It’s a hard life.

Saturday 7th January 2107

Having had no work since 1st October for me and 1st September for Angie we are now fully working again. We’ll sort of. We worked yesterday and now have two days off to recover. So I thought I would take advantage of my new found freedom an update the blog as we have been limited whilst on the road and even the ferry internet did not work!

So we are now at Theobalds Park Camping and Caravaning club site for a month. The team here seem really nice and friendly and the site is ok too although being so close to London it is a workers site more than a holiday site. We sort of expected to have lots of people who wanted to see the sights of London (14 miles to parliament square) and although we are told that there are some of these too the vast number of the occupants are those that live here and work during the week in London, its all experience and I’m sure we will love it anyway.

so an update of the last 8 days is as follows which we have typed daily (when we have had something to add) and now we bundle them all together.

 

31st December An unusual New Years Eve

It’s funny how things change and what this new found freedom has given us. We had so many plans on how to spend this momentous day but what we actually find is it is just ourselves, the two of us and Molly of course on a gravel turning circle outside of a closed Aire (the second in as many days we add ) on the outskirts of an ancient walled medieval town of Donzenac just south of Limoges. Parked up against a no parking sign. We think what the heck we are at the end of a dead end leading to a closed camp site and closed Aire in a quiet and remote village, it is New Year’s Eve and who would worry about us for just one night.

We left our makeshift camp early this morning as we had nothing to keep us there although the temptation to explore the double walled medieval city was strong. We had distance to go and Angie has the start of a cold. Another time we will come back to visit it though I’m sure.

The weather was misty and this turned to heavy pea soup fog quickly. We trudged on to Toulouse and then Montauban and fog just kept getting thicker. The going was testing and slow about 45 miles an hour but was as fast as I felt comfortable pushing forward into the whiteness. The locals however must have possessed a six sense and just knew that there was nothing coming the other way when they overtook us at speed into the white blanket without any lights on at all, totally MAD. We were aiming to just have a short drive today after the stress of yesterday and stop at Cahors but as we topped-out at the peak of the mountain just past Caussade the fog dissipated and we were given stunning blue sky’s and the scenery that we had been missing for much of the way. The whole feel of the journey changed and it became a joy rather than a chore. Just before Cahors we pulled over and looked at another Aire possibility at Souillac and then further on we stopped for a bit to eat and then decided to go on to Donzenac which was even further as the weather and going was so good. It also means that nearly all of tomorrow will be on motorway so we will not worry about the weather.

The road here was twisty but wide and of superb quality and the views over the bends in the road and down into the valleys were amazing. The towns and villages we passed through were stunning especially Cahors, Payrac and Souillac and reminded us a bit of the Lake / Peak District but without the rain. We were told that the area around Limoges was beautiful and so far we have loved it and it’s quite warm too. We have vowed to return to explore more when we have time to do so perhaps in November next year on or way to somewhere hot.

So we sit here with a couple of bottles of red and a cheese board watching Game of thrones in a semi expectant mood for the first time in years. We have the belief that 2017 will be better than much of 2016.

Sometimes you have to take control of destiny rather than just letting life pass you by. The last few months have truly been an eye opener and we don’t regret a minute of it. So far it has been the best thing we have ever done. Next year we have a new job but one that will be a way of life and that we enjoy doing, we will meet new and interesting people, make new friends and go to many new places and countries.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

We hope it is as good for you as we hope and expect it to be for us.

 

1st January 2017 – Long day on the road on New Years Day

We left our free but closed Aire and joined the motorway within 1.5 kilometres. The aim was to make for just south of Poitiers and the journey went well, however it had been snowing quite heavily by the time we got there and the road to the Aire was a thin singe track both there and back plus quite steep from the main road. It was also due to snow tonight. We decided to not risk getting snowed in and pulled into the next lay-by to plan what to do.

Unlike me (and those who know me will agree with this) I decided to just plot the easiest route to Caen into Margret and wing it! We thought we would just find a Aire-de-repose en-route and pitch up for the night.

We decided that with the inclement weather it would be better to get onto the motorway network just north of Rennes. At least they will keep the motorways open and free from snow if it snowed here too. As we plowed onwards the surrounding countryside became more and more fairytale like initially crystalline trees sat on top of lush green grass and then gradually the grass became feathered with white until full winter scene set in but with a weird slightly pink hue to it. It was a truly magical scene and particularly when the road cut through the woods or the traditional national roads were lined with the trees either side. We were so glad that we could drive through it but also glad that we could get out the other side.

