Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Discovering English wine...

New to this? Check out the First Post

The famous King's College Chapel where the carols come from...
Quite a while ago two friends, Si and Heidi gave N an "Experience Day". Basically you can do all kinds of things - like maybe hot air ballooning, driving a racing car, having a cookery lesson from a famous chef - or like the one we had - spend the day at a vineyard! There were a variety of locations in the UK - including Cambridge! So, since I have always wanted to go there - that's the one we booked - and decided to make a weekend of it.

It was so lovely - I love Cambridge. So much beautiful architecture and fascinating history, with so many well-known scientists, poets, philosophers and engineers having studied there. We got on a Punt on the River Cam and had a nice young man punt us around the backs of the colleges and tell us all about their history as well as many funny stories about the places and their inhabitants.

We saw the wealthiest colleges including King's College, Clare College which has magnificent gardens and Trinity College which has the most impressive and ancient library where original Shakespeare folio are housed alongside the original manuscript of Winnie the Pooh.

Punting under the Bridge of Sighs

We had a walk around St John's College - where William Wordsworth and William Wilberforce studied. It must be such a privilege to live and study there. I don't think I would have ever made the grade even if I'd applied! There was one college with magnificent ivy growing all over its castellated walls - and we were told that it was used in the Harry Potter films for the outdoor Quiddich scenes!

St John's Grounds

The day at the vineyard was great fun too - and equally as educational! We had a fortifying cup of tea in the Bistro before we set off on half-mile walk uphill to the gentle Cambridgeshire slopes where the vines were being nurtured. It was a warm day and the only sound was the distant combine harvester gathering in the wheat crops in the distance. Luke - the tour guide - told us about the different types of grapes, some German, some French and how all vine plants, no matter what variety, had to be grafted onto North American roots - or they would never survive the aphids that attack them. At one point in the past the whole French wine industry was in danger of being wiped out.

The grape squashing machine

Luke talking about vines, and roots and aphids..

We walked back down towards the stately Chilford Hall and went into the seventeenth century high barn which now houses the winery. I was impressed by the gleaming, chrome grape press, though faintly disappointed that they were no longer trodden by local yokels :=) I must admit I'd quite fancy a go at grape treading. Imagine the squishy purple juice staining your feet and you squeezed the juice out of them. I guess the stalks or pips might have been a bit uncomfortable though. I supposed the new method is a tad more hygienic too :-)

1,000 bottles of wine in each barrel!

Anyway we learned how to many sparkling wine using the "methode traditionelle" as invented years ago by Cliquot. All that learning was thirsty work so we went back into the Bistro where the wine tasting was all set out for us. We tried seven of the wines that they make there, including the only red one they produce and the delicious sparkling wine. I also rather liked the Rose. We only had a little taste of each one - not a whole glass! Then they gave us lunch, a really tasty lasagne with salad and crusty bread, followed by Eton Mess, a glorious concoction of crushed meringues, strawberries and whipped cream. It was all rather wonderful.

We bought a few bottles of wine as presents for parents, and we received a complimentary bottle for ourselves as part of the package. I chose the Rose.

Settling down to watch Shakespeare at Downing

The night before we'd seen a poster for Cambridge Shakespeare Festival and we took ourselves off to pristine lawns of Downing College to see a wonderfully funny version of The Taming of the Shrew.

Luckily this one wasn't rained off - like the one in Stafford last month. We really enjoyed it and the actors each had to play a couple of roles - but they were amazing. They certainly kept to the bawdy fun of Shakespeare's comedy ane even indulged in audience participation as they raided picnics and asked what "Wait rose?" was.

We were fortified by hot mulled wine at the interval. Kept us toasty warm until the end.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Getting used to having hair...

New to this? Check out the First Post


The longer fun hair :-)

I am getting used to my new hair styles. Have been wearing the shorter one for work and the longer one here, for going out and weekends.It is fun to change hairdos so quickly!

I got N to cut off what was left of my old hair - there were only a few straggly bits. and now it is much easy to put the wigs on. I don't need the head sock underneath to keep my own hair out of the way - which makes it much cooler.

