Travel inspiration

I mentioned in a previous post that there were many reasons why I wanted to visit Cyprus. One of these was came from a book I read some years ago, by Victoria Hislop, called, ‘The Sunrise’. I am putting links in for all of the books I write about here but I am not sponsored, it is just in case you wish to follow up any for yourselves.

The book is about Famagusta, in Cyprus, not far from where I was staying in Aiya Napa, and starts when the city is a popular tourist destination in the early 1970s. This was before the conflicts between the Greek and Turkish people led to the splitting of the country into two areas, divided by a buffer zone. Parts of Famagusta are now a ghost town that the inhabitants have not been able to return to since they left.

I found the book absolutely fascinating. I had been aware of the fact that the country was divided, but had no idea of what had happened, even though it all took place when I was a teenager. It was an immensely compelling, and tragic story and made me want to visit the country, even though I am not actually going to Famagusta on this trip.

Victoria Hislop is a wonderful writer and I love the research that she does for her novels. As an aspiring writer, and one who is very much enjoying the research for my first book, I love to read books that have been so well researched and where that research is so carefully woven into the story.

I can also recommend another of her books, ‘The Return’, which is set in Granada. I visited that city in Spring last year for the second time.

I have just finished another book set here during the same time frame, it is one that I came across while doing one of my previous creative writing courses with the Workers’ Educational Association WEA as we read an extract from the book. Again this is one of my favourite authors, a previous read of hers, ‘The Forty Rules of Love’, being one of the best books I have ever read.

This one is called, ‘The Island of Missing Trees’. Elif Shafak, is a Turkish author who writes on a wide variety of topics linked to her culture and experiences, and this one is set in the capital city of Cyprus, Nicosia.

This is again a very powerful book and one that has a very compelling and unusual structure to it. I won’t say too much in case you want to read it, but it gives a very unique perspective into not only the social history of the island, but also its natural history.

I love to read books that tell the stories of the country while I am travelling there. Many years ago I read a book called, ‘A Tree grows in Brooklyn’, by Betty Smith.

The author was the daughter of German immigrants to America, born in the late 1890s, and writes about a young girl growing up amongst the poverty of Brooklyn.

This book, along with others such as, ‘Ellis Island’, by Kate Kerrigan, and a recent read on my trip to New York, The Weaver’ Legacy, by Olive Collins, all add to my enjoyment of visits such as the recent trip to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

I am currently reading some more books based on my USA trip. These have been on my Kindle list for a long time and combine stories of immigration with stories of the fashion industry in America at the start of the 20th century. The first one is called, The Pattern Artist, and they are all by Nancy Moser.

I do so love reading, and my Kindle Unlimited is one of my best things ever, along with my little library corner in the camper full of my charity shop purchases.

One of my greatest joys of retirement is the chance to read every day. Often I can read five books a week. At home in Spain I spend the warm evenings sitting on my terrace reading, and drinking wine 😉 It is such a wonderful pleasure and I hope that you enjoy any of my recommendations here for you. Whether you travel or not, reading is a fantastic way to experience other cultures and histories.

I will be back soon with more of lovely Larnaca, the weather is being quite kind to me, a few showers now but since I am mainly here to visit museums and churches it has not been a problem. Hope you are all having a nice week and as always, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The beauty of Byzantine art

I suspect I may be posting more pictures like this later on, if the churches in Aiya Napa are anything to go by, but have been truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the decoration of the places here.

I have not seen much art like this outside of museums and art galleries, where the icons and paintings have always been beautiful but to see them in real life is just brilliant. What is particularly amazing is that the exterior of the buildings have been very plain. Unlike the ones in Peiya that I posted about previously, these were simple white painted structures.

The first was down by the harbour, a tiny little church which many people were visiting, and kissing the painting of St George and the Dragon that you can see bottom left. We British may claim him as our patron saint but he is actually Greek and his picture is in many places here, and lots of places are named after him.

There is not much left of the old part of Aiya Napa, and the monastery is sadly closed at the moment. There was a lovely bell tower however, next to the knight sculpture that I posted about previously.

I was a little disappointed that the main church near the monastery didn’t look very impressive. After seeing the beautiful stone ones previously I was expecting something similar. However, the outside did not do justice to what was within.

This is what Catholic churches must have looked like before Henry 8th and his break from Rome, so many incredible wall paintings.

