadn’t. Trust me.
I decided that as I was picking Ian up from the airport late – like 1.30am I should fill up with fuel. Another job I hate in a strange car in a new town. What side is the cap on. Will I get it off. ( don’t mention France when I couldn’t and threw a strop. I know. Me. A strop). Easy least this one. Drive in. HOla. Buenos días. cómo estás To the young man. Who says 95? I look bewildered I know but I haven’t even got my bus pass. Not yet. Then realise he’s taking fuel grade.
Cheapest. It’s a hire car. So I’m back in the 50s and he unscrews the cap and fills up the car. With 95. I pay. Go back to the car. Get in. Actually get in. Sit down. Now they are laughing at me.
Why? Because I’ve only got in the passenger side. Sat down and looked down and realised there was no steering wheel. Huh. That broke the ice. The mad Brit who thought he was being asked his age then gets in the wrong side. Ian can fill up on Monday. .
So day 1 and day 2 of the new adventure. Interesting. Fun. And at times embarrassing!
When I mentioned to some friends Matt & Clare at my favourite local breakfast haunt Petitou in Peckham that we were looking at a place in Spain Matt said that he had recently recommended the book Driving over Lemons to his daughter. A book that was sitting on the book shelf at home. It reminded me that I had read the books some years ago and thought I’d go back and read them again. I’ve started and they are wonderful and particularly relevant to the new adventure we find ourselves having.
As well as twitter I use Instagram. A lot. My camera was a purchase not long after my father died and was a more expensive one than I would normally buy. But I’ve loved it. Never far from my hand it enables me to snap away. That’s why the pictures of Ian are always of him ahead of me. Firstly he hates pictures and there are very few of us together. Secondly. I am always hanging back snapping away happily. This and that.
A fellow instagrammer commented on some of my recent Andalusia pictures and said that it was like Driving over lemons. That had me smiling. Two mentions of lemons in such a short space of time. I almost gave myself a squeeze with delight. Rather than usually having a face like I’ve been sucking a lemon.
It’s all about the citrus. Oranges and lemons. Lemons and limes.
Andalusia is indeed special. Has beautiful scenery. Mountains. Great light. Long and winding roads where motion sickness pills may be required. Just to get to the bottom of the hill. Zig zag roads. Twisty. The road from Competa to Torrox Costa a roller coaster of a drive. There is Coastline. Beaches. Mountains. Natural parks. People. ( back to the horse rider again). Tapas. Wine. The attitude of don’t do it today if it can wait for a week. Maybe not next week. But a week. You can’t be in a hurry in Spain. Unlike London where we are always rushing. Here there. So it’s a glorious difference and a great adventure to be starting. Part time. Not full. I need no convincing.
The mountains are spectacular surrounding the Andalusia Towns and villages. There was snow on the mountain tops in early March when we were last there. Now its all gone. With bright blue skies. And a moon. Oh and heat and a mosquito. Or two.
The white washed towns and villages hang onto the side of the mountains. Pristine. White. Narrow streets – steep and winding. But making you want to see what’s around the corner. At the top of the steps. Breathless. Both in body. And spirit! Ian ahead of me As usual. Striding to get to the top. Me just striving to get to the top. Eventually.
I have found my Spanish’ Petitou. Casa Paco is situated on the square. Is friendly. Always busy. Now to try and order in Spanish. Or spanglais. I can ask for the bill. For toothpicks. Say hello. Ian is better than me. We both have apps on our phone trying to learn. If you see Ian on the tube. He’s not talking to himself. He’s learning his verbs. If you see me. I probably am.
Just down yet another long and winding road is Torrox Costa and then onto Nerja . Nerja with its restaurants. The beaches. Glorious torquise sea. Rocks. A coastline. Sea air. A slight detour to Frigiliana another white washed town nesltling on the hillside. But more touristy – has tour buses. Tourists. Like us. Except we have driven.
