Thursday 27 June 2013

R.I.P Chris

A sobering morning...........
I've just got back from the funeral of a man who died way ahead of his time. My hairdresser, Chris, had been battling stomach cancer for over six years and in a way it was a miracle he lived as long as he did. The cancer never really went away, it was just managed with chemotherapy and Chris also went to Hungary to receive an alternative treatment made from Misteltoe. Extracts from the plant are thought to fight cancer cells and Chris's family believe the injections he received helped prolong his life and improve its quality.
He was a truly lovely man - kind, gentle, witty - he cut all my children's hair too, so beautifully, and we are all feeling so sad. He worked, probably too hard, throughout his fight, a soldier through and through.
As a friend of him said in his eulogy: "Chris may have been small in stature, but his personality was like a lion. Courageous, self-deprecating and humble."
He was a special, special man and his battle makes me realize how my dear mother (who tragically passed away herself a couple of years ago in difficult circumstances) had an ending which we all, if we had a choice, would prefer:

Chris, I can hear your voice in my head, constantly, and you will be forever in my heart.
I wish your two lovely young daughters a long life.
Rest in Peace.

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Monday 24 June 2013


Today Wimbledon starts and it's not yet even raining!
Whilst I've always had a penchant for Roger Federer and secretly wish (shush, don't tell my husband) that I was married to him, in answer to yesterday's post, it's probably not much of a surprise to learn that whilst my husband WAS in the men's singles finals of  a London tennis club yesterday, it was not on the hallowed turf that is SW19. What's more, he did not win......................but I'm proud of him all the same. As my youngest daughter said: "First's the worst, second's the best.................". Hope she hasn't mentioned that to Andy Murray!
What with my penchant for Roger Federer............and Nadal a close second, I've always had a longing to breed a Wimbledon champ and happily two out of three of my children do love playing and are pretty damn good at it too. Unlike Agassi's father (who hung a tennis ball above the champion's cot when he was a baby) I haven't resorted to those kind of extremes, but check out the article below to see what I HAVE resorted to:

And below's picture was taken from a Cunard Mediterranean cruise last summer where they had a half-size tennis court on deck, would you believe!
Anyway, roll on the strawberries and cream and let's pray that this year, for Andy, is THE year - although truth be told, in last years' final I really did struggle with my loyalties: Andy v Federer.

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Sunday 23 June 2013

Last night's conundrum

I was out last night with friends. They have three young children like me and were equally disillusioned with the AWFUL weather at the moment in the UK - it's so cold it can barely even be described as autumnal.
Anyway, desperate to escape the cold (they're holidaying in the UK this summer) they are trying to book up a long haul winter sun holiday over the school Xmas period. Only they can't afford it. Their budget is a whopping £6k ($9,065) and yet they can't find anything suitable. One of their children is about to turn 12 years which means they will have to pay full adult fare on the airplane and they couldn't find air fares to anywhere hot (Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Arizona etc) for less than £5k for the five of them. Which means nearly their entire budget was eaten up by air fares.
Is this really possible that a family of five cannot holiday in the heat on this budget because they can only travel in the peak school holiday period?
Suggestions for possible great trips VERY WELCOME please..................
I couldn't believe what I was hearing........
Anyway, on a brighter note my husband is in the finals of his little tennis club's mens' singles final...........
And what is that club called?!
Could it be Wimbledon?!
See next post  for reveal..........

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Saturday 22 June 2013

Jordan for Juniors

Yes, I know, I keep travelling to countries situated worryingly near danger zones! Jordan is a tiny country in the Middle East and shares a border with Syria - but this didn't put me off. I've always wanted to go to Jordan - to Petra in particular - and I was excited about this trip.
Ours was a five-day press trip and if I were to travel for an actual holiday I would definitely go for longer. There's so much brilliant stuff to see and do and for adventurous families this is an exciting destination with memorable locations. The children will remember what they saw in Jordan for a LONG time to come.
We flew to capital Amman (Air Jordan was very nice and not too expensive) and stayed in a lovely hotel (Le Meridian) with a gorgeous swimming pool. From here it was just an hours' drive to the gem that is Jerash. Truly, this place is quite a find. It has Roman remains here which rival Pompeii and it's a wonder that more people don't know about it. Very exciting. And in the remains of the amazingly intact Colisseum, there
were soldiers playing bagpipes! Apparently they had done their military training in Scotland - it was so out-of-place it was hilarious!
I've been longing to visit Petra for at least twenty years and it didn't disappoint. This ancient civilisation carved into the red rock was AWESOME. It is a big site, however, and the only way to manage it with the children was to placate them with donkey rides (not cheap, but absolutely worth it -and my children were given mules which they adored) and chariot rides. The chariot rides (so-called by the children) were just horse and carriages with covered tops to shelter you from the glare of the sun. Inspired by their visit to Jerash the day before, my girls imagined they were gladiators sparring in battle as we charged over cobbled paths back to the entrance...................Advice is to come early or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. Adults could spend a whole day exploring the vast site, but a half day is probably all most children will want to spend.

