A quick trip back to Blighty…. 16/1/2020

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I had been holding off on updating the blog as by now, most people know I update it just before we make a trip somewhere to bring everyone up to date…. and this time our trip back to the UK was supposed to be a surprise so I didn’t want to ruin it!

Sharon and Steve – Keith’s sister and husband – celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last week and the kids, if you can call them that, organised a surprise party to celebrate and we thought it would be rude not to join in!

Amazingly, it remained a surprise and Vicky, Felix, Alex and Lauren pulled it off flawlessly – a lovely afternoon / evening.

As we were back in the UK we managed to catch up with the rest of both families, it was a little like ping pong between houses but it worked pretty well all in all, despite illnesses – not us, but others around us.

We set off on the tram to go to the airport just as the sun was rising, roughly the same time as when we are doing our exercises in the morning but as I don’t normally have my phone with me to take a photo I thought I would share the natural beauty that we are lucky enough to see each day…. although as the sun actually poked its head through the cloud it was even better but we were already on the tram and couldn’t take a photo

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As is always the way when we get to Alicante we have been a little more static than usual, so the blog is even more limited to food than travels and new places. We have been walking a lot more though as my foot injury was on the mend until a couple of weeks ago with the help of a good physio, massage and exercise.  Unfortunately I did something to set it back just after Christmas and although it has been improving, recovery isn’t as speedy as I would like.  I hadn’t had the chance to get back to the physio until today but already feel so much better despite the pain he inflicted upon me!

Since my last blog, we have continued our gastronomic Vegan adventure – well, we think so anyway – and have even dared extend some of the recipes out to our guests, the Spanish included… although we have alternated with meat dishes as we don’t want to scare them too much!

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Before Christmas we tried out recipes for a lovely Vegan Bolognese (above) which uses butter beans and some really easy (and tasty) lentil burgers that we cooked on the BBQ that actually stay together, rather than the majority of veggie burgers that fall apart and between the grill. Although that said, we would still would cook them on the hot plate/griddle rather than the wire mesh ….. just in case!

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We have started to frequent a different stall for our fruit and vegetables in the market and although more expensive the quality is fantastic.  A few weeks ago Keith decided he fancied trying a pork and pineapple satay recipe, so we bought a pineapple from said stall…. which turned out to be the most expensive pineapple we have ever eaten – but worth it!  It was delicious, so sweet and juicy but it was nearly 10 euros!  Apparently something to do with being picked from the tree when ripe, then flown in… probably wrapped in cotton wool (or perhaps gold)! We will definitely be buying one again but may just keep it to ourselves!  The Pork and Pineapple satay skewers were delicious by the way!

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We also tried to do Mushroom Wellingtons but I chickened out of making individual wellingtons when I realised I had made too much filling, so just made it into a pie …… which was also pretty tasty if I don’t say so myself!

We opted for the stuffed peppers for our first experiment on a couple of the Spanish guys – there were three invited and one dropped out when we said we were doing vegan! –  the two who came were convinced there was meat as the flavour and texture was so full. We then tried out the Vegan Enchiladas on them, which despite being a little too spicy for their taste buds (they are light-weights) were a huge hit….even the sweet potato queso sauce!  It’s one of those recipes which has lots of parts but once it is constructed you can leave it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It is not only full of fantastic flavours but also one of those one dish wonders that means you don’t have much washing up afterwards as you have done most of it beforehand!

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For those with a sweeter tooth, we also found some delicious (and really easy) Vegan cookies…. or at least that is what they call them.  They are basically a mix of nuts, dates, oats and chocolate – what is not to like!

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With so many new recipes over the last couple of months, we have had two non-repeaters. Maybe just our taste but all the same something wasn’t quite right. It was a shame as we were both really excited to try a recipe we found for a Mango Stir fry but it just didn’t work…. not even going to post the recipe! The second was BBQ Plantain – or perhaps I should say BBQ Cardboard – all I can say is that we obviously didn’t put enough Salt/Flavour or anything on them as even when dunked in a huge amount of hummus they still tasted like cardboard.

The weather has been kind to us over the last month and although it has been pretty cold over night these last couple of weeks (going down to about 4 degrees) the sun has been shining during the day raising the temperature to around 17/18 degrees.

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So, not wishing to break our tradition of a BBQ on Christmas Day we found some lovely – albeit pretty large – steaks at our butchers in the market and cooked them alongside baked sweet potato and BBQ Brussel Sprouts.… yep, we found some in the market and with a marinade it worked and they were delicious – possibly the maple syrup helped!!

