Thirty years ago this year 1st January 1985 the first mobile telephone call was made. It was from the son of the boss of  Vodafone, to his dad, Sir Ernest Harrison. Story here, interesting I think! Do remember the first one that I saw, it was carried by our Vet, and was the size of a small brick. Now these items are an essential part of our daily lives. I've had a "smartphone" for a couple of years now - a Samsung S3, this will be passed to Muriel, and mine is being replaced with a S4 model. Must say I obtain great value from this technology, hardly an hour passes without looking at it - I no longer wear a watch, and the "apps" are to me a marvel. Three favourites being "RTT" which gives train times at local stations. My Nationwide app which keeps me in touch with my finances, and "Maps me Pro", this being a massive help to locate ourselves in towns we've not previously visited.
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Two trips away in January. Three nights in Brighton in the middle of the month, then a fortnight later, we travelled to Waterloo then onto one of our favourite hotels at Custom House, in the east London district. Brighton was interesting. We were really intrigued by the number of Jewellery shops concentrated in what is termed "the lanes", a group of narrow streets, just to the east of the street that leads down from the rail station to the sea. We had booked a 'Travelodge' in the street, just back from the sea. We where told that a count had indicated there to be well over forty of these shops, just in this tight area. Exceptionally expensive items on display - thousands of pounds for some.

Main purpose of our visit to London, was to see the play "King Charles 3rd". This the shows final week in the 'Whyndham's Theatre', which we found was right next door to Leicester Square underground station. I inquired if the play was likely to go on 'tour', but the answer came that they had already made a massive amount of money from the show, so no need! Once inside I could understand why, the theatre was utterly packed, I have never ever seen a theatre so full. Audience wonderfully behaved too, compete silence during parts of the dialogue. Not surprised that it was in its final week. The play had run its course.

As we had one clear day, we thought we would use it by taking a visit to Bletchley Park - the war time base of the "code breakers". This I had found out to be really close to the rail station, and was too. Such a massive amount to see, and much walking, also standing - which does not suit me, we reckon another visit is called for. Next time we envisage a stay locally.
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Having decided to sell "Sylvania", we need to clear our belongings out of it. So, last week of February we booked for three nights in the Paignton 'Premier', while we did so. After we decided we'd take a trip across to the "South Hams", and worked our way through the really narrow roads here to East Prawle. Really 'atmospheric' pub  here, called the "Pigs Nose", run by a rota of locals. Really good indeed.


Afterwaerd we drove back to Kingsbridge, and after a bite to eat we decided to look up a couple we knew who lived there, not sure of the house, but rang the bell of the property we thought it was - and they were in! Really enjoyable meeting.
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Second week of March, we spent three nights in Cheltenham. Main purpose being to meet up with our elderly friend Mimi Benn, who will soon be leaving her house in Oxford Street. While there we where able to meet up with her daughter-in-law, and little grandson. We also took a drive out to the small town of Stow-on-the-Wold.

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Final two days in March, another stay in the 'Premier' at Paignton, this to finish cleaning and clearing out our boat.
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Yes, since my last visit to Paignton the problem I've been troubled with for the past three years - anaemia has been causing me 'difficulties'. Try not to dwell on that however, considered another visit down to Brixham, might be beneficial. So the 'Premier' again for a couple of nights from Sunday 17th May. Anyway we did manage the walk to Berry Head in a 'test' of fitness, followed be a darn good meal in the 'Prince William', finished the day tired but satisfied. Returning home, as we pass Stourhead, decided to 'call in',  good time of year for the visit.
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Tuesday 26th May, we took a quick trip across to Ireland, driving to Fishguard, where we caught the 14.30 ferry over to Roscoff, here we'd booked a room in the relatively new Maldron Hotel. Next morning we drove westward via Newross and Waterford, then more or less straight across to Limerick, rounding here we managed to find the road to Listowel, then down to Tralee. Here we were lucky enough to find a really good hotel which we booked for the following two nights.
Next morning over the mountain road to Dingle, from where we took the 'anti-clockwise' route round the Slea Head drive. Not the best way round - though this I had not known, but realized so when I pulled close to the side of the narrow road, to cater for traffic from the opposit direction. I was driving close to rocky cliffs, we hit a rock which "blew" an almost brand new tyre! This on narrowroads, so impossable to stop and change wheel, anyway we found a "viewpoint" lay by a bit furthur on, here we were lucky, among those stopped there was a "real gentleman" who came forward, and changed the wheel for me - who was this 'good  samaritan' ? A German who held a top position in Deutsche Bank. Wonderful chap. Back to Tralee where we quickly found a tyre specialist who was able to supply and fit the fresh tyre required. Lucky.





