Thursday 31 July 2014

Temporary blog post!

Ben is having a sleepover at Sue's tonight with his new friends Henry and Erik, we're heading down for a couple of sociable drinks imminently so will blog fully later this evening when we get home (All being well).

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Pioggia e piu pioggia!

If we were missing England, then the weather overnight and for most of the day today would have put paid to any homesickness!

At 9am this morning, I dropped our apartment guests to the train station in Pescia as they were planning to take a ride to Florence where they had booked a hotel for an overnight stay so as not to feel they had to rush their visit. We dearly hope they had at least some dry spells that bit further south, and if so they would actually probably have had a better time of it than in the stifling heat that you often find in the cities in the height of summer. Either way though, the weather is no obstacle to enjoying Florence's beautiful architecture, views, fountains, sculptures, its duomo and museums.

Once the rain had started late last night, it seemed to continue, uninterrupted, at the same steady pace all night long. Helen ventured outside for some running around at about 6.45am, and while the rain was light to start off with, it soon worsened and she came back in soaked to the skin after having stuck it out for a full 50 minutes. The rain then didn't really show any signs of letting up until midday.

We had a very slow morning, with Ben preparing all the veg for a very large pot of Tuscan-style ragu, and chose to stay indoors for lunch as things were rather damp outdoors, so we had our usual spread of meats, cheese, tomatoes, bread and eggs at the dining table indoors - the first time we've dined at the indoor dining table since we arrived! 

The locals do seem very bemused by the amount of rain we've had this month - for us British folk it still seems like it has been a positively lovely month of weather, but here, more than a single day of rain in July is unusual, so the locals consider this to have been a terrible summer, weather wise, so far. 

Once lunch had been despatched, the Smith clan decided to have our first board game session: two games of Scrabble and a game of 'The settlers of Catan'. Kerys won both games of scrabble and Ben claimed the Catan crown.

Our afternoon flew by, and at around 5.30pm the sun was starting to make brief appearances, so we decided to call time on the games and head out to stretch our legs. Helen was more than happy to punch her time card at this point and come out with us, so we all hopped into the "182 bus" and drove out to Montecarlo, a beautiful little hill town about 20 minutes from here - one of our favourite haunts. 

We had a slow walk around, taking in the views from each side of the town, before settling at a table in the main street for some local Montecarlo wine and a bowl of nuts.

The Smiths.

Porta Nuova.

Looking towards Pescia and our valley. You can just about pick out Vellano in the sunshine.

Looking towards Montecatini. All the flat white structures are the polytunnels of all the local nurseries growing olives and flowers.

Porta Fiorentina.

Montecarlo street.

Montecarlo church tower.

The old fortress.

The old fortress.

Looking stunning in the sunshine against the grey sky.

A couple of drinks later, with everyone completely relaxed and the church bells above us ringing out for 8 o'clock, we ambled back to the car and headed home for another glass of wine and bowls of pasta with heaps of home-made Tuscan ragu.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

To tick or not to tick, that is the question!

Today should be a day to put a big tick in a box - we were due finally to collect the car (and the printer). Helen had arranged to collect the car at 10am, but after I'd lost the blog post last night and only finished it again at around 9am this morning, she was keen to get it edited and sent live before we left, so it was 10am before we got out of the house.

Half an hour later we pulled onto the forecourt of Car2Car and saw the car! It actually looked like we might really get it today after all! We walked in, and Maurizio soon appeared with a folder of paperwork. Five minutes and only one signature later, we were being given a demo of all of the controls (literally all of them - 'this is how the heater works - this is to make it hot, this is to make it cold', 'these are the indicators', 'these are the windscreen wipers', 'this button is for the hazard lights'... and so on), and we were soon sent on our way. We couldn't quite believe it - I think that after all of the goings on and disappointment lately, we fully expected another hiccup (in fact, when they seemed to be struggling to switch on the radio we fully expected them to change their minds and not let us have the car until the radio had been fixed, and while they twisted knobs and pressed buttons we both held our breath until the joyous sound of europop burst from the speakers!).

The car was empty of both metano (methane) and benzina (petrol), so we drove straight up the road to the metano garage where I asked the chap to fill the tank, to which he replied with words to the effect of 'of course! you always fill the tank!', so it seems that's the way with methane. It wasn't a quick process, but six or seven minutes later the pump stopped: €21 to fill the tank from empty. So now we will have to see just how economical this fuel is once we've run it down to nothing again.