We are now in the first autoroute Aire to the north east of Rennes. Having just finished a bowl of fresh Salmon vegetable and pesto spaghetti we contemplate what tomorrow holds for us.With the homeward journey almost complete we have two days to kill and only 156k to drive. Le Mont St Michelle may be an option but it depends on Angie’s Cold and the weather.

It seems strange that on Friday we were in shorts and T shirts and yet with only 3 days driving by road we are now amongst snow and freezing weather.

2nd January 2017 Le Mont Saint Michelle

We woke early as the motorway Aire woke early.

After a remarkably quiet night with only one transit van turning up at about 1.30am that woke Molly who barked that subsequently woke Angie who then subsequently woke me telling me that there was someone outside. There was! It was a bloke trying to get some kip in his transit van before going on his way at 6am. We only had 45 mins of driving today as we decided to go to Le Mont St Michelle and found a great looking Aire just 5k away from it. Having had no nightly charges since leaving Spain we decided that we would splash out the €12.50 needed for the pitch fee water internet electricity hook up and waste. When we arrived the Aire was brilliant and one that we will remember for the future. Easy roads there and back to the motorway wide entrance large pitches and only a short drive, walk or cycle away from the iconic island.

We pitched up un hooked and quickly drove to the mount and were directed to the parking area. It was so different than I had remembered from when I visited with my parents but that was about 40 years ago. Then you parked on the causeway. Now probably due to the huge amount of visitors and popularity of the place there are huge car parks with a free shuttle bus to the mount. The push me – pull you type bus turned up with a driver seat at each end so it did not need to turn around on the causeway. The sign said that you could walk to the island in 40 mins and as we had Molly (and the bus was crammed and the next not due for 20 mins) we decided to walk and let Molly let off steam.

The mount was all dressed for Christmas and it must look amazing when it gets dark. It was packed through the central streets which were heaving with Chinese taking pictures of everything including the bar, the menus at the bar, the person taking the picture of the menus at the bar, and the person taking a picture of the person taking a picture of the menus at the bar. Molly got photographed so many times and we were concerned that she might have been being photographed as the main course!!!

After climbing what seemed to be a thousand steps we decided that some refreshment was needed. We squeezed past the telephoto lenses of the Chinese and found a bar that looked suitably dog friendly. I popped in and in my best pigeon French asked if we could bring in our little dog (petite Chen). The friendly black and huge French waiter said he only allowed large dogs in then laughed and dragged us in. Seafood spaghetti for me and tuna Nicose (is that how you spell it) for Angie, and a bottle of red – Nice!

We also walked back to the car as the queues for the shuttle bus were massive and the first bus was already full and another 50 Chinese waited for the next in 20 mins and it was freezing. We decided that a walk would at least keep us warm – perhaps.

Once home, because that’s what our motorhome is – home! We tucked ourselves in and settled down for the night.

3rd January Homeward bound

The last long drive in France until November 2017 brings us to Caen. It was only a two hour drive so we left late which gave me the opportunity to do something that I had not done for ages. I went for a run. The Aire was right on a cycle way that the French love so much. It was freezing at 9am but I decided to run anyway. Molly was a mad dog in the frost bouncing and bounding about like a puppy. The 3k run to the village was stunning with a gorgeous sunrise and a winter scene everywhere I looked. As I drew nearer to Le Mont St Michelle an orange glow surrounded it and the mist lurked in the background. It was a truly enchanting scene.

 

Two hours after leaving the Aire we arrived at the next one. De-ja-vu or what! but at least we won’t have to worry about an alarm clock in the morning.

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We catch the 8.30 tomorrow and will be woken at 6.30 by the Mont st Michelle arriving to take us home.

A quick stock up on some cheep wine and our European adventure is over!

 

 

 

 

Huge traffic jams – thanks to Gids!