Top left, we were really pleased to stay in this hotel, next two views of this scenic area, finally a view from the mountain road.

Next day, we drove north, crossing the shannon by ferry. Keeping close to the Atlantic coast, passing between the 'Cliffs of Moher' and the 'Burren' but not stopping at either, having viewed both on previous tours. I have to remark though, that the bareness of the Burren did 'stand out' much more than I'd previously remembered. Our only halt on the drive was at Doonbeg. I had decided to head for Carrick-on-Shannon where we were aware of a couple of hotel, and was our local town, when we had a holiday cottage in county Leitrim. By good fortune the Bush Hotel, did let us a room, though the area was far busier than I'd anticipated, and we had to leave the next morning. We were pleased to note that this town centre, family owned hotel, had been 'revamped' to really modern standards, and was obviously doing well.

Next day was interesting: We both knew this area really well, but had not visited for over ten years. First halt was at Drumnshanbo. Here we found the market open and active, This was handy because we could update ourselves with local life, from the folk we spoke to.





Amazingly, after leaving this market, we came across another one in full activity, only ten miles north at Dowra. Leaving here, we drove through 'country' roads towards Sligo. From here on, we could travel on excellent roads to Donegal town. Two town centre hotels, first one we tried was full, but they rang next door to their associate hotel, and by luck, they could help us, though we had to change rooms the following morning, we'd requested two nights because we wished to 'take a look at' Killybegs, a fishing port we'd visited several times. We where really surprised by the size of the boats that were tied alongside, much larger than those we are used to viewing at Brixham. Driving on again westward, we reached the Atlantic coast at Glencolumbkile, pot of tean in the cafe at Malin Beg and return to Donegal. very pleasent day.

Next morning, long but good drive on main' roads, plus motorways down to Wexford. I'd not viewed any maps prior to starting, but envisaged down to Sligo, then perhaps N4 to Dublin, and M50 round it, or a 'cut' across Irelands midlands with a night on the way. In the event, I spotted a sign "Dublin" just outside Ballyshannon. This eventually routed us via Enniskillen to the N3 and M3 down to Wexford for our last night in Ireland our one and only visit in ten years. Glancing at our cars trip meter, while on the ferry showed 250 miles exactly. It was zeroed on leaving Donegal.

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We drove down to Paignton again on Sunday 14June, I'd been a bit woried regarding certain aspects of the boat, so had booked for three nights. However, as it turned out, the boat appeared perfect. We took it out for a 'run' and were really pleased at just how well it behaved. Took a drive up through the middle of the "South Hams to start our drive home, commencing up through Slapton village.

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Yes, as mentioned on the 'front page', we commenced a massively enjoyable cruise on Saturday 11th July, this starting from Southampton. This was to last fourteen days, over that length of time not easy to record so much of all that occurred! So I shall rely on the 'official' itinerary: 11th depart late PM, 12th cruising (just off Dutch coast) On the 13th in the very early morning, we had entered the river Elbe, and we got ourselves out of bed in time to go up on deck to witness our entry into the Kiel Canal. This to me, was one of the most valuable parts of the cruise, it had this that enticed me to go in the first place, might be recalled that in a previous year 2010 we had passed above this waterway during a rail journey from Germany into Denmark. Our massive ship cruised beneath this rail bridge quite early on. Worth mentioning that we were informed that our ship had to take on extra ballast in order to lower us sufficiently to get underneath these bridges! One of our fellow passengers also told us, that the Captain had volunteered the cost of taking our 43,000 tonne vessel through this waterway was fifty thousand pounds! Worth it I reckon. Far as I recall we took most of the day to do this.






Top two 'photo's illustrate width of canal, and the one on the right shows one of the two swimming pools - both have associated warm jacuzzis, that are on the "Balmoral". Amazing that our huge vessel managed to pass beneath these bridges. Must be interesting to live at a property next to this waterway.

All the next day was spent cruising north towards Finland, the first town we berthed at was Turku, reached in the late morning, after cruising between a group of islands. We were provided with a coach to take us into town, and worth mentioning this was the first land we'd stepped on since leaving Southampton, the market was interesting here, but not much else. Entirely different the next city - Helsinki, which we reached early the following morning, 16th July. I was a bit 'discomforted' by the warmth here, I had not expected it to be so hot at this latitude. Assume this so due to the longer hours of daylight at this time of year.






