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Berlin Long Weekend Day 2

It was an early start today as we had a Segway Tour booked for 10.00 starting at Alexander Platz in the old East Berlin. The alarm went at seven a quick bath and down for Breakfast at 8. Breakfast was the standard buffet style help yourself affair prevalent on the continent. Cold meats cheeses, serials, pastries, fruit and so on but definitely up there with the best of these that we have sampled and  the surroundings didn’t disappoint either. A good start to the day then.


Away just after 9 and we caught the train just up the road straight to Alexander Platz and I’m pleased to report I wasn’t abandoned on a forlorn platform this time. We reported for Segway duty just before 10.00, signed our lives away and received some training on driving them.

After 5 minutes both of us were at one with the Segways. Now I will have to prattle on now for a bit because quite simply we both thought these were just brilliant. Years ago there was a car advert with the slogan “Man and machine in perfect harmony” but for my money this machine really captured that feeling. It felt like an extension of you responding empathically to your every movement or indeed thought almost. It felt like skiing as the Segway responded to your every movement, shift of weight or bending of the knee. It was a beautifully nuanced experience of oneness that you felt with the Segway.

Put simply then, they are ace – try one.

First stop was the Altes Museum on Museum island. Built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel between 1723 and 1830. Schinkel was Berlin’s most prolific builder of neoclassical architecture. What interested me was that a lot of new buildings are being built from concrete and then faced in this classical style. Works for me.


A quick stop at the – as you would expect – huge German legal library allowed me to grab a great shot of Peanut demonstrating her delightful footwork.

Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall came next. Here the history far outshines the visual impact of the places. A flying visit sufficed for us.

Hitler’s bunker was next and yes it is now a car park. As an aside an old Japanese couple were being driven in this bicycle thing by a German tour guide. As he pulled away the old Japanese man told the driver that he rather admired Hitler. Boy did that push the driver’s buttons as he remonstrated loudly with the Japanese tourist. I kid you not and we wondered if the driver threw them off his bike round the corner!

The Holocaust memorial is a poignant place when adults don’t allow their children to run amock in there playing hide and seek and screaming blue murder when they find their friends. Who knows perhaps they behave like that precisely because there was a man once who would have done something about such behaviour.

Brandenburg Gate was next and then we headed back to Alexander Platz. Three and a half hours from start to finish and fun all the way. We thanked Tobi our guide and instructor and made a mental note to do a Segway tour whenever we get the chance.

Lunch next in Alexander Platz where I had a Currywurst with chips. Well I had too really. More than anything though I needed a sit down. The fun of the Segway kept me going but it tired me.

From here we went into a large Gallery shop in Alexander Platz, where my research said I would find that which I did seek.

I did and I was able to spoil the lady who spends her whole life spoiling me! I felt rather pleased with myself!

We then walked in the general direction of our hotel along Unter den Linden where we stopped for a cup of tea. We then got a bus back to Kurfürsten straddle and our hotel.  A small rest then Mrs P changed for dinner.

And we headed out for a meander. After walking for 34.9 miles we ended up in a rather nice Italian about 400 yards from our hotel where I enjoyed a glass of wine with a lovely spaghetti carbonara and P enjoyed a huge pizza. We got chatting to a lovely Irish couple on the next table and a very pleasant evening ensued. We are at an age now when it is very enjoyable to chat with people who haven’t already heard my stories seventeen times before. We did inspire them to do the Segway tour though!

Then on the way out we ended up talking to a Norwegian couple who did the tour with us that morning. Small world.

Small world, big world, who cares what matters is my world has a Peanut in it and to spend a day like today with her makes it a rather special world! 

Helmut Newton tomorrow. Might give me a chance to talk pretentious nonsense! Who knows but you know I’ll try!

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Berlin Long Weekend Day 1

Wednesday was an emotional day for Mrs P as it was her last day working for the NHS doing the job she has done since training as a sixteen year old school leaver. Her friends at work gave her a heartfelt fine and dandy send off, spoiling her with gifts and a collection for some garden furniture which Lady P likes. I know she will be missed and she will miss the camaraderie she enjoyed with her work mates but it is time for her to explore a different chapter in her life. Somewhat emotional she hung her lab coat up for the final time and headed off to start her next chapter.

Well it begins in Berlin and that very night we set off for our long weekend there. We drove from home at 18.30 on Wednesday night heading for my cousin’s house in London. We stayed the night  and caught the 08.40 Berlin flight from Gatwick the next morning.

