I always enjoy trying new items on the menu and this has reminded me that my last letter was written in such a hurry that I missed a couple of unfamiliar tasting events. For Burns night at the end of January we were still at the Les Medes campsite on the Costa Brava. Cath and Ian now host the event in the campsite bar and restaurant. All are welcome and Cath did us all proud with an excellent haggis (sheep's stomach stuffed with wheat and barley) and bashed neeps (smashed swede). All genuine Scottish ingredients.
I also had the opportunity to try Calçots at a local restaurant. They look like a cross between a spring onion and a leek and are a Catalunian delicacy. I had seen them eaten last year but not had a chance to try. They are cooked over a pit barbecue and served whole in a roof tile. They are then peeled and dipped in a sauce before being eaten. A bowl of water for cleaning fingers, towelette and disposable bib are provided for the diner. The Spanish eat them in a very neat and tidy sort of way but I'm afraid the same cannot be said of myself. By the time I had finished the beautiful white table cloth was just covered in ash! I had charcoal under my fingernails and although I finished every single one and put the peelings back in the roof tile and they were completely delicious I felt like an absolute idiot for making such a mess. I couldn't say sorry as I don't speak Spanish or Catalan.
Whilst we were back in England I had real cravings for traditional English food. I'm sure this was triggered by the knowledge that we were planning an extended trip to the USA. So I ate them all. Fish and chips, pies, suet crust pastry, Indian food, bacon sandwiches, roast beef all washed down with copious amounts of cider-perfect.
The last time I wrote we were in Germany staying with Mike's son Lee, his wife Lizzie and their daughter Chloe. We had a great time seeing them before Lee goes back to Iraq in the summer. In the car by now having left the motorhome in France for storage we returned to Calais, took the ferry to Dover and headed to London to stay with my sister Catherine, her husband Andy and their children Evie and Alex. Because it was half term we had more time to see the children. I took them out for the day which gave me the chance to spoil them with cake for elevenses and McDonald's. We went to the Imax on the South Bank to see a 3D movie. Alex who is 4 kept reaching out to try and touch the creatures coming out of the screen which was as sweet as it sounds. To get there we took the bus from Streatham and I only had a £10.00 note. The bus driver and passengers were right in thinking that I was some sort of throwback to a different era. Buses don't carry change any more as everyone in London has these Oyster cards or some type of travel pass. First of all I asked for an adult and two child's singles. The driver informed me that children travel for free and that he didn't have any change. I had also asked for a stop that doesn't exist. The children were oblivious to their aunty's dilemma and skipped happily onto the bus. Fortunately the driver let me off the fare and the passengers helped advise on where I was going.
From London we headed out to see Kate Hetzel and her family in Beaconsfield just 40 minutes out of London. You may remember her from the story of the unfortunately named kitten called Puck. Sadly he didn't understand the traffic so they have a new cat called Jelly, from the same litter who is also very sweet. Her youngest son Danny has realised that the tree they buried Puck under won't be bearing Puck 'fruit' as he first thought.
Whilst we were staying with Kate our friends Jon and Linda drove down from Norfolk to see us in their new motorhome. It has been custom built for them by SC Sporthomes in Wales and they are planning on taking it all over the world. We had a great evening with them and went out for an excellent Indian meal in Beaconsfield as their campsite was only about 10 minutes away.
From Beaconsfield we headed west to see my parents and my youngest sister Liz. They were all on fine form Mum did particularly well on a scenic country walk we took. It was hilly and quite hard going with lots of stiles. She made easy work of the whole lot which is very impressive just 6 months after her total knee replacement. After just 3 nights it was time to head north to see Mike's family. On the way we made a couple of stops to meet friends we have met travelling. First stop Les and Tracey who live in St Helens. I decided to get a long overdue haircut whilst there. Clear instructions were given to the stylist as usual. 'It needs to be wash and go, I live in a motorhome and wash it frequently as I exercise a lot.' I left with a very smart bob which took her longer to style and blow dry than it did to cut. A strictly high maintenance haircut which did not match the criteria in any way at all. It looked lovely for the first day though.
Our next stop was Huddersfield where we met up with some fellow American motorhome owners. Peter, Vera, Fran and Gordon. It was great to catch up having met them last Autumn in Portugal.
From Huddersfield we continued East to Yorkshire. We stayed with Mike's parents and made trips out to meet up with friends and family within a 20 mile radius. We had a day with Amy's daughter Esmee walking around Bridlington. She was so well behaved and didn't stop smiling the whole time she was awake. Even tolerating my very unpraciticed nappy changing.
It was great and we were totally exhausted when it was time to leave Yorkshire 7 days later. We ate out nearly every lunch time and evening. Usually on a visit to the UK we also travel to Norfolk which has been our base for the last 19 years. We ran out of time as whilst we were in Germany the RV dealership rang to see if we could get over sooner and I found a very cheap fly drive package holiday to Florida. This gave us a direct flight, with car hire. All we needed to do at the end of the two weeks 'holiday' was just take the car back but not the flight. Before we left for Gatwick Mike's Mum was very concerned to see how much luggage we had. She was sure we would only be allowed 20kg check in suitcase and 5kg of hand luggage each. We decided to wear the clothes we couldn't pack and with the hand luggage we decided that we would just try and get away with it. We took a one way hire car from Hull to Gatwick via Kate's house in Beaconsfield as we had a very early start the next day and she lives about an hour from the airport. We went out for our last curry that evening and then I repacked my suitcase. We arrived at Gatwick at 5.15am the next morning and made our way to the check in desk. Mike's suitcase was a perfect 19.8kgs. Mine was a less perfect 24.5kgs. The check in girl looked up and we exchanged glances as a 'girly' kind of acknowledgment. I just said 'essentials' and she smiled. What a relief we had made it. We walked away from the desk and were promptly stopped by a plain clothes security official. He admonished the check in girl for not weighing our hand luggage. His tone of voice suggested that we would have to be very careful how we spoke to him. He explained that the airline were paranoid about being sued by passengers for luggage falling from overhead lockers. 'If you look overweight even getting on the plane-they'll take the bags off you anyway'. He advised us to buy a newspaper after security so we it would look as though we had purchased the extra stuff in departures. He took Mike's bag to be weighed which was 12kgs. He suggested we check Mike's bag into the hold and split the contents of my bag between us. So there we are repacking in the middle of the baggage hall. The laptop alone took nearly the whole allowance . Anyway, with his help we managed to get reorganised and Mike went back to the same check in desk and handed over his bag. He turned back to me and started gesticulating for me to bring over his wallet-they wanted £ 240. (£20.00 per kg extra charge) I thought he was crying wolf and didn't rush over. Our security man saw though and strode across. He instructed the girl to just put it through. I thanked him and got a very terse 'don't do it again' as he was passing with no eye contact. When Mike commented to our check in girl on his good nature she just said 'not usually'. Which spoke volumes. It seems we struck the right balance between humility and respect for his officious nature.
Our next hurdle was to make it onto the plane. We were wearing all the clothes we couldn't pack and we thought as we looked so ridiculous they would stop us which would trigger a chain of events and lead them to weigh our hand luggage again which was still overweight. Wearing what we couldn't pack means that Mike has walking boots, jogging bottoms, sweatshirt, fleece and ski jacket on and I have walking boots, jogging bottoms, a sweatshirt, cardigan, sleeveless coat, ski jacket scarf and fleece tied around my waist. We must have looked suspicious, we're going to Florida on a package holiday flight not the Arctic circle for goodness sake. Fortunately the friskers were busy frisking someone else and there were no fashion police so we made it on to the plane. Off to America to start the next chapter in our travels.