I quite like the longer one :-)

Over the weekend we have celebrated a birthday  (Hello Mo!)by popping to Jalsa in Nwcastle for a curry. I have never been to this restaurant before and it was a pleasant surprise. it was very nice. There were a couple of vegans in the party and they were happy to do food for them and I loved mine as it wasn't too spicy!

Saturday we went to Pete's famous summer barbecue in Congleton. With great precision (or maybe luck :-) he chose the one day that was dry and warm. Almost sunny too! It was very enjoyable to sit outside and incinerate sausages. We could watch a mother duck with her ducklings all tucked under her wing, a rabbit and a squirrel in the gardens. It is a wildlife haven! We finished the evening with some very competitively fought games of Trivial Pursuit (me and N won!!) and Cranium - Girls v. Boys (Sorry to report the boys won!)

Today I have been to the hospital outpatients to Mr Hughes' clinic. I actually saw Mr Jim Fong, who I remembered from when I was in hospital after my operation in January. He is so happy and cheerful it was a pleasure to see him. Even when he wanted to put a camera up my nose and down my throat.

I told him that I'd got away without having that done last time and Mr Hughes said I looked fine so it wasn't necessary. He still wanted to do it though - to make sure. "It isn't painful, just a bit of discomfort - or so they say." he told me. I asked how he knew - had he ever had it done? he said actually yes he had so I told him he could do it then. I wonder if medical students have to try things out on each other when they are training?

Anyway it wasn't too painful, just made my eyes water! He pronounced everything looked fine and he would see me again in about six weeks. I asked him about the tinnitus in both my ears and he said he'd refer to to Audiology for a hearing test. I told him it had come on after the chemotherapy and he called in Dr Gahir. It was so lovely to see her again! She said I looked really well and had a look at my scan results. She mentioned that they had found something non-specific in the left breast. She said it had been on my original scans and hadn't changed at all so was something benign. She did say to be ultra-cautious they would do an ultrasound scan in the breast clinic.

So apart from those two appointments I won't need to go back until September. Dr Gahir said that because scans deliver a dose of radiation they will not do scans unless they (or I) find a problem. So I will been seen pretty frequently to keep an eye on me. I have total faith in them - they will look out for me :-) They have done an amazing job so far.

New hair is coming through!

This afternoon N and I had a very pleasant drive down to Birmingham Airport to collect my good friend Janet, who was flying back from Madeira. it was such a Lovelly afternoon and the airport looked shiny and bright and clean. It felt quite exciting - almost as if we were off on holiday ourselves. We got gorgeously refreshing creamy cooler drinks from Costa and waited for Jan to arrive. She was even slightly early. It was great to hear about her holiday as we drove her home. Madeira sounds beautiful, but the forest fires sounded scary.

This will be my fourth week of doing two mornings a week at work. I will be able to increase that next week - hopefully. I don't feel tired so I'm sure I'll be fine!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Gone Yesterday - Hair today!!

New to this? Check out the First Post

I have been on quite a high since I got the good news about the scan. We did finish off two bottles of champagne then went for dinner at Harecastle Farm - we didn't drive I hasten to add! It was a very nice evening :-) - especially as my brother Dom and Sharon came over too. They gave me a very nice tropical plant. I hope I can look after it okay :-)

The next day I was back at work in the morning. it was pretty quiet - that could be because there were two huge coaches taking the residents of Silverdale off for a day trip. I don't think they left many people behind,

In the afternoon I heard a knock at the door and this bouquet arrived for me. I love pinks and purples. it was a very nice surprise :-)
Beautiful Bromeliad

Princess Posy
Thanks mum and dad :-)
 I am very lucky!

Today I was feeling so good when I got up I decided to go for a run. I haven't done this for quite a few months! But as I am all good now and it wasn't actually bucketing down with rain I thought I'd get back into it. I really want to do a Race for Life - to try to give something back for all the great care that I have received over the last nine months or so.

N came too - and we started at the beginning of the training programme for a 5k run that we had followed before. I have to admit - it wasn't as easy as I thought it would have been. To start with you only have to walk for 30 seconds then run for 30 seconds - and repeat it twenty times.