That done, we drove home, only stopping to put some petrol in the car (in case of emergencies) and to buy some more fresh bread.

A sight we were starting to wonder if we would ever see!

It was nearly noon by the time we got home, so Helen made some lunch and went to her desk while I rallied the Smith clan for a trip into Pescia for lunch - the first time we've eaten out since their holiday started, so it was overdue and as it was a damp rainy day it seemed like a good activity to do. While at it we could collect Helen's printer and, weather permitting, look around town.

We parked in the car park next to the old flower market and walked back up towards town. Sue had recommended a restaurant on this road - one that her boys refer to as 'the pirate restaurant' (the owner always wears a bandana) and, sure enough, when we went in we were greeted by the 'pirate' owner so knew we had found the right place! We had a great lunch: pasta dishes of tortellini with ragu, penne with fresh tomato sauce, tortelli with prosciutto and cream, and tagliatelle with salmon started us off, followed by chicken breasts with a choice of side dish for Mom and the kids, while I went for pork chop and beans, all washed down with what seemed like bottomless coca cola for the kids while Mom had coffee and shared the half litre of white wine I ordered. Mom, Kerys and I then finished with coffee of varying sorts and we all left feeling sated, all for the princely sum of €10 per head - definitely a place we'll be be revisiting.

Delicious pasta course.

By now it was quite wet outside, so with umbrellas we walked into the main square and took refuge in Bar Pulter where I introduced Mom and Kerys to caffe ginseng - something of a craze here, if that's the right word to use (the special machines that prepare ginseng coffees are fairly ubiquitous and any place that sells coffee seems to have one).

The rain had now stopped, but it was only 3pm so still too early for shops to open, so we walked around the back streets and made a visit into the duomo briefly.

We then headed back towards the square and the street that runs from it. Our first stop was the toy/game shop where Ben was hoping to add to his Warhammer collection. While talked with the owner about the 'very strange' weather for this time of year, Ben browsed his options, and ten minutes later we left with three armies of figures at 30% discount and headed to the computer shop.

There was no printer for us... again!! I couldn't quite follow exactly why, but I did glean that they have four shops, that something was taking a long time involving Milan, and that the man in the shop needed to phone the Lucca shop. He rambled on some more, at which point I got completely lost. I let him finish before pointing out that it had been nearly three weeks now. I asked if we could get a refund, he said we could, but that the printer would be ready to collect on Thursday - not the first time we've been told that, but next time I visit I'll be going in with the receipt and I plan to leave either with a working printer or with a refund!

We arrived home at about 5pm, and our guests arrived back shortly afterwards - I'm looking forward to hearing about their afternoon: their son has a keen interest in WW2, and after doing a lot of research about the area and a German line of defence that is a short way north of here, they were off in search of evidence and remaining military structures.

While Ben amused himself with his new purchase, Mom picked up her iPad, Kerys watched Russell Howard on her phone, and I put my time to good use by blogging nice and early. An early dinner is in order this evening, and right now the sun seems to be attempting to make its first appearance of the day, so maybe we'll all get a hour on the veranda once Helen finishes her work for the day.

The suspense!

After a late night out on the patio on Sunday, it was a late start for me yesterday morning - despite Helen getting up to exercise at 6am, then coming back in, showering, and starting work in the bedroom (her temporary office), I slept on and didn't wake until 8:45am.

Mom and I sat on the veranda drinking tea and waking up slowly as the sun rose over the hill behind the house into a clear blue sky above - the weather forecast promised a good day today.

After breakfast, and while Kerys and Ben still slept, Mom took to applying a second coat of paint to one of the garden chairs while I half-emptied the man cave to find homes for everything and tidy up a bit after the hasty piling in of tools from the apartment last week.

Those jobs done and the kids having surfaced, it was soon time for lunch - the usual smörgåsbord of cured meats, cheese, fresh bread (cotto a legna - cooked in a wood fired oven), tomatoes straight from our plants, cucumber and feggatini (liver pate) all under the shade of our garden umbrella as it was now midday and toasty outside.

After lunch, while poor Helen headed back to her office for an afternoon in the gloom, the rest of us headed out for a bit of sightseeing with a vague plan of heading north up the valley in the direction of Abetone. Not only would this give us some amazing views back towards Pietrabuona and Pescia, but it would give everyone a better idea of the location of our houses and its context within the immediate area. We duly stopped at Vellano first, and then Goriaolo, each time taking in the view from a higher vantage point.

