Dave decided to collect the hire car from Europcar in Finchley while I packed. In theory this was all good and well but firstly they would not give him a car as he did not have his passport with him. As privilege members this is stored electronically on their system. They also does not actually have a car ready for him. The booking was cancelled, a new one made which was cheaper and Dave returned with me an hour later and the car was still not ready!
We had left Talya and Jon for Finchley at 10:15 and by the time we got back there and had packed the car and locked up the house it was 11:30.
Our first stop was Marlow and then we drove past Toad Hall to Henley on Thames.
We had lunch at The Angel on the Bridge, overlooking the Thames. Dave had an IPA and I went for an Aspalls.
Deciding I could not leave without having a steak and ale pie that was my choice for lunch. Dave chose Braksear beer battered fillet of cod.
We then crossed the Thames and drove past Windsor Castle and stopped in at Le Boat Chertsey to enquire about a barge trip.
Not sure when we will do it as in February we are off to the Lake District and our next visit to the UK will be in November 2019 and they are closed for winter between November and April.
From there we did a SIM swop as our UK phone no longer works. Amazingly Vodafone don’t charge for the service. We topped up with fuel, £13.34 for 10.77 litres having driven 100 miles. We dropped the car off at 17:20, got to Heathrow very early, checked in and headed straight to the Diners Club lounge to relax before our flight. The flight was full and our screens did not work! I chose the vegetarian pasta and Dave had beef stew. As there was so much turbulence we could not have hot beverages after our meal so we shared another bottle of wine.
We left the house and did the 25 minute walk to Southgate and caught the underground, changing at King’s Cross St. Pancras for the Circle Line to Monument. We walked through Leadenhall Market and had espresso at The Coffee Works Project.
From there we walked to Old Spitalfields Market which was established in 1887 and then to Brick Lane.
Then to Liverpool Station via Spitalfields and back on the Central Line to Oxford Circus. We walked down Oxford Street but it was crazy crowded.
At Bond Street station we got back on the Circle Line and got off at Queensway. We walked down a road familiar to Dave and had Spanish ham and cheese croissants at Granier for lunch. We got freshly squeezed orange juice to go and headed for Whitelys.
This old store has been turned into a mall. From there we caught the underground at Westbourne Grove and went back to Portobello Road. At le cave à fromage we got a piece of slack ma girdle to enjoy after dinner.
A quick espresso stop at Granier and then back to Ladbroke Grove station, changing at King’s Cross St. Pancras for Southgate. A quick shop at Asda for supper ingredients, a cider for me and a beer for Dave and then we went to fetch Maya from school. We made pasta for dinner and minded the kids while Jon went to a meeting and Talya was at work. We had port and cheese and then headed off to bed having walked 12km!
I have bad blisters which I’m none to pleased about and will have to find a prevention before we come back in February.
After a slow start to the morning, Jon dropped us off at Arnos Grove and we took the underground to Covent Gardens. At the market we bought macarons at Laduree, citron for Dave and chocolat orange corse for me. There was a string quartet playing in the food hall which we listened to for a bit before going to Cotswold to collect Dave’s shoes.
We then went to Turnham Green and had very expensive espressi at Hack & Veldt before heading for Fullers Brewery.
We walked around the Hock Cellar which was used as an aid raid shelter in WWII and is now a showcase for the brewery and a trading room. They’ve been in existence as a brewery since 1654 and it was very interesting reading the timeline.
We walked along the Thames and stopped for lunch at The Old Ship.
We had a half pint each, Young’s bitter for Dave and Hiver Honey beer for me. We both had the broccoli and Stilton soup for lunch but Dave added a half roast chicken sandwich and salad option to his.
We walked to Ravenscourt Park station and caught the underground to Earl’s Court where we changed lines for Nottinghill. We walked down to Portobello market and had espressi at Garnier.
We bought olives at the market to take to Cara and carcioffi for us to eat tomorrow as part of our supper. At Blanche Eatery we got a pasteis de natas to share and then walked to Ladbroke Grove station. At Euston Square we got off, walked to Euston station and caught the overground to Bushey.
Adam fetched us from the station and I got some kiddy cuddles from Noa before they went to bed. We had a wonderful evening with Cara and Adam, including a really delicious meal. Adam brought us back to East Barnet and by the time we got here, everyone was asleep.
We had a good sleep in, a family breakfast and got onto the road by 11:20. I had to figure out how to work the on board satnav and once I did we headed for Thame.
We had a short walk around the old village before heading through Aylesbury. We stopped for a light lunch at The Chandos Arms in Weston Turville. I had Symonds cider and Dave had a wet pale ale. The pub was established in 1842. I had a very peppery potato and leek soup and Dave had a pulled pork sandwich which was served with chips and coleslaw. From there we took the back roads through Chesham, Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead before getting onto the M25 and heading for Talya and Jonathan. We had a short time with them before they went out. We had a simple pasta dinner and a very early night.
We had a lazy start to the morning and after breakfast we headed to Brackley. We went to visit Alastair Gibson at his studio where he makes the most amazing carbon fibre art. He has combined his Formula 1 knowledge and love for art and creates mostly sealife sculptures. You can take a look here: http://carbonart45.com/studio-45/. After an amazing experience of seeing his workshop we went to his house and then on for lunch.
Alastair has a passion for old motorbikes and Formula Ford’s and it was great to spend so much time with him. We headed back to Abingdon, shopped for dinner at Waitrose, and then got on with preparing the meal. It was a perfect family get together and Dave and Stuart did prawns and chicken on the barbecue. We were very late to bed but nothing is more perfect than spending time with people you love.
We were awake at 6:45, packed, had breakfast and got on our way to the airport at 9:00. We put fuel in – £43.95 for 36.96 litres and approximately 439 miles travelled. We dropped the car off at 10:08 and walked straight to the check in counter. We had to wait there until exactly 2 hours before our flight. Once we had dropped the luggage off we went into the business class lounge which was really amazing
We did not sample any of the whiskys available. Our flight started with a safety information briefing out together by Comic Relief which was very good. Ours was the last case off the plane! We were helped by a lovely young lady at Europcar. We chose a Fiat for this weekend. Our first stop was Millets Farm Store for mushrooms. We were at Anne by 5pm and had a lovely, late evening. I made mushroom pasta for dinner and it was so nice to cook again and have a home cooked meal. We drank lots and chatted about all sorts of things.
We were awake at 7:25 and on the road by 9:25. There was a stunning view of Loch Ness as we left. We took a short walk to Foyers Falls which are amazing.
We are on the other side of the Loch from when we went to Skye and we could see Urquhart Castle across the water. It was then back to Inverness and at the Longman Roundabout we headed for Nairn. The intention was to look up the records of the Sinclair’s that left Nairn for South Africa but the Census was done by street name and therefore not very helpful. We then entered Malt Whisky country and our first stop was at the historic distillery of Dallas Dhu which was closed for lunch.
We drove back into the Cairngorms National Park and had a picnic lunch just outside of Cromdale. Our first tasting was at Cragganmore, where we had the Distellery edition, only available from the distellery.
Our drive took us through the massive Glenlivet Estate, of which only a small part is the distellery. In Dufftown we went to Glenfiddich, a family run distellery which was founded in 1887. I’ve written a few interesting facts about the distellery and the whiskys on my blog. But what I didn’t know is that they own Balvenie. Dave and I started with espresso and whisky cake and then had a dram each. We shared The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old and a 1995 Malt Barn exclusive which was 60.8%.
After that we checked into our guest house and relaxed before heading back into town at The Stuart Arms.