This church was built in 1990 so is only 33 years old. Sadly some of the paintings, like these wonderful images of soldiers, are showing water damage.

There was some lovely gold work as well around the icons, one of which was very old.

There was a reference to an icon being found and placed in the monastery, so I am not sure if this is the same one, but she is beautiful, even being worn away now. I bought a small version of her to take home with me.

There were other icons and pieces of goldwork as well.

I think most of the goldwork is on the first two pieces is machine embroidered, rather than by hand, but still wonderful.

Outside the church were some mosaics in a large walled area which led to a little park above the church.

These are something that I haven’t seen before, and they are even more stunning than the paintings in lots of ways, as it so much more difficult to represent people in mosaic. Just look at the detail of the folds on the angel’s robe below.

I love the clothes they are wearing. At one of the earlier period re-enactment events we go to, the Battle of Evesham which is set in 1265, a lot of the re-enactors wear the most wonderful Byzantine costumes like the ones seen here and they are so beautiful.

I have now moved on from Aiya Napa, and am in Larnaca for a couple of weeks, which was another great bus trip. Rather than the inter-city buses, I caught the local one which went through a couple of little towns on the way, which was lovely as I got to see more of inland Cyprus.

As well as more churches, lots more museums and walks by the sea, I am hoping to do some trips to other cities, such as Limassol and Nicosia.

The little museum in Aiya Napa had some fascinating information about the history of Cyprus, as well as some interesting experimental archaeology reproductions of ancient ships.

I have now got some more books on Cyprus, so I am going to be doing more reading during my trip. This little island really does have a fascinating, and complex history, and I am really enjoying finding out more about it.

I hope you are all having a good week whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A clear blue sea

One of the things that has really struck me about the coastline here is how blue the sea is. We do have this in Spain, as sea colour is a reflection of the sky, but here it is a really intense blue, which I think must be due to how clear the water is. Most of the coast is rocky, rather than sandy, and there is little in the way of seaweed, so the sea is very clear and so beautiful.

I was staying only 10 minutes walk from the beach, just outside the centre of Aiya Napa, in a lovely studio apartment, River View Boutique Apartments. I can highly recommend this, if you come here. The apartment is beautiful. It has a little kitchenette, and an all important sunset over the sea view.

The sunsets here have been so gorgeous, a free show every evening.

Because of the excellent weather, most of my time has been spent at the coast, walking the stunning coastal path and sitting on the beach reading. It has been warm enough for lots of paddling, many people were swimming, and the sky has been a glorious blue all week.

There is lots of sculpture around Aiya Napa generally, the town obviously prides itself on the promotion of public art.

Many even come with added furry friends, all of these cats seem very well fed and happy. I saw lots of bowls of food and water around for them, but I think most are strays.

I also visited the outdoor sculpture park, which is just beside the coastal path. It is also a cactus park, and there were some wonderful displays of cactuses. I appreciate the effort that goes in to sculpture, and really liked some of them, especially the Argonauts bridge which was very cleverly done.

However I think the cactuses were my favourite bits of the park 😉

There is also an underwater sculpture museum, but I am not a good diver. It does seem a brilliant concept for those who are though.

There were so many amazing houses beside the coastal path, if I had a spare few million I would love something like this!

I also had my first encounter with a squid, sadly dead on the beach.

Such a truly beautiful place, I am so glad that I came to this end of the island. I wondered if it would be too far to get to, and nearly left it off the plan, but I am so glad I have been able to visit this area as well. These two pictures are going to be on the photo wall at home to remind me of this trip.

Next post it will be the turn of all of the incredible churches I have seen so far. I have only bought one icon, but I can see there may be other purchases needed. They are only very small ones though. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

An exile abroad, my first week in Cyprus

There are many reasons why I chose Cyprus as the first of my winter exiles. The main one was to see my friend, as I had been promising for years to visit him since he moved away from Huddersfield after college, all those many years ago.

He was one of the inspirations for moving to Marsden, my last home in the UK, as many years previously, when he worked in the Middle East, he bought a house there as a base in the UK. We had many lovely visits to the village and so it was top of my list when I moved from Huddersfield.

I am going to spend just over five weeks here and have lots of exploring planned. I have never visited the country before and am really excited to be in a new place. I am even making a little bit of an attempt to learn the language, however the different alphabet is a challenge! Everything here is in English as well though, as the English occupied Cyprus for many years. They drive on the left and have the same electric plugs as the UK. There are some other reasons why I wanted to visit, which I will write about in a separate post.