So back to Competa. On a clear day you can see down to the coast a 45 minute drive away. Probably quicker if I am not driving. Slowly. Ignoring my co driver saying. Ooh look at that. Sorry Ian. All I can look at is the road ahead.
These are known as the hanging houses in Competa. There are literally hanging on the cliffl looking pretty moorish lit up at night.
I wonder if i can get a part time job. The goat man with his herd of goats. Who walks them around the town and mountainside. Ian unimpressed with my sound of music rendition of ‘High on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. He hasn’t heard the yodelling bit yet. You smell the goats before you see or hear them. And the man has a whistle that they seem to understand. A bit pied piper to me . The downside for the part time job. That suit. I’m not sure it would suit me.
These plants are lethal. They seem to have taken a dislike for me. Big time. I swear they see me coming and jump out to scratch my arm. Badly. My hand was swollen after getting stabbed by one of these. But they along with the palms are beautiful and majestic.
More great views across the mountains.
I am looking forward to further forays into the surrounding villages. A trip to Granada. To Córdoba. To Malaga old town. A train trip to Sevilla. Oh. There will be pics. Lots of them. But not of me. Maybe of the back of Ian’s head. Of plants. And definetly of a horseman riding by.
Have I told I have retired. Oh. Yes. About a million times. Not that I exaggerate at all. But I have. That was the start of a new adventure. I’m still asked. ‘Aren’t you bored yet’ I’ve learnt to smile sweetly. And just say. No. What do you do they ask. This and that I reply. This and that. Here and there.
So the adventure continues.- with a bit of there. Rather than here. Or here rather than there. Dependant on where there is. At any given time.
For a long time Ian and I have wanted something ‘abroad’. We looked at France. We loved France. But why buy in France when we can stay at Cuq en Terrasses where we have celebrated big birthdays. Friends who own a fantastic Small hotel. With amazing food. We love Italy. But we have an annual invite to go and stay with friends at their house near Sienna. Which surprisingly. We take up. Annually.
We love Spain and have been back and forth for the last few years. Gaucin – too quiet. Benhavis. Lovely but not for us. Archidona – lovely but again a bit too quiet.
In March we headed to Competa in Andalusia. An hour from Malaga. To stay at a fab B&B Casa B We had some viewings. I was pretty definite in what I wanted. In the town. A roof terrace. No pool. But it didn’t work out like that.
We are back here at the beginning of May. To sign papers with the notary. . For completion at the end of the month. A place 10 minutes drive from town. Not a town house. Without a roof terrace.
So what sold it. What? The house or the town.
For the town it was life. It had a soul. In March. When many towns are still indoors. Still recovering from Xmas . Tapas in the square. Coffee. A glass of wine. Or two. One for me. The road is windy and narrow.
Less than an hr to a beach and on the edge of a national park. A shortish trip down the long and windy road to Nerja. To Frigiliana. We met some great people on the viewings. Stayed at a fab B&B. Made friends.
There was Tapas. And sunshine. And no. The horsemen riding by in the square on a Sunday morning didn’t swing it. Not really. I didn’t really see them. The oranges caught my eye. I was photographing the oranges. They photo bombed. I have been sat in the square for hours this time waiting to complain. They haven’t reappeared.
The house? Need you ask. It was the garden. I didn’t notice the house. Not at first. We viewed because I’d seen pictures of the garden. Small but beautiful. Both the house and the garden. A lock up and go. But the garden. Lovely planting. Lots of plants. Mediterranean. Dry.
In time I will be able to tell you which mountains. But geography isn’t my strongest point. The sat nav tells you the route. Not the name of the mountain ranges. The garden has citrus. It has lavender. Different types. Lots of it. Along the path. From the gate past the garage.
It has succulents. Agapanthus. Jasmine. A grape vine. Bird of paradise. It has plants I have no idea what to do with. How to care for. It has fruit I can’t pronounce or know what it tastes like. But for me the house had been sold on the garden.