We have been entertaining quite a bit – as we are always looking for guinea pigs!! –  the Spanish guys, some of the neighbours and we also had another couple who we have got to know quite well over the last few weeks over for New Years Eve who shared our Lentil and Aubergine Moussaka – well, it was only the day before and we had already arranged what we were cooking so they didn’t have much choice…. despite Sally not being very keen on aubergine and tomatoes it went down pretty well, perhaps helped by the reasonable quantity of excellent Cava and wine that was drunk!

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Having mostly caught up on the washing and shopping yesterday and today we managed to squeeze in another new recipe on the BBQ before the weather changes this weekend – BBQ Seitan ribs…. tasty, although the recipe I took it from doesn’t quite work as the marinade is too liquidy.  I have updated the recipe inline with what I will do next time as I think it is definately worth another go – despite the plate looking a little ‘orange’!

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Settling in …. 15/12/19

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The rest of the journey went smoothly with the temperature briefly rising enough for us to not actually turn the heating on for a couple of nights – well…. it didn’t go down below 10 degrees which for the previous couple of months in the UK has been unheard of!

We were keeping an eye on the weather as they had been threatening a lot of rain – and snow – however, we were lucky and the route we took, although wet in parts was pretty good despite the Somport tunnel already having over half a meter of snow at the side of the road.

We opted for the toll road to cross over from France into Spain as earlier in the year when we avoided them the traffic was horrendous. It cost us 55 euros but saved us a good hour/hour and a half and all the stopping/starting which we felt was worth it.

Once in Spain we stopped overnight at the same two places as earlier in the year – Berriozar and then Teruel before finally getting to San Juan Playa, Alicante on Thursday 28th November – welcomed by sunshine and famliar faces which was lovely.

After a lovely walk along the seafront and a good nights sleep we woke to sunshine, ate our breakfast outside and got on with the first round of washing….. It was going to be a few days of catching up and chores!

With our Spanish friends away for the weekend in Madrid we took advantage of a free weekend to go out to a few bars in San Juan on our own taking in a few glasses of wine and tapas – finishing the evening with a spectacular ‘Brazo de pulpo’ – Octopus arm – which was served on a bed of mashed potato and onion … absolutely delicious….so good I almost forgot to take the photo!

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The wonderful weather unfortunately only lasted a few days before we got our monies worth of wind and rain…. a little ironic that we managed to do our exercises outside in the UK right up until the day we left and then we arrive in Spain to be restricted to the motorhome for two mornings…. it did only last four days though so I think we will cope!

 

Just before we left the UK a couple of people mentioned the film ‘The Game Changer’ to us and finally, on the journey down here, we managed to watch it – really interesting!  If you haven’t already seen it and you are interested in food, exercise and nutrition as a whole, I highly recommend it as it certainly opens your mind…. so much so that we have been experimenting!

Before I start – to all of our friends and family, don’t worry – we don’t plan to go completely Vegan…. we would miss bacon, cheese and steak too much – but we are definately converted to a more plant based diet …. maybe 80/20!

We started thinking about different sandwich fillings as we do eat alot of cheese and fish and came up with a really tasty Mushroom Pate which although I initially tried using Girolle mushrooms, is actually better with a mix of button and chestnut mushrooms, onions, walnuts and a lot of garlic!  As before, I have linked through to the recipe on the name if you want to give them a go.

We then tried a Butterbean and Sun dried tomato pate…. also absolutey delicious as both a dip and a pate.  This one uses slightly less garlic but has a real tang as it uses the juice of a whole lemon.

And then finally the flexible ‘Soyrizo‘ – Chorizo made out of TVP which is textured vegetable protein.  Having only ever had Tofu once before which I thought tasted like cardboard, it is fair to say I was a little apprehensive about trying any of the soya based ‘supplements’ but TVP soaked up the flavour from all the spices and provided a real depth to it.  We made a batch and have put some in the freezer as it can be used in wraps, paella, chilli sin carne, stuffed peppers or many other dishes.

Meanwhile the huge amount of brie and camembert that we bought in France is actually starting to pong alot …. so we have starting to dip into those as well… I did say 80/20!

After success with the sandwich fillers we thought we would start experimenting with main meals…..  the first of which was paella using some of the Soyrizo – not sure I will go back to normal chorizo now for the paella as it provided a huge amount of flavour withough the high fat content.

Also using TVP, we tried a Chilli sin Carne – I wouldn’t have known that there wasn’t any meat – except for the fact that we normally use chunks of meat for our chilli instead of minced meat – you don’t need to cook it for anywhere near the same length of time as meat yet it provides a huge depth of flavour by soaking up all the spices.