We were out on the marshes for only about twenty minutes - but my legs were aching! I think I have got a little out of condition. Still, now we have started again I can get back to fitness slowly. it's a great programme as you don't have to go crazy right at the beginning. it eases you into it :-)

Almost my hair!
Then this afternoon I had an appointment at the wig salon at the hospital: Fresh Hair. I had great fun trying on different wigs in different colours. They don't mind how many you try on! I found about three that looked pretty good - and close to my own hair before it fell out! I made a choice and then Gaynor, the fitter, trimmed it for me - so that it looked good.

Then I saw a longer wig on the other side of the salon and asked her if I could try it on just for a laugh. She said it was one that a customer had returned as she'd never used it - so it was a bargain at only £30. I tried it on - and loved it! So I bought the shorter one for weekdays - and the longer one for weekends and fun!
It is sitting on my wig stand now. When I wear it I'll get a photo and put it on here.

The Weekend Hair
Back view - pretty close to the original hair
It is nice to have hair again and look almost normal :-)

I won't need to wear my hat now!

Monday, 16 July 2012


I got the ALL CLEAR!! Wendy called me from the hospital after the meeting to say that the scan was clear - there was no evidence of any residue. So it looks like they did it! They cured me of cancer. That is pretty amazing! Thank-You UHNS, Mr Hughes, Dr Gahir, Wendy and everyone there :-)

I'll get more details when I go in next Monday. now I'm off to drink this champagne we've been saving....


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Keeping busy...

New to this? Check out the First Post

How was your weekend?
Mine was pretty nice. We made several visits to Swan Beer Festival - combined with Stone Music Festival. It was a good chance to meet up with friends that we haven't seen for ages - having been confined to the house for the last few months.

Friday night we sampled a few beers - well N did - I tried a cider but stopped then as I had offered to drive. I am not quite up to speed on drinking yet :-) But we had a nice chat and then N got to go to his favourite kebab place - Valley's in Stone. I had some very nice fried chicken (much nicer than KFC) and N had a chicken tikka kebab. They were as good as we remember them (from after poker :-)

The Kaiser Monkey Killers
On Saturday we went to The Swan in the afternoon to meet with another old mate of N's and  his "beer friend" :-)

We also took Laura. They tried a few beers too. Then we went to Chico's - the fantastic Mexican restaurant just across the road in the Crown Hotel. It is one of our favourite places to eat and they were very accommodating when we explained that L was vegan and asked if they could make something for her. All their food is cooked fresh so they were happy to make burritos without the cheese sauce and soured cream.
Rocking Out in the Sun

L  really enjoyed it. I had the Taco Stack with beef chilli - as I needed a change from having the edible sombrero which is what I always have! N had the chicken chimichanga. While we were in there we could hear a band playing in the market square as part of the festival. When we'd eaten we went out to watch them. They sounded great. they were called The Kaiser Monkey Killers and as you may have guessed they did covers of songs by bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and.. you get the idea!

What a Shame we Missed them...

They were really good. Then we went back to The Swan (can't stay away!) and had one more drink - but we were so full of food that we couldn't manage any more. We went home, sadly before seeing the Umpah Band that they had lined up for 9pm.

Welsh Beers = Giant Inflatable Daffodil 
It was a fun day though :-)

Sunday we went back again as N had asked his dad to come for some beers with him too. So more beer tokens were purchased and I had one Perry (which was smooth and fruity) from their cider selection. I think we have contributed to making The Swan Beer Festival 2012 a success!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow...

New to this? Check out the First Post

I am feeling really great right now - the only cloud in my little world is the fact that most of my hair has now fallen out! I can see dark fuzzy hair growing underneath - but most of the blond is gone. There's a little bit left - but some bald patches too.

I emailed the Wonderful Wendy - my special nurse at the hospital and told her my tale of woe. She is sending me a referral and prescription for the Fresh Hair  - the wig and beauty salon at the Cander Centre. Hopefully they'll be able to help me out.

Laura, my hairdresser, also recommended a place in Manchester (attached to Christie's Hospital) called The Care Clinic where they have a great choice of wigs. I quite like this one, but maybe in this colour::



What do you think?