When we met the owners again I hear him say ‘he’s only gone and bought a bloody book and spent a fortune’. Oh that’s Lorraine they say, on seeing the book the author – she lives here on the outskirts of town. Runs a garden centre. Supplies all the plants he’d like to have in his garden – whose laughing now eh. Especially as we went in and said hello. Where she gave me details of two open gardens nearby but sadly I won’t be here when they are open. Or there depending when you read this.
But I’m on her mailing list already. That book. Money well spent I say. He’s said I’m not to go there alone. I said she seemed very nice. I’m not worried about her he replied. Your gonna spend a fortune in there. And that’s just on what he’s seen! I haven’t started. New plants. New pots.
So it’s an adventure. A new path. Lined with lavender. From the garage to the house.
So we begin the adventure at the end of May where will be go between London and Andalusia. Gardening in both. Two very different gardens. Two very different climates. Both exciting. Different. Fun. Who said I’ll be bored in retirement.
A decision also made that after 23 years we will sell our lovely cottage and garden in the West Country and embark on this new adventure. We have had a wonderful time. A fabulous garden. But sometimes in life you need a new adventure. A change. Something different. Surprisingly we have taken the plunge.
There will be pictures. Lots of them. A bit of a blog here and there too. Apologies in advance!
I love Twitter and Instagram for different reasons. Instagram for the pictures obviously and Twitter for information, top tips and a bit of banter. Often Twitter will remind you of things that you should do. Places to go. People to see. That’s how we ended up going to RHS Garden Wisley today. I love twitter for the gardening folk I follow and who are always there to point you in the right direction to a plant or a garden, help with some advice, identify an unknown plant that may have appeared in the garden and to generally talk plants.
So following a tweet from @jackwallington who had been to Wisley earlier in the week I decided that after a 25 year absence a visit was long overdue. Finding my membership card was an adventure but find it I did. I wont mention my RHS disasters this week in deleting my print at home Chelsea and Chatsworth tickets. Ill save that for another day.
Fighting the Bank Holiday traffic through South London reminded me why we generally don’t travel over a Bank Holiday weekend but I was determined. I had started so we wold finish.
Busy. Was the car park busy. So busy we were sent to the overflow car park but despite my grumbling i was rather glad.
The walk from the car park was simply gorgeous. Bluebells were out everywhere like a beautiful carpet of blue loveliness. We would have missed this bit of the garden had we parked close to the main entrance. So every cloud and all that.
Typically Ian was 30 paces ahead. You’d think that after all this time he wouldngave notnbeen so embarrassed to be out with me ! But i had to stop not just for the bluebells but for the other delights that were begging to be photographed. I hadn’t been here for over 25 years remember.
The garden was busy. We realised only after we arrived that there was a craft fair in the grounds. A pretty decent fair to be honest and full of some top quality stuff. I was swiftly moved on through the garden toward the glasshouse, after a sausage bap!
I love a good glass house. This one didn’t disappoint and was somewhere to get a little inspiration for our new mediterannean garden.
It’s great to see the unusual and interesting and there were definetly some of those here. The bird of Paradise plant so high it had a sign that said this is not a banana plant. The plant whose buds looked like a great big fat nose and opened into a simply gorgeous flower – solandra Maxima – a blue brugisima, a protea as big as a dinner plate. Orchids which remind me of orchids bought in Castle Cary from another Instagram friend @ridgewayfarm when she had then best gardening shop ever, oh and the clivias also reminded me of her too – she introduced me to them too and one sat in mine and my friend Janes office for years.
The big pots of Agapanthus were further on than mine but then again they are in a glasshouse. Mine are in pots in South London. So they would be wouldn’t they! I wonder how many bags of Lou’s Poo they would need here.