Aqaba shares a border with both Israel and Egypt and both can be seen across the bay. It sits on the Red Sea and would be a good place to stay for a week and use as a base to explore. Petra can be visited from here as can the Wadi Rum (see next) and the snorkelling is excellent here. The fish and coral (the sea gets its name because the coral is red) are spectacular.
We stayed at the glorious Radisson Blu Tala which had FIVE swimming pools and sits on the beach. It wasn't an expensive hotel and yet it was top quality five star luxury. I would definitely consider coming back here for a week. Apparently Easy Jet are planning cheap flights on a new route from the UK to Aqaba, which will really open this up as a destination. The children LOVED this hotel by the way, and would happily have spent more time here. If not just so that they could swim a different pool every day.

Wow, what an experience. From the Red Sea it was an hour's drive to the Wadi Rum, in the heart of the desert where Lawrence of Arabia came (and the film starring Omar Sharif was filmed here too). The Wadi and it's monolithic rock formations were spectacular. We took a camel ride at sunset (truly memorable - if I hadn't been worried about falling off my camel I'd have pinched myself to check that I was really there) and then settled into our campsite, Captain Desert Wadi Rum.
I won't lie to you. It wasn't the best night's sleep I've ever had. This is our tent, sheltered by the towering rocks:
and the inside! Do use mosquito repellent and the mosquito nets. The repellent I bought in Tunisia (see previous post) worked a treat. None of us got bitten whereas others in our party were munched to bits!
The Bedouins running the camp were so lovely. They took us first on the camel rides:
 And then they prepared us a feast of grilled chicken and lamb cooked under the hot sand. There was a big ceremony as they dug up the dishes. My youngest daughter Hannah thought the concept of cooking food under the sand was disgusting (she'd imagined the food would be sand-coated!), but happily the meat was in pots and it was actually delicious. Everything had been slow-cooked and was so tender it fell off the bone. Carrots roasted whole alongide the meat were sensational.
When dinner was over the bedouins started playing music with local instruments - flutes and strings - and got all the children up and dancing. It was sweet and unforgettable. As was the star-gazing in the inky, unpolluted atmosphere - the dazzle of planets was almost blinding.

This was our last stop. Our base was the Marriott Dead Sea Jordan Valley Hotel and I have to say it was one of the most glorious hotels I've ever been to - and I have stayed in a lot of hotels. Boutique hotel it isn't - it's vast and again has several pools, but wherever you are it somehow manages to feel quiet and unrushed. Plus it has the added bonus of actually being on the Dead Sea, which is so salty you can float and read at the same time. You can also pamper yourself to a self-service mud treatment (the mud is from the bottom of the sea) which is full of so many good minerals that your skin is left silky smooth afterwards.
What absolute fun. The Dead Sea was the highlight for the children, especially this hotel. The food at its Italian restaurant is sensational by the way and the swimming pools were dreamy - one had a water slide that the children never tired of. Again, this would make a great base for a week or even longer. Jerash is an easy daytrip from here, as is Petra. And the rest of the time you could just chill out in the hotel (which has a great spa) and treat your skin to the healing benefits of the Dead Sea. This is the lowest spot on earth and sufferers of psoriasis say it helps their skin too. ............................  A great, great trip.

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A Taste of Tunisia

Slapped wrists, I've been very bad. I've failed friends/followers who were wanting me to give them advice for future holidays with their children. With school summer holidays now looming (and the weather here in the UK ever diabolical) the thought of traveling to warmer climes is very appealing.
We went there for a week back in April. The trip had originally been planned for February (apparently the weather can be nice there even then) but a few days before we were due to leave, the opposition leader was assassinated and there were riots (some violent) in capital Tunis. So we postponed the trip for that all to calm down and we finally got there in April.
I have to admit I was slightly hesitant before going. Tunisia is badly situated, sandwiched by volatile Algeria and Libya. And when David Cameron made a comment about there being a general Al Qaeda threat across North Africa, that did little to pacifiy me. However, we went and I'm so delighted we did, because there was NO sense of unrest anywhere that we went. We took public buses with the locals and had no problems. We found Tunisia and its natives to be ultra friendly and warm and the country has a wonderfully exotic feel to it which sets it apart from other Mediterranean countries. Plus it's refreshingly CHEAP. Not that we experienced any problems with mosquitoes, but as I'd forgotten to bring any repellent with we bought some in a little local shop.  Only £1 a tube and it is the BEST cream ever. So effective. I have since had the need to use it and whereas others were badly bitten, I came away unscathed (and so did my children) thanks to the cream. I wish I'd bought it in bulk - we're off to Venice this summer where (according to many Trip Advisor reports) there are a TON of mosquitoes in the summer. Must be because of those canals.....
Anyway, I digress..
Beyond cheap insect repellent, the hotels in Tunisia also offer excellent value, with many of them geared towards families with great (and free) activites laid on. The cuisine was nice. And nobody suffered from any stomach bugs there, which is always a worry when you travel to Africa. That said, in countries where I'm concerned, I NEVER eat salads, but only cooked vegetables. Likewise fruits - I tend to want to peel it myself. And then I find the chances of getting sick are much reduced.
As I look out my London window now the rain is bucketing, the wind is fierce and the trees are swaying wildly - and it's midsummers day!! If only I was still in Tunisa.............check out my review by clicking the link below:

And please feel free to ask me any questions.
ps - a few days after our return there were the bombs at the Boston marathon. Which just goes to show that we can worry about terrorism, but trouble can happen where you least expect it too. So now I will stop worrying so much about where I holiday..............within reason.

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