This year Mr and Mrs C had a busy old Summer, including a river cruise in France, Yorkshire by Rail and … Well read on …
It’s September already and John Lewis has already filmed its Christmas advert. Elton John and Your Song apparently. The budget for the pre-publicity advertising the upcoming advert must be phenomenal. Remember this one? I’m no dog lover but it even made me smile!
Frankly, the whole thing is ridiculous. Winter coats come in the shops before half of us have even been on our Summer Holidays. And buying new swimwear is way easier in February than August. Wait till the sun starts shining and there’s only the ‘Sales’ stuff around. Mad!
Summer or Autumn?
I know the kids have already gone back to school but it’s still relatively summery isn’t it?! Ok the evenings are getting darker earlier but it’s 18 degrees here today! Thing is we still have one more summery break left in a couple of weeks time in Italy and I was hoping to get some new swimwear for the Spa hotel we’re going to. Can I find anything decent? Nope! It’s the Double Gs that make it awkward for me and I’m limited anyway to a small number of shops to buy from. (Note to Self: Must buy a swimsuit from Bravissimo after Christmas next year and not wait till the Summer!)
So, our Summer so far has been very eventful and different. I mean it’s not every year you get a new grandchild! And our first too. Baby Dylan was born 6 weeks early in July so part of the Summer has been spent in transit between Cardiff and Aberdeen. He’s tiny, he’s gorgeous and we love him to bits!
As for the rest of the Summer? Well it’s been absolutely lovely. It all started with a Mini-Break in Devon and Cornwall where I fell in love with Talland Bay . A decidedly cool CamperVan Trip came next and I was really surprised by how much fun we had. Yes we had to walk across a field to get to the immaculate showers and loos but hey, it was hot and dry so who cares!
River Cruise in France
Mr. C says that the highlight of the Summer for him was our River Cruise in France. Despite a few adventurous narrowboat holidays some years back, neither of us had ever been on a river cruise. Years back in his teens, Mr. C worked on a few big cruise ships. You know the sort I mean, the ones with a few thousand people on. I shudder at the very thought of going on one of those. No, the river cruise we went on was nothing like those. There were about 22 passengers on board and a crew of 6 and we were spoilt rotten the entire time.
Our river cruise in France with Great Rail Journeys meandered from Paris up the Marne Valley to the Champagne region. Relaxing on the top deck watching the ridiculously pretty scenery slowly going past, I was the most chilled I’ve felt in a long time. Lying back in the lounge chairs in the sunshine with my Kindle, it was easy to forget about work and really switch off. The chef on board made every mealtime special, describing each course and telling us all about the provenance of the ingredients. We learned a lot about cheese and tried something new every day. And as expected a lot of very good French wine was consumed.
The MS Raymonde
The beds in our cabin were super-comfy and we both slept like logs every night. Weirdly, you would never have known you were on a boat. The MS Raymonde was smart, clean and equipped with everything you could need. The air-con had to work overtime as the temperature was in the 30s, but it never once let us down. Cooling down in our room at the end of hot, dusty days sightseeing, was a treat in itself.
Amongst the various day-trips seeing the sights was a visit to a cheese museum in Meaux and a falconry show at Chateau Thierry. The cathedral in Reims was impressive with some of the most beautiful stained glass windows we’ve ever seen. The last day sailing up to Epernay, which is the capital of the Champagne region, was probably the best day. We walked, we listened, we learnt and we drank the bubbly stuff! The visit to the local grower and champagne producer taught us lots about the various stages of champagne production. And of course ending the last day with several glasses of top-notch champagne was a bit of a bonus.
So after France, came Yorkshire …
Yorkshire by Rail
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Yorkshire but doing Yorkshire by Rail was a completely different experience. Once again this was taking us out of our comfort zone as Mr. C and I usually prefer completely independent travel. The very idea of travelling with a group of people was anathama to me. However my preconceived notions went out of the window twice this Summer. The first time on the French river cruise and the second time chugging through the Yorkshire countryside on spectacularly well-maintained steam trains! We were travelling with like-minded people i suppose which helps, but also there were plenty of opportunities for me-time and/or couple-time. The hotel we stayed in was in Harrogate, a majestic town I’m very familiar with and love. There’s no shortage of restaurants and eateries in Harrogate but the Porterhouse Restaurant at The Cedar Court Hotel proved to be exceptional. Afternoon Tea at the renowned Betty’s was a must and The Spirit of Harrogate Slingsby Gin Experience was great fun. Educational too!
Goathland Station and Harry Potter
The volunteers we met, who worked on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Worth Valley Railway, were inspirational and abounded with enthusiasm. If you’re not all that interested in trains before you go on the trip, then you’ll be a fan at the end, I guarantee. The Worth Valley Rail Story even gave us the opportunity to sit in reconstructed First Class and Third Class seats from back in the day!
The highlight for many of the people on our tour was seeing Goathland Station which turns out to be the station used in the Harry Potter films. It went over my head as I’m one of the few people, it would seem, who’s never seen or read Harry Potter! For me, visiting Haworth and the Brontes home was uplifting and the chips in Whitby were up there with the ‘best chips ever’! Forget your 2 AA Rosettes fancy triple-cooked chips and give me hot and salty freshly-cooked traditional chips by the seaside any day!
So this Summer, we’ve just about covered most forms of transport. We’ve driven the length of the country grandbaby-visiting in our Corsa! We’ve holidayed in a fab VW Campervan . Whizzed on Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris for our week snaking through the waterways of France on a river-cruiser. Taken the train up to Harrogate for our scenic tour of Yorkshire by rail on old steam trains and in a couple of weeks time, we’ll be flying to The Tirol. And (the icing on the cake!) there, we’ll be staying in a hotel which offers guests complimentary Vespas for sightseeing. And they’re yellow! I can’t wait!
Great Rail Journeys (01904 527180) offer a 7-day France’s Waterways From Champagne to Paris cruise departing from London St Pancras. The holiday includes 6 nights aboard the MS Raymonde, 17 meals, all-inclusive drinks, and excursions. Prices start from £1,195 pp twin share cabin for 14 May & 25 Jun 2019.
Experience Yorkshire by Steam on an escorted group tour with Rail Discoveries . From £375pp, the 5-day trip includes 3-4* hotel accommodation, all rail, excursions and selected meals. Visit https://www.raildiscoveries.com/tours/yorkshire-steam-railway/ or call 01904 734 812