Last July Barry and I, with two friends, started to walk the South West Coast Path which starts in Minehead in Somerset and ends at South Haven Point, Dorset. We vowed to complete 1 week a year so it will take us 8 years to walk all 630 miles. Last week we started on week 2 and walked from Westward Ho! to Morwenstow, about 30 miles. Since we started we have walked a total of 117 miles!
We stayed in a holiday cottage in Bude which was an interesting experience as it was a bit of a Busman’s holiday. The cottage was booked through Cornish Horizons and we could not fault it. Of course we packed everything but the kitchen sink (you can if you are having a staycation and driving). I remember once when we were driving to Warners and Dad said that Mum had packed everything but the kitchen sink and my brother looking out of the window spotted a car and said ‘Dad, look! They did pack the kitchen sink!’ Sure enough a car overtook us with a sink on the roof rack (but I digress).
There were many highlights of the week –
– Barry showed off his early morning (and quite frankly any other time of the day) tea making skills.
– We enjoyed local fresh eggs with the date and name of the hen who laid them written on them.
– We remembered that our friends are really amazing cooks and ate Coq Au Vin, Chilli and Wild Garlic Risotto.
– We proved that you are never to old to host a sleepover when other friends joined us for a night!
– We ate out at the great local pubs and restaurants – the fish at Life’s A Beach was fantastic.
– I saw my first snake in the UK although at first I did say it was a big worm……
– We learnt what colour sweets we all eat first out of the packet – Maoams, Skittles, Smarties, Fruit Pastilles, Wine Gums, Jelly Babies, Liquorice Allsorts, Revels (I know – we went onto chocolates). I hasten to add we didn’t eat all these en-route.
The stretch we walked covered every category of walking, from parts being easy, to moderate, strenuous and our first severe section. And oh my was it severe. The ascent was 4,170ft which is a lot of steps up and down. I was really hoping for a welcome cup of tea in Welcome Mouth however it wasn’t to be! On the last day we reached a milestone as we walked into Cornwall. We can now say we’ve walked along the whole of the North Devon coast. A glass of bubbly in the bath back at the cottage was my reward. I only hope the cleaners don’t judge us by the number of bottles in the recycling at the end of the week.
Next stop – Morwenstow to Tintagel in August; the walk continues…….
When my son was 4 my grandmother gave him a set of paperback children’s history books. There were three of them on the ancient Romans, Egyptians and Greeks. This started Josh’s love of history and I think it’s one of the reasons he’s doing a history degree currently.
He’s always wanted to see the ancient historical sites of Greece and last week we were lucky to travel round these. One of our favourite visits was to Epidaurus which was known throughout the Greek world as a healing sanctuary and for its theatre, which is once again in use today. The Asclepieion was the most celebrated healing centre of the Classical world, the place where all people went in the hope of being cured.
The ancient Greeks believed what Hippocrates said – you are what you eat. At the sanctuary they only ate what was in season. They also undertook therapy. Hippocrates told his therapists ‘you cannot heal anyone if they are not ready to leave behind that which is making them sick’. So thousands of years ago people knew that the body and soul were linked, and the sanctuary focused on the inside to make it stronger, and encouraged people to rest which they believed was the key to healing.
We heard so many mythical stories to the ancient Greeks during our week. Aphrodite, the god of beauty had two sons; Hypnos and Thanatos. At the sanctuary Hypnos would help to heal people by hypnotherapy. If they couldn’t be healed it’s said that Aphrodite would send her other son Thanatos, who was a god of death, to let them die in their sleep as she didn’t want anyone to suffer and be ugly.
Theatre and the arts were also considered important for healing. The theatre was designed in the 4th century B.C. and when full seats up to 15,000 people. As it did in the time of the ancient Greeks, the theatre is still marvelled for its exceptional acoustics, which permit almost perfect hearing of spoken words from the stage floor to all spectators, regardless of their seating. We tested this as Josh and I climbed up to the very top and one of our fellow passengers recited some poetry from the bottom. We could hear him clearly!
The lessons that can be learned from the 4th century are still relevant today. It was a privilege to spend time in the sites. If you’re thinking of travelling abroad this summer (obviously after you’ve had your Staycation at The Folletts) head to Greece!
I’ve been on the receiving end of some Random Acts of Kindness recently; those little gestures that people make; unsolicited, spontaneous and very kind.
My guests checked into The Seaside Inn last weekend and forgot their dog lead. I was going into Seaton anyway so I offered to pick one up. We don’t have a dog (not yet anyway……I want a female black Labrador but this blog is not about that!). I went into the hardware store to ask if they sold them (they didn’t) and a woman in the queue turned round and said you can have my one if you can’t find one to buy. She lives in Beer and went on to tell me that there is a pet shop in Seaton. She was so thoughtful and kind. It turned out that I found the pet shop and managed to purchase one anyway.