I took Molly out for a walk this morning and upon exiting the Aire I thought that the road outside was slightly packed and wondered how we would get out with ease. We walked to the beech and then realised why the roads were so crowded, there was a Friday market that stretched the whole length of the promenade and as a result all of the surrounding streets were packed. We attached Sunny on the back and had a go at getting Catori and Sunny out in one -No Way! The helpful owner turned up and suggested that the only way was to reverse out which meant un-hitching doing a 180 with Catori and then reversing into the narrow street and then reattaching Sunny. This all took time and upset a few of the locals who began blasting their horns. Round the next corner a BMW driver had decided to park on the roundabout making our exit out of the town impossible. The driver sat oblivious to this fact and we encouraged him to move with a small beep on the horn- nothing but a shrug! A double blast achieved no better result so a full on lean on the horn was needed. He moved it about 2 ft forward and we finally managed to scrape through. What a NOB. Loads of room to move forward but he possessed a can’t be bothered attitude.

The rest of the trip was stunning and via Spain’s amazing road system we made our way seamlessly to the French boarder and through what seemed to be two towns born of the frontier between the two countries. As they are all part of the bigger Europe we did not understand why they seemed to be so booming with cars motorhome and lorries everywhere. Perhaps next time we will park up and explore to try to find out why.

As soon as we entered into France the roads changed back to winding passes around cliff faces and down the side of mountain rather than cutting tunnels through mountains and building viaducts over georges as the Spanish do. A few tight French villages to negotiate but soon we were on their great national roads heading for Carcassonne with the intent to spend two nights here to be able to explore the ancient medieval  walled city.

The Aire that we were directed to was closed. Empty but closed. We needed to unhitched the car, do a 8 point turn hitch up again and find another Aire. There was one within 2k so we plugged the coordinates into Margret and set off. The road had a height restriction of 2.5m in 1.5k but the turning we needed was only 1k down the road so no problem I thought. I was so preoccupied with the height restriction that I did not notice that the turn was a sharp 240 degree harepin bend. We turned left only to realise that we were not going to make the corner in one go no with out a quick reverse. The problem is that we can not reverse a for wheeled 6ft car being towed from a tag axle 30 ft motorhome. So we were stuck! Straddling two lanes and the side road unable to go forward or reverse. I quickly had to jump out and unhitch the car yet again, making my apologies to all of the mounting cars who had come to an abrupt halt.

Having done so and parked the car in an adjacent drive I jumped back into Catori turned the key and NOTHING! She just refused to start as if someone had just stolen the battery.

So there we were causing a huge traffic jam and straddling two lanes and the adjoining road. PANIC Set in for a moment. I grabbed the phone and dug out the number for the RAC but then realised that the traffic had just become a massive car park of cars blasting their horns that stretched as far as I could see in all three directions.

I returned to the back of the van and commenced directing traffic allowing each stream of log jammed vehicles to squeeze past the back of Catori when they were directed to do so by me. Angie came out to assist and took over the traffic directions. After what seemed an age but was probably no more than 10 minutes I realised that we would be there all day and night unless the breakdown company could sort us out. Gradually the  traffic eased and I finally got through to the RAC but whilst doing so I had another go at turning the engine one more time – success! She finally turned over and fired up. Hallelujah some one was finally on my side!

Another 8 point turn and we finally  were able to get out of the traffic and parked up in the direction we had just come down from. We then needed to hitch up again and we made our way back to a small car park we had spied on the way down.

We have decided to stay here for the night and hope that we do not get moved on but as it is now 10.15 pm and we have been here since 4.30 we hope that they will leave us in peace. I have been able to type this tonight as I had to use roaming to call the RAC so thought I may as well use my unlimited data quota to add today’s “event”. No photos I’m afraid it would have added insult to injury to photograph the mayhem we had caused but hay ho I suppose it is another experience to remember!

I have attached a google map image of the corner in question.

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Lets hope tomorrow will be less eventful.

The sun sets on Spain

We said goodbye to Rob and Lesley and set off leaving them with some Heinz baked beans as they are hard to get in Spain and we be able to get plenty in a week or two. We topped up on gas as both canisters were empty. €18 filled them both to the brim.

I take back anything detrimental I have said about the Spanish road system thus far. We must have just experienced a bad town or area as the 5 hour drive today was on stunning free roads with my only gripe being no where stop for a break very easily. We have found ourselves a nice little site at Pineda de mar for €10 for pitch water with really friendly owner who came out to meet us and made us very welcome. It is secure as its behind a automatic gate and has cctv. A wander along the lovely promenade rewarded us with a stunning sun set and Molly had the opportunity to let off steam on the sand again turning into the looney that she becomes when she has sand under her feet. The Spanish are so lucky to have such wonderful coastlines and amazing beech life.

