Onto San Diego with Jo to visit her siblings, Jamie and Jessica. Love that city - and those kids!
On my life's bucket list was a cookery class in France, and I was so excited and nervous as I took the train from Marseilles to the small village in the hills of Provence to start that dream.
The hotel Berard was exactly as i'd seen on the website - situated in a beautiful hillside village with views across the valleys to the neighbouring hills and villages. My gorgeous room looked out over these views with the swimming pool below where I would spend my afternoons after our classes had finished. Pictures below of my first meal at the hotel - I knew I'd come to the right place!
Our introduction to the cooking school started with a visit to the beautiful herb, vegetable and fruit gardens where Chef Berard started his cookery instruction with us. Huge thanks to my friend and cooking companion, Photographer: Nathalie Fischler, who took many of the following photos from our blissful days at the school.
Lunch every day was on the vine-strewn terrace, where Chef Berard's wonderful sous-chefs were served up the food we'd prepared. My cooking companions and I were thoroughly spoilt and only had to sit and be waited on with the perfect rose wine and the Provencal cooking from our class.
My next stop on this journey was at the end of a train ride to Geneva, where I was able to spend a few days with my dear friend Lynda and her husband Pete, in their gorgeous home just outside the city.
Great few days with Lynda, then off to Bruxelles to see my great friend Bea. My first time to this beautiful city and over the next few days Bea showed me around that region including trips to Ostend and Bruges
After a magical few days in Bruxelles, it was back to the UK. I flew to Birmingham and picked up a rental car for the rest of my time there. So fun driving on the left hand side by myself! First stop was favorite cousin David's house in Kenilworth where I spent a few days visiting with his wife Gill, and other family in the area. These two are the best fun people around!
Next northwards to visit sister Judy.
On the way I was able to have a pub lunch with Liz and Nick (sister-in-law and nephew)
Judy and I spent a lovely day in nearby York, and took a boat cruise down the River Ouse for a better view of the city.
Then I drove south to meet up with Helen. who is always so much fun to hang out with. We know each other from university and that's going back a long way! We kicked off our 3-day visit with a wonderful trip round Hardwick Hall, beautiful Elizabethan buildings and grounds in Derbyshire dating from the 1500s, and owned by the National Trust
My final few days in England, I spent overnight with Brenda and Paul in Oxfordshire, then a quick coffee with Melissa in her lovely village of Cobham in Surrey before coming to the end of my 4 week European trip at Heathrow Airport.
The main focus of any trip to the inland area of Belize has to be visits to the many Mayan temples in the area. The Jaguar Temple was our first experience of the Mayan culture, a walk away from our lodge and with our amazing guide, Eduardo, we were given a lesson into the history and culture of this indigenous people, living here from 2000 BC to the 16th century when the Spaniards arrived. Lamanai was the longest continually-occupied site by the Mayans in Central America. They thrived here and eventually drove the Spanish out and burned their churches. When the English arrived, they colonized the area and produced both rum and sugar. Equipment from the old sugar mill remains scattered throughout the jungle, and a strangler fig has started growing over the old brick building.
We had time to stop at the famous Belize zoo on our way back to the coast to begin our second week on the beach, The zoo was founded in 1983 by Sharon Matola, when a number of animals who had been trained to appear in a movie set in Belize were left behind. Sharon set up this zoo to care for them and has been looking after injured wildlife ever since. The Belize Zoo focuses on educating visitors about the wildlife of Belize through encountering the animals in their natural habitat. I wish I had more photos - these don't do it justice. This was such an interesting part of our trip.