It’s true that one good turn deserves another as a day later I was at the cash till and a lady was struggling to make sense of it. She was getting quite agitated so I offered to help. We got her money out and her thank you was so effusive that I felt good for the rest of the day. I even offered to let someone go in front of me at the Co-Op queue as I could see they were in a hurry (I’m very British in that I do love a queue).
The recent snowfalls in East Devon (the first for about 10 years) have meant that lots of people couldn’t get about especially as it’s very hilly here. I saw so many offers of help to people on the local Facebook forums that made me feel so good about where we are living. A community that really looks out for others.
In fact I’ve realised that these RAOK go on all the time and usually they are unnoticed. Some people are just genuinely kind and will do anything for anyone. There are some people who are always listening out for ways to help others and the world is a better place for them.
At St. Michaels church in Beer this morning the vicar talked about reflection. He started with a question – do you recognise yourself when you look in the mirror? This struck a chord with me as a few months ago I realised that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognise the face looking back at me. This wasn’t some spiritual moment but one of getting older and not realising that I actually look like I actually look!
I wonder when it happened? I know I stopped dyeing my hair in April 2016 as I was finishing work in the August. I’m now really embracing the ‘salt and pepper’ look but various other things have occurred to me –
1. When I fill out a form I’m ticking the 45 – 50 age box and that won’t be for much longer……..
2. When I was in London at Christmas two people gave up their seat for me on the tube.
3. My left hip joint and right knee ache and I prefer going to the Physio rather than for a massage.
4. My Mum bought me a foot filer for my 48th birthday and I was very pleased with it.
5. I don’t care and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to carry and use my fan in public for hot flushes.
6. I have come to accept that on occasions my brain is just not linked to what I’m saying.
7. I just don’t worry about stuff that I can’t control or influence.
The vicar also asked about what other people see when they look at you? This was a more difficult question. Many people will see a woman hurtling towards middle age (or actually in it!) but I don’t feel like that. I’ve got more energy now than I did in my 20’s despite the few aches and pains. I do yoga five days a week and am walking The South West Coast Path.
So whilst I may not recognise my reflection in the mirror I feel fitter. I think this period of my life is one of the best, despite the heartache I went through when those close to me passed away. I’m embracing points 1 to 7 above.
I wonder what you reflect on as you get older?
The shy little girl I met when she was 9 has transformed into this beautiful young woman who I’m so proud of. I read the other day that someone said of their step daughter ‘She’s my daughter, I just didn’t know her when she was born’ which I thought was just lovely. I don’t mind admitting that as she made her way into the barn I got totally emotional.
It seems appropriate to talk about weddings on Valentine’s Day. Alexandra and Simon’s wedding on the 4th February at Park House in West Sussex was simply stunning. They chose a winter wedding as the 4th was when they met five years ago. Alex was hoping for snow but in the end got one of those perfectly freezing but sunny days.
Barry was such a proud FOB (father of the bride) and did a great job of making our guests laugh and at times cry, and Simon’s groom speech was a triumph. Their wedding cake, made up of 5 cheeses with two adorable bunny rabbits on top was so different and the evening guests appreciated it with lots of different crackers and chutneys. I’m just glad Alex seems to have got over her obsession with Eeyore otherwise it would have been topped with donkeys! The added surprise of a sax player and bongo drummer playing along to the evening disco was superb.
This week we have Emma Tanner staying in The Boat Shed. Emma had her wedding arranged for her by The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation who are based in Devon. She married Jamie in May 2016 but unfortunately he passed away soon after. Her story and Naomi’s can be found in this video –
I first heard about TWWWF when I moved to Beer and donated my own wedding dress to them. It was being stored in my wardrobe and I just thought it would be lovely if the dress could be used for some good.
Naomi has been shortlisted for the Mother of the Year category for the Venus Awards for Devon and Cornwall for her amazing work so please do vote for her. Last year I heard that Emma was organising a fundraising dinner for the charity so I contacted her to give her a weeks holiday with us as an auction prize. It raised £500 and the lovely people who bought it then donated it back to Emma so she could enjoy a holiday away, which is how she came to be staying with us this week. Emma has also been nominated for an award as Fundraiser of the Year for TWWWF.
In my view these two woman are an inspiration and I’m in awe of them. I will be thinking of them both this Valentine’s Day.
What can I do for you today?