The taxi to the airport collected us at 06.30 and we enjoyed an entertaining chat with the driver – proud Father of seven children! I hate the airport experience but to be fair Gatwick seems to run smoothly and the passbook app on the phone certainly facilitates smooth checking in. A quick piece of toast and jam with tea and we were on the plane. We were out of Berlin airport in no time and walked to the train. The fresh air had my eyes streaming and to be honest at the train station we were clueless. I couldn’t even see the train maps never mind read them. After much bumbling and blustering we bought tickets and chose a platform on the basis of a totally uneducated guess. 

A train was stationary with its doors open. Peanut stepped on but blocked the doorway as she asked a passenger where the train went. I was stuck on the platform. Suddenly the doors closed and Peanut stepped further in with shock. I couldn’t open the door and Peanut left on the train without me.

I was abandoned, homeless contemplating living out my days sleeping rough on an East German train station bench. I rallied grew some balls and thought… I still had 26% power on my phone I could phone The Peanut. Oh wait she keeps meaning to get her phone set up to work abroad… I felt my trousers go baggy again as my balls shrunk and I looked sadly at my new home the bench.

I thought again, my balls grew. I had the train tickets I could follow her… Oh no that means P is on a German train with no ticket. They will lock her up… My ping pong balls shrunk again.

Another train pulled in what do I do? Shall I get on it? Shall I stay put. Shall I just get a taxi straight to the hotel? 

A beautiful vision appeared before me and suddenly I knew my homeless days were over.    Waving and smiling Mrs P had gotten off the train and my terrible ordeal was over. 

After that our trip went smoothly and we got to our hotel a little after 14.00. The hotel sat between the Apple shop and the Hugo Boss shop on Berlin’s finest shopping street and looked stunning as we entered reception. It is all very stylised and our room is lovely. We had a cold drink and coffee in our room, caught our breath and then went for an explore of the local area.

Two shops up was the Tesla shop with a rather nice bit of kit on display. We then had a long and tiring mooch and walk before landing at an Italian restaurant where we had an early evening meal. Nice enough but nothing to wax lyrical about.

We dragged our weary feet back to the hotel, shared a lovely hot bath and settled to watch a Donna Leon serial about her Venetian detective Brunetti in German. Surreal.

Fun we are having!



A Day Out At Croome Park


On Saturday we paid a visit to Croome Park with our friends Star Girl and Dealmaker. It was a glorious day perfect for exploring the gardens and having lunch on the temporary Sky café that sits atop the scaffolding that surrounds the old Croome Court building while its  walls receive some much needed renovation. It really made for a lovely day and I would heartily recommend a visit.  Below is some information about Croome taken from the NT website and after that you can see our photographs from the day.

There’s more than meets the eye at Croome. A secret wartime airbase, now a visitor centre, was once a hub of activity for thousands of people. Outside is the grandest of English landscapes, ‘Capability’ Brown’s masterful first commission, with commanding views over the Malverns. The parkland was nearly lost, but is now great for walks and adventures with a surprise around every corner. At the heart of the park lies Croome Court, once home to the Earls of Coventry and currently undergoing a significant repair. The ground floor and the basement are mostly open whilst the intricate work is being carried out. The scaffold can be scaled to experience the panoramic views of south Worcestershire and drinks and snacks are served from an innovative Sky Café. The 6th Earl of Coventry was an 18th century trend-setter, and today Croome follows his lead by using artists and craftspeople in the house to tell the story of its eclectic past in inventive ways, perfect for making new discoveries.

Capability Brown’s wonderful landscape is slowly being brought back to life and the NT outline the work undertaken below.