Our final new recipe this week also using TVP wasstuffed peppers which used a combination of rice, TVP and black beans and once again a huge success… definately to be repeated!

We also tried a couple of recipes with Seitan and Tofu… they had a lot to live up to!

The first recipe was a Quinoa and Seitan fajita bowl which was a light and refreshing meal with lots of vegetables as well as more black beans…. a very popular ingredient!

And finally this morning we had No Huevos Rancheros which used tofu as well as guess what …. black beans… its fair to say that we have had our fair share of fibre over the last couple of weeks as well all the other vitamins and minerals that we need!

We have had meat and cheese in between but it has been 80% plant based – Keith has even been trying out different types of Soya milks… although we have decided to stick to the Skyr type protein yoghurt that we like!

All of the meals we have had have been full of flavour – probably because they use alot of spices – and delicious. Neither of us have felt hungry or lacking in energy, in fact we both feel like we are sleeping better and have higher energy levels if anything!

We are going to continue to try out more recipes and see how it goes but the balance is key for us – we have had friends over and cooked a huge spatch-cock chicken as well as eaten out… not going to give up the things that we enjoy!

The first batch of mince pies have also been cooked – this year using Waitrose’ Amaretto mince meat which was absolutely delicious…. a muffin tin, a gin glass to cut the bottom and an egg cup to cut the tops – perfect!

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The foot has been to see a physio as although it is a little better, I am now up to ten weeks of pain and it would be nice to know that there is a possibility that I won’t have another ten ahead of me!

The physio was excellent – and cheap at 30 euros an hour – and although it has been subjected to a huge amount of pain whilst a metal tool was being pushed into the nerve between the toes, he also did a bit of acupuncture and ultrasound and told me to buy some toe seperators to help provide the inflamed nerve space to breathe….. ha ha – maybe I should think about painting them whilst I have them !

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Fingers crossed though – I will be on the road to recovery now that we know what it is – its just a matter of time and errrrrr patience – something that most of you know I don’t have a huge amount of!

The weather is looking reasonably good over the next week or two so fingers crossed the foot will get better, we will be able to have a BBQ for Christmas and we will continue to get the beautiful sunsets that we have been having over the last few days.

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Stocking up for winter…. 25/11/19

Like gerbils, bears and all sensible animals we have been doing our best to pile on the pounds over the last few weeks to get us through the winter…. both physically and also by stocking Hattie up for our trip south…. she can hold a few more kilos on her frame!

Once again we have been on a bit of a gastronomic journey over the last few weeks, squeezing in another visit to Dishoom and the Hand and Flowers – the venison was particularly good – however, we have also tried three new places which were all exceptional.

My mum had been talking about a local pop up restaurant project which was run occasionally near Marlow in benefit of Syrian Refugees.  The chef – Imad Alarnab – was in fact a refugee himself and now that he has been lucky enough to set up a business, he is putting back into the community by running pop up events.  The food was delicious, the venue was great – it is a fantastic looking coffee shop by day so I need to pop back when we are back – and the atmosphere was lively – all in all a great evening for an excellent cause…. highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area at the right time, or fall upon one of his pop up restaurants or Falafel stalls in London as his Falafel are second to none!  Unfortunately as we were sharing a table with another couple – which incidentally was a lovely mix – we got distracted talking too much – no surprises then – and I only managed to take photos of the falafel and Babaganoush …..

Our second new restaurant was found as it was Keiths sisters’ birthday just over a week ago. Not that we needed an excuse but we took the opportunity to do an Anderson night out, meeting for cocktails and then on for a meal at the ‘Buen Asado’ in Reading …. lots of lovely Argentinian Steak!  We hadn’t been before but would definitely go back as the food and service were both excellent… no photos as I had obviously had one too many cocktails by that point …. I really am failing this week!!

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We then did a little trip that we have been trying to do for a good three years now -finally making it to visit Shri Swaminarayan Mandriva – the Hindu Temple in Neasden, the largest Hindu temple outside India.  The detail in the marble both externally and internally was incredible and a visit is highly recommended if you are close by.  As you aren’t able to take photos inside I have copied the link to some of the most beautiful carvings so you can see more here.

We took both mums to have a look round the temple itself and then met my brother and a friend (who is Hindu) for lunch afterwards in the restaurant where we enjoyed lots of vegan delicacies. We opted for the buffet this time to try a selection of flavours, although the a la carte menu looked pretty good …. this was round one and included dhal, okra, pea fritters, paneer and naan – we were spoilt for choice and flavours and ended up contentedly full!

