Sunday 22 January

Last Tuesday we left Chester after tea and headed over to Beverley to stay with my Mum, with a car full of tools.  Wednesday was going to be an exciting day as  we were due to pick up the keys to our new home and it was also my birthday.

We woke early and, after I’d opened my birthday cards, we headed out to the estate agents to collect the keys before driving straight round to Pudding Gate. We spent an exciting time taking stock and chatting through plans of the changes we’d like to make.

I then headed out to Wilkos to buy a few items that we hadn’t brought with us before we tackled taking up the old carpets, and tying them into rolls so we could take them to the tip before Storm started steaming the wallpaper off the spare bedroom walls.

The day wasn’t all work though as I took some time out in the afternoon to go and meet a friend  and my Mum treated us to a meal out in the evening.

We’re planning to camp out at the house next time we visit as we’ve got power and hot water and we want to introduce Max to his new home as he’s not been yet, so we’re preparing the smaller of the bedrooms ready for our stay as this will be the room that will be least disturbed by the proposed works!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were spent stripping more walls and my Mum popped in twice to help us.   A couple of trips to the tip were made and Jethro the chimney sweep came and cleaned our flue so we can now light the fire.

Storm had invited various tradesmen to pop round to discuss what work we needed doing and so various cups of coffee were made as well.

This morning, we took the morning off and drove through to Hull with my Mum for a morning of culture in Victoria Square.  Despite the freezing temperature we stood a while to admire the 75m turbine blade that lies across the Square and which is going to be here until March.   We loved it.   We understand that someone from Hull City Council’s planning department is unhappy that no-one applied for planning permission.  Does a work of art, and a temporary one at that, need planning permission?

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We wonder whether Hull City Council are really giving City of Culture its full support as the number of road closures, carpark closures, limited parking times, the number of orange barriers placed everywhere, and the closure of the New Theatre for renovation might suggest otherwise!  Anyone visiting Hull for the first time might struggle to navigate their way around and question the Council’s support for this event.

After that we went into Ferens Art Gallery where we were delighted to find the galleries  full of people enjoying the art on display.   Whenever we’ve visited in the past, it has been almost deserted.  What a difference some publicity  makes!  The Francis Bacon and Local Artists exhibition were marvellous and we could have spent a lot longer here had we not been limited for time.

We stopped for a bite of lunch before dropping Mum back home and driving back to Chester for another two days of childminding.

 

 

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Friday 13 January

To escape the extremes of cold and windy weather for a few days, we decided to treat ourselves to four sunny days in Barcelona as a birthday gift to each other.  We invited our friend Terry to join us.

We flew from John Lennon Airport with Ryanair and our flight left on time and arrived early evening on Twelfth Night.   We caught the Airbus into the City and were lucky enough to catch a brief glimpse of their fabulous Christmas lights before they turned them off at midnight.  Terry met us off the bus and walked us to our hotel.

We spent the next day getting our bearings and walked miles, visiting first the Cituadella Park and their Arc De Triumph, where we spotted all the parakeets nesting in the trees.

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After that we headed down to the harbour where we enjoyed some chilled medication while admiring some of the fabulous boats moored there and which made ours look very small.

We then walked along the coast towards the Olympic Park before heading back inland and eventually back towards the Gothic quarter where we had a few beers before dining out at Rossini’s pizza restaurant.  Storm’s calzone was something else!!

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The second day we walked to Montjuic and climbed the hill to the castle at the top from where the views over Barcelona city and the dockland areas were magnificent.  Our climb was interrupted by a visit to the Jean Miro museum.  In the evening we ate at Cuines Santa Caterina restaurant.  This was another excellent restaurant and had been recommended to us.  We were not disappointed.

On the third day we’d booked to tour Gaudi’s Segrada Familia and this was definitely the highlight of the trip.  A tour of the inside is a must.  I hadn’t appreciated before we went that this building is still under construction and isn’t due to be completed until 2026. Nevertheless it is breathtaking and the most fascinating  and awe inspiring building I have ever visited.

We know someone who would be very envious of the model workshop we discovered in the crypt!  Models of every facet of the build are created here, and there are literally millions of facets to this amazing building.  Pip, you would have thought you had died and gone to heaven!!

Terry is a vegetarian and he thought he’d spotted a restaurant in the Gothic quarter that only offered vegetarian meals.  Nostrum!  By the time we realised our mistake we felt we were committed to eat there.  It is more of a take away restaurant for back packers and with meal options all under three euros we didn’t feel out of pocket!!  In fact the beer cost more than the food.  Once you’ve chosen your meal option, you have the choice of taking it home or you can dine in if you heat it up yourself in a microwave.  We dined in.

Terry left us on Tuesday morning to return to the UK and Storm and I caught the bus out to Park Guell, to see more of Gaudi’s work.  The guide book said it was accessible by metro, but we were glad we’d caught the bus as from the metro station there is a 1km vertical climb.    In the afternoon we visited the Picasso museum.  Unfortunately this was a bit of a disappointment.   A few years ago we visited his museum in Paris with our son James, and this was a much more enjoyable experience with a much wider selection of his work.     After another exhausting day we ate again at Cuines, the restaurant in the market, before heading home for an early night before our flight in the morning.

Our flight home left on time but I think we must have been flying into a head wind as it took half an hour longer to reach Liverpool than expected.  We’d seen the strong wind weather warnings before we left Barcelona and so weren’t too surprised to encounter a bit of turbulence on the way home and the landing was a little wobbly.  We were glad to be back on the ground but the external temperature was a bit of a shock.

We’ve been staying at Laura’s since, although we did move the boat back to its mooring yesterday afternoon in the lull before last night’s wind and snow.

 

New Year’s Day 2017

Happy New Year!

For the last few days we’ve spent a quiet time on our own and have enjoyed a couple of lovely walks with Max across frozen landscapes under clear blue skies and also a couple of trips to the furniture shops to look for ideas for our new home.

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Otherwise we’ve sat huddled round our stove which is keeping the sitting area really toasty but we woke to a thin layer of ice on the inside of the bathroom window on Thursday morning because we’d inadvertently closed the door when we went to bed!

On Friday, when the ice thawed and the towpath tap worked again, we topped up with water, took delivery of some coal and gas, untied and headed towards our local hostelry.  It was nice to be on the move again, albeit only for an hour of lock free cruising.

New Year’s Eve is Storm’s birthday.  Presents and cards were opened in bed with a cup of tea before we headed out.  So as not to clash with anyone’s evening plans, we’d invited Laura, Marc, Summer & Joseph, to join us for a birthday breakfast at The Cheshire Cat.    This was really lovely and we ate all that was placed before us.

Despite our plans to have a rip roaring New Year’s Eve, we ended up having a quiet night in.  The only cocktail I managed was one of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen as I tried to kill off whatever is making my throat so sore!

I cooked Storm one of his favourite meals and then we sat back to watch telly.  We managed to stay awake until midnight and admired the firework display overhead.  Max wasn’t too impressed, but he kept his excitement to a minimum, only barking madly when they let the bangers off.