Dave now lives here full time, in a large village at the western end of Cyprus called Peiya. The views from his house are stunning, all along the coastline towards Paphos.

The village is on the side of a hill, and is very steep in places, with a mix of older properties at the top and lots of gorgeous new developments all down to the coast.

As with La Marina, there are lots of English people who have moved here and it was lovely spending time with Dave’s friends and partner Jo, and getting to know them. Although I said I would only visit each country once from now on, as there are so many I want to visit, they are having an amazing new house built further up the hill, so I will have to come back and see that at some point.

We went out to the Akamos Point and the gorge on the first day, an incredible drive on some of the bumpiest roads that I have been on since my trip to Nepal. This is where the turtles come in to nest and is a protected area.

I also visited a few churches, this is one of the things that I was most excited about coming to Cyprus for as I have not really seen any Greek Orthodox churches, and you know how I love a good church 😉 This first one was by the harbour in Peiya.

There was also a very tiny chapel just outside the village centre.

The village centre had a much larger church and down below a pergola where brides go to have their pictures taken. It was next to the original village water source, I think these were used for laundry, as are still found in many Spanish villages.

I love all the limestone here, it is such a beautiful stone and looks amazing next to the blue skies.

We also had a trip to Paphos, where I will be spending more time later in the trip, to one of the areas where a lot of Muslims used to live, before Cyprus was divided. One of the churches there had been turned into a mosque at some point, then abandoned post 1974, except for a lot of cute cats who lived in the churchyard.

At the end of the first week I caught the bus to Aiya Napa, via Nicosia. Cyprus has no trains, but a very good network of buses so 3 and a half hours later I was nearly at the other end of the Greek part of the island, as you can see from the map below.

I have had a brilliant week here, the weather has been amazing, 19 degrees all week, so there has been lots of walking along the coast which I will post about in the next update. Hope you are all ok, not too cold and enjoying your lives. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

New York, the iconic bits

As Ellen said before our visit, New York is the sort of place that you feel that you know before you get there. So many movies and tv shows feature parts of the city that they are all so iconic.

We did have a list of things that we wanted to visit, and it was very exciting to see things in real life that we have only seen on film. Although I visited New York about 18 years ago, that was only for a weekend, and being so near to 9/11 many things still weren’t open.

We stayed in a very lovely hotel, near to Grand Central Station, which is just as beautiful as it looks, even the ticket booths are masterpieces of art.

Our hotel was called Pod 39, and is similar to ones that I have stayed in before for city breaks, with a bunk bed layout and a small bathroom.

However the beds were very comfortable and the location was excellent. We weren’t really in the room much anyway, and the hotel had a lovely comfortable lounge with games and free hot drinks and water available so we spent some time there as well.

Our first day out was to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and we could not have had a better day for it. Although it was cold, the sky was a wonderful blue which made for excellent shots of Manhattan from the ferry.

The Statue did not disappoint and the accompanying museum was excellent with really good interpretation, not only of the story of the build, but also looking at how the statue has been portrayed in all sorts of different ways since it was built.

There was a lovely quilt and a Barbie dressed as the statue, which Ellen suggested should be one of my next makes.

They had used the restoration in the late 1990s as a chance to show how the statue was made, with recreations of the moulds that were built for the casting, including a recreation of the statue’s foot.

I didn’t realise that she was bronze coloured to start off with and the green is the patina that has built up on the metal over time. I think it looks a lot better green, especially against the blue sky. We also saw the original torch, which had to be replaced due to its collapsing on itself.

The Ellis Island Museum was equally well interpreted, with lots of the stories of the migrants and their many reasons for coming to America. It was very poignant seeing the large hall where they would wait to be assessed before entry, and the postcards of the numerous ships that brought them from all over the world.

I have always had a huge interest in migration and people’s stories of why they leave their homes and having visited other museums, such as those in Oslo, that tell the story of those who left, it was fascinating to see where they arrived. Being part of a family who have migrated, and who now live all over the world, it is always really interesting to me to hear these histories.

Our second day was to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum. Central Park is somewhere that I have been to before, and it never ceases to amaze me how large it is, and how great it is to have that space in the city. They also have the fattest squirrels I have ever seen!

The Met Museum was stunning, as we knew it would be. The scale of the collections is amazing, whole Egyptian temples, courtyards of castles from Spain, Tiffany loggias and windows and so much wonderful medieval art.