Having just returned from my own holiday in India it feels appropriate to quote Mahatma Gandhi –
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.
This totally sums up my job as Chief Holidaymaker. It’s fast becoming my attitude towards life. Not just in my business; if I’m asked a favour or to help out in the village I always try to say yes.
I’ve often been on the receiving end of incredible customer service. Twice I was wowed by the same company; Belmond. After my father passed away my Mum and I took a trip on the Orient Express to Venice. In Venice we were staying at The Cipriani and they came to do the check in actually on the train in our cabin. Whilst they were fiddling with paperwork I said to my Mum ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch Murder on the Orient Express this evening after dinner’.
When we arrived at The Cipriani we were told that we had been upgraded to a lagoon view. We walked into this amazing room and there waiting for us on the table was a bottle of wine, nibbles and a copy of Murder on the Orient Express! What a memory.
The second time Belmond wowed me was when Barry and I got married in Rio. We weren’t staying at The Copacabana Palace but we went there in our wedding attire and asked if we could have a drink in their bar. We were escorted to the bar where a man was playing the piano and ordered a glass of champagne. We had the bar to ourselves and with the pianist playing soft melodies it’s a lovely memory.
When Barry went to pay, the barman said ‘Congratulations, the champagne is on us’. We didn’t know but the man who took us to the bar was the Operations Director. When we left he was still in the lobby so we thanked him for his generosity given that we weren’t guests of the hotel. He said ‘you’re welcome, and maybe if you come back to Rio, you’ll think of staying here’. We haven’t gone back to Rio yet however when we do I’d loved to stay there, even if it’s just for a couple of nights!
With these wonderful memories you can be sure I’m always thinking of how I can make our guests stay more magical. That’s why it’s so great to be a semi-finalist in the Venus awards for Devon and Cornwall. As I live sandwiched between our holiday cottages before I open my front door I smile as that’s when I’m on stage hoping to help our holidaymakers create wonderful memories of staying at The Folletts at Beer.
Did you watch it? Last night our beautiful village got into the finals of The Village of the Year competition hosted by Penelope Keith on Channel 4. Why did we make it? According to the judges it’s because “the people who live there are devoted to it; both physically and to their traditions. In short, Beer is doing everything right”.
Everyday last week 4 villages in the Western region battled it out to win their daily heats. Beer’s episode was on Friday and saw off strong completion to get into the semi-finals. Last night in the semi-final we were up against Polperro, Colwinston, Aberdaron and Mousehole and we won!
The judges comments were simply wonderful. Of course I already knew how special Beer is but when others speak of it so highly I just feel so lucky that we found it. Here’s a selection of their views –
- This is a truly splendid village – it’s in a stunning setting within a sheltered bay with one of the last fishing fleets in the UK, where the catch of the day is landed on the beach as it was over 100 years ago.
- It’s situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of England’s first World Heritage site
- It’s got the balance right; there’s a village community underneath the tourist destination
- It’s a quintessentially British village and slightly eccentric
- It has extraordinary traditions; lace making was brought over by Flemish refugees and this tradition has carried on and passed to new generations
- The first cinema Wurlitzer organ was brought over from the US in 1924 and is housed in the village Congregational Church. It’s amazing to hear this fabulous instrument that was used to accompany the silent movies of old
The overall judges view was that Beer has an amazing atmosphere and such history it had to make the final which will be shown on Saturday 10th February at 8pm. All episodes last week are on catch up if you missed them.
As Penelope said “it sounds like something served in a pub – it’s frothy, tasteful and so lovely it can make you unsteady on your feet”.
Come and see for yourself. You can even have a pint of Beer in the Barrel of Beer, in Beer! We have availability for the Easter week but then limited free weeks afterwards so don’t delay – Beer is the Best of the West.
Christmas = Games in my family. My brother and I grew up on games. Every weekend with my parents we spent hours playing cards but also the board games of Monopoly and Cluedo. They remain our favourites but over the years were supplemented with new games as they emerged; Pictionary and then UNO which was introduced to our family by my husband in 2002.
When Josh was born games also became one of our traditions. He grew up on Monopoly and to this day can recite the value of every property, and the rent when you hold more than one property, even when they have houses and hotels on them! When the Bournemouth and Poole edition of Monopoly was launched my brother refused to play the London version ever again as he lived in Poole. Josh tried to get us to like The Simpsons Game of Life but I refused after I realised that even if you went to University you weren’t guaranteed a better job, and often didn’t win after all that investment of time and money.