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With it being our last week in the UK before we travelled south for a couple of months, we spent it catching up with friends and family and stocking up the cupboards with those weirdly important things you struggle to get – or really aren’t quite the same – whilst away…..marmite, decent bread flour, yeast, coconut cream, black beans, decent oats, bacon…. oh and a couple of jars of Waitrose mincemeat so I can make some mince pies !!

Not quite having eaten enough,  we went to my brothers for dinner on Thursday night and my sister in law had just taken delivery of the Dishoom cookbook….. I can confirm that we don’t need to go back to Dishoom again!  Although the recipes are pretty complex and involve a lot of spices (and time) the Chicken Ruby curry and Black Lentil Dhal that Farah cooked were spot on…. restaurant standard!  Very happy to have had that as our penultimate supper in the UK – a fantastic curry and we will happily help Farah test any recipes she wishes to try going forwards!…..  Although I am not sure that we are going to be making any of the recipes in the motorhome unfortunately….. that’s a lot of different spice to carry!

Fat and happy – I am not running or doing anything aerobic at the moment due to a foot injury going back nearly seven weeks now – we set off from what had become a rather muddy field on Saturday morning.  I love the farm but it is fair to say that I won’t miss the quantity of mud we have been bringing into the motorhome for the last couple of weeks!

The journey south has been pretty good so far considering the time of year with our first stop being at St Valery sur Somme as usual.  A beautiful little town with a great Aire,  lots of lovely walking and cycling – although we didn’t do any this time – close to a supermarket where I think we confused the checkout lady with our very unbalanced diet…..stocking up with a large caulifour, a couple of Camembert, goats cheese and some Pont d’eveque to go with 15 litres of red wine…. ahem!

Day two saw us travel to Vendome where we have also stayed before.  It is also a beautiful town with a free Aire just outside the campsite which is closed at this time of year.  This year we arrived on the first day of its Christmas market which was small but all artisanal and quite nice.  The SatNav had tried to direct us through the town center right next to the market but thankfully memory kicked in on the previous route we followed…. although we have since found a better route in and out so we won’t annoy any more locals than we need to going forwards!!

Although the rain threatened this morning we woke to almost darkness (at 7:45am….) and managed to get our exercise done, showered and breakfasted before it started to rain again which was quite nice.  The days journey was grey and wet for the most but without issue so we have to be happy.

We switched our stopover location from February to a little village called Cavignac where there is a Super U with a fuel station that we could fill up at and reverse out – large vehicles are a bit of an issue in France – and a nice little free Aire (without services) overlooking the vinyards  – GPS n 45.100399 w 0.39111.

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The weather is supposed to be getting better as of tomorrow but we just had a downpour so we will keep an open mind to see how the next few days play out …. although we are feeling hopeful that we won’t hit any snow!

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Catching up with ourselves…. 4/11/19

I can’t believe that it has been six weeks since my last blog…. not sure where the time has gone so apologies for the silence.  It has been an interesting time and although we are pretty used to sorting out the odd leak or a spot of damp in  the flats, we have now learnt how much damage water can do in a very short period of time.20190923_114324

What was a lovely two bedroom flat turned into an open plan room when we had to take it back to the bare basics as the water had penetrated all the floors and walls….. I am however quite excited about seeing the end product. We are now over half way through and are taking advantage of making some changes to the layout whilst rebuilding it from the ground upwards ….. the stressful bit is over and photos will follow next time.

Following on from last years sucess, September 27th brought with it a lot of cake, biscuits and tart for the Macmillan Coffee morning/day at my mums. Even more people came and stayed for lunch than last time which was nice – god forbid how much cake we would have had left if they hadn’t!  We managed to raise £430 in total which was fantastic, so thank you to everyone who contributed it means alot to us as I know it does to many of you.  Some of the deliciousness cooked up by the Anderson- Becker team are included below…. although my first attempt at the Coffee and Walnut Cake is definately open for improvement so let me know if you fancy being a guinea pig!

The dreaded on going saga of the batteries meant another trip down to Hailsham and this time we fell upon a beautiful place called Lachetts campsite which was in Highlands Ln, Lewes BN8 6HE (£15 without elec.)  It was an absolutely stunning location looking out over rolling fields and a little pub 5 minutes walk away… just a shame we were only there fore one night and didn’t have the time to explore more as there is apparently alot of beautiful walking in the area. It did go down to 3 degrees overnight…. proper chilly!

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We are pretty much there though with the batteries and now the days are getting shorter and the sun appears to be spending less time warming the solar panels we are hopefully going to start to see the advantage of the lithium.  So far, as I write this all has gone well and despite the grey, wet days that we have had over the last couple of weeks we are managing to stay off grid but the next three weeks will be the true test.