By the late 20th century the once glorious lake and river were filled to the brim with silt, temples were covered in graffiti and lost from view, statues lay broken, and shrubberies had been ploughed up. We were determined to take on this epic task of taking this extraordinary landscape hidden in the undergrowth and restoring it to its 18th-century heyday.
Ten statues remain at Croome and we’ve restored most from ruin. Pan was one of the worst and was found by our garden volunteers broken in undergrowth with his head completely missing. We had an interesting time with our conservators, deciding how to style the god of shepherds’ face.
The Rotunda was in the worst state of all of the temples in the park. When we began to restore this exquisite building in 2008, the project quickly turned into a rescue. Alongside rot and decay, we found the delicate and cracked plaster dome was about to give way as the woodwork behind it had all rotted.
Since 1996 our outdoors team have been replanting the park to how it looked in the 18th century. Using Croome’s extensive archive documents, which include surveys, plant lists, maps and bills, the team have replanted thousands of trees, flowers and shrubs to reinstate vast swathes of shrubberies which had been lost in the 20th century.
When we took on the parkland in 1996 the fields were used for arable agriculture and some of the 18th-century shrubberies had been ploughed away. It was a massive task to reinstate the parkland’s original purpose but since then we have restored 400 acres to wildflower meadow and pasture.
Most of the temples and follies in the parkland were either lost beneath thick undergrowth, vandalised or in ruin. We worked for over 10 years to pull them back from the brink, and there are still more to save. The Grotto was one of the worst, covered in ivy with tree roots pulling it apart. Now restored, you can find it by the lakeside.
Up until 2004 all you could see of Croome’s extensive river and lake was mud and silt. The waterway looks natural but it was dug out by hand by 18th century workers employed by ‘Capability’ Brown. We employed our own team of long-reach diggers to scoop out 50,000 cubic metres of silt and spread it over the surrounding fields as we turned them back into pasture.
Lots of work has been done over the last 18 years to repair the intricate infrastructure of the parkland designed by Brown. This includes restoring miles of ha ha walls, rebuilding boundary walls, repairing collapsed culverts and digging out lots of ditches. There’s lots still to do, but the ha ha walls are currently being repaired along the newly opened Home Shrubbery.

Yep really worth a visit!


A Walk Around Mougins Shooting On The Fuji


We had spent the morning in Grasse making perfume at the Galimard factory. It was a morning well spent which we rounded off with a lovely lunch in the old part of Grasse.

To keep the easy going lazy style of the day we headed to Mougins a medieval hilltop village above Cannes. It is a prosperous village populated by artists and fine restaurants. It is a sleepy village with a wonderful photography museum and a clasical art museum. I always feel, I dunno… just right when I meander around this village. We spotted some cushions with Picasso prints on them and nearly wobbled into a tasty purchase. Each turn presented a piece of art to ponder on and admire. Similar to the bronzed man we saw in Antibes, his brothers were leaping naked around Mougins. Mougins was a better pleace for their presence. Continue reading

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A Walk Around Antibes Shooting On The Fuji

Our recent vacation to the south of France saw us in Antibes for lunch after collecting Peanut’s daughter The Elf from Nice airport as she had flown in to join us on the Tuesday for the rest of the week.

We parked at the port by the side of the old town and this immediately gave us our first shot.


I was pleased with this straightaway just about getting enough light in the faces of Mrs P and The Elf while capturing a beautiful port shot behind. The girls looked suitably South of France fashionable,the boats looked expensive and there is even an old castle right at the back.

Our plan was to find the Picasso Museum and have lunch in a restaurant nearby and then do the Museum. Well we soon found the museum, so I grabbed a shot including the two girls once more. People in pictures sems to be my thing just now. Sounds obvious but people bring a photo to life.


As it happened a restaurant did not appear close to the museum so via a short cut we headed back to a very nice looking restaurant we had spotted earlier. A short cut took us back via the local market, which just begged for a couple of quick shots to be taken.



After cutting through this delightful market we sat down for a lovely meal at a very appealing restauarant bedecked with lots of white table cloths. The sun shone, the food was lovely, the wine flowed and I was dining with two pretty girls. It was all good.


After lunch we meandered back to the Picasso Museum only to find it closed for lunch. Lurking around the entrance deciding on our next plan, I looked down on a tiny square. The colours immediately struck me of the walls around the little square and the pattern of the floor too. The people were all sat down almost symmetrically spaced and I just felt I was gifted a rather wonderful photo. I grabbed it and for me this is one of my favourites from the holiday.


We walked about the town shopping and browsing and giving up on the museum. I spotted a bronze statue by the port and thought it worthy of a shot. We were to see a lot more street art as we explored the south of France. Anyway I felt pleased with where I went with this shot.


So there you have it a brief glimpse into Old Antibes a pretty little place worth a look.

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Holiday Diary – Port Cogolin Friday 8 May

Today was to be a lazy beach day, so we decided we would get to L’Escalet for a shade after 12 have lunch straightaway then walk it off with a stroll along the coast and recover from that with a few hours on the beach. Yep we all knew that this was a darned good plan.

First though it was croissants in the loggia. So I nipped to the garage for those and sneaked in a pain au chocolat for myself! Before that I had spent a pleasant hour in the morning sun catching up on our holiday blog. To be honest I rather treasure this hour and it’s fun writing up the holiday before the memories fade.

Our simple but lovely breakfast done it was time for a stroll around Port Cogolin checking all was well. It really is lovely. We ended up at the furniture shops at the entrance to Port Cogolin and. I realised that the beautiful Lloyd Loom white table with navy chairs would at almost 1000 euros never adorn our terrace. Oh well c’est la vie as they say somewhere exotic overseas.