I also  told Wendy that I am a little anxious about the results of the scan I had before I went on holiday. She said that the results were due to be discussed at this Monday's Team Meeting and that I had an appointment for the Monday after (23rd) at 11.30am. So not too long to wait now :-)

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Back to real life

New to this? Check out the First Post

It's always a bit of a downer coming back from holiday - especially when you return from sunshine every day to howling winds and torrential rain! However, I did have something nice to look forward to - our annual trip to see Shakespeare at the Castle. This year at Stafford Castle they are doing Romeo and Juliet in the open air. (The audience are under cover - the actors aren't!) Janet and I and two of her friends from the Uni always go and it is usually a fun night.

Cast playing music and dancing
This time, as we arrived in the car, we were turned away! The field that usually acts as the car park was far too waterlogged and muddy to be used. They were operating a park and ride scheme from much further down the road. Luckily, Janet knows someone who lives nearby and we parked outside their house and walked up the hill to the castle. It was fine and bright and I confidently told them that I'd watched the weather forecast and there would be no rain until five o'clock in the morning. I have faith in the BBC weather :-)

So we happily got ourselves ice lollies and settled down in our seats for another, what was sure to be, great performance. As people were being seated the cast was on the stage playing music and dancing. It was a very jolly, summery atmosphere.

The stage awash with rain
Then came tine for the play to begin, the audience went silent and the young bloods from the Capulet and Montague families commenced insulting each other and fighting. Then it started to rain. It got heavier and heavier until the stage was awash with water, not very safe for fighting and running about. After about ten minutes there came an announcement that the play would have to be suspended temporarily. The actors left the stage and the audience sat and watched the rain.

Lady Capulet's brolly matched her dress!
After a few minutes four stage hands came on with brushes and tried to brush the water off the stage. This provided some entertainment for a while - but the rain was getting even heavier and they were making very little difference. They eventually gave up, but we had another announcement to say that the performance would carry on. much applause and laughter as Juliet, her nurse and her mother, Lady Capulet came out with umbrellas!

They gamely carried on with their lines but you could hardly hear them for the drumming of the very persistent rain. Everyone groaned and gasped when Juliet had to sit down on a very wet bench, and Lady C's dress was starting to cling to her. Just as the masked ball was about to start, as Romeo and friends arrived in see-through waterproof capes (much to everyone's amusement) as we had another announcement stopping the play. We sat and chatted for around 50 minutes, looking up to the sky for signs of brightness - but to no avail.
Then the stage manager came onto the stage with a microphone and told us that he was going to have to pull the show as conditions were just too bad.

We were disappointed - but could totally understand the decision. It was way too wet and dangerous underfoot for them to carry on. It was the first time I'd seen Romeo and Juliet where the two never actually meet!

Just one to put down to experience! We have been going for many years and this has never happened to us before. What a summer!

Anyway the next day (Tuesday) I was back at work. I had a lovely morning - and got a few hugs too from customers that I haven't seen for a long time. It was great to see the Lace Guild again on their final session until after the summer. They will be back in September ;-) I was pleased that I managed to remember how to get back into the new system! Had one or two perplexed moments as we tried to give a borrower a new card, and try and put a message on another one's record - but Tracy and I worked it out in the end! The morning just flew by!

Last night N and I went over to Stone. N was worried when he'd heard that our favourite pub, The Swan in Stone had been flooded while we were away.

 He just wanted to make sure that it was okay. Plus - it was Swan Beer Festival 2012. They have hundreds of ales and ciders - and this year there is a Celtic theme - as they all come from Wales! Hannah looked great in her Welsh hat and Matt was on hand to dispense advice about which beers to try first. They don't call him Dr. Beer for nothing! :-)

Sadly I was driving so could only indulge in one half of cider from the twenty on offer. I chose one called Troggi Sedre which wasn't fizzy and looked kind of cloudy - but tasted very nice :-)

Also, as part of the Stone Music Festival there was a music quiz taking place at 9.30pm. We decided to stay and have a go. It was great fun. Two pages of lyrics - that you had to put a title to and several themed rounds of questions from the quizmaster. You even got a joker that you could put on the round you think you did best in. I thought we did pretty well with the lyrics - apart from one about "tongues" and "moves" that turned out to be from "Moves like Jagger" by Maroon 5 that had only been on the radio on the way to the pub! Doh!!