As 50th birthdays are starting to become a popular thing in our world, we kicked off the season with a surprise girls weekend away for Jo’s birthday in a beautiful cottage in a little village outside Bourton on the water before heading back to Bath with Hattie the following weekend to celebrate it again with a wider group of friends. Good food, lovely wine and great company….. I just hope we don’t have to leave it another ten years before the beef wellington shows its presence again as it was yet again to die for…

It had to turn to food at some point so I best get the key new dishes out of the way …. I have been Inspired by James (Claire’s husband) who apparently has taken up pie making – and is pretty good at it.  I decided to take on winter and get into the mood with a Squash, spinach, goats cheese and blackbean pie.  It turns out to be a really easy winter warmer that you can cook in the motorhome.  The layers look pretty impressive as well as it tasting delicious… although perhaps I need to work on my presentation skills!

There has also been a fair quantity of soup making going on.  Trying to be seasonal, this one was Pumpkin soup with fresh focaccia – just what you need for halloween!

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For our last trip out with Hattie before we head to Europe, we ventured down to just outside Chichester last weekend to meet up with a number of other Concorde owners at Concierge Camping…. probably the poshest campsite that we have ever been too!

The campsite was lovely with big fully serviced pitches, luxurious showers (which we didn’t end up using) and orange toilet paper…. yes really – anyone would have thought they were Dutch with the amount of Orange going on.

It was a shame as the weather on Saturday was pretty vile but it is fair to say that the company and the food and drink laid on for the weekend was second to none.  A second Macmillan morning was organised by two of the other Concorde owners which was a huge success raising just over £400 with an incredible amount of lovely cake. Three different types of Paella were served up on Friday night and a lovely hog roast on Saturday accompanied by cocktails – thankfully there was ample cake left for a quick alcohol soak up session on Sunday morning as I for one was struggling…..

Less than three weeks to go until we head off now…. or at least that is the plan as we still haven’t actually booked anything but we are officially on countdown!

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Food glorious food and a little trip through the counties…..18/9/19

Its been a long, hard month and as I am sure you will appreciate we have naturally been fading away with thirst and hunger….

We finally left Hailsham on Saturday morning and had a reasonably good journey until we hit the M25 where we then crawled our way through the dartford tunnel.  That said, we still managed to arrive at Malvern just before lunch ready to take on the Smoke and Fire Festival.  We went last year and had a fantastic time so decided to repeat it again staying at the same CL (Hook Farm Mundon Road Maldon Essex CM9 6PN) which is roughly 3km from the park where the festival is held.  After lunch and sorting ourselves our we took a leisurely walk in to do a rain check, have a few beers (and ciders) and soak up the music, preparing ourselves for Sunday.

Its a proper family festival – the music is good, as are the food and ambience and all the proceeds from the Smoke and Fire Festival go to the Air Ambulance. As we had missed alot of the action on the Saturday being too late for the chilli con carne competition, we were keen to get a taster of the slow cooked, smoked meats on the Sunday…. we were not disappointed.  We had missed a few of the competitors offerings but still got to taste quite a bit of briskett and pork…. taking the edge off of our appetite before we did our research for lunch!

Unsurprisingly we ended up with slow cooked briskett and pork with some delicious coleslaw and fries…. could have eaten it all day!  Instead however, we decided to try some of the hot wings from the hot wings competition……. wowzers!  Over 3million Scoville – hotest yet!  Keith got hiccups straight away and my eyes and nose were streaming … although I couldn’t stop laughing…..an interesting combination of effects!  Needless to say we only had the one each and washed it down with plenty of beer and cider!

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By Sunday night we were full of deliciously cooked food and thankful for a break from the rain.  So on Monday after a bit of a run/execise we headed back to the farm in Holyport  – via an overnight stop in Hailsham as the batteries still weren’t quite right.  Hats off to the guys at AMC as they worked through the issues and by Tuesday we were on our way again feeling happier….as were they as we made them a batch of brownies!

Back in Holyport we continued our culinary fest and on the recommendation of another motorhomer, finally visited Sindhu at the Complete Angler in Marlow which is Atul Kochhar’s restaurant. A delicious 3 course lunch with Prosecco for £19 each……we then  added a carafe of wine and breads…. oh and the prawns were an extra too – but it was delicious and a beautiful setting just on the Thames in Marlow.

We were given some beautifully light papadams and sauces as an appetiser to go with our Prosecco. Keith then had Smoked Mackeral and I had Aubergine steak to start, followed by Prawn Curry (Keith) and Beetroot Kofta (me) both accompanied by pilau rice and two naan breads.  Desserts were Bibinca – a coconut layered cake (Keith) and Mango Kulfi (me), all finished off with some hand made chocolate and sweets – absolutely delicious and well worth the visit!

