Locking down…. 17/03/2020

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It’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog and how things have changed. We had planned on a couple of weekends back in the UK to celebrate birthdays and then back to Spain to stock up and head on our travels with Hattie to explore pastures anew, alas our adventures have been halted for a while – how long, we shall just have to wait and see….

We decided to book a quick weekend back to the UK to celebrate my mum’s birthday which was at the beginning of February, taking both mum’s out to a tea tasting and champagne afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason’s in London.

We were lucky with the weather as the three previous weekends had seen torrential rain and storms with huge delays and cancelled flights. The weather was actually pretty good for us, although as it was half term which we hadn’t appreciated – we had the French Air Traffic Control being on strike ….again!

Someone was definitely doing their best to try our patience as although we all managed to get in and out of London unscathed, most of the underground (and overground) either had major works and were closed, or had severe delays.  Even Green Park station shut due to over-crowding as we were walking towards it.  Needless to say it was a lovely day, the tea tasting which was ran by a very knowledgeable tea sommelier – yes, there is such a thing – was excellent – we all learnt a lot and the Champagne afternoon tea wasn’t too bad either. A lot of cake was eaten – maybe too much if there was such a thing!  Its nice to be able to do something different and spoil the mums every now and again…. although we don’t want them to get too used to it!

Whilst in the safety of my mums kitchen we tried out a recipe I have been looking at for quite a while but hadn’t wanted to risk doing it in the motorhome for the first attempt…. and I am glad I didn’t!

The Snake…. or apparently the real name is M’hanna  was a recipe from Jimmy and Jamie’s Friday night programme. Very impressive to look at and absolutely delicious – combining barley, squash, onion, garlic, apricots, dates and lots of other delicious things into a rolled up filo parcel.  Although it was very tasty, it was really messy and you need to work quickly as the pastry dries out – impossible to do unless you have about 2 meters of straight work surface…. so a big ‘no’ in the motorhome!  Although there may be an adaptation coming soon as a simple pie as the flavours were worth an attempt at a variation!

On a similar scale of impressive looking cooking – ha ha – I can’t claim any ‘impressive cooking’ – I also revisited the Salmon Monster which I haven’t done for a while – this one is motorhome friendly though!

Salmon fillet topped with spinach and a salmon and cream mousse encased in puff pastry – simple, delicious and always looks impressive!

In preparation for our departure on the 26th March we started to stock up on staples as we had run all of our stock down – obviously some kind of subliminal forsight, although we were down to our last two rolls of toilet roll which was potentially a bit of a disaster!  This did mean however that when the Spanish cleared the supermarkets out last weekend while we were in the UK things weren’t too bad for us on our return and as the Spanish dont eat much fruit and veg we are pretty sure we will be able to eat over the coming weeks!

We also recently decided to invest in a pressure cooker to help reduce the amount of time required to cook beans and experiment with other recipes.  We haven’t done a huge amount of pressure cooking yet but are looking for suggestions if anyone has any! So far we have cooked up quite a lot of chickpeas and black beans – as we use these mostly – and we also tried a new recipe for ‘Eat the Rainbow Black Bean Soup’ which is pretty good – definitely one to be repeated.

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We had planned this last trip back to the UK about five months ago as it was to celebrate Keiths’ birthday with his family.  With the flights and cottages booked we set off last Thursday morning (12th March) conscious that although it was looking like ‘lockdown’ was on the horizon we assumed we would be able to get to the UK and back by Monday (16th) before there were any restrictions… a little naive apparently.

The journey over to the UK went smoothly and we had a lovely meal out with my mum, brother and family on Thursday night at a great Italian in Old Amersham called Zaza – just in case anyone is in the area.

On Friday morning we then set off to do the shopping and down to the place we had hired for the weekend just outside Chichester to meet up with Keiths’ family for the weekend.

What a fantastic hotel and cottages – highly recommended. We had two cottages next to each other for the 11 of us and 3 dogs, cooking a cassoulet on the Friday night and ate in their restaurant on Saturday.  It’s only a few miles from West Wittering beach so there was a dog walking trip down there on Saturday morning and then we all met for lunch in Chichester. Keith and I walked in along the very wet and muddy canal… little did we know this would be the last of our ‘freedom’ for a little while!

