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Champagne Reception at Downton Abbey

After a lovely night in Derbyshire, I set out under a veeeery strange sky toward Highclere Castle, home of the famous Downton Abbey.

The sun was an eerie red colour through the clouds – and at one point, the whole sky turned an unusual colour – well, unusual for the sky, anyway…

…but I eventually made it safe and sound to my destination of the Carnarvon Arms.  Built by Lord Carnarvon (I don’t recall which one) as a coach house, this place is quite lovely and the staff are excellent and ever so friendly…

…and the food was superb!

So, it’s time to head off in our finest attire to Highclere Castle for a charity champagne reception hosted by Lord and Lady Carnarvon, and with David Robb (who played the doctor in Downton Abbey and is such a lovely man in person) in attendance.

Although no photos were permitted inside, we largely had free run of much of the main rooms in the castle, as well as visiting the extraordinary Egyptian exhibit in the bowels of the building.

In case you are not aware, it was the fifth Lord Carnarvon who, along with Howard Carter, discovered King Tut’s tomb – and many of the antiquities are still at Highclere Castle.

It is extraordinary to look at some of the jewellery and consider that thousands of years ago, that was being worn by a real life, flesh and blood, breathing person – someone just like us – but literally thousands of years ago…  What were they thinking as they put on the artifact?  What thoughts occupied their daily lives?  What were their dreams?

If you have read / are reading Bridgit’s story (my Quantum Lace series), you know that she uses personal touchstones including jewellery as her vibrational links (and if you have no idea what I am talking about, you’ll just have to read the book!) – and I wonder what she would have made of these items…

We have to thank the current Lord Carnarvon, a very lovely gentleman, for having the foresight to take all of the artifacts and put them together into such a fascinating exhibit.

Carriages were at 9:00pm and I then came together for wine with two new friends – Ginger from America and Naomi from Japan, both of whom were visiting England.  We were especially impressed by Naomi who, with very little English, was travelling by herself on a ten-day tour.

…then off to a glorious slumber in a huge bed fit for a princess.

~ Bella

Fabulous day exploring a foundry, two castles, a Saxon village, a 13th century pub and Egyptian mummies!

What a magnificent day!  I needed to go for a drive to clear the cobwebs out of my head and managed to find and explore some fascinating places!  I needed to be home by around 3:30pm or just a little after to take care of a bunch of work and I then had back to back calls with clients until 10:00pm, but the morning was mine to explore to my heart’s content…

After sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast and start to the day then leaving home around 10:30am, my first stop was The Finch Foundry, a 19th century water-powered forge and the last of its kind in England.

Andy, the blacksmith, gave us a wonderful demonstration of what is an almost forgotten art…

…and then it was time to fire up the big guns…

Next discovery on my travels – Okehampton Castle.

Built between 1068 and 1086, the castle was still in use until the early 17th century, but soon afterward, fell into decay and ruin…

Meandering along lovely Devon roads, I happened upon the self-proclaimed “most unusual pub in England” – and a well-deserved description!

Originally built as an inn in 1282 (yes, that is 1 2 8 2), the Highwayman Inn is now a supposedly haunted eclectic treasure-trove.

Yes, that is a replica of King Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus…

These pots are actually embedded in the wall…

Time for a good old-fashioned pub meal for lunch…

…and a one-penny slot machine!

This little fellow lives on the roof…

Hmmmm – “weak bridge” does not instill one with confidence!

…and now we enter the Saxon village…

…and Lyford Castle – originally a prison, it was built in 1195 and is apparently the earliest example of a purpose-built gaol in England.

Time to pop the top off Prince (my beloved convertible), pump up the volume once we were past the township, and head for home…

Oh, and this is the “weak bridge” – looks strong enough to me!

Back home on the English Riveria – home sweet home – one of only seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in all of the United Kingdom!

…and upon my arrival, I see the postman has delivered my acceptance as a member of the Goodwood Road Racing Club Fellowship!

…and still home in time to complete all my work and client calls…

Am a very happy, happy, happy Princess Pixie!

~ Bella

 

Steam Trains, Owls and Abbeys

Yesterday, a friend and I went exploring on the South Devon Railway Buckfast Abbey and back via beautiful Devon countryside.  So, where does the owl come in?  You’ll just have to scroll and see…

Somehow a man checking his smart-phone doesn’t really fit the image…

I love old newspapers, and especially ones that feature critical moments relating to subjects about which I am fascinated…

Then off to Buckfast Abbey.