There were also some gorgeous early 18th century samplers.

However, the most stunning piece in the collection for me was this store of linen, buried with one of the Egyptian queens for the afterlife.

The fact that it is still around, thousands of years after being woven, such simple textiles but amazing that all that work of the weavers centuries ago still exists.

We also spent a lot of time just marvelling at all of the wonderful buildings, the Chrysler Building is a real favourite of mine, but I also loved Penn Station.

This beautiful building that was one of the ones represented by brass plaques in the pavement. I think it looks like it came from a Lord of the Rings film.

New York still had the skating rinks at the Rockerfeller Centre and Bryant Park, and trees and decorations everywhere, so it still looked very Christmassy.

We managed to tick off our food bucket list as well with pizza, bagels, pancakes, hot dogs and burgers, only failing to find a gluten free pretzel.

A brilliant trip and I am so glad that we were finally able to get there. These next few months are hopefully going to be full of us doing things that we have been planning for a long time.

I am loving my winter sojourn in Cyprus so far and shall be sharing the first set of pictures with you later in the week. I have been so lucky with the weather, so have been out enjoying the stunning coastline here.

Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Finding haberdashery heaven

Well dear readers, the travel gods smiled upon us and Ellen and I were able to go on our very long awaited trip to New York in the second week of January. We had been planning this trip since about 2018, when we watched a series called Project Runway. This was set in one of the Fashion Institutes there, and featured regular visits by the contestants to the Garment District, in particular a shop there called Mood.

We had originally planned to go 2 years ago, for Ellen’s 30th birthday but as we know the world got a little crazy and so we put that trip on hold. We had not finally decided to go until just before Christmas, as we were waiting to see if anything changed with restrictions but sorted it all out and had a fantastic time. I had visited many years ago but it was Ellen’s first trip.

As well as buying fabric and haberdashery we wanted to visit some fashion collections and museums, as well as see all the tourist highlights. I will post later about those, this post is just all about the wonder that is the Garment District. It really is amazing how many shops there are, and how much there is available, we were at points quite overwhelmed with what to buy.

We were guided by a particular vlog from someone I have watched a lot over the years, Bernadette Banner, who did a New York Garment District vlog three years ago. I don’t remember the name of every shop we went it but we did visit B and Q trimmings, M and J Trimmings, Pacific Coast Haberdashery, and of course Mood!

This was just a tiny selection of what was in one shop, they had four aisles just of zips!

Ellen was looking for sparkly fabric for a night sky inspired project and had a hard time choosing from all the loveliness, though the $450 dollars a yard fabric got put back straight away! The Garment District is right next to Broadway, so as well as fashion fabric there are endless sequins, lace and feathers available such as these beauties.

We were both very restrained, even though a small fortune could have been spent. I just bought things for very specific Barbie couture projects as it was wonderful to have very small scale braid and trimmings available. I will do a specific post about that and my plans for the purchases later.

Before the shopping we spent some time at the Fashion Institute of Technology, looking both at the display of students’ work and at their current exhibition. The student work exhibition was really interesting, as much for the design boards as for the final creations.

The current exhibition at the museum looks at the interior spaces that many of the world’s greatest women designers lived and worked in. As well as showcasing their designs there were pictures of their salons, many of which no longer exist. It was a fascinating look at these creative spaces. The gowns on display were a very varied selection, and all stunning.

I am going to be working on more Barbie couture when I get back to Spain so wanted to choose two garments from the trip to make in Barbie size. I have chosen this gold one from the museum collection as I love the beaded detail on the neckline. I may not do anything as elaborate as this but it will be the inspiration.

The other dress I have chosen is this one from the film, ‘Mrs Harris goes to Paris’, which I watched on the plane. I love this and was able to get some gorgeous fabric in New York for it. There are so many amazing dresses in that film so may make others in the future, Barbie scale only though! Picture from the above link.

We also saw a great exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all about the history of the kimono, and how it became transformed once Japan opened up to Western fashion, and in turn how kimonos inspired other designers. Very interesting with some beautiful garments.

I am now actually in the Greek part of Cyprus where I am spending some of my winter months of exile from Spain. I am only allowed to stay there for 90 days post Brexit, but that gives me a great excuse to travel 😉

I have a friend who lives here so came to see him, to travel around, and indulge my passion for church architecture with lots and lots of visits to Greek Orthodox churches. There are also stunning coastal walks where I am now so lots of posts of all that coming up.