Outside the glass house is a Prairie garden. I’m spoilt in that we have the wonderful Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser and Wirth Somerset just down the road in Bruton but I love them. Not so much in Spring to be honest but later in the season. The planting I know at Bruton is stunning and there are glimpses here that show what it will be like later in the season.\
There is so much to see and not enough time in one visit to take it all in n The fruit garden is full of the most amazing espaliers of all fruit types, apples pears medlars. The rows of apples some still in bloom some with fruit setting are like great long avenues. The planting is amazing with long avenues of paths to walk through.
Great big beds of Rhubarb. They hold the National Plant collection – with enournmous leaves and pink fleshy stalks, some being forced. The produce bing used in the restaurant and in Jams to be sold at the shop. I sisnt look to see if any rhubarb was for sale. Would have been good to have tasted a variety that you don’t usually get at the greengrocer
To be honest you get lost in the size and scale and the beautiful way it is presented. I can’t remember much about my previous visit ‘ may be I wasn’t as interested in the planting and the plants themselves then. But we were both impressed.
The perennial beds [ mixed borders] on either side of the sweeping walk to the top of the hill look like they will be exceptional in the summer. The borders are springing to life with the alliums starting to pop into bloom in little drifts and singularly throughout the beds. Like tulips it looks like this year will be good for alliums too. The borders are massive – the website says ‘ a sweeping 420ft’ – imagine the plant buying for that. They leave the beds to their own devices. No watering – no good for me – i would have to be out there with the hose constantly.
Having recently stayed at Ard Daraich in Scotland I was keen to see the rhododendrons and the azaleas. The flowers were more advanced than Scotland and again the planting and the paths between them encouraged you to walk through. I still find the buds as fascinating as the flowers themselves and I was even more appreacitive of the guided tour of the Scottish garden given to me by Norrioe Maclaren when we were there.
Onto an area where I loved the colour palette of the planting. The last of the tulips- bright red with the start of the alliums. Simply lovely and a bed I would love to have.
This is a glorious view away from the house along the canal with the Henry Moore sculpture, King and Queen and the beds of lovely scented wallflowers. my window box of wallflowers has an abundance of leaves and only two flowers. Those two yellow flowers smell glorious. Busy i was expecting a bit more!
Neither of us had any knowledge of the history of RHS Wisley and its interesting to see that it was gifted to the RHS in 1903
Another cuppa tea. A scone and cream. Jam first of course. A wander to purchase some plants – only one today a philadelphus Belle Etoille which we had in the Somerset garden years ago. I even think Ian was impressed. One plant only. That’s progress. He doesn’t know about the ones I bought earlier in the week,
Was it worth the drive. The traffic. Running into ex colleagues. Definetly and thanks Jack!
Some more random photos.
We had decided that we would go away for Easter again this year. I’d have liked a bit of sun. Ian decided the Highlands of Scotland. As far away as possible from any sun. In April. But I was persuaded on two counts. The first a trip on the Caledonian sleeper. The second was a stay at Ard Adraich which looked great. Which also had a fantastic 8 acre garden. The garden is open to the public and there is a small nursery where you can buy plants. The added bonus we were staying there. In the garden. Well not in the actual garden. But the garden studio.
The house was originally owned as a holiday home by the cookery writer and florist Constance Spry although I suspect she wouldn’t recognise the garden today which has grown in size and beauty.
To be honest. I was in love as soon as I saw the hedge. Yes. In love with a hedge that sits along the front oft the main house. A stunning camellia hedge. And I mean stunning.
The front of the house along the lane had a long row of skunk cabbage which I had never seen before and which is due to be thinned out. Thankkfully after we leave.
Norries father collected seed from around the world and the trees and the plants in the garden reflect this.
The garden is full of Rhododendrons azaleas and maples with rare exhibits and plants from around the world. . The rhodendrons are being catalogued and there are over 1000 species in the garden. That’s species not number of plants!