Although the first abbey was built on this site in 1018, it was demolished and the site was purchased by Benedictine Monks in 1882, with the abbey, incorporating the existing Gothic house beside, being completed in 1938.

~ Bella

Fabulous Fishy Fun

Yesterday morning I was up when the sparrows were still in their pajamas…  Now, if you know me at all, you know I am not a morning person – so why the sudden urge to be up before dawn?

This was my phone as I walked out the front door of my apartment……  Prior to this I don’t think I even realised there were TWO four o’clocks in a day – I was only aware of the PM version…

The reason for my pre-dawn excursion was to go behind the scenes at the Brixham Fish Market followed by a cruise around the bay!

With a fleet of around 70 boats landing daily with their catch, and approximately 50 buyers for that catch, Brixham Fish Market is the highest grossing market in all of England.

…and much of the proceeds from the tour go to The Fishermen’s Mission.

Our tour guide was Brixham Trawler Agent’s Director, Barry Young.

In 2016, the total fish landed came to 10, 252 tonnes that equated to well over £30 million.

This bucket below is from the Chloe Olivia’s catch – you will see more of her later…

The lovely Christine Hodgetts who, with her equally lovely husband Dave, met me the day prior for a coffee.

As you can see peeking through the curtains, the sun is STILL not up!

I’m sure this is meant to be 505 marked into the jetty, but I thought it amusing that it looked like SOS…

…and here we have the Chloe Olivia…

No, they are not all about to jump off.  We were looking for one of the seals that inhabits the bay…  (I managed to catch him on camera a bit later…)

Live fish auction…

Dave and Barry…

…and now upstairs to Rockfish for a seafood breakfast!

Following the Fish Market tour, it was time to head down to the jetty for our cruise around TorBay with the wonderful funfishtrips.co.uk team under the direction of Captain John and first mate, Andy.

WWII bunker tucked away in the bushes…

If you would like to know more about the stunning geology of the area, here is a link to an excellent resource:  http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/Torquay.htm

Caught on camera (well, sort of…) – the shy seal…

The water was astoundingly azure and clear…

Aqueduct designed by one of my all-time-favourites, Brunell.

…and now off to another of my favourite sights in Torbay – the magnificent ‘Pilgrim’…

Built in 1895, the 74ft Pilgrim was once part of a fleet of over 2000 deep sea sailing trawlers that revolutionised the way fish were caught in Europe…

Our trusty Captain John…

…is it just me, or do these paddle-boards look like they are watching us……..

I was going to head home on the Brixham Express back over to Torquay, however when I discovered it was their break time…

Captain John, who had just left port, came back in to collect me since they were headed to Torquay!

Andy battening down the hatches for a bumpy ride back across the bay now that the inclement weather was rolling in…

…and safely back in Torquay after a magnificent morning!

…and now I need a nap.  🙂

~ Bella

 

 

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

 

 

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

Donegal Castle and getting deliberately lost…

Although today was – according to the weatherman – going to be party sunny, partly cloudy, some shower and some rain… I decided to brave the elements and go exploring.

First stop was Donegal Castle.

From Wikipedia:

Donegal Castle (Irish: Caisleán Dhún na nGall) is a castle situated in the centre of Donegal Town in County Donegal in Ulster, Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins but the castle was almost fully restored in the early 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

These stone stairs were amazing!!!  Just to feel the parts that were rough and the other parts that were word ever so smooth by centuries of people traipsing up and down…

…and while I was in this room (below) the wind gusted so hard, the window slammed shut…

Next stop was to give Boswell (trusty rental car) some go-go juice – and I observed a strange element…

From there it was off and gallivanting along small, relatively unmarked roads, just to see what we might find…

I think this (below) is what they call a “renovator’s dream” – or nightmare as the case may be!

…and the road was even skinnier than it looks here…

…and yes, as Murphy’s Law would have it, I did encounter a car coming the opposite direction a little later along this road, but with some mutual reversing, and a lot of breathing in, we both went safely on our respective ways…

Now back home and getting stuck into some more work…

Oh, and very excited – about to send Bridgit’s Book Three off to the printer!!!  YAY!  It will be live on Amazon by next week.

Happy Friday to you!

~ Bella