Anyway we scored a very respectable 45 out of 55, and won a bottle of wine. Not bad considering there were just the two of us and we didn't use out phones to cheat! I'm not saying anyone else did - but it is a little suspicious when one team got perfect score of 55. :-)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Weddings - Slovenian Style :-)

New to this? Check out the First Post

The day before the wedding was a little tense. The groom was meant to go to the British Embassy in Ljubjana to pick up some paperwork that had been faxed through. When he got there he discovered that the consul had gone on holiday for two weeks and no-one had the stuff they needed in order to get married. So after some frantic phone calls the papers were refaxed through to the Croatian embassy so he had to make a trip down to Croatia (luckily the country nextdoor - but quite a drive!) He arrived back mid-afternoon with everything in order. Phew!

Local Duckie
 We spent our morning walking round the lake. It was a really hot day - 33 degrees again - so we made frequent stops to sit on benches under shady trees to admire the views and watch the local wildlife. We watched a sizeable dragon fly flitting over the water and we were followed by ducks once they realised we had food. I still had some of that giant sandwich, so we fed them some of that. One mummy duck turned up with her brood and she chased away all the other big ducks so that her babies could have some bread. She was ace! In fact one of the babies chased a big duck off all by himself! Like mother like son

The Island of Weddings
 We stopped for lunch too and enjoyed ice cold drinks and some baguettas. It was too hot to each much - but we promised ourselves an ice cream when we got all the way round the lake! It was lovely to see the island in the lake from all sides - and we were looking forward to visiting it the next day.

We eventually got back (after three hours) to our hotel side of the lake and stopped at the kiosk that claimed to sell "the best ice cream you have ever tasted" N tried the Nutella flavour - all swirls of chocolate hazelnut through vanilla ice cream and I had the "Lollipop" flavour. This was very white ice cream with brightly coloured swirls and tiny hundreds and thousands through it.
I think their claim was pretty spot on :-)

Bob Sled Track
 The afternoon had been set aside for the males to go off an do something adventurous - in this case bob-sledding down a mountain, while the girls went off to get massages. I didn't really fancy that so took myself off shopping to buy a few presents for people back home.

That evening there was a restaurant booked for all of us. I think it is an American tradition to have a "rehearsal dinner" with everyone the night before the wedding. We sat outdoors by a coloured fountain and ate and drank and were merry. The bride's party and most of the guest swanted to have an early night (including me!) while a few of the blokes went for further drinks with the groom on a mini stag night. I was surprised to see N come back to the hotel before midnight in a relatively sober state :-)

Wednesday - The Wedding Day!

The outfit

Nathan the Groomsman
  We had all been given an itinery for today at last night's meal. We all had to meet (with the exception of the bride and her father) in the hotel lobby at 14.45 in order to board minibuses and be taken up to the castle. We'd had a nice relaxed morning sitting on our balcony reading and having a spot of lunch on the terrace before getting ready for the big event.
We all got up to the castle and enjoyed the panoramic views and cooling breeze while we waited for the bride and her father to arrive in their horse and carriage. Once they got there the string quartet struck up some music and the Lord and Lady of the castle came down some steps to greet the prospective married couple. They welcomed them to the castle (all in Slovenian - a translator had to interpret for them) and the Lady told them that there were only two words the bride needed to have once she was married - the first one and the last one!

They took us up even more steps where the wedding ceromony itself was to take place. There was a Registar waiting and another important person - I'm not sure what she was though. They read out a list of binding rules that they had to agree to - including one person could not tell the other what to do for a job, they had to decide together where they would live and if one bcame unemployed the other must keep them. There was quite a list - and once they agreed then they were declared married and the string quartet struck up again while they signed the register.

Married at the castle
The Lord came back again with a bottle of champagne. He took out his sword and popped the cork off with it. Then he told Martin that now that he was a man he had to do it that way too. He had a go - and the whole top of the bottle came off too! Pretty impressive :-) We all drank champagne and toasted the couple. Then there were lots of photos taken while the band played.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the wine cellar. There the happy couple filled a bottle with wine from the barrel and then corked it, sealed it with wax and wrote their names on a label and put that on. They have a lovely memento of the day. After that it was to the Print Office we were hustled by the fab wedding planner, to witness the married couple printing their own wedding certificate using an ancient Guttenberg press. This took a while as the typesetter spelt Tamasin's name wrong on the first one.

Just Married!
 The newly married couple left the castle in the horse and carriage while the rest of us boarded the minibuses to be taken down to the lake.