I finished the blackwork just before leaving Spain and am so pleased with it. Excuse the rather odd blue tint in the first picture, but I am so happy with how it all looks and plan to do some more of these on my return to Spain. It was a very quick stitch, the border took the longest but really finishes off the pieces.

I have also started and finished a mandala for my van. The design comes from a book of embroidery I bought my Mum a few years ago, and it is stitched with perle thread. It has been a very international stitch, started in Spain, worked on in England and the USA and finished in Cyprus. It just needs the felt backing attaching and it can hang in Katy.

I hope that you are all well and happy wherever you are, and if in the UK have not suffered too badly with the extreme weather. I am very lucky to still be in 19 degrees and am making the most of it.

I will be back soon with the other New York post and will update you on my Cyprus adventures as soon as I can. I am staying in a mixture of apartments and hotels so will be dependant on the quality of the wifi. Until next time, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Caravaca, close up

The trip we made to Caravaca on Monday was brilliant for getting to see more of the town without the many people that there were for the fiesta in May. Although it was a medieval market, we went the day before a public holiday, so it was lovely and quiet and we had great weather for wandering round. The town looked so beautiful with all of the flags and bunting for the market.

We went up to the citadel and the cathedral first of all, meeting some very cute kittens on the way.

This is where the famous cross is located, in a tiny chapel at the side of the cathedral. There were no pictures allowed inside but there is a large model of the cross outside.

The cross itself is tiny, only about 8 inches high and was said to have been delivered by angels during one of the sieges in early 13th century It may also have been brought back from the Holy Land by the Knights Templar. However the original apparently disappeared in 1934 so the one currently on display is a replica. Whatever the origin the cross has meant that Caravaca is considered a holy site.

After visiting the citadel we had a wander down through the medieval barrio surrounding the area. There are beautiful views across to the mountains and you can see the old bull ring from here.

I love old Spanish cities, the stonework on the buildings and pavements is just gorgeous.

There were some derelict houses but thankfully some newly restored. It must be very difficult to do this as the streets are so narrow with no vehicle access and all the houses are on top of each other.

We were also able to visit one of the churches, with some very impressive embroidery and icons, unusually some in silver which I don’t often see.

The other great thing about the trip was getting to see some of the horse barding they wear for the running of the wine horses festival up close. There were two on display in the main square.

The above photo shows the tail decoration, which I think is made in the same way I make my Christmas ornaments, using polystyrene balls as the base.

The detail of the stitching is fantastic, not only abstract designs but wonderfully executed faces and detailed costume.

I think this one below was my favourite, it reminds me of all the Tudor costume I have been looking at recently.

Today is a little cooler and damp, after a very lovely sunny and warm week so I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon knitting on the sofa.

I have had two very enjoyable cycle rides this week, totalling 40km. I went down to the beach yesterday, where there were some wonderful cloud formations over the sea and the mountains.

I will hopefully be able to share my new knitted doll with you next week, it has been a really quick knit though doing the hair took a very long time. I re-did the plaits about 10 times! Until then I hope you are all enjoying life, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Quirky Campers

On my travels I met many lovely people who shared my enthusiasm for the outdoor life. One of the things that I especially love about being at campsites or festivals is admiring other people’s vans or tents and so I have had a lovely time this summer. I thought that I would share some of my favourite finds with you.

I am very much looking forward to next summer when I will be going to at least one vanlife festival. Jacky and I went to the NEC in Birmingham last year and although that was very impressive, I am more interested in the self builds, the ones with personality, and the quirky campers. There is actually a company called Quirky Campers, where you can hire these types of holiday homes as well.

One of the very quirkiest, which we came across in the Hebrides, was the Chalet Van. It actually looks very standard inside, but the outside has a very Swiss chalet vibe. The couple that were driving it had rented it and it was certainly causing a lot of conversation everywhere they went! Love it or hate it, it is very unusual.

There were some other hire vans on the road with very distinctive paint jobs, such as this one in Scotland. I will add some more stickers to Katy, I have got some quotes that I want to add and she needs a name badge, but this takes decoration to the next level. I really love to see themed vans and am looking forward to seeing more at festivals next year. I know many van lifers don’t decorate as they want their vans to be more ‘stealth’ so they can be parked up anywhere but I do love colourful.

