Mar 242015

This year is a very special one for us, because we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in March, a milestone in any couple’s life but especially these days when marriages seem to fall apart so easily! We therefore decided to do something special to mark the occasion and having been fascinated by the TV adverts for Viking River Cruises, decided this might be an ideal solution. We decided to explore the river Rhine and see something of the Black Forest, an area that had fascinated Vernon since he visited it as a teenager.

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The Viking longship Idi

The cruise on the Viking Idi started in Amsterdam and from the moment we approached the gangway on Saturday afternoon, we knew our experience was going to be special – some of the crew were lined up in reception and we were immediately made to feel welcome. Our stateroom was surprisingly spacious and well-equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass doors giving us a wonderul view of the passing scenery. It was to be the start of a magical 8 days, with wonderful food, cossetted by friendly, well-trained staff and we wanted for nothing.

DSCF2568 (800x534)On Sunday we cruised to Kinderdijk, a World Heritage Site where we saw 9 restored windmills still pumping water off the land, which like much of the Netherlands is below sea level. Kinderdijk is the only place in the world with so many windmills so close together. The weather was grey and cold but we enjoyed a well-guided tour inside one of the windmills, where we saw at first hand the actual workings and how the original miller and his family lived.


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Marksburg Castle

That evening we set sail for Cologne, arriving the following morning for a tour of the city and its breathtakingly-beautiful cathedral. After a quiet beer in the sun alongside the river Rhine, dinner and evening entertainment, we cast off at midnight to sail to Koblenz. Here we were taken to the wonderful medieval Marksburg castle, from the ramparts of which we had a stunning view of the river. By now the weather had improved and we spent the aftenoon on the top deck in the sun, admiring the scenery of the Rhine gorge as we sailed on to Rudesheim.


Wednesday saw us arriving in Mannheim for a shore visit to Heidelberg, home to another wonderful castle and this time views over the river Neckar. We rejoined the ship at Speyer and sailed on towards Kehl for a visit the following day to Strasbourg, enjoying a traditional German meal of sausages and sauerkraut en route.



The next morning, now on the French side of the river Rhine, we were taken on a tour of the city of Strasbourg, with its beautiful, old half-timbered houses and yet another great cathedral. That evening, we set sail again, this time for Breisach, the gateway to the Black Forest.




We arrived in Breisach just before breakfast and joined the fleet of buses for a tour into some of the highest and most beautiful parts of the Black Forest. Snow was still lying on the highest hills and in sheltered places alongside the road. We visited a centre that made cuckoo clocks and also watched a chef preparing the famous Black Forest gateau.

Sadly this was our last night on board the Viking Idi, as by the following morning we had docked in Basel. After an early walk around the city centre, we took our sad leave of the ship and said farewell to the crew. For the first time at the end of a holiday, we didn’t want to return home and both agree it was our best holiday ever.

You can watch a slideshow of some of our photos set to music here.


Dec 202014

Having joined the CBMVC earlier this year, Vernon was keen to start rehearsing for its busy programme of Christmas concerts and returned to the fold as soon as the Careline show, ‘Lest We Forget’, finished.

The song list for the lead-up to the festive season consisted of traditional carols such as ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’, as well as several popular seasonal songs such as ‘I Saw Three Ships’ and ‘When a Child is Born’. The choir also sang an Andalucian carol in Spanish plus, in Latin, ‘Gaudete’, a song originally recorded by Steeleye Span in the ’70s, and in Italian ‘Va Pensiero from the Verdi’s opera Nabucco – quite a challenging repertoire!

After last year’s successful ‘flashmob’ in the La Marina shopping centre in Ondara, the choir arranged another ‘Concert for Shoppers’ on the last Saturday in November. Celia filmed most of the songs, which can be viewed on YouTube.

CBMVC at El Verger 2-12-14On 2nd December the choir was invited to take part in the Grant a Wish concert in the Casa de Cultura in El Verger, which it opened with a 30 minute set.



CBMVC at Moraira Carol ConcertThere followed an appearance at the Javea U3A carol concert and another in the church square in Moraira, organised by the Lions.


CBMVC in Benitachell ChurchFinally, there were two, hour-long, Community Carol Concerts in churches in Calpe and Benitachell, the latter being literally ‘standing room only’. You can watch a video of the final song of the Benitachell concert, ‘You Raise Me Up’, here. After this concert, the choir held its Christmas party at a nearby Chinese restaurant, when everyone let their hair down, with lots of impromptu and acapella singing during the evening, including a slightly different version of ‘You Raise Me Up’ – a short clip of which can be seen here!