We waited at the Villa Bled until the bride and groom caught up. It was a great chance to sit down ( most of the ladies' heels were killing them!) and have a cool drink. The day was 33 degrees yet again and not a cloud in the sky!

Pletna Boat

When we were all together again we all got aboard a Pletna Boat to be rowed across the lake to the island. Once there we alighted on the platform to be confronted by 99 steep stone steps. Tradition has it that the groom must carry his new bride up all the steps, then they are allowed to ring the church bell - which will bring them luck all their lives.

Ringing the lucky church bell
 It was a very hot day and the dress was quite slippery but Martin gamely managed forty steps before he had to put her down gently - before she fell! They walked the rest of the way. They were still allowed to ring the church bell though. We all went into the church and N and I had a go too. So hopefully the rest of our lives will be lucky too :-)

There then followed more official photos before the entire party reboarded the boat and travelled back to the hotel for the Wedding Reception.

Sailing back to the hotel

We were meant to be back by by 8pm but it was closer to 9pm when we disembarked - watched by a big group of holiday-makers on the shore, and headed back to our hotel.

I found where I'm sitting!

The Wedding Reception was held in the hotel's Julijana Restaurnat. it was decorated beautifully and the table looked exquisite.

The bride and groom

Tasty Wedding Cake - delicous fruity sponge layers.

We had got our very talented niece Sarah to make two figures that looked like the bride and groom. We gave them to them when we got back to the hotel and they liked them so much they put them on the Wedding Cake. :-)

We then all sat down to a seven course meal that lasted until midnight. The starter was marinated crayfish, porcini panna cotta, balsamic ice cream on golden beet with sesame oil. It was all absolutely delicious! The ice cream was sweet yet balsamic! Yummy. Then we had clear tomato soup with truffle ravioli.  This was followed by duck breast in madeira sauce with sauteed spinach, salad and a glazed shallot. We then had a raspberry sorbet and some sparkling wine while we had the speeches. It was good to have a bit of a break from eating! The bride's mother spoke first, then Martin the groom. His brother did a great best Man's speech - full of anecdotes about their childhood together :-) After that the Maid of Honour had a go - followed by the bride's sister. It was all very informal and fun.

We then went onto the main course, venison fillet Wellington, horseradish mash, truffles, glazed vegetables with honey and thyme. Very rich and tasty. The dessert finished the meal in style - chocolate raspberry mousse on a bed of pineapple and pepper-marinated strawberries in a tiny brandy basket and granite acacia honey. Amazingly after all that we still managed to eat a piece of the wedding cake.

After so much food and a long and heat-exhaustinng day we all retired at midnight. We agreed to meet together the next day at noon to finish the wedding cake as it would have been impractical for anyone to take it home. That was the last time we were all together as we had to leave for the airport for the trip home at 2.30pm. It had been a great trip, wonderful holiday and spectacular wedding!

Thanks to Martin and Tama for inviting us :-) xx

Back from Slovenia!

New to this? Check out the First Post


We are back from a wonderful trip to Slovenia - it is such a beautiful country and Bled is the most gorgeous little town situated round the edge of a stunning lake.

Our holiday started when we went down to Stansted airport the night before our flight on the Saturday. We wanted to make sure that we didn't miss it, so we stayed at the hotel there the night before. It was a Radisson Blu and was so impressive. We had a lovely room - but the most impressive thing was the bar. it had a three storey high wine tower just crammed with bottles of wine. We sat having dinner looking up at it trying to work out how they got the bottles down. There were wires and pulleys that we could see - but none of the wines seemed to move. It said on the menu that if you wanted a wine then your own wine angel would get it for you.

Wine Angel in action
Just then we looked up and there was a woman flying up through the air inside the tower, twirling and doing somersaults and walking up the glass walls like spiderwoman. Then she hung upside down for a while before retrieving a bottle of wine for the people at the table in front of us.

Have a look at this video on YouTube if you want to see her in action :-)

The waitress said that only trained gymnasts and dancers are allowed to do it (shame - I would have loved to have a go!). This is the only one in Europe - though they do have one in Singapore and one in Las Vegas. It was pretty spectacular!