I met a few people travelling with Romahomes, or the similar Mezan vans. That would have been my first choice if more were available as automatic, I am very, very happy with Katy but one day there may be a Romahome in my future, when I get too old and crumbly for a micro camper 😉

Also in the small and cute category were the various versions of small caravans. I love the old style Eriba vans and there were many of those around. This one was in Scotland.

In the Lake District there was this cute little van, complete with solar panels. Again that is something that may be an option for me in the future, to have a little caravan as well as a van.

The smallest and cutest award has to go to this, the tiniest caravan that I have ever seen, pulled by a Smart car, which in itself is tiny. This was in Shropshire. It came complete with an awning and was literally the size of a double bed. I would love to have found out more about it but the couple arrived late and I left the following day so did not get chance to ask them about it.

I don’t know if you can tell from the photos but it is about 5 feet tall. I would love to know where it came from and whether it is a custom build.

Also in Shropshire were these lovely vintage set ups, next to each other, the campervan and the trailer tent. Whenever I see older vehicles like this I think about all of the adventures they must have been on in their lives, and what happy family memories are held in them.

At many other campsites were the Tent Box, or roof tents. I can see the appeal in terms of quick set up, but they do seem very expensive for the space you get. I can set up my little tent in about 15 minutes on my own and it was only £120 which is a tenth of the price of the cheapest tent box.

This adventurous couple were using their tent box on top of a trailer, it looked great for fine weather but it was certainly not a 2 minute job to pack it all away.

It is lovely to see so many people out and about again, after the last two years it is so precious to be able to do all this and to see other people having fun. I have always loved camping, I know for many people it is their worst nightmare but I just love the camaraderie, the being in such beautiful locations and the sense of adventure I get. Even if I am just sitting reading in Katy it feels special.

I am however getting used to being in one place again and slowly getting back into the routine of Spain. We have lots of nice things planned with the sewing and knitting groups over the next few months, including a Christmas decoration workshop that I will be leading, so I have been amusing myself buying pretty ribbons and beads for that. Unfortunately that was one thing I didn’t think I would be doing here so gave away all of my old stash!

I am also going to try and set myself some targets for these next couple of months, I don’t seem to have done very much crafting at all since retirement as I have been too busy so thought a few concrete goals might help me focus! There are so many projects on my WIP pile 😉

I am off to knitting group now, am currently making some of Julie’s reindeer for a Christmas fundraiser, looking forward to making some of the cute seasonal clothes, can’t decide which dress to go for though as they are all gorgeous. More of that in the next post. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Reflections on van life

By the time you read this post I will have spent a total of 8 weeks on the road experiencing van life for the first time in my own van, rather than Eva, my sister’s wonderful van. So I thought that it would be useful to think about how things have gone.

I have been watching another set of videos on YouTube recently, hosted by Wild She Goes, where she interviewed other women living in vans about their experiences as solo travellers. It has been really interesting and made me think about the reality versus my expectations when I wrote my planning post in March.

In terms of the van and its layout I am really happy. I love the fact that I can remove the kitchen, the first couple of weeks were so hot that it was great to have that flexibility. I have used the kitchen as a food prep area but also as a lounge area in the evenings. I store my stitching in one of the compartmentsand have my wine and my tablet on the top.

For the first couple of journeys I took it down and travelled with it flat, which meant unloading all of the kitchen stuff back into the footwell storage boxes. Then I bungee corded it to the sides, there are some metal struts just for that so I used those and part of the boot shelf and it works really well. I now don’t even unload the stuff and everything has survived daily journeys as well.

The chair bed has worked very well for both day and night use. I prop it up against the blue storage box during the day which gives me a backrest. It is long enough for me to stretch out on at night and I have been really cosy. I have just bought a thicker fleece blanket as the last week has been colder at night, so use that in the evenings.

I have also bought a plastic storage unit for toiletries which lives on the front seat. This means I can access everything I need on a day to day basis without going to the tent. I keep clothes and night clothes in the blue box so I can get changed morning and night in the van.

I love having my little reading corner, I pack the books away for travelling and I have recently added a privacy curtain for when I am here reading. It also helps keeps the bugs out!

Other upgrades have been some flower garlands, to pretty up the top of the storage lockers, a dream catcher, my collection of postcards on the ceiling of all of my travels, and my growing collection of magnets. I did also put two layers of interlocking foam tiles from Aldi under the boot carpet as I could still feel the ridges initially. That has helped keep it cosy, along with the window blinds.