After that it was non-stop to Mammiano Basso and the suspension bridge (Ponte Sospeso) that Helen and I had passed on our trip to Abetone a few weeks back.

The sign says that the pedestrian footbridge is one of the longest suspension footbridges in the world, and at 212m in length and reaching a height of 40m at its highest point, it certainly looked impressive, not to mention somewhat daunting. 

Ben was keen to get on it, so soon we were all tentatively taking our first steps on the open-grilled walkway of the bridge. The bridge was constructed by the owner of the local metal works factory so that workers from the village across the gorge could make an 'easy' commute to work - it's been here since the early 1900s and still seems in great condition.

We all made it to the other side, even Kerys who struggles with heights. I was very proud of her for that, as I was sure that she would wait for the three of us to make the crossing without her, but without a murmur she followed.

After waiting for a few minutes for the bridge to clear, we made the return journey with our eyes fixed on the bar in the park area below - so once we were back on terra firma that was where we headed for drinks and ice creams all round. 

Our afternoon.

Vs. Helen's afternoon.

Feeling fully refreshed, we decided to push on another 6 miles to find the botanical gardens which, according to the leaflet, offered a 1.6km walk each way to and from it.

It was a very slow and windy 6 miles but very easy on the eyes, and we finally arrived at the gardens - a small section in the middle of the woods displaying all sorts of plants, fungi and trees. We walked around the gardens with varying degrees of interest and were soon leaving wondering where this 3km walk was!

Another point of interest in the gardens was a sign displaying a black-and-white drawing of 'il poiana' or Buteo buteo (the common buzzard). The picture clearly showed its underwing, and I am now convinced that is our regular visitor overhead at the farm.

After all of that excitement, it was time to head back to Pescia to do the shopping. Unfortunately, however, we missed the turning, making it not such an easy return leg and we ended up in Pistoia after what must have been an hour-long detour! We quickly circumnavigated the city on what must have been the ring road and were soon in Montecatini and Pescia bound.

After piling our trolley high to the point of overflowing in Esselunga, we left for home - by this time it was gone 8pm, Helen was wondering where on earth we had got to and whether we had completely abandoned her, and we were all ready for a drink on the patio. While we sat out in the rather cool evening air, I lit the remaining instant BBQ that was still lurking in the woodshed so that we could cook some Tuscan sausages while we chatted. 

Needless to say the pasta dish I had planned for the sausages soon turned into rather less glamorous sausage sandwiches but they were very tasty ones - they certainly know how to make a tasty sausage here!

Another hour of chatting and cards games later we were all retiring for an early night (respectively speaking, that is, it was 11pm).

Almost forgot to mention that while we were out, Helen took a phone call from the car dealer to be told that our car is ready for collection! Really?!? We couldn't quite believe it... We're about to head off there this morning so watch this space...!!!

Monday 28 July 2014

Damned technology!

22:15 and just lost the blog post i was typing, haven't the heart to start again now so it will have to wait until the morning, sorry folks.

Sunday 27 July 2014

A change in pace.

So Sunday arrived, but for me, not until almost 9am - just what the doctor ordered, although I still think I'm catching up from lack of sleep on Friday night.

The sky was bright and the sun was due an appearance imminently, so we sat on the veranda drinking many cups of tea and coffee and having a leisurely breakfast. We had planned nothing but a lazy morning today.

Our guests were already up and out enjoying the fresh start to the day, which was great to see. Lorenzo came up to see us mid-morning to ask for a couple of things. First, we'd forgotten to put a bath mat in the shower room, which meant that despite their best efforts they were slowly turning the whole place into a wet room. Drat, I knew we'd have forgotten something!

Secondly, they had had an unexpected visitor during the evening, which meant them having to juggle sleeping arrangements as a small scorpion had appeared from behind the skirting board in the living room and terrorised their daughter. This is all thanks to the less than perfect doors on the place, with large gaps that are plenty big enough to let wildlife it. Still, it only took eight weeks to get a quote from a carpenter to come and replace the doors, so hopefully in the next six weeks he might actually arrive to measure up, and maybe eight weeks after that fit them.

Anyway, I went down to the apartment with a bath mat, a cordless drill and a scorpion-catching device (half a plastic bottle). Three screws later and there it was, safely captured and displayed to the curious guests. I despatched it down the driveway and left them in peace, hoping that a less eventful and more restful sleep is in store for them tonight.