The next morning we went over to the airport and got our flight with no problems. The pilot was called Toby and was reassuringly posh :-) He got us to Ljubljana in super-quick time - only one hour and forty five minutes.

Bed and balcony

We got a taxi for the thirty minute journey to Lake Bled and the sun was shining. When we got to the hotel the doorman rushed out to get our cases and we went in to check in. We had a room on the second floor and we had asked for a lake view. It was breath taking. We had two french windows that opened out on a balcony and the views were amazing.

Sofa end of the room!

 This was more like a suite than a room! We even had chocolates on the pillow and a letter inviting us to afternoon tea. It has it's own private "beach" - a sun bathing area on the edge of the lake as well as a flotilla of rowing boats that we could use for free for an hour each day.

Famous Bled Cake

Eager to explore we unpacked, then we had a wander down to the Lake edge and into town. It was still really warm right into the late evening, no need for any jackets or long sleeves. We found somewhere to eat, a restaurant called the Aquarium Grill which served Slovenian food as well as more recognisable fare. Nathan decided to try something Slovenian, and opted for a sausage dish with cabbage and apple salad and roast potatoes. I had a bit and it was quite tasty. I went for Weiner Schnitzel, which was delicious. Then for dessert we tried the famous Bled Cream Cake. A little like a vanilla slice actually - but taller with custard and cream in it. Very sweet - though pretty filling!

We had a wander back to the hotel and sat out on the terrace bar and watched the illuminated castle reflected in the waters of the lake.

 Sunday - Everyone Arrives!

View from the terrace bar

We were the first of the wedding guests to arrive in Bled. The bridegroom and his party had decided to spend a couple of days in Ljubljana, the country's capital, to have a look round. The bride's family were all on their way from the USA.

We wanted to have a look all round the lake in the morning so we had a bit of a walk, then we saw the little white Tourist Train, It looks like a train but actually runs on the road. We paid the driver 3.5 euros and hopped on. It was a very hot day - 33 degrees - so it was good to be moving (breeze!) and in the shade. Luckily N had bought me a hat at the airport as we came out - it was certainly needed! We saw the island close-up - where part of the wedding will take place on Wednesday. It is about 6 kilometres all round the lake and takes about an hour and half to walk it. We might try that later in the week.

I had to be back at the hotel by 2pm as the bride had booked a manicure and pedicure for me! What luxury :-) I went into the spa area of the hotel and spent over an hour having my nails pampered and painted. I chose a rather bright shade of red to go with my wedding outfit :-)

By the time I emerged, the rest of the wedding party were beginning to arrive. N was having a drink on the shady terrace with the groom while the bride and her family were unpacking. Others arrived throughout the afternoon as we sat and had a drink with each as they arrived. The ladies of the party left at intervals to get their nails done as we sat enjoying the view, sunshine and local drinks. I discovered that they had iced tea - so was very happy.

We all decided to go out for dinner together that night and found a fish restaurant just across the road that could fit all 15 of us in. N and the groom decided to have shark and chips just "because it sounds dangerous" :-) I went for the salmon which was delicious. I ordered a wine spritzer and it was HUGE. In fact it was a carafe of wine and a bottle of lemonade. I had to share it with the maid of honour - I'm not used to drinking again yet!

After the meal some went back to their hotels as they were tired after their long journeys, while some of us went to another bar. It was the night of the Euro 2012 final and some of the male members of the party wanted to try to catch the final. We found an outdoor place with big screens and many seats so we managed to see most of Spain beating Italy. There were fans of both sides there but it was very good natured.  After that most of the women went back and the groom, best man and N and I went to another bar called Devil. As we arrived the barmaid was just running after two Japanese men who were trying to walk out with their glasses (still full of beer) There were brought back inside looking sheepish and were suitably chastised. We sat and got a little more tipsy - catching up with the groom and his brother, who are old friends of N's. They hadn't seen each other for a while. so ther was a certain amount of catching-up and putting the world to rights. That done we all retired to our rooms. Just before we parted the groom informed us that we'd have to be up early the next morning as he'd arranged a full day trip for everyone and the mini buses would be waiting for us at the crack of dawn!