I am pleased that I had the little tent, especially in the first two weeks so that I could sleep in it during the really hot period. I have also used it when the pitch I have been given wasn’t suitable for using my sister’s awning, such as in the Lake District where the car was parked away from the pitches, and in Lancashire where the pitch was too small. I will definitely keep that as an option.

I tested out my sister’s awning, a Quecha Base Camp Arpanaz, at last site in the Peak District. I could pitch it by myself but it was a bit of a struggle as it is heavy and it was windy. I saw another awning on that site so have ordered something similar to this one in the second photo. I have got it for a bargain price of £60, when most others have been between £120 and £200. I don’t need as much space as the Quecha has and this one is a lot lighter with smaller poles.

I have only used Caravan and Camping Club sites, partly as they are such good value, about £7 a night on average this summer as they have had a non electric discount. I have just got my over 60s membership so will get discount next year as well. I also love the fact that the sites are so clean and well cared for with unlimited free showers and they all have laundry facilities. I also like the fact that there are friendly and helpful wardens if you need anything. I will definitely be using them as my main sites next year.

In terms of travelling so I have met so many lovely people, as last year I think people are more inclined to talk to you if you are on your own. Lots of people have been interested in the van so that has been lovely. At the last campsite in the Peak District I noticed another Renault Kangoo when I arrived and its owner, Julie, came and said hello. She is travelling full time in Roo, her fully converted van below, having a gap year from teaching. I also met up with one of the women from one of my Facebook van groups, who was in the Lake District and responded to one of my posts.

Driving has been fine so far, I have coped with some scary roads in the Lake District, very narrow lanes and busy cities and motorways. I am very proud of what I have done as a new driver, even if there have been many wrong turns when following the Sat Nav!

There have only been two mishaps so far, the friend’s gate that I mentioned previously and getting the keys locked in the car when it locked itself on me. That was a very nerve wracking hour and a half until a lovely AA man came and sorted it. Needless to say my keys never leave my side now!

I am so amazed that I am finally doing this, after so many years of planning and the setbacks during Covid and beyond. I have my three little embroideries, started during lockdown as a reminder to never give up. I am also working on some other stitching for the van as she still has a few more spaces for pretty things 😉

So to conclude this very long post, it has been amazing, wonderful, better than I ever expected and more than I dreamed of. I have been so, so happy here in little Katy and love van life more than I ever thought I would.

I am so grateful for all the people I have met, the support of my family and friends, my wonderful daughter for storing my camping stuff and especially my sister for looking after Katy when I am away. I will miss my adventures in her so much while I am in Spain. I will leave you with one final picture from one of my favourite summer evenings in Shropshire where I just sat in my van, with the back doors open, reading and watching the most amazing purple sunset.

I hope that you have all enjoyed my adventures as much as I have, until next time have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The last few days of the tour

I am sitting in Katy on a lovely sunny day in Hayfield, at the edge of the High Peak as I write this. This is my last day camping, and it has flown so fast. I am having a quiet afternoon after a busy morning sorting, and drying an awning, as yesterday was the first really wet weather of the whole 3 months here in the UK for the summer 2022 tour.

I have written a post on van life in general so this one is just about my beloved Peak District and the glorious views on my walks here. I keep saying I will have to not come back here again, and explore other parts of the UK next year but it is so lovely I might well be back!

Hayfield is where the Kinder Mass trespass started from in April 1932. I mentioned this last summer as my first stop on my 2021 UK tour was at Edale, which is just the other side of the hill. So it is a fitting end to my trip to be here again.

It was that trespass that led to legislation that gives the right to roam over all of these wonderful places and I am so grateful to be able to do this. Most of all grateful for the continued improvement in my health. I only walk for 2 to 3 hours a day but am so happy to be able to do that and explore.

My walks have taken me all around Kinder, including the now very dry reservoir. This campsite has so many brilliant footpaths from it so I have only driven once this week, to visit a textile museum that I will write about in another post.

There have been many babbling streams, old bridges, moss covered walls, friendly sheep, blue skies and amazing clouds.

I am off to my sister’s tomorrow and sorting out Katy to leave her there for the next few months. I will be at Ellen’s for a few days helping her with some decorating then back to Spain next weekend! The time has flown by and I have loved it. Now to get on with planning the winter adventures and booking sites for next summer 😉

The next post will be all about how van life has been so until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.