11:30 was upon us before we knew it, and despite the fact that Kerys and Ben had only just surfaced, it was almost lunch time and we were out of bread. I jumped into the car and headed down the hill to Amanda's before she shut for the day. I had a plan to supplement the bread with a little something else and before I knew it I had purchased three breaded chicken breast, an enormous chunk of cheese, too large balls of buffalo mozzarella and two skewers of the largest prawns I've ever seen cooked in herbs and breadcrumbs.

We had a very enjoyable lunch with chilled white wine (for the adults) to accompany the prawns (which were also for the adults as Kerys and Ben wouldn't touch them with a barge pole).

After clearing up and getting ourselves ready, we headed out for an afternoon in Lucca. After the half-hour drive (which was about 25 minutes too long for the three piled into the back with no air con and only one window - the driver's - that opens), we parked up and headed up to the fortified wall that encircles the entire city. 

The car journey felt longer for some than for others.

The wall was quite busy with cyclists, and I enquired about renting a four-seater bike to join in the fun, but was told that nothing would be available for the next hour, so we opted to walk around the walls and come back later.

Walking the walls.

After a while we dropped into town from the wall and meandered around for an hour or so. 

Eventually, we found the small elliptical piazza that is the former site of a Roman amphitheatre. There was a market in the centre and plenty of bars and restaurants around the outside. 

Piazza amfiteatro.

Since we were all flagging a little in the heat, we decided to stop for a while and enjoy a drink seated under one of the umbrellas. One drink turned into two, and spirits were lifted, energy restored and after a browse around the market we headed off to find the famous tower with the trees growing on top: Torre Guinigi.

Torre Guinigi.

Mom and Helen chose to stay at ground level for different reasons (Helen and I have been up it before), and Kerys wasn't sure she was up to the steps, so Ben and I headed to the entrance but were soon joined by Kerys who didn't want to miss out despite her fear of stairs/heights.

260 open-tread metal steps later (if Ben's counting is to be believed), we arrived at the top and were afforded wonderful 360° views over the city.

Open tread steps.

Stunning views from the top.

Us from the top.

Us from the bottom.

By the time we'd got back to terra firma it was already 6.30pm and only 15 minutes before our parking ticket was due to expire, so we headed straight back to the car, leaving the bike rental for another visit.

We arrived home to a beautifully clear but cool evening, and got on with cooking dinner straight away, meaning that we were eating dinner before 9pm - a rare thing indeed since arriving here. It was nice to eat dinner outside for a change and have plenty of time after to relax with a glass of wine.

So it wasn't quite a day of rest, but it was certainly a very enjoyable one. Tomorrow brings a work day for poor Helen, while I need to entertain the family so a trip further up the valley may be in order, but we'll wait and see what the morning and its weather brings.

Saturday 26 July 2014

A day of two halves!

So after finishing work (sealing around the worktops in the apartment) at about 3:15am this morning, I collapsed into bed, as we all did. The next thing I was aware of was the brain-rattling sound of a petrol-powered strimmer outside the bedroom window at around 8.30am. A quick check with my hand meant that as the bed had only one inhabitant, my wife was attached to said raucous alarm clock, it was not the kind of noise you can sleep through and soon I heard mom get up and I followed suit once the bathroom was free, Ben was also awake and had his face pressed into my tablet PC. There was no sign of Kerys, but I later found out that even she had woken up to the noise of a two-stroke petrol engine but she at least persevered and went back to sleep.

I crawled downstairs and switched on the coffee machine while booting my computer up, I had emailed Lorenzo yesterday to get an E.T.A. and he replied while we were out at Sue's asking for sat nav directions, so that was my first job today. Three coffees later and feeling almost human, I went down to the apartment to find Mom doing the final clean.

It was then time for Helen and me to drop the rental car back to Montecatini Terme, so it was Helen's turn to drive the little Alfa and we headed slowly in the direction of the Europcar office. I had tried to make mental notes on my way home from the mattress shop so that today would be easy - that combined with Sue's directions given to me at ten to three this morning proved to be all I needed, and one small inconsequential turn was all that got in the way of a perfectly navigated route.

The nice man in the office gave the car the once over, took only one signature and let us go on our way. Much to Helen's relief, I took the car keys for the return drive. I can see why she didn't enjoy driving the little 147, it was a little petrol-powered sporty number that seems to have had something of a tough life - no sun visor on the driver's side, the passenger window doesn't work, the air-con needs re-gassing, tyres need inflating, and it's covered in dents - it just drives like quite an old car.