We had obviously been following the news but were still convinced that it wasn’t going to affect us until we heard that a couple of flights to Alicante had been turned around mid flight on Saturday and they announced complete lockdown from 8am Monday morning.  Concerned that we may not get back to the motorhome we took the decision to move our flights forward by 24 hours, arriving back late on Sunday instead of the Monday. Not ideal, but we were concerned that they may turn non-nationals away following the 8am lockdown meaning that we would possibly have 4-6 weeks + before we could travel into Spain – something they have now put in place.

Saturday nights birthday meal was nice despite the evolving news. It was a bit of a joint celebration – Paul (Keith’s brother) was 46, Alex (Keith’s nephew) was 25, Keith’s 50th and it was also our Wedding Anniversary so in addition to a lovely meal, there was also some cake (Of three different varieties I may add!) to help the gin, wine, beer, whiskey and cider – amongst other beverages – go down!

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Without too much of a hangover – obviously the quality of the alcohol – we woke and had the best breakfast anyone could ever wish for. It was lovely to be together but also Paul had bought Sausages, bacon, black pudding and eggs from the farm shop he works at…. all mopped up by Liz’s home made bread.  That definitely helped us on our way for the day!

A great weekend, despite being a little dampened by the media.  Liz dropped us back at Gatwick en route which unfortunately meant we didn’t get to see my mum again on Sunday as originally planned but we made it back into Spain before non – residents were turned away…. lets just say that Keith will never forget his 50th birthday!

I am not sure anyone really appreciates what lockdown is until you are actually in it. Keith and I knew roughly what we were coming back to and that it was going to restrict our movement but it was our choice to return as we wanted to be back in our ‘home’ rather than unable to get back.

We are now on day two of ‘lockdown’.  No-one is allowed to go anywhere together unless one of the people is dependent on the other.  No-one is allowed to go out on the streets unless they are going to work or to get necessities from a food shop or pharmacy.

Yesterday we walked to Carrefour – 30 meters apart….it felt a little like a bad smell was following me around – you would have thought I would be used to it by now as he’s been there for the last 20 years!!

You need to have ID on you at all times and a valid reason to be on the street, if you don’t have one and you are stopped – and they are stopping people frequently – you will get fined or put in jail.

We can’t go for a run or do our exercise outside the gates any more…. those nice Lebanese guys who honked every time they went passed are also quarantined so won’t be missing our morning routine! Yesterday we were able to do our HIIT by the boules pitch which is inside the site but we will see whether they stop us doing that at some point as we have heard that police are also coming on to some campsites and asking people to get inside their motorhomes.

The streets are empty and all shops, bars and restaurants are shut that are not critical to day to day necessities – i.e. no clothes or electrical / hardware shops are open either.

The Campsite isn’t accepting anyone new but if you are here you are allowed to stay and as there was a mass exodus on Saturday, they have spaced everyone out to every other pitch.  As a very kind gesture they have given us all free electricity until the pandemic is over.

It’s going to be interesting to see how everything pans out over the next few weeks/ months but we are just going to take each day as it comes and keep healthy and happy. Currently we are planning to stay put – despite the grey skies and rain that we have had these last two days! – but we may change our mind and it is still possible for us to travel back to the UK as it is our country of residence but we cannot travel anywhere else at the moment.

This morning it was raining so Keith did his exercise inside the motorhome and I managed to sneak 20 minutes exercise in between the rain showers outside before we went to Mercadona to get some of the other bits that we needed. Unlike Carrefour, the stocks of everything (except fruit and veg) were very low although I am sure they will stock up at some point later this week.

We are lucky as we have lots to keep us busy and in fact today dusted off the Boules set and played a bit just to move around and get some fresh air.

Let’s see what the next few days bring …. I understand that there is a little bit of sunshine is on the cards!

Oh and I nearly forgot with everything going on at the moment – I received a message a couple of weeks ago to say that my blog had been nominated for the sunshine award – how lucky am I… and how amazing is that – thankfully it is on content rather than grammer…. or at least that will be what my mum will say!!

I want to say thank you for the nomination which was from another keen traveller and blogger who enjoys beautiful places as much as we do.   I can only hope that I manage to continue to make people smile and motivate you with our passion for travel and food amongst other things.

 

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