Tomorrow we leave Spain to make our way to France via Perpignan Narbone to Carcassonne and then windle our way up through the centre to Caen and our ferry back. We hope that the onward joiurney will be as easy as it has been so far.

Christmas boxed up and ready to go.

Last night we invited Rob and Lesley over for a beer, we had bumped into them earlier in the week and they are a nice couple who are spending their first Christmas away from family as we are. They have a twin axle caravan and a Range Rover the perfect combo for towing but not for us as we like the freedom that a motorhome gives.They have been here for a few weeks and are not intending to return to England until April. We had a few beers outside ours until it turned chilly and then came inside. After a few more drinks an impromptu spag Bol was rustled up. A few more drinks and then a couple bottles of wine were emptied. Out came the port and some other liquor and then the whisky and it then all got a bit blurry after that. They made their leave a little later and we somehow managed to stumble into bed.Thank heavens we opted for a van with a fixed bed.

I was expecting a mahoosive hangover today but all was good. Result!

We had to get Molly U.K legal today so drove into Benicarlo and was able to park right outside the vet. So different from Claremont Ferrand on our last trip where we had to waste a day due to the parking restrictions of a 30 ft motorhome.

15 minutes later and she was all signed off and ready to become a UK resident once more. We decided to wander round the market and get some more euros from the local Santander branch as there is no charge for withdrawing euros for us. After realising that we didn’t need to buy anything we decided to go back to the car. Easier said than done as all of the streets look the same and the long straight allies and right angle cross sections got us totally lost. We spent ages wandering round trying to find Sunny the smart car. Eventually found, we thought we would give Molly a decent walk along the beech as she was so good in the vets.

Peniscola beech is a long wide sandy beech and as it is winter we were allowed to Molly walk it. Off with the lead and she becomes a dog possessed. We took our shoes off and I took off my T’ shirt and we walked barefoot through the waves with the sun on our faces. It felt like a UK summers day only sunny! Molly stole a young girls sock and we had to quickly rescue and return it. They did not seem to mind and thought it funny. After a while we turned back up the beech and made our way back to Benicarlo for a paella. A beer a glass of wine two large plates of paella and two deserts for €10 not bad eh!

The site was putting on some live 60’s and 70’s music – basically and old bloke who couldn’t sing very well massacring some brilliant tunes, but the sun was out and we had nothing much else to do, so we sat and listened and chatted to a few more of the site residents. Enough was enough and we had some packing up to do so we went back to the van and took down the Christmas decorations starting to get ready to leave tomorrow.

Boxing (less booze) Day- perhaps!

Well yesterday was a lovely day but full of booze sun and no exercise so as a result  I was falling asleep by 8pm and to make it worse the British tv here is an hour later than the uk so all the good things to watch are much nearer our bed time and the watershed  has become the bed shed with me and sometime both of us being fasto before the must watch program comes on. We decided therefore that today we would get out and about in Sunny the smart car and also have a walk. We drove through Peniscola and out the other side through some urbanisations and eventually ran out of mettled road. There was a cycle path and gravel track to the top of the mountain and Normally this would be a must do thing but we were not really dressed or equipped to take it on. We decided to go for a short walk to let Molly have some off lead time and after about half a mile turned round and headed back to the car. The road here was a twisty coastal road but excellent quality and on the way back we enjoyed some superb views of Peniscola from the other direction.

We stopped at a pull in and heard a distant band playing from the castle so decided to go see what was happening. Parking Sunny is dead easy, find any spot, stick her in,-  done. As we got out the band was processing from the castle followed by Mary loseph three wise men shepherds and umpteen angles . No soon as they had come back through the gates and it was all over. Proud mums and dads hugging their little angles- literally – and then everything was packed up and off they went into cars. We realised that we had just caught the end of a nativity play off sorts that must have been re-enacted outside of the nativity scene we saw the other day.

We decided to walk along Peniscola beech and promenade and Molly was once again allowed some off the lead time which she loved racing in and out of the sea.