After getting back home around 11:40am, having made a stop at a shop for the last few bits we needed for the apartment (a door mat, ash tray, screw-fitting light bulb, citronella candles and a wooden spoon, we made the final tiny tweaks to the apartment and shut the door until our first ever guests arrived (said they would arrive around 1pm).

We all busied ourselves for a while and I then sat with Mom and a cup of tea on the patio wondering a) would the guests like our home and b) whether the rumbling I could hear was thunder or lorries heading up the valley. It had been muggy all morning so I soon realised it was thunder.

While preparing lunch I was called from the house as our guests had arrived, pretty much exactly when they said they would - no mean feat considering they had driven from somewhere in the centre of England to get here!

So this was it, the moment of truth. We greeted them and showed them in. They made what seemed to be genuinely pleased appreciative noises, and we breathed an enormous sigh of relief then left them to unpack and settle in.

It was about five minutes later that the rain started (welcome to Tuscany), and then the wind whipped up. We ate lunch inside while the storm tore around the mountains, blowing over chairs and blowing candles and lanterns clean off the outdoor tables!

What a terrible start to your holiday!

Fortunately, the worst of it passed quite quickly, and soon the rain stopped. At this point we decided to head out for a bit of sightseeing - the first proper sightseeing of the trip for Mom and the kids.

With the weather being the way it was and the car being the size it is, we decided that a short trip to Collodi (a 15-minute drive away) was the best option. Here there is not only Pinocchio park (Collodi being the birthplace of Pinocchio's creator), but Villa Garzoni with its stunning gardens and butterfly house.

After finding the place, we spent half an hour or so in the butterfly house where Helen found a friend that took some persuading to part with her before we could leave.

After that, we ambled around or should I say up and down the gardens of the villa. They were very beautiful - not big, but certainly stunning and well worth a visit.

On our departure, we witnessed rehearsals for the entertainment for a wedding reception that appeared to be due to start this evening, hence the marquees in the gardens. It looked like the newlyweds had a few euros to burn judging by the set up. Stunning place for a reception though.

On leaving, we crossed the road and went straight into the nearest ice cream shop where a quiet five minutes of licking ensued, all of us feeling a touch jaded from lack of sleep and having just climbed numerous steps in what was by now a very hot and sunny afternoon (great news for our guests).

I decided that on the way home a quick stop at Bar Poulter was in order before heading home to make sure our guests were OK. This didn't materialise though as the square was chock-a-bloc with extra cars and people heading to another wedding reception - today must have been a popular day for it!

With nothing else left to do, it was time to head back to the sunny patio for crisps and beer/wine, where we spent a very relaxing three hours as the sun went down and the evening grew cooler to the sound of cicadas.

When we got home, it was really great to see Lorenzo and his family outside on the apartment patio enjoying the change in weather and looking like they had been making themselves at home.

So the day we have been working so hard towards and lately feeling anxious about, has finally come and pretty much passed, and all seems well. We heard the reassuring clinking of plates and cutlery downstairs and we eventually went inside for own dinner - late again despite the lack of work, but that seem to be the way the days go over here.

The final push and a wonderful evening

We left you high and dry with no update last night as we were having a well earned evening off thanks to our friend Sue's generous hospitality - but more on that later.

Knowing that there was a lot to do, I managed to be at my desk and working by 7.55am so that I could fit in an hour and a half's work before tackling the first task of the day - going to drop off our broken hedge trimmers at a place that we hoped would mend them, and going to pick up our new car.

Stuart and I set off with the hedge trimmers in the back of the car heading for Capannori, having no idea what sort of place we were looking for - whether it would be a tiny, hard-to-find little workshop or something larger. It turned out to be a large warehouse selling all sorts of garden equipment, from ride-on mowers to automatic mowers, trimmers, strimmers, olive pickers, bat houses (yes), safety equipment and everything you could possibly want to manage your land efficiently. At the back of the warehouse was a workshop with a couple of guys working on what looked like a broken hedge trimmer, so it seemed we were in the right place.

The guy who came to serve us clearly understood why we were there, took a quick look and the Obi receipt and got on with writing out a docket for the broken hedge trimmers. He said something in Italian that we didn't quite understand, but I'm pretty sure it was something along the line of 'ah yes, we see a lot of these' (in reference to the brand and model of our trimmers). Anyway, we left the timmers with him, and should get them back in a week or thereabouts.