I love the way that games connect people. On our ladies trip to Turkey in October, UNO was played every night. It’s interesting to see how other families play a game that you know so well. When learning Mah Jong recently, three people knew how to play it and the others didn’t, and the conversations along the lines of ‘this is how we play it……….’ emerged. I like that you can get so comfortable with a game that you make up your own way of playing it.
Josh came home for Christmas last week and of course the first game we got out was Monopoly. He’s been playing it at Uni and informed us that we were playing it wrong – we weren’t auctioning the properties if we landed on them and didn’t want to buy them. It turns out we’ve been playing the wrong rules for over 50 years!
It’s well known in my family that I love Scrabble. That game was instrumental in helping me learn to spell as more often than not I would put a word down and my Mum would patiently explain that you don’t spell it that way, whilst my competitive brother would take great delight in beating me every game. The day I first beat him I’ll remember forever – the look on his face was priceless. These days the Ipad can keep you connected through games. I play Scrabble online with my Mum and also Words with Friends with other people. Even when you’re apart you can connect through a love of words.
For the last couple of years I’ve got a new game for Christmas. This year it’s the ‘Hum n Guessin’ game – very funny especially when you’ve had a few Proseccos! My love of games will continue into 2018 with the set up of the BGC – the Beer Games Club with my friends in the village. We’re kicking off on the 25th January with a game of UNO and will play a different game each month. I can’t wait for the Scrabble session. We may even invite the husbands and play ladies versus men – I can see that being a good night!
So 2017 is nearly over. It’s been a wonderful first full year without working full time. This has been the year to fully settle into our life in Beer. I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas – enjoy yourselves and perhaps let me know which games you’ll be playing.
Hurricane Maria damaged my hotel and it closed 5 weeks before I was due to fly to the Dominican Republic. In a panic I called Nicki Richardson of Let’s Go travel who I knew from my Lyme Bay Ladies network. I hadn’t booked my BA flights with her but that didn’t matter. It was a Friday night and despite being in the car driving back from the North she had hotel options for me in less than 24 hours. One of them was The Zoetry.
I’m still here in Punta Cana and am just blown away by this place. I can’t find fault with it. It has what they call ‘Endless Privileges’ which I’m loving –
You don’t have to check out of your room until you are ready to leave. I’m here with a friend and we are being picked up at 6pm on Thursday and can keep our rooms until then. No packing and leaving your suitcase with the front desk. No haggling for a late check out, going to the courtesy room or getting ready in the spa or gym before you leave for the airport.
There are three restaurants here and you don’t have to pre-book any of them. You just turn up whenever you like. Whilst there’s a menu the chef will cook you anything. A couple asked for seafood paella yesterday for lunch and the chef just did it.
There is complimentary laundry so I’m going home with clean clothes. Yay!
The yoga teacher is exceptional. I’ve learnt things I didn’t know and her classes are really good. I’ve also tried Aqua Cycling as well. I’m sure those bikes are going to get rusty pretty quickly though?
There are no bad rooms or rooms in poor locations – we were both upgraded on arrival (another one of Nicki’s gifts as she had requested this for us).
There’s even your own butler who roams the resort asking ‘Helen, what can I do for you today?’ Not much as I have everything I need already!
Horse riding on the beach is included and a free 20 minute massage in the Spa is on offer. My visit will be on my last day to get a facial to ensure I get on the plane minus the sand.
I think I can fully appreciate what Zoetry is achieving here as I’m in the business. If I’ve persuaded you to have a look at this wonderful Wellness and Spa resort I have a tip – don’t book direct. Call Nicki at Let’s Go as she got us a great deal and much cheaper than their website.
Zoetry’s marketing says ‘It’s time to exchange a life of pressure for the Art of Life itself, where your only obligation is to yourself. TO REST, RENEW & REVIVE. It lives up to it!
On my last blog I wrote about the importance of holidays and how people choose to spend time away with those that they love. My Dad’s last holiday, before he passed away 3 years ago today, was to a holiday cottage in Sutton Poyntz near Weymouth.
We spent a lovely week in August together despite him being so sick and not being able to eat any longer. It was to be his last holiday. He forced himself to play crazy golf with the grandchildren and join in the board games that were played some evenings. If he was feeling tired I just cuddled up to him whilst watching TV or he would sit between Mum and I cuddling ‘his girls’.
I will always remember and treasure that week away as we made memories that stick with me. That’s why, in memory of my wonderful Dad, each year I’ll be giving away a holiday cottage to a patient of the Christchurch Macmillan Hospice who took such good care of my Dad during his battle with cancer. The hospice chose who is staying with us this week and they have arrived today in beautiful Beer with their family. I hope they can create some special memories this week at The Folletts as I did with my Dad.