We haven’t booked up any more ‘Chef’y’ restaurants so I am afraid that it is now back to good, old fashioned home cooked food …. and I am pleased to say that as always, there has been plenty of that!

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We spent a couple of weeks back in Holyport catching up with a few people and getting in as many BBQs as possible … we have even found Tri Tip thanks to my brother in law and Keith had a go at smoking it which was a huge success… what a great joint of meat.

Going vegan for a minute, we have come across the most amazing recipe for hazlenut pesto … literally just hazlenuts, basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and oil – delicious with roasted vegetables and flat breads…. home made by Keith’s fair hands of course!

Putting food aside for a minute – after a lot of contemplating regarding replacing the leather furniture in Hattie, we bit the bullet and just before we got back to the UK we booked her in for a bit of an internal facelift.  The company is called Regal Furnishings and they are based near Derby so, after we confirmed the date, selected the colour leather we wanted, we started to plan a little trip around it…. oh and the Gastrovanner event that was already in the diary!

We left Holyport on Friday 6th and headed towards Northamptonshire to a pub called The Stratton Arms in Turweston – the venue where we were due to meet some random strangers that are also passionate about food for a weekend of gastronomy!

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The Stratton Arms has a beautiful garden and they are happy for motorhomes to stay overnight for free if you have a few drinks or food in the pub…. to which we naturally obliged!

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Friday night was a quite night in the pub and after a walk in the morning we prepped the food, shared thoughts on cooking methods and compared bread…  all getting together round the firepit at around 5pm to kick the evening off with beer and Gin and Tonic to go with the smoked salmon blinis cooked rustic style!

There were only 9 of us and the idea was that each motorhome should cook two courses in tapas style and bring a cheese….. it was a fantastic evening with great food and great company …. needless to say we didn’t make it to the last dessert (Eton Mess) nor the cheese as we embarrassingly retired just before 1am – it was 6 degrees out there!!!

After the Smoked Salmon Blinis cooked by Micheal, the menu took the following order… Cadac Pizza (which was meant for the kids but there was a bit left over … ), Mojito Prawns and Moscow Mule Prawns with Dijon Mayonaise all by Damien – my god they were alcoholic, Charred Beetroot, Black pudding and Jowl bacon cooked by Guy and Helen, Squash and Blackbean Quesadillas cooked by us, French Onion Sweetcorn Chowder with Nettles and Emmenthal Croutons – does sound odd but it worked, honest!! by Michael, Briskett Chill Con Carne with Focaccia bread by us, Kartoffelpuffer and Schnitzels by Damien and then….. finally, we made it to dessert.  We were all stuffed as reality is that no-one made tapas sized portions ….. and it was about midnight, however we pushed on through with Jo’s Sticky Orange Polenta Cake which was cooked on the Cobb and then finally the cherry that finished the evening …. Michaels Cherries three ways with ice cream….. incorporating the 15 year old vodka cherry – yum!

What a night –  a fantastic group of people and some amazingly good food – so glad that we could have been a part of it….and looking forward to the next one already!

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We left Turweston on Sunday and headed North to Leicsetershire to a lovely CL just outside Lutterworth (Orchard farm, swinford road,Walcott LE17 4JZ) where we were surrounded by apple trees and two very friendly donkeys who kept us company.  The site was in a great location for walking and cycling as well as being beautiful and tranquil.  We had picked it so we could catch up with some friends who live a short cycle away but we will definately be back to explore the area more next time.

As we were only stopping one night we were on the move again on Monday morning heading North West to see Kevin and Petra for a couple of days.  We parked Hattie up at Four Oaks Caravan Site (£15 excl. elec Buckford Lane, Stenson, Derby, DE73 7GB) a basic but very tranquil campsite with lots of space and near to the canal which suited us perfectly as Kevin and Petra have a narrow boat …

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We were honoured to be taken out for a day trip, even managing to take in the Marsdens brewery and a curry in the evening …. a lovely way of travelling and such a treat… watch out, we may be converts!

We finally moved on to our destination for the trip – well that was our excuse anyway – Regal furnishings, what an impressive place.

We arrived mid afternoon and once they had checked us in and ensured we were happy with everything they got started measuring up and had even started cutting foam before the end of the day.

The next morning was an early start – they were in the van at 7:30am – but they were done and we were on our way by 4pm.  A really high quality job and they enourage you to stay and watch as they put the furniture together.  We are really pleased with the result – great looking design and a lovely ‘pebble’ colour!

It’s only when you look at the before and after photos that you realise how yellow and saggy the old leather looked!

A fantastic week to break us away from some the work we have on at the moment – a welcome change!

We are back for a couple of weeks now to catch up with friends and family again before heading westwards to Bath for a few days mid-Oct….let’s hope the weather stays as dry and beautiful as it has been until now!

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Back in Blighty….. 16th August 2019

The journey back to the UK was better than we could have hoped for bearing in mind it was the first weekend after most schools broke up for summer holidays.

We arrived at Calais earlier than expected and had a quick pit stop at Cite Europe before getting a slightly earlier train – all of 45 minutes – enabling us to whisk our way round the M25 and back to the farm by about 18:30.

The sun was shining, a gin tonic and beer were had and there were even baby calves in the field …. what a welcome, even Spud the dog was on duty!

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After a good nights sleep, we caught up on the washing, shopping and sorting before heading over to see Keith’s mum late afternoon to say hello – have dinner – and pick up the car.

The last four weeks have flown by, seeing family and friends and catching up on those tasks that you just can’t quite do when you are out of the country – but all is good.

Not surprisingly, much of the time since I last updated the blog has been taken up by eating and drinking…. well, its what we do with friends and family… oh ok, and on our own !!

Picking out a few highlights – as we have been busy – we arrived back to go to the Maidenhead Real Ale and Cider festival with friends which was a lovely warm evening, interspersed with a few light showers to help us cool off!

The following week we took the mum’s to the Hand and Flowers for lunch which was yet again delicious…

although I have to be fair and say that it wasn’t the best fish and chips I have ever tasted – it was good – but everything else was exceptional.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had quite as many BBQs as we had hoped due to the weather… and I though it was summer! Although we did however manage to do a bit more experimentation,  cooking up some delicious Lamb to go with Moroccan Khobz bread and salads for Bruce and Sarah as well as my first ‘successful’ Lemon Posset – the last one was that bad it had to be disposed of in the bin!

And just to show that we still do experiment with vegan food, we tried out a delicious new recipe to make BBQ Squash and Blackbean Quesadillas ….. although the best picture I have of it,  is of when we made them with the Sausages, Bacon and Black-pudding …. does that defeat the object???

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And finally to top the last few weeks’ culinary delights we went up to London to Richard Corrigans’ restaurant in Mayfair for a tasting feast with paired wines….

It’s not something we have ever done before but definitely something to do again – although not cheap, it was amazing value and the food was beyond delicious.

Having only ever had oysters in New Zealand we were curious… but three glasses of champagne and several oysters later we were complete converts!

Following the plethora of Oysters, Champagne and canopes, our taste buds were tantalised as each plate was full of flavour but at the same time delicate.  Nothing was heavy and although there was a lot of food, neither of us came away feeling that it was too rich – it was all perfectly balanced as were the wines.

We have had an exceptional few weeks with food – although we can’t really complain as we always eat well – but have temporarily left the culinary delights behind us to come down to Hailsham in Sussex to get Hattie’s leisure batteries changed to Lithium and replace the inverter/charger.

We have been staying at a lovely little CL right on the edge of some woodland with a random collection of terracotta pots and an old pump station! (£12 a night inc Elec. – Longleaze, Arlington Road West, Hailsham, BN27 3RD). The CL is roughly 3 miles from AMC Motor caravans who are the sole distributor in the UK for Transporter Lithium batteries, where we had decided to have the works done.

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It should have taken a ‘long day’ to complete the works but unfortunately something was causing a problem and tripping the electrics – oh and the torrential rain didn’t help either as we are too big to get in the service bays so the engineer was exposed to the elements – it all took slightly longer…. another day and a half to be precise!  They are a great team though and they worked through the issues and wouldn’t stop until it was resolved.  It looks like we are sorted now, although time will tell and I’ll update you next time as we have decided to spend another night locally to give ourselves a chance to test everything before we move on …. and its chucking it down out there so who wants to move anywhere anyway!

And the new map has been started for 2019/2020…..

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Homeward Bound…. 19/7/19

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Metz is a beautiful town, sitting on the banks of the Mosel river, centralised around its cathedral which is apparently known for its stunning stained glass windows….needless to say we didn’t see them.

Although we had decided to stop in Metz for Bastille Day we didn’t realise that they also had a street festival over the weekend comprising of a mixture of theatre, acrobatics and music – similar to the festival we found in Epinal but not as large.

We headed out to stretch our legs and get our bearings on Friday, found the covered market and lots of beautiful buildings as well as fair number of interesting boutique shops…. mostly food related!! The town was lively and had a lovely atmosphere as it was a sunny Friday afternoon and people were just finishing work and happily filling up the bars.