Next it was on to the car dealer - they had emailed on Thursday saying 'all is fine, please come at 11am on Friday'. So when we pulled into the forecourt and didn't spot the car (AGAIN), our hearts sank. The email had been so definite, and Stuart had double checked his messages before we left to make sure there hadn't been another saying 'no don't come after all', so we thought that maybe they had just hidden it away somewhere around the back...

On entering the building we were met with 'there is a problem with the methane' - so no new car for us again! They did, however, say that they would loan us a car for five days to tide us over. Since the hire car needed to be returned to Europcar Saturday morning, we agreed that yes please, we would have their loan car, thank you very much. They then proceeded to do lots of bits of paperwork, and finally presented us with a printout showing the insurance to cover us for five days - starting from 12pm. At this point it was only 11.40am, so we had to sit and wait for 20 minutes until they would let us leave!

Finally 12pm came around and we set off with Stuart driving the little Alfa Romeo and me driving the Fiat 500L - I had been dreading this part with the triple whammy of an unfamiliar car, with the steering wheel on the wrong side, and driving it solo. Thankfully I just about made it back in one piece (I had a bit of a hairy moment with the edge of the road and nearly ended up in the ditch just before I reached our gates, but we won't dwell on that...). As I was coming along the drive, our visitor from the previous evening put in another appearance. The deer was standing right in the middle of the drive looking at me. It scarpered pretty quickly, but it was a beautiful sight.

By the time we'd done with all of that messing about, it was lunchtime, so once again all five of us dined on bread, cheese, meats, tomatoes, boiled eggs and paté under the shade of the garden umbrella.

Lunch dispatched and cleared away, it was back to work. I'd decided earlier in the week that I would take Friday off office-work (with the exception of the hour or so in the morning) in order to concentrate on finalising things in the apartment.

Sheila started putting another coat of paint on the garden chairs that she and Kerys had put the first coat on the other day (it goes without saying that the painting was in between washing up and doing yet more cleaning in the apartment and tidying of the garden - it's easy to see where Stuart gets his work ethic from!)

While Stuart read through my draft of the guest information pack, adding a couple of details here and there, I went to start sorting through the kitchen utensils and crockery in the apartment. Stuart soon joined me and between us we cleared out some cupboard space so our guests will have room to store their food, topped up the soap dispensers and washing up liquid bottle, threw out a few items that really looked beyond their best, and generally tweaked things.

Come 4pm, we were still at it, but conscious of the fact that there were a few items we needed to buy for the apartment and for the guests' welcome pack, Stuart decided to head to town to do a supermarket shop and try to pick up the few odd items we still needed. Sheila and Kerys and Ben all went along for the ride.

While they were gone, I put the final finishing touches to the guest information pack, printed out some information on a couple of local events that we've found out about and finished tidying in the apartment.

The apartment was looking lovely, with just the fresh bed linen to put on, the welcome basket to fill, and a final vacuum and mop to be done in the morning.

The troops arrived back at the house at 5.55pm. We were due at Sue's (Hi Sue!) at 6pm, so there ensued a mad dash for everyone to change, freshen up and douse themselves in insect repellent, and then attempt to trick the cats into coming inside for an early dinner and lock-down.

We finally all piled into the car and rolled up at Sue's house rather late, but she was kind enough to say it was fine and promptly told us all to drink prosecco. Which we did. We had the most lovely relaxed and enjoyable evening. After an initial stand-off, Kerys and Ben soon became best buddies with the charming Henry and Erik and spent a while playing hide and seek, going to collect eggs, and having a tour of the vegetable growing area. Sue cooked a delicious curry and a heavenly tiramisu, and plied us with copious amounts of wine and limoncello while we chatted the night away. It was such a lovely evening that I was utterly gobsmacked when Kerys announced it had gone 2am! The old cliché about time flying when you're having fun was never more true!

Henry and Erik accompanied us with their torches back down the track to find our car, and we headed home, with Ben invited back to spend more time with Henry and Erik during the week.

On arriving home, Stuart had to go and seal the kitchen worktop in the apartment so that the silicon would dry overnight, and I quickly bashed out last night's poor excuse for a blog post before eventually falling into bed some time close to 3am.

What a wonderful evening!

Wot no blog?

You will have to excuse us tonight as, after another long and packed day (which featured the not picking up of our new car, and more sightings of yesterday's deer, to mention but two items of note), we went round to Sue's for a wonderful evening of wine, chat and delicious food, while Henry and Erik entertained Ben and Kerys*  (*for some of the time at least) until the the early hours of the morning.

A truly wonderful evening was had by all, but I'm afraid that blogging will have to wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are some pics of the apartment: