Road-trips and Reunions

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the best things about escaping the Abu Dhabi summer heat and having an extended trip home is catching up with friends. It may mean we are constantly on the move, clocking up mile after mile in the hire car but it’s worth every minute on the road (except my love/hate relationship with the M25) and I am so grateful for all the fantastic hospitality and laughs that this trip has given me/us.

IMG_6537Spent far too much time on the M25 (aka the world’s largest car park), my pet peeve of this trip.

The bed hopping started again in Old Couldson enjoying a delicious meal with friends at The White Hart pub in Chipstead, a lovely traditional pub in an attractive little Surrey village (I later learnt I had been there before, the ‘old’ memory let me down!). It’s not until you are away from the UK that you realise how much you just miss going to the pub with friends and we have certainly made up for it on this trip!

IMG_6157Beautiful thatched cottage in Bickton, our abode for three days

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IMG_6153The very friendly and welcoming Monty

Next stop on the friends reunited tour (road trip variety not the dodgy social website) was down to the delightful New Forest for a three-day stay in a chocolate-box thatched cottage, complete with stunning gardens and a bouncy springer spaniel called Monty. BBQ and G n T’s on the decking, home cooking, pub lunch by the river, village stroll, fine dining at the Little Mere restaurant located in a 300-year-old thatched cottage, dog walks and general relaxing in beautiful summer weather sums up our stay perfectly and the hosts weren’t bad either.

IMG_6143Fordingbridge in the New Forest

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Off again and the next stop was Hove for a four-day mini break with our friends in their lovely weekend getaway. Lots of laughs and even more alcohol ensued and as always a fantastic time was had by all. After a short train ride to Shoreham to Chambers Bistro (great food and service, well worth a visit if you are ever in that area) on the first night, promenade walks, meandering though the Lanes (I can recommend the salted caramel ice-cream at Gelato Gusto in the North Laines) and pub hopping with extended family on the Saturday and a fantastic pub roast at Hove Place on Sunday made for an excellent time. I have to admit pub Sunday Roasts are one of my favourite things about coming ‘home’, sad I know but true.

DSC09493Back in East Sussex for another weekend of jollification and over indulgence

IMG_6177The Iron Boot Scrapers entertain the Saturday afternoon crowds in Brighton with their unique musical style ‘playing the music of today with the instruments of yesterday’ check them out here

IMG_6185Fabulous roast dinner at Hove Place, voted in the top five roast dinner’s in the city by welovebrighton.com (visit their website here)

An after dinner stroll to the beach resulted in a hilarious soaking to the skin as a huge thunder-storm and torrential rain set in, running for cover (yes I ran) we found shelter on the promenade and sat, shivered and huddled up with strangers for a bit before running to the pub, you have to love the British summertime (insert rendition of I do like to be beside the seaside here)

DSC09847The big black clouds should have been a clue over Hove Promenade…….

Next stop on the way back to Surrey was an impromptu yummy picnic on East Withering beach and a spot of kayaking for those who do and some lazing about reading for those who don’t, I’ll let you decide which one I was! I can’t remember the last time I had a picnic at the British seaside and even though it was pebble beach, it was a lovely step back in time and the perfect end to a great four days.

IMG_6208East Withering beach

DSC09850The intrepid canoeists 

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DSC09878Views across to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight in the distance

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DSC09879Traditions of the English seaside

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No rest for the wicked, up early and off to London the next day to rendezvous with the eldest and the teenager at Waterloo before we set off to Greenwich for a Mexican lunch and a trip on the Emirates Air Line (family moaning about being tourists ignored).

DSC09886The Emirates Air Line

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DSC09892The views across London with the O2 above and Stratford and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park below

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DSC09899The Thames barrier above and London Cruise Terminal below

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We floated over the city, taking in the views on a perfect sunny day before hopping on the DLR to Shoreditch (but not before numpty son dropped his sunglasses on the tracks and had to way for TFL employee to retrieve them, never a dull moment) for some retail therapy. Joined by second son we enjoyed a lovely evening of family reuniting with more old friends and all our children (well children is probably a stretch with age ranges now of 29 -16) in Islington at the fab Vineyard bar followed by dinner at the quirky Le Mercury Deuxieme restaurant.

IMG_6246Monument designed by Sir Christopher Wren was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of the city

DSC09906Views to Tower Bridge from London Bridge

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Back in London again the following day, it was lunch with second son in the city first on the agenda then a wander down past Monument then over London Bridge for a visit to Borough Market (what a fab place that deserves its own post, read about it here) where our senses were accosted by a plethora of aromas and colours. The other half was in food heaven and the only problem was what cuisine to choose.

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Next it was off to Cardiff on a road trip with more friends (hooray I was not actually driving for once) and another weekend of fun and frolics. A concert at Cardiff Castle, a fab hotel with views across Cardiff Bay, a visit to the beautiful old Welsh town of Cowbridge and a stop at Barry Island to follow in the footsteps of the BBC’s Gavin and Stacey show (see separate post here).

IMG_6259Views across the bay from our room at St.Davis Hotel and Spa in Cardiff

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IMG_6391Barry Island Beach on a summer Saturday

An evening in a local pub garden back in our hometown at a summer event supporting Macmillan Cancer Charity with more friends and a local band was followed by a much-needed relaxing Sunday of doing pretty much nothing, just perfect.

IMG_6350Scenic Winchester and its stunning Cathedral below

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The teenager and I headed off to the charming and historic city of Winchester for a spot of retail therapy and lunch, like us girls do. The evening was spent catching up and reminiscing with a great bunch of friends and colleagues that the other half worked with over twenty years ago, oh how time flies!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriends and colleagues reunited

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After successfully moving second son out of his Stratford flat after the completion of his placement year, it was almost time to relax. Lots of golf (and lots of beer of course) and a fab send off BBQ back in Surrey signified it was time for the other half to jet back to Abu Dhabi for work, but not before a very stressful trip along the M25 at tortoise like  speed where he only just made his flight. Such fun!

IMG_6371Goodbye Stratford

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Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.