Saturday morning was absorbed by the market – we have missed a good French market over the last couple of weeks – so managed to spend a small fortune re-stocking with lots of smelly cheese as well as fruit, vegetables and some meat for the BBQ… it all looked lovely and there was so much to choose from.

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After lunch we set off to take a look at the rest of the town and some of the street theatre and although we only managed to see three performances – they were all very good….. above was a musical farce which was followed by a bit of Jazz…

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Then  finally a bit of a mix of mime, acrobatics and I am not sure what… but he was quite amusing!

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Metz is a beautiful city and as part of the tourism set up they offer different walking trails to get to know it better …. we decided to do two on Sunday – the Street Art, which had a special guest taking prime position

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was a little disappointing though.  I think we have been well and truly spoilt by visiting Dunedin and seeing the spectacular street art there,  although there were a few interesting pieces that are worth a photo….

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The second trail we followed in the afternoon took us to see Art and Gardens and it is fair to say that there are lots of green areas in the city and by the time we had finished we had walked to every corner of Metz!

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We got back to Hattie mid afternoon to find that she had a new ‘beau’.  He was slightly intimidating to be honest – A German Concord Liner Plus…. all 11.5m with a car in the back, making Hattie look small with her 8.2m!

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There wasn’t a huge amount going on during the day – I would actually say it was quieter than normal although Sundays are normally fairly peaceful in France –  we were however honoured by a spectacular firework display which are the usual Bastille Day (14th July) celebrations.  Although we have only seen three in France – one in Bagnoles de L’Orne, one in Tain de l’hermitage and now Metz – we don’t have a huge amount to go on but this was certainly up there but I won’t bore you with lots of firework photos….

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Everything quietened down eventually at around 1am  – in addition to the fireworks and so many people being out in the town, Algeria also got through to the AFCON (Football…. for those of you who don’t know) and there is a huge Algerian presence in Metz so the horns were a honking – a lovely atmosphere!

Following a run and a bit of exercise, we sorted ourselves out and set off to find the River Meuse where we were hoping to do some walking. After a quick trip into Belgium by accident – we didn’t realise that vehicles over 3.5 tonnes need a tag for some non-motorway roads – we arrived at Stenay (GPS n 49.489899 e 5.18278 9.40 euro per night).  A lovely, reasonably new aire by a little marina on the canal…. unfortunately with a lack of walking paths.  The maps clearly highlight walking routes and a cycle path in both directions – we tried one way which ended up by the side of a sewage station and then disintegrated into very over-grown grass.  We then tried the opposite direction which just turned into a locked gate on a bridge …. very strange, first time we have come across this but needless to say we gave up, went to the supermarket and walked back to Hattie through town …. a little disappointed but what can you do?

Strangely, we didn’t stay a second night and instead moved on to Bogny-sur-Meuse (GPS n 49.858946 e 4.745107 4 euros a night) where we parked up in a brand new Aire right on the river Meuse…. very nice!

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The cycle path went in both directions along the river so we walked South on Tuesday afternoon and then ventured North on Wednesday.

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Both directions were lovely, tranquil walks passing through a couple of small towns/villages and locks along the way.  It is interesting to spend time on one large river after another – The Meuse is very different to the Mosel as the towns and villages are slightly larger as a whole and the hills that rise away from the river, smaller and further away …. and disappointedly no vine – but beautiful all the same!

We both went for a run before moving on Thursday morning and the river was like a mirror in parts – just beautiful. It is fair to say that the Ardennes are a beautiful part of France and well worth a visit, I don’t know why we haven’t passed through here before.

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We headed even further North, winding our way to the Parc Naturel Regional de l’Avesnois and a little town called Solre-le-Chateau where we found a brand new aire which is currently free of charge (GPS n 50.178645 e 4.090299).  The Aire was so new the tarmac still had that ‘newly laid’ smell and the areas in between the pitches were still just earth but it had everything we needed, is near to a greenway and was peaceful overnight.

We had a nice walk through the woods along the greenway on Thursday afternoon before getting back to the motorhome just before it started to rain for Keith to cook up a lovely Squash Dahl.

The rain fell on and off all night but had stopped by the morning which was good as it meant that our walk in the opposite direction was a good temperature and dry!

The town of Solre-le-chateau doesn’t appear to have a chateau from what we can see but it does have a rather impressive church with a wonky spire which made me smile ….

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Today is our last day in France for now as we have booked the train for tomorrow afternoon. Although we still have 200km to get to Calais we have stocked up on wine and are looking forwards to being back in the UK for the summer and already have a couple of little trips planned!

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