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Author: Leigh (Bella) St John

Today’s Office…

It’s a hard life when this is your office for the day…

The cruise ship, Ocean Majesty was in the harbour for a visit…

…and it’s a good thing they are not superstitious about name changes, as she has been called:

  • 1966–1985: Juan March
  • 1985–1986: Sol Christina
  • 1986–1988: Kypros Star
  • 1988–1994: Ocean Majesty
  • 1994–1995: Olympic
  • 1995: Homeric
  • 1995 onwards: Ocean Majesty

These ramps were built for the D-Day embarkation…

A city councillor in full regalia on hand to welcome the international cruise ship visitors…

…and breakfast was delicious!

…one of the crew…

The Ocean Majesty’s tender ferrying passengers to land and back to the ship…

…always something to do when one owns a boat…

OK, back to work for this Princess Pixie…  🙂

~ Bella

Best Birthday Ever…

This year, I had the absolute best birthday ever!

Starting last Sunday with Goodwood, then on my actual birthday Gillian and her daughter Ellie took me out for brunch – it was soooooo lovely and delicious!

…then cruising on one of the last horse-drawn canal boat at Tiverton… followed by a boat trip over to Brixham… then a truly glorious evening at the Imperial Hotel with friends and family…

…this man below is named Paul and not only was he friends with John, Gillian and Michael, but Paul also played for me a Gershwin medley for my birthday!  I felt ever so honoured and special…

What a truly lovely evening!

Then the next day, we went exploring to Port Isaac, where the television series “Doc Martin” is filmed…

All in all, the most magical birthday EVER!

Thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate…  I love you all so very, very much…

~ Bella xxx

Visiting Doc Martin’s Fishing Village

Have you seen the TV program, “Doc Martin”?

Well, today we (my friend Karen who has been visiting from Hastings) went exploring and decided to find the fishing village where the series is filmed on location.

The village is Port Isaac and is located in Cornwall – or as we say here, west-west Devon.  🙂

…and in case you are wondering, we were driving down these ridiculously skinny roads!

Since there was no where to park – unless you took a packed lunch and hiked forever back down the hill, we decided to say farewell to Port Isaac and go in search for somewhere lovely for lunch…

…and came to an intersection – not knowing which direction to head, we decided to follow “Shoot”…

…and eventually discovered to what “shoot” related…

…and then, in Rock, near Splatt (and no, I am not joking!) we found a wonderful place for lunch…

After lunch, it was time to head back and ensure Karen made it safely on to the train at Torquay…

Yet another absolutely purrrrrrrrfect day!

~ Bella

 

 

Brixham by Boat

A perfect morning to literally just walk across the street and board a boat, cruising over Torbay to Brixham…

…and back home in time for another movie, more wine, and then getting ready to go out to meet up with dear friends to celebrate my birthday at the Imperial…

Yet another perfect day!

~ Bella

 

 

 

Horse-Drawn Canal Journey

Starting out from my home in Torquay, my friend Karen (who had come over from Hastings to help celebrate my birthday) and I headed north to Tiverton to check off yet another item on my bucket list – a journey on one of England’s last horse-drawn canal boats.

…these archways were once used to burn lime…

…but first, before our cruise, a scrumptious lunch in the cafe…

This is Ruby – the first female horse to have pulled the boat…

Tom, our guide and deckhand…

It was an absolutely glorious day, despite the rain… followed by wine, home-delivered Chinese food and a movie when we finally returned home.

The perfect way to spend a day!

~ Bella

 

 

Classic Car Racing at Goodwood

Goodwood Revival

There are a handful of experiences one has that are so wonderful, there are simply not enough superlatives to describe them – the Goodwood Revival was such an experience!

This was one of the best days I have ever had – ever!

So, what is the Goodwood Revival?  Read below…

When I left Torquay, this was the view from my door – a perfect start to the day!

…and each time I drive this route, the incredible gift of being able to pass so close to Stonehenge is never lost on me.  Visiting the monument had been on my Bucket List since I was a child and now, in addition to having visited it up close, I drive past it once a month or so…  Amazing.

…and speaking of Bucket Lists, I have checked off several things on mine over the past two weekends so need to go back and note them as such on my list.

After checking in to a hotel the night before, for the Goodwood Revival, I treated myself for my birthday (it is this week) to the full VIP treatment – starting with bypassing the crowds and public car parks and having private parking at the Goodwood Hotel.

…and I met up with one of my dearest friends who came over from Hastings for the event to help me celebrate my birthday – Karen and I started the day by meeting for breakfast at 7:30am…

Then it is off to the event… courtesy of being chauffeured in a vintage car!  (the first of many this day)

This Mercedes (below) was our first form of transport.  The vehicle was purchased new by this man’s parents.