A busy summer

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Oct 262014

2014 has been the hottest and driest in the 7 years since we moved here and when the rain finally came in September, it was the first significant amount for almost 12 months.

However, it was a busy summer, particularly the latter part, which saw our youngest son Chris and his wife Georgie spending a 9-day holiday with us. As usual, Chris took every opportunity to use his photography skills, especially when we took a boat trip from Denia to Javea. We also visited the Valor chocolate factory in Villajoyosa, the town of Altea, a walk around Fontilles and enjoyed many great evenings out in local restaurants.

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In September, Mary-Louise, our other daughter-in-law celebrated her 50th birthday and invited us to a party held at the Kenza Restaurant in London. We had a great weekend, including an evening at the Piccadilly Theatre seeing ‘Jersey Boys’ and a rainy Saturday morning in Covent Garden!

Immediately on our return from this trip, rehearsals started for a Careline Theatre Group show called ‘Lest We Forget’, which played to almost full houses in our Alcalali theatre in mid-October, then one night in Calpe. The first act of the show celebrated the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 and the second act covered WW2. The show comprised songs, dances and sketches from those eras and Celia and I appeared in most of the scenes on one way or another, resulting in 8 costumes changes each. Vernon played a starring role as Captain Blackadder in a sketch from the famous Blackadder Goes Forth final episode, which culminated in the cast ‘going over the top’. Celia’s tap dancing skills were put to the test again with several numbers, including the songs In the Mood and Candyman. The photos below show Vernon as Capt. Blackadder, Celia (background) dancing to In the Mood and in a less than flattering costume for her role as a WW2 factory girl! We received many flattering reviews in the local press but we both found it an exhausting production and may well not become involved next year.

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May 152014

Continuing our plan to explore other parts of Spain, we decided to visit the city of Toledo, renowned for its cathedral. Once again, we consulted our “Back Roads of Spain” book and discovered a route that would allow us to explore the region of Castilla La Mancha – Don Quixote country!

We spent 2 nights in Toledo, a wonderful old city, built on a hill surrounded by the river Tagus, and wandered the narrow streets, visiting the 13th century Gothic cathedral with its huge arches and the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes built in the 15th century. Our hotel was a stone’s throw from the imposing Alcazar, a huge stone fortress built in the 15th century at the very highest point in the city and which was held during the Spanish Civil War against overwhelming Republican forces in the Siege of the Alcázar, an incident which became a piece of Spanish Nationalist folkore.

We spent another 3 days touring the vast countryside of Castilla La Mancha, one of the most sparsely populated of Spain’s autonomous communities and a symbol of Spanish culture with its huge vineyards, olive plantations, windmills, Manchego cheese and the base for Miguel de Cervante’s novel Don Quixote. We stayed in Consuegra, with its 12 windmills and castle, and visited other towns including Almagro and Villanueva de los Infantes.


We stayed in some wonderful hotels, including a memorable dinner overlooking a lake as the sun set at the Casa Rural La Laguna in Aldea del Rey.



You can see also click here to watch a slideshow set to music.

A busy Spring

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Apr 202014

Not content with the very successful run last October for our Old Time Musical Hall production with the Careline Theatre group, we repeated the show for one night at the modern theatre of Calpe Casa de Cultura, in front of an audience of 270. Because of the time lapse, this required a lot of rehearsals but the end result was worth it, as the standing ovation proved! Once again, Vernon took the MC role played by Leonard Sachs in the BBC TV series and Celia took part in several tap routines and all the chorus numbers.


Meanwhile, Vernon joined the Costa Blanca Male Voice Choir, which we have been following for several years after including them in our 2012 ‘Voices of Distinction’ concert. His debut concert was at the huge 650-seater Teulada Auditori, where CBMVC were one of 4 choirs taking part. You can listen to some the choirs’ songs by clicking here


Closely following these two events, we were invited to attend, in our role as mentors for the single-parent support group Guardian Angels, the Bay Radio Charity Awards Gala at the Denia Marriot Hotel. This was a prestigious, red-carpet occasion attended by the mayor of Javea and the British Consul from Alicante. Celia is pictured left with some of her fellow Angels in her ball gown, made specially for the occasion.