A short drive back to the camp site and a little outside beer takes us up to 5pm

We now just need to cook the veg to go with the cold meats and mash pickles and Branson pickle .A nice bottle of red, port and some single malt or two and let’s see if I can make it past 8 pm tonight.

Tomorrow we will try to get Molly checked and passport friendly before thinking of turning away from the sun and heading to the cold. As they say in the game of thrones “winter is coming” for those none-game of thrones fans sorry!  but go get yourself the box set or borrow it from someone -trust me you will not regret a moment of it.

 

Christmas Day

Late night last night and a late morning. Breakfast of scrambled egg, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and orange juce. A walk along the beech and a paddle in the Mediterranean before returning back to the van to sit in the sun trying to feel it was Christmas Day.

A few G&T’s, sherry, and Christmas tunes did the trick and we set the table having already decided that we would not join in with the Christmas dinner event being organised by the site. At £90 for the two of us plus drinks we felt we could do better for a fraction of the cost. We think we succeeded.

We FaceTimed our son Ryan who was at Debs (Angie’s sister) who has been amazing including him in her family Christmas and putting him up for the night too and did a round the room video call with everyone who seemed to be having a great time and this was lovely to see and made us miss home a little less.

The advantage of traveling around France previously was that we could stock up on some superb wines at super low prices. We saved an extra special  one for today and dug it out.

We had port and a fab black Forrest gateau liquor from M&S so everything we needed for a boozey afternoon.

We found out that the prawns we purchased were not already cooked (by eating one) and had to quickly cook them and decided to flambé them in brandy. We set the table and as the sun moved slowly away from our pitch we pulled it all together and had a superb Christmas dinner of Beef Wellington and Angie’s famous crunch roast potatoes. Space limited living does not mean that we have to give up on our favourite food.

A traditional Christmas Day afternoon followed by watching British T.V with a port in one hand and nibbles in the other. Luvly jubley!

Christmas Eve

My New Year resolution last year was to try to live life a little more and stress a little less. Little did we know then that this Christmas we would be sitting in the sun on the Mediterranean and how much of that would come true.

The most unusual Christmas Eve we can remember, usually they are so full of last minute shopping, prepping the veg getting ready for tomorrow and plans to visit or be visited often wrapping the last few pressies. This year a leisurely cooked breakfast was followed by a sunny walk into town along the beech in shorts and T shirts. We brought a couple of baguettes and filled up a litre bottle with the Juce of umpteen oranges from the local market and wandered back to the van. Out came the chairs and the beer for me and sangria for Angie. A few hours were spent soaking up the sun and chatting to the many like minded neighbors we have here all of which have stories of adventure to tell some of whose have been doing this for nearly 20 years, some like us have only just started. Some still have homes but only go home for a month or two each year and leave them moth balled. Some live here permanently and others like us have seasonal jobs to return to (It feels nice to be able to say that at last). One thing is for certain they are an interesting crowd from a wide mix of backgrounds, we are probably one of the youngest here but that is probably because of the nature of the site and our nervousness in wild camping or going on aires for the Christmas period in Spain to start with. Perhaps next year we may be a bit braver and experience some of the huge Christmas and New Year pop up camping communities that we have been told about.

We are not sure if it feels Christmassy or not, perhaps we should comment on that in a few days, but we are trying our best by listening to Christmas songs from the i pad via the vans sound system and watching English tv – Michael Mackintyres Christmas show was great as was Last Vegas.

Tomorrow we have prawn and avocado starter, followed by beef wellington, roast potatoes and veg and then passion fruit cheesecake and enough wine and spirits to sink an army.

Its 12.57 here so 11.57 uk time so will be officially Christmas Day for folks in a minute or two.

Happy Christmas every one

 

The summer returns.

Its the eve of Christmas Eve and 10.30 am. Angie is just getting showered and then we are off into town to get our last minute things for the next three days and to stock up on all of the cheep stuff that would cost so much more in the uk, for example a really smooth bottle of red which we were told about and purchased very sceptically expecting it to be gut rot material and were really surprised on how good it was. Yes we have had better but it is supremely drinkable and at only 90p a bottle! Likewise very smooth and drinkable 5% larger at 28p per can which I prefer over Amstel, esterelle & Peronni  and Gin at £4.50 a bottle. We are not sure if the van will take the weight of it all but we are going to give it a go after all we will have 10 months before we can return.