…and we were deposited at one of the entrance gates… where a man came up to us and thought I was someone famous but he couldn’t remember her name…

…before changing to a different type of chauffeur…  See the buggies below?  That was to be our next form of transport!

What was interesting and quite lovely, was that Karen and I agreed, we already felt as though we had experienced a whole day’s worth of fun and adventure, and we had barely made it through the gates at that point!  …and the day only continued to get better!

…and here (below) is our chauffeur – and he was wonderful!  Not only chauffeuring us around the grounds, but also running errands…  We felt like royalty.

…and we were perched on the back…

By this stage of the day, my cheeks were sore from smiling soooooooo brightly!!!

There was sooooooo much to see and do, we have already decided that next year we are doing the entire weekend, not just one day – and VIP all the way, of course!

Up, up and away!

Our first destination?  Past all the vintage aircraft for our helicopter ride!

This was the departures lounge…

…and our next form of transport – Willy’s Jeeps from the lounge to the helipad area…

The entire team at Elite Helicopters were wonderful – as was everyone we encountered!

Some go-go juice for our chopper…

…and we are up!!!

This was the onsite camping…

What a fabulous experience!!!  This was my first helicopter flight (another check off the Bucket List) and I loved every minute of it!  I want one!  🙂

…and our chauffeur was there to collect us when we landed…

I love private access!

Ref photo below, remember, we are shooting from the back of the vehicle – they are now closing the gates behind us after we have gone through…

We had ever so many people turning around to look at us, chatting with us, laughing with us…  We felt like local celebrities!

Our buggy chauffeur dropped us back to change vehicles yet again – heading back to the Goodwood Hotel for a special VIP chef’s lunch…  This, below, was our next mode of transport…

You know you’re in England when you see a sign that says…

Oh, and here is a shot of some of my accessories I was wearing on the day, complete with flared skirt and tailored jacket with frill to match umbrella…

…and then back to the event via a new limousine.

…and then it was off to the track to watch the racing!

It was SO exciting!

…the noise was incredible – and nothing like modern racing…  I loved it – and the smell of racing fuel!

It was so sad – this car and another one had been going back and forth with first place for ages – but then his car caught on fire…

…and as the rain was about to set in, we decided to call it a day…

This collection (below) looked like a handful of M&Ms…

…and our final chauffeur in a vehicle that was unknown to me – a Jowett (British made during the 1920s and 30s)…

Then in to my final mode of transport – my glorious convertible I just bought a couple of weeks ago.  His name is Prince and I love him!

It was lovely leaving the Goodwood Estate, to still see a variety of classic vehicles, including this one (below) with Ohio plates…

…and if you would like to join me next year, here is the link to get notification when tickets go on sale…

All in all, this was truly an incredible experience!

It was honestly one of the very best days of my life…

…and a huge “thank you” to Karen for coming over to share it with me.

~ Bella

 

My Office on The River Thames

There are worse places to sit and work for the day than on the dock of an historic hotel, beside the River Thames…

Fluffy river companion…  (I do miss having a fluffy companion – one of the drawbacks of this amazing lifestyle…)

Sitting here, working away – the river provided a constant source of vibrancy and variation…

I love that this fluffy has his own life preserver…

Now, all of a sudden, it is like I am back in America with river paddle-wheelers…

This one is a baby in comparison, but still very lovely…

It started to sprinkle, so I after working outside for several hours, I decided to relocate inside and have a late lunch… and what is priceless – literally – is that there are three groups of elderly people here (in their 80s and 90s) with what appears to be the next generation younger (in their 60s and 70s) – and listening to their various conversations about what they did when they were young…  I feel SO blessed to be witness to such living history…

…and for some reason, the police boat decided to do several pirouettes in front of the hotel…?

About to enjoy lunch…

What a glorious day…

~ Bella

 

 

Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace

No sooner did I pick up the keys to my beautiful apartment, I dropped my luggage, repacked, and was off across the country…

First stop after an overnight rest-break part-way, was collecting the car I just bought – a black Volvo C70 convertible, with black leather interior and wood trim – he’s just lovely and I have named him Prince after a beautiful black Shire horse I love.  It was funny that while I was at the car yard, a couple was also there who lived only 10 minutes away from my place in Charleston, South Carolina, at the same time I lived there several years ago – and they also now spend six months of the year in England.

Then Prince and I headed down to Hampton Court and checked into a glorious suite complete with private balcony in an historic hotel, immediately across the road from the Palace.

Dating back in parts to 1665 and located on the Thames, The Mitre Hotel originally served as lodging for courtiers who could not be accommodated at Hampton Court Palace opposite.

…and the final destination for my journey…

The magnificent Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace.

My welcome kit for the Concours…  I decided to go all out and purchased a full VIP package that gave me access to the Owners tents etc…

Across the road to the gates of Hampton Court Palace…

…and if you are not up on your history, Hampton Court Palace was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was at the time a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, Wolsey fell from favour and Henry VIII seized the palace for himself.

From this angle, it looks like she is hitting him on the head with the jug!

What an incredible ceiling!  (below)

Through these doors is heaven…………

With literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of classic and historic vehicles on display, I felt so incredibly privileged and honoured to be there.

There were film crews from all over the world…

Relaxing for a while in the Owners’ Enclosure (one of the VIP perks) and enjoying a cup of tea, I met several owners and had some wonderful conversations – including what it takes to ship such a vehicle internationally.

This man (below) looks like he is praying… perhaps for one to be delivered for Christmas…

British fashion is unmissable…

…and even with such magnificence on display, this crew from Europe were still glued to their phones…

This lovely example below was awarded “Best In Show”…

Unfortunately, my body was in too much pain to stay for the entire day but I am still glad I went for the time I could.  So, then it was back through the Palace and back to the hotel…

…and so now I am curled up resting and watching the Burghley Horse Trials on the enormous television in my suite.

Sending love and smiles to all…

~ Bella

PS:  am now watching a program about auctions that deal with this level of vehicle, and for one car, the bids are going up by 1 million Euro per bid!  The car was magnificent and eventually sold for $$18 million.

Never again!

That’s what I say every time I fly these days…  “Never again!”

…and then the time comes to get from A to B and I think, “it must be better this time…”

OK, let me backtrack on this particular journey…

While my apartment in Sligo on the Irish west coast was in a fabulous location as far as view and walking distance to everything, it was also within a 3 minute walk for 11 bars!  Needless to say that every single night except Monday and Tuesday, until at least 3:00am, sometimes even 5:00am, it was impossible to sleep due to the music, rabble and brawls…

I wasn’t scheduled to leave Ireland until September 1st, but I finally reached that point where enough is enough and although I had paid for it until the end of the month, I left the apartment, drove across country, checked into a hotel for a couple of days (just to get some sleep!) before flying back to England.

Well, I don’t know what sleep gods I offended, but on my last night in the hotel in Balbriggan, just north of Dublin Airport, around 10:00pm a man walked into my room!  I was already curled up in bed, all the lights were off and I was watching some television, about to go to sleep.

When I screamed, he said, “sorry, wrong room” and left – and he did have a spray bottle in his hand, and was wearing all black, so seemed legit as a hotel cleaner – however it wasn’t until later (I was still wide awake after that well past 2:00am!) I wondered why he made it all the way through to the bedroom without turning on any lights..?

When I checked out, I told reception what had happened and they said that there were no cleaners scheduled at that time of night…

Anyway…  Apart from another night with no sleep, no harm done…

I returned my rental car at 9:00am and by 9:30am was at the counter to check in for my 12:30am flight to Exeter…

10:30am we are still at the vacant counter…

11:15am finally someone comes to open the counter and check us in… however I was informed that, despite me phoning the airline the day prior and discovering that I could pay 68 Euro for up to 46 pounds (my luggage was just under that) at the airport, they wanted to charge me 693 Euro!!!  That’s over $800 USD!!!  When I said that was crazy and questioned it, they said that Dublin airport charges more than the airline.

“But I didn’t contract with Dublin airport to get me to Exeter – I contracted Flybe and they quoted me 68 Euro..!”

After a half hour wrangle including management, my luggage was finally accepted for 68 Euro…

Then came the joy of going through security…  These guys seriously need a hug because at one point, one of them yelled at a passenger who had a couple of trays in front of them, “If you don’t stack them up down here, you will never get on your plane!”  I felt like responding, “sir, we don’t work here, you do!” but figured it was best to remain silent.

After my carry-on went through three times (they kept wanting to check this and that – and only one in about twenty was let through on the first screening) and my vitamin bottles were opened to be checked, I finally advised them my flight was boarding… which it was!  …although it still took me another few minutes to repack my bag that had basically been upended…

12:25pm I arrive at my gate – thankfully the flight had been delayed…

Remind me “never again” next time I say I am going to fly somewhere!  Hmmmm, I have already booked my flight to Reykjavik in February – I wonder if there are any boats that go that way?