Norrie kindly gave us a tour – an hour long through the various levels. They garden on a hill with practically no soil which in itself is impressive. I have heard of no dig gardening. But no soil. The garden is fed with seaweed. The moss taken off the granite rocks lay at the bottom of the rock.
The garden isn’t without moss especially on this tree which looks like a hand making a rude sign.
But the variety of the plants, the planting and the colours are simply magnificent. Breathtaking. So much so I listened intently to Norrie and tried to remember the names and species. Great big fat fail I’m afraid. There were too many! But I heard maples. Camellias. Sorbus. Plants originating from Japan. South Korea
The flowers were glorious in bloom but I loved the ones which were budding and about to burst into colour, form and shape.Of which there are many. Hundreds if not thousands of flower buds.
I have never really looked at the buds before. Usually just the big blousey flowers. But Norrie was right. The buds are often as interesting if not more exciting than the blooms and they vary in shape, colour and size.
Alongside one tree were branches still with last season seed heads. Brilliant to see this together with this seasons flowers.
The garden is much more than just rhodendrons. At the side of the path from the garden studio sits a big fat gunnera looking magnicent as the sun shines through the leaves. There are camellias. Euphorbia. Large trees. Sorbus. Maples. Hosta. Japanese anemones. Wild flowers.
Other interesting plants and flowers
Norrie keeps bees and even at this time of the year you can hear them working in the quiet stillness of the garden. As well as bees thengarden is a haven for birds and we have been lucky to watch the woodpecker at the feeder each morning along with blue tits great tits coal tits a sole robin and chaffinchs.
I have taken so many pictures of the garden and I only wish I could remember all Norrie told me. The garden is stunning.
The garden studio a great place to stay and with access to so many places nearby. Oh. I can’t forget fresh eggs from the Ard Daraich chickens, and the friendliness and helpful hosts.
The gate to the bees the chickens and more plants! A glorious country view.
You may find me there. With a glass of wine. And a view.
So the adventure continued. I went back to sleep for a bit but I didn’t want to miss anything – certainly not a Scottish breakfast. It was light – outside. Not the breakfast. Keep up. There was scenery to scene. Photo opportunities to opportune.
What a joy the scenery is to behold. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. Wild. Barren. Lush. Green. Dead. All kinds of everything. ( thanks Dana). Such variety.
So we managed the Scottish breakfast. Not a cordon bleu delight. – more cordon bleughhhhhh. But hot edible and a hot cuppa tea to go with it. And we had to talk to each other. Sort of.
But I managed to blag a window that opened and took some pics. Don’t try and move me. I’m here for the duration.
I made sure there was nothing to hit my face on as I hung out of the carriage- in parts it was pretty barren. But lovely.
The higher mountains still had snow caps.
The stations we passed through were pretty well kept and remote. You wouldn’t want to miss your train and have to wait for the next one! Ian did ask me if I wanted to get off and take some photos – yea right. As younwave goodbye when the train takes off. I stayed out. Thank you very much.
To be fair I really enjoyed the journey. I’m sure next year with the new fancy carriages. The new livery. The new food options. But In 2018 with a new operator there will be new carriages with ensuite compartments, pod flatbeds and a brasserie-style club bar will be part of the new service. I hope with a 60 million grant from the Scottish govt they will keep prices reasonable. Somehow I doubt it. It will become a luxury tourist trip.
Ian reckoned he’d booked us two tents. He used to go camping as a kid. He forgot. I booked the accommodation. I know where we are going. Trust me it ain’t camping. I may have brought thermals. I may have brought a hat and a scarf. But unless there is an inside toilet a log burner and a dishwasher then I’m sorry. Thanks but no thanks. Not for love. Not for money.
Fort William was our final train destination – there To pick up a hire car. When did you last hire a car and the person checking yr details actually came to the car. Showed you the controls. Talked to you. Like never. It always used to happen. And it did again today. We met the guy in the car park – dodgy – and he handed over the keys. Sat in the passenger seat. Showed me thecontrols signed the papers. I expected him to say to ian get in the back mate. I’m coming along for the ride. He didn’t. This time.