The morning had vanished so we climbed in PaceBeast for our drive to L’Escalet. This in itself is a spectacular drive. We head towards La Croix Valmer Then turn left at the second sign for Gassin. Here the road winds up the hills towards Gassin which is a beautiful  medieval hill top village. There are some delightful restaurants up here that command gorgeous views over the Gulfe de St Tropez. From here we follow the signs to Ramatuelle another pristine hill top village and then out to the coast. Turning right we then pick up the L’Escalet signs and arrive at a beautiful French coastline with beautiful walks between wonderful secret coves and magical islands that touch the mainline with a mere sliver of sand.

L’Escalet is a great place to go on a Sunday too as if you go earlier you can stop in Ramatuelle on route and enjoy the lovely Provençal market they have with its fine mix of food, cheese and clothes stalls.

As we drove between Gassin and Ramatuelle we passed an old windmill which we have visited many times before. We have had lots if fun there from simple picnics to epic arguments with irate French people objecting to us photographing our MINIs next to the windmill. We have stopped to film the brown cows herding there evocative with their bells ringing loudly. Today we drove straight threw opening our windows to enjoy the clanging of the cow bells around their necks.

Our drive saw us looking over the famous beaches of Pampelonne where topless sun bathing first took off in the sixties. St Tropez has never stopped swinging since, constantly reinventing itself to always appeal to the rich and famous as well as the poor and infamous such as I. Beautiful vineyards cascade down the hillside to meet these beaches, all framed by a Provençal blue sea touching a matching sky. It all makes for a quite spectacular drive.

Parked by the beach we headed for the food van and ordered our standard burger and chip baguette. This is a long standing ritual for us. Our holiday would not be the same without it. We share a double one. The Elf had no option and got the single. For one person it is daunting but fair play she demolished it!

A walk followed. We drove as far as we could right as you look at the sea. Parked and began walking along the coastal paths. This walk passed my favourite beach in all the world and heads to Cap T’Ailat my favourite island, which in my mind I think of as Kirrin Island – Enid Blyton’s Island in the Famous Five books – here we were then Julian, George and Anne. Dick must have been elsewhere walking Timmy.

We have seen these hills burned by fire in the past but this May they were simply spectacular. The sea a deep blue mixed with a turquoise, where sand lightened the colour. The sky one shade lighter than the sea. The land was a healthy luscious green freckled with wild poppies in strong red shades, purple lavender, yellow wild dandelions, blue harebells and other pretty wild flowers in pink. The result is nothing less than spectacular.

I paused on the walk and looked down as we passed my favourite beach. There was less driftwood than I have known in the past and it looked better than ever. I knew I had to catch my breath from this walk relaxing on my beach. I was tempted to spray my Naploeon aftershave on,march down to my beach, raise my flag  and clear everyone from my beach. You can’t dear your aftershave is in the apartment. Mrs P applied a reality check.

Soon Kirrin Island pulled my eye towards it. Seven or eight small boats nestled in its lee. White dots in a beautiful Aqua sea, the island a resplendent green towering behind.

We enjoy photography. Our latest thing is to achieve a particular shot. Our last adventure in Venice in February challenged us to photograph a carnevale person with an iconic Venetian background. By the skin of our teeth we got the shot and a masked Venetian now hangs on our landing guarding our stairs. The Elf stands on a crossroad in a life facing a future of uncertainty or opportunity. A time of contemplation.  Our mission is to catch this contemplation in a photograph and perhaps this walk will see us capture this poignancy.

I had walked enough. I decamped on the beach – without my flag. Peanut and the Elf kindly nipped back to the car for our beach stuff. We dozed, we chatted, we fixed the world. We stared at the sky and watched amazing clouds. We watched a ballet dancer leap off the Uk and fly across the Atlantic before in minutes turning into the circle of life you can see below. I have no doubt in my mind that these were magical clouds.

Home beckoned. We all showered. The girls glammed up and we enjoyed an Italian meal in the restaurant underneath us. Mint lamb chops with red peppers, onion and potatoes for me, prawn ravioli for Peanut and asparagus risotto for The Elf. I had a tiny tiramisu And coffee for dessert, strawberry Mille feuille  for P and mousse cafe for Elfie. White wine washed it down.

A lazy end to a lazy day punctuated constantly with the beauty of the south of France.