Helsinki really is a lovely city, as the above buildings well illustrate.  it was so warm here, managed to cool ourselves with a harbour trip.

Our next 'port of call' was St Petersburg, Russia. Quite interesting getting in the country here, as well could be imagined! An experience in fact. As someone remarked to me once we were back on board, "he'd never seen so many coaches". Reason being of course, that as individual travel not encouraged nor advised, these were our main means of transport, required also because our ship was berthed a long way outside the city - second city in Russia so we were told. We did actually take two separate trips into town, first being to view main sites of interest, fact well worth doing as the following pictures will show.




Top left is the "Church of our Savior on the spilled blood", difficult to take in full view, being we could not stand back far enough. The three others would be of the Cathedral, both utterly fantastic buildings - quite amazing workmanship carried out in years past! We were lucky enough to travel back in the evening to visit a Russian folk evening, this I really thoroughly enjoyed, specially the music, the players of whom I would have preferred to be 'more "centre stage"', to me they where the stars.

Long 'cruise' to our next port, another 'capital' city - Stockholm. Reached by 'gliding by' a lovely group of islands, called the Stockholm archipelago, we had of course already spent a day or so in this lovely city. but we enjoyed another visit. We could not "berth" in the next place we called at, this the island of Gotland, and its main town Visby. We had to anchor offshore, and be ferried ashore on the ships boats, a little 'rough' here too, so not easy. Have to say though, the crew managed this difficult exercise really well, specially so, in view of the fact that some passengers where not fully ambulant. Our own trip was on a coach round the northern part of the island.
Next day we were traveling round the south coast of Sweden, and on our way to Copenhagen. This allowed me a good view of the "Oresund Crossing", this being a road and rail connection, between Denmark and Sweden, this being what we used in 2010, duiring our tour of these two countries. Being that we'd already visited these two capitals, we partook in a coach trip out to  small fishing village of Dragor, around 15 miles south of the city. Full of hollyhocks as can be seen here:

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Wednesday 12th August, we took a very quick trip up to Scotland - bit quicker than perhaps intended, as I'd thought of staying in Inverness, but when we found even a travelodge room would cost over a hundred pounds - returned south again! Worth reporting that our trip north started at 0610 AM and reached Perth early evening. Here we'd booked for three nights, our two days were spent exploring the country south of the Tay. We had of course been up in Perthshire in the previous October, when I'd been really impressed by the rich farmland, so wished to visit in the full growing season. Interesting to find so many fields of polytunnels, these we found out where to extend the soft fruit growing season, it being claimed that strawberries can be picked from April to October. Obviously rich land, plus the longer daylight hours up here, helping in this regard.
At the weekend we travelled up to Aberdeen, and stayed the two nights, exploring north as far as Peterhead on the Sunday.
So we stayed again in Perth Monday evening, and left the next morning at around 0650 reaching home just before 1700, this after driving 436 miles.

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Took a trip to south west Wales on 14th October, staying three nights in Swansea, main purpose to travel the rail lines to the west of that city. Best place to stay for this would have been Carmarthern, but could not find a hotel that would have been convenient to the station.
For our first day we chose to go to Fishguard, and Milford Haven, time restraints made us return on same train. Different for the next day however, when our ride was to Pembroke Dock, as we had enough time to stay over two hours. This is not the first time we have travelled those lines, but have to admit these trips seemed entirely different from what I previously recall. A line that we have ridden over more often is the one known as the "heart of Wales" line. We did this again on the Saturday. That was worth doing, specially the ride back from Shrewsbury down to Cardiff.

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Next trip was to the other side of the country - Canterbury, commencing 3rd November, where we'd booked four nights. First day we spent exploring the Cathedral, must say i found this really interesting. There were really good guides helping here, an amazing fact about the building being that the stone by which it had been constructed, had been quarried in France, fact outside Caen in Normandy. It was explained that this had been most convenient as water was better than overland for transport in those days. Gather repairs are still being made with Caen stone. Next day we visited Whitstable, striking interest being the narrow alleyways leading off some of the streets. We also visited Margate that day.
The nicest town explored we considered to be Sandwich, well worth the visit. Last place we 'took a look at' being Ramsgate.

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L
ittle trip we really enjoyed, was to Bath's Theatre Royal, this to see the play "Handbagged". Something we've never, ever done before, was to get seats in the front row of the stalls - actually  second row, front row being empty.
Following morning we journeyed down to Paignton, this by rail, we consider the route via Salisbury enjoyable with its rural scenery. Pleased to find our boat in good order, good idea to check it out and run the engine etc.