Monday in Slovenia
We had an early start, breakfast at 7am and the coach waiting for us outside at 8am. Breakfast is pretty nice, lots of choice although their cornflakes do not look or taste anything like the ones we know and love! I had "sport muesli" which was crunchy followed by some fresh fruit including water melon, cherries and pineapple. The cherries are grown here and are just in season.  They taste delicious!

We set off with 15 of us (actually the entire wedding party) in two minibuses along the bumpy and winding roads, down the western side of Slovenia. It wasn't long before we discovered that three of the party suffer from travel sickness.The other minibus pulled over first, when the groom's brother felt ill, then ours had to stop because poor Nathan succumbed too. The female party member managed to hang on until just before lunch.

Among the Julian Alps
We travelled over the Julian Alps, with it's alpine villages and ski resorts. We took photos of one particularly terrifying ski jump - scene of a recent world record. Apparently Eddie the Eagle ( remember him?) used to train here, he is still very popular here and visited only last week.

Then we started to descend through a river valley and the driver pulled over into a lay-by ( no - no-one was sick this time) so that we could climb over the fence,scramble down a steep bank, get over some rocks and then - bliss! Paddle in the cool, cool river. As we did, we saw tiny fish in the clear alpine water. Some of us wondered if they were those fish that give you pedicures, but they seemed scared of human feet. Can't really blame them! It was so nice as the temperature reached 33 degrees. Our rapture was only broken when someone spotted a snake in the river, and not a small one either, so we put our shoes back on and got back on the buses. Luckily they did have air conditioning.


Next we descended to the gently rolling hills and green vineyards of Slovenia's wine-making region. We stopped for lunch first, where were served  with ice cold water, beer and other beverages while we perused the menu. I wasn't too hungry, so went for a sandwich with prosciutto ham and cheese and some gnocchi  which came with a ragu sauce or gorgonzola and one or two brave souls opted for the fried squid. Nathan had a burger, which came encased in breadcrumb with cheese  and ham  inside, I had a taste and it was delicious. The fries were rustic, handcut  and well seasoned with rosemary and sea salt, piping hot and delicious.

Giant sandwich

Then my sandwich came it - and everyone gasped. It was a half loaf of bread on a plate stuffed with ham and cheese. It was bigger than my head! Everyone was laughing and taking photos. I cut a slice off the end and managed to eat that but eighty percent of it still remained. I asked then to wrap the rest up and we took it with us. It made a nice dinner for N and I tonight with some left over for the ducks on the lake in the morning.

The bit left over that we took with us!

After lunch we all piled back on the bus, where the internal temperature read 43 degrees. The bus driver, a cheerful English chap called Graham, told us that  the temperatures are exceptionally high for Slovenia - it is usually just in the twenties. It has been like this for 2 weeks now. We are all hoping that it cools down just a little for the wedding on Wednesday.

The next stop was the Dobrovo winery, where we were to taste some of their excellent Slovenian wines. The best part of the tour was when we went into the cellars as it w freezing cold. Such bliss! Our tour guide, a dapper deeply tanned white- haired Sloven couldn't speak English so Helena, Graham's Slovenian wife and driver of the other bus translated as he went along. He was certainly passionate about his subject and although he was meant to be retired now he continued to do the tours. He told us about the types of grapes and wines they produce for various markets, especially for the USA and Italy and England. They also grow cherries and apricots here and they are just having the biggest harvest they have ever had.

All that lovely wine!

Enthusiastic wine guide - he loves his job!

Once he'd taken us round we went into a room set out with wine glasses, bowls of walnuts, cheese and olives for the tasting session. We started with a white sparkling wine, which was tangy, followed by a nice white. The next white was an oak aged  one and the taste was so much better then the previous one. Then we had a full bodied Merlot which at 14.5 percent was a little strong for the early afternoon. We finished with a dessert wine, only 10 percent but very sweet. So a little would go a long way.

Snacks and wine - mmmm
 So feeling quite mellow we got back on the buses for the three hour trip back to our hotel. The driver took the direct route back via the motorway rather than risk his nice interiors this time!
No mishaps on the way back and we arrived back at the hotel tired but happy. No-one felt like going out for dinner. We all just relaxed in our rooms, sorry! Suites! N and I went down to the bar for a nightcap around ten. We sat outside watching lightening over the castle, until a huge spider dropped onto our table and scared me back inside!