Presently I’m sitting on full sunshine outside Tshirt off and just in shorts and flip flops updating the blog and its bloomin hot. Unfortunately we will not be able to maximise on the weather due to our imminent return to the uk so we are trying to make the most of it. We did so yesterday too by to putting the roof of Sunny the smart car fully down and cruising the coastal roads, then walking along the lovely promenade of the adjacent town of Vinaros in just shorts and t shirts and Angie was in a summer jean dress. We were loving the warmth of the sun and sat outside and ate tapas on the beech front. The locals who predominantly seem to think it is minus one here and are dress accordingly in winter puffer jackets hats jumpers and scarfs looked on in disbelief. There doesn’t seem to be the the same etiquette here about not staring at people as despite having a “stare out”  at 50 paces it was us that finally broke it off. They must think we are crazy English braving the cold in the search of a short lived tan but in reality we could not imagine wearing much more than we were.

A lovely afternoon visiting the beech and small coves that dot the area but not for a swim yet although the surf looks great and I may venture out on the body board (suitably dressed in a wet suit) if it looks as good this afternoon or tomorrow which is Christmas Eve -how weird would that be.

For now a quick shop and stock up. The next planned event is Mollys pet passport which we try to get done locally rather than have to worry about finding a vet en-route  and then think about heading off towards the cold at sometime between 27th and New Year’s Eve. Ferry booked 8.30 am  4th January start work 5th.

El Gid?

 

 

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For those those of you old enough to remember the film El CID we are here at peniscolla

For the film the houses were draped in sheets to make them look like rocks and the beach was slightly more sandy rather than flooded by huge waves but never the less El Gid has returned.

The Sun was out today so we returned to the castle that we visited in the pouring rain in Sunny the smart car two days ago. Then we drove up the narrow cobbles streets to the summit of the castle not knowing that we were not allowed to. This time we decided to walk the historic ruin and town because the sun was out. We don’t think we could have chosen a better day as huge waves were crashing against the ancient rockey outcrop and a fault in the rock produced an amazing water spout in what appeared to be a beer garden. One moment totally dry and then the next a hissing sound and a whoosh of air followed by a water spout that must have been 20ft high came thundering through a hole drenching the patio and anyone in its way. Truly an amazing sight especially bearing in mind that we were already 60ft up from sea level. The huge waves were funnelled into a small inlet and then powered up through the rock  to create the massive spectacle every few moments. To see the video of this -jump onto my Facebook and have a look.

We returned home and had lunch in the sunshine. We decided to walk Molly again and went down to the seafront only to find that it had been destroyed by the massive waves. The beach either washed away on shoved onto the road including concrete benches ripped out of their anchorage and thrown on to the road.

The weather is due to continue to improve which is fab and we do our best to soak up the sun but it is also sad that we have to return to the uk early but we look forward to getting back to work again and starting our new job.

 

Job offer & Back we come!

 

img_0306Having just settled in and not even had the time to enjoy some sun yet we find ourselves planning our return trip back to the U.K three months earlier than expected.

We received an e-mail today offering us a Four week contract with the camping and Caravaning Club from 5th January and if we were able to take it then we would also be given the summer contract from 1st April on the same site. The site is one of the ones we had put down on our wish list (not that we get a choice in the first few years) and it’s also just north of London so not too far either.

So a bit of scratching of heads and we have decided to turn tail and head back North and back to Blighty. As if on a huge Bungee we can’t seem to escape the uk for any length of time.

It is however a great opportunity and one that we did not want to give up by not giving up our 3 months away. Spain France Italy and everywhere else will still be here next year and for many years to come but the great job offer may not….. so it’s back we come.

We still have 10 days to play with before we need to think about packing up and heading home and the sun is due to make an appearance tomorrow. Stocking up on the ridiculously cheap wine and gin will be on the agenda as well as soaking up some rays if we get time. We had to move pitch on the 30th December so that makes a sensible date to pack up and go and will give us five days to transverse Spain and France once again back to the ferry or train (yet to be investigated)

We will be sad to not be able to visit some of the friends we had hoped to but we are sure they will understand.

BUT HAPPY DAYS WE HAVE A JOB HOOO HAAR!