Finally………..  On board, up in the air, and England comes in to view!!!  (well, more precisely Wales)…

After being puzzled that there was no border patrol to stamp my passport (last time I checked, the bottom part of Ireland is not part of the UK!), I collect my luggage and my wonderful taxi company is there to greet me…

Chatting with the driver on the way back to Torquay (about a thirty minute drive) we were discussing the fact that the English get a bad wrap for what some would say is being overly well-mannered (“we bump into a phone pole and apologise”), I said how much I had actually missed people apologising to telephone poles!  🙂

Finally, we arrive at my home away from home for the next few days until my apartment is ready on the 1st… and I couldn’t be happier…

View from the front door of my unit…

This is actually a photo of the whirly fairground thingummy on the beach below…

There was a band playing on the terrace however at 8:00pm the band stopped playing – at 10:00 on the dot the music volume was turned waaaaay down; at 10:50pm it was turned off; and almost as if someone flicked a switch, at 11:00pm…… silence!

It took me ages to actually get to sleep as my body was so sore from the hassle of the travel plus still being so over-tired – but once I did get to sleep, I barely stirred until I awoke just before 8:00am…

…and still not even a murmur outside apart from the sea birds…

It wasn’t until 8:10am until I even faintly heard another noise…

My bed is sooooooo comfy!  My unit in the hotel, while a little old, is just perfect!  Perfect (very large) size; perfect position… right next to the door to the gym and pool!

So, after doing some work, I changed and walked literally about 20 feet to the door to the pool!

After an hour or so of swimming, floating, and some of the best physio I have done in ages (and I was the only soul there!), I walked back, showered, and dressed to meet a dear friend for lunch… just in time as I was walking out the door, housekeeping arrived to clean my unit!  Perfect!

It was too hot to sit outside on the terrace, so I am happily perched in the conservatory…

I am back in Torquay, and I am HOME.  I am HOME.

~ Bella

Seaweed Bath Checked Off My Bucket List

While for many, the thought of being surrounded by seaweed is something straight out of a horror movie, for me, having one of Ireland’s famous ‘seaweed baths’ has been on my bucket list for some time.

Seaweed baths are popular in Ireland, but are not a recent phenomenon as many date from Edwardian times, when they were more widespread than they are now. There were baths in most large Irish seaside towns.

According to ‘soakseaweedbaths’, “in 1904 French scientist Rene Quinton published the medical work ‘L’eau de Mer, Millen Organique’ (Sea Water Organic Medium). Quinton’s study indicated that sea water and human plasma (blood and lymph fluid etc) are almost identical in their composition of mineral salts, proteins and various other elements. Indeed it is known that similarities between seawater and human blood plasma are so great that, when removed from the body, white blood cells are able to survive in sea water, whereas they break down and disintegrate almost instantly in any other medium.

Many therapeutic benefits are attributed to seaweed bathing. Scientific studies have confirmed that seaweed bathing helps lower body stress and relieve skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, acne etc). It has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of muscle aches and joint stiffness (rheumatism and arthritis), and excellent for some circulatory problems. Seaweed treatments are associated with body toning, slimming and the release of toxins. Indeed, the therapeutic merit of seaweed can be aptly described as one of nature’s timeless treasures, fostering beauty, balance and vitality.”

So, after a minor sleep-in, and getting a few hours of work done – upon arriving at the hotel’s spa, I changed, and after spending a relaxing 15 minutes or so in the ‘relaxation room’, I was shown through to the seaweed bath.

Imagine a lovely hot bath…  That’s essentially what it is… only it is sooooo much more…

The water feels ever so soft to the touch… and there is a lovely film on the surface of the water that feels like a gloriously expensive moisturiser…

…and contrary to popular opinion, they do not smell like the beach at low tide!

After soaking for about three-quarters of an hour, a gentle rapping on the door indicated it was time to extricate myself from the tub and return to the ‘relaxation room’ ready for my pedicure and hot stone massage.

Btw, a hint – if you do have a seaweed bath, don’t rinse off the water from either your body or your hair – it is a fabulous conditioner!

Then, after a total of four hours at the spa, and purchasing several boxes of the dried seaweed to take home with me, I relocated to the bar to do some more work and have an early dinner… (and I do love being seated next to old and dusty bottles of wine…)

All in all a most glorious day!

~ Bella

PS:  While I was eating dinner, and then again while I was awaiting the car to take me back to my apartment, I was dismayed (that is putting it mildly) by the number of disrespectful and unruly children – and parents who were little better…

…and yes, I realise that statement exudes snobbishness, and I do not apologise for it in the slightest.

I was thinking that it is a shame there is not more of an appreciation of the manners and respect of old…

When the taxi arrived to take me back to my apartment – a half-hour ride – I was absolutely delighted that my driver was an elderly man who asked me if I minded if he played on the car stereo Gaelic love songs from 50+ years ago…

“I miss times when men were men, and women were women, and children knew how to respect their elders,” he said.

= Heaven!