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Holiday Diary – Thurs 7 May

I was excited about today I won’t lie. I had booked for Peanut and The Elf to make their own perfume at the Galimard factory in Grasse and I was hoping they would enjoy it. We had to be at Galimard for ten. It was an hour away so we determined to leave at 8.30 factoring for parking up/ getting lost/ traffic hold ups. It was just juice and breakfast cereal today, no time to eat croissants too!

We were away at 8.30. There were no traffic issues and we got there just after 9.30. “Ah no Monsieur this is the museum” and we were directed two minutes up the road. This proved elusive beyond belief until The Elf found a second address on the confirmation e-mail. We punched it into the sat nav and 3 minutes later we were parked right outside the door at ten to ten. “Another well planned military operation” I pronounced as I so love to do. Peanut patted me on the head or was it a Gibbs NCIS slap?

We were ushered in to start almost immediately. About ten girls in all and one other lad accompanying his girlfriend. I suspect he was as pleased to see me as I was him!

The first question was are you making a fragrance for a man or a woman and I almost wish I’d paid the extra to make my own aftershave.

Anyway the girls got going. I watched, photographed, played on my phone and quietly enjoyed myself. Half time and we looked around the gift shop. There were lots of beautiful perfume bottles for sale and I spotted a beautiful Galimard scarf which I snapped up for P. Very elegant, a bit sir hostessy but very P! Then I spotted Naploeon 1815 a new aftershave. Well this is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo and Naploeon is a gloriously pompous vain little man. It was just so me, I had to have it. Importantly too it seemed to be an enduring fragrance. I like perfume to have staying power. That was me done though in truth it would have been cheaper to make my own perfume!

Back to the course and for P it was like being back in her lab at work. See how two of the notes have not yet mixed in her tube below!

This was fun and the girls were looking pleased with how their fragrances were shaping up. Finally they were done and the perfumes were dispensed into their own named bottles. Peanut upgraded her bottle to one with a puffer thingy which looked delightfully feminine. I had assumed The Elf would call her perfume Amelia her first name, but she surprised us naming hers Sophie after her middle name. Peanut meanwhile had given this some thought so Sospiri was born – Italian for sighs and to remind us of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. It was lovely to see the finished product bearing the creations name.

What is nice is you can reorder the perfume as they keep the recipe and you can also get soap and bath bubbles etc in your fragrance. Christmas is sorted then.

We each left then with 100ml of perfume, a scarf and upgraded bottles and 220 euros lighter of pocket. A fun morning though and we were all very pleased.

Time for lunch so we headed for Old Grasse and after half an hour of very pleasant meandering through the old streets we ended up in a long wide street full of restaurants. We have eaten here a few times in the past so we picked a restaurant and sat down. Again the light was beautiful with blue skies hovering above the terracotta coloured stucco old buildings. Flowers punched vivid colour into the scene as they adorned the plane trees and fountains along the street.  I love the south of France and Italy for the ease with which they create beauty where to the wrong eye it might seem to be all falling down. It is an easy part of the world to enjoy being in love in.

Anyway lunch. The Elf had a cheese omelette and me and P had the plat de jour which was pork in a sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and chips. Lovely, but my chemo treatment has receded a gum in my mouth and the pain is a reminder of reality in this perfect world that is Provence.

After lunch we meandered back to the car and headed for Mogins about 15 minutes away. Mougins is a very pretty and prosperous hill top village full of lovely restaurants  and galleries and painters. We were tempted by some cushions that had Picasso art on them but bottled it at 85 euros a cushion. They were lovely and I think Picasso would have appreciated his art being displayed this way.

After several circuits of the village we stopped for a drink. I had a lovely cappuccino while the Elf had a gorgeous cafe Gourmand. Peanut had tea which produced a tea box for her to choose her tea from. It was all rather nice.

We headed for home after our drinks but broke the journey up with a break in Ste Maxime. Here we explored the old streets of the centre and an Italian market that was on the front. We stumbled upon a shop selling cotton shirts in every colour and all bought ourselves the same grey shirt. The Elf emerged from the changing room looking frankly sickeningly pretty in her shirt. P looked good wearing it in her own unique way and then there was me. Frankly looking average I bought mine to be in the gang. Was great fun and so we headed for a cafe to celebrate with iced coffee and orangina for Peanut.

The last bit home took us past the main camp site for the Harley Davidson festival. The atmosphere was petrolicious. The bikers, the leathers, the chrome, no two Harley’s ever the same and I thought of two friends I used to work with at Evesham Technology, Carol and Craig Fairs. They would have loved this. Heck for all I know they are there living their dream.

Wafted home on a mistral of petrol fumes we fell into the apartment tired after a really fun day.


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