The last leg of the journey was the ferry. The Corran ferry. A 5 minute crossing to Ardbough. Never complain about the servern bridge tolls. £8.20. For a 5 min crosssing. But better than a 35 mile detour. So we arrived. And the house. The garden. The little studio we had rented was glorious.
The main house. Originally the holiday home of Constance Spry.
The garden studio. Our home for 4 days.
I fell in love straight away with the camellia hedge. Which is stunning.
There’s no doubt I like a holiday. I always have. Like everything i blame my mother. But then I blame her for almost everything. Growing up she and dad always were always on the go. The garden, out dancing on a Friday and Sunday night. Or going for a ‘run’ on a weekend. Today going for a run means just that – not that I do not even for a bus. To mum and dad it meant getting in the car and driving somewhere. The beach usually. places within easy reach of Cardiff. Lavernock – or knock knock I called it as a youngster. Southerndown. Porthcawl. Llantwit Major. Fontagary. For an ice cream at Penarth or a walk around the show ground at Barry Island. Watching Nessa work the change cabin in Gavin and Stacey brought back memories. What’s occurring indeed. No she wasn’t there in the 60s. But there were people like her!
I digress. But that’s not unusual. So they gave me the bug. Not to sit down for too long. The garden. Little trips out. Bigger trips. So. Its Easter and we decided on a staycation this year. Scotland won – better go and use my EU passport whilst I still can. Ian’s a Scott. Glasgow born and bred and still yearns for Scotland, it’s friendliness and its scenery. He recalls tales of camping in the highlands and has suggested that we could do that. Yea. Right. Camping – no comments please – is not for me. Unless its luxurious. Plus. Midges hate me. With a vengeance.
Instead we book the overight sleeper toFort William from Euston. It’s by no means cheap but with a bit of thought and a two together railcard you can get 34% off your fare. Even the first class fare. Helps when the train guard says nice picture. Which it isn’t.
From Fort William we will head to Lock Linhie to do a bit of self catering at a garden studio in what was once Constance Sprys holiday home.- where the garden ( oh look a garden thrown in too) is open to the public. I’m hoping rhododendrons.
Ian’s done the train before but not for a long time. When we board he says nothing has changed. ( I don’t tell him he has) The carriages have been in service for 35 years and are due to be replaced. In 2018. So we have to do and make do with what we have now. I make a note to do this again when the fancy pants new carriages are in place. Because they do sound fancy with a 100 million budget. For now I’m glad to experience this one. At these prices because as sure as eggs are eggs there’s only one way they will go.
To be fair whilst the carriages look a little tired – as do we – they aren’t bad at all. Clean. Tidy. Good white sheets. A sleep over kit from Arran Aromatics. A sink. The important USB charger point. Interconnecting door between our two single cabins which actually does make a difference – you don’t feel quite so claustrophobic with the door open. But I did think I was getting one night snore free.
I’ve started to write this at 4am as we have pulled into Edinburgh Waverley where we have stopped for a while before the highland journey. To be fair the stop didn’t wake me and I’m surprised that I have slept for over 5 hours. The journey wasn’t as bumpy as I had expected and to be fair whilst the berth was a little warm it’s been really comfortable. I’m not sure I’d want to share a double cabin in bunk beds particularly if I was in the top bunk – I’d be paranoid I’d fall out. But first I’d have to climb up there. And it would need to be reinforced.
The next leg of the journey will be interesting. We did the west highland line over 20 years ago and it was stunning and then we went from Glasgow to Mallaig.
So I’m going to be found in the corridor with my camera as we pass through Bridge of Orchy Spean Bridge Rannoch and there will be pictures. As usual. But first I think I have another hour or so before dawn so I’m going to get a bit more beauty sleep.