Christmas 2021 – from Pat and Andy
 

It’s quite hard to remember what we did during the last 12 months. Only the highlights remain.

 

We visited Kings Lynn for a week in May, and discovered, on our way to the beach at Overstrand, a hut that sold local crabs. We went to the beach and arrived back at the hut to see the rear of the crabseller’s van disappearing and the door padlocked.
 

We visited friends in Somerset. On the way back we stayed in Cassington near Oxford, where Andy, his mother and grandmother were born. The pub we stayed in was owned by an Asian family who turned out to have moved there from owning a shop in Bedworth, near Coventry. Quite bizarrely, they had bought their shop from the family who now own one of the two grocery shops here in Wirksworth and are closely related to them.
 

In October, we celebrated both Pat’s birthday and our seventh (Yes, the itch year) by spending a couple of nights at The George in Stamford, which is very English and therefore very expensive.


When lockdown eased, we thought that we would risk a trip to Spain. Andy had never been to Madrid or Cadiz or Seville, so that was our plan. Fly to Madrid for 6 days, see The Prado, the Reina Sofia & the Thyssen, look at the Cathedral, and other sites, take a bus trip to get a feel of the city, have some nice Spanish tapas and generally chill. Andy bought online tickets for The Prado in advance so on our first day we passed the long queues of those without tickets. On getting to the counter, we were courteously told “I’m sorry, these tickets are for yesterday”. So much for Andy’s mathematical skills. A fresh purchase did get us in.
 

We also bought tickets for an open topped bus tour of the city. We waited 30 minutes, during which we could hear a band and a lot of loud fireworks, & then we were told, “Sorry, there is a demonstration, and the bus cannot get through”, so we changed the tickets for the next day. We went back the next day, no bus, and after another 30 minutes we were told “Sorry, the bus has broken down and there will be no trips today!”


The Thyssen had a wonderful exhibition of Magritte paintings: sure enough, ” La trahison des images”, subtitle “Ceçi n’est pas une pipe”, was there. Then, the next day we went into the Guernica gallery at the Reina Sofia, with many of Picasso’s preparatory works on three of the four walls. Andy looked at the massive black and white print on the other wall and asked, innocently, “Where’s the Guernica?” He had only previously seen reproductions and had assumed that the painting was both small and coloured. So much for Andy’s artistic knowledge. Oh, the treachery of images.


The 4½ hour train journey from Madrid to Cadiz was interesting, a very flat landscape, lots of olive groves, tomato farms, many solar panel farms and what looked like a lot of poverty. In Cadiz, we stayed at the Hotel La Catedral. The view from our balcony overlooked the west front of the cathedral and its Square. The sun shone on us. The hotel had a small plunge pool on the roof with a sun terrace and at 23° it was hot. We sunbathed.


We did make an error in booking central hotels. The centres were largely pedestrianised and our mobility was quite restricted. We managed - and we found some memorable restaurants and great food. We stayed 9 days and then took the train to Seville. When we arrived in good time at Cadiz station, all the information boards were stuck at 6am, so Pat sent Andy off with his total lack of Spanish to seek an explanation. It was a very British explanation: “Sorry, the line is blocked and there is a bus replacement!!” Horror of horrors! However, it was only to San Fernando, a 30 min bus ride away (was ours the last train to San Fernando?). Without us asking they provided Pat with a wheelchair to the bus, and on arriving at San Fernado, there was another one to get her to the train and on arriving 2 hours later at Seville, another to take her to the taxi rank. The young man who was pushing the chair set off at quite a lick leaving Andy to catch up as best he could! We were very impressed with the renfe customer services.


In Seville we went to the cathedral - what an impressive building! - took a river tour, went on the tourist bus, visited Plaza España, got lost , had some excellent food & chilled. Again we booked into an hotel in a mainly pedestrian area, but we managed to find wonderful tapas and bumped into some Brentford fans, hard to do even in England.


We went back to Madrid for 2 days, where we stayed in a 5* hotel, which was a luxury & worth it. Again, we’d successfully chosen a pedestrian area, but with lots of bars, shops and restaurants close by.

 

We’d booked mobility again for our return to Heathrow and the plane was early. We waited on the plane for a short while & then we were asked if we minded waiting at the top of the jet bridge as the assistance was just coming. We waited in in an enclosed glass area for 80 minutes, trying to get help without being quite sure just where we were. When it arrived, the chair was pushed by a most cheerful man who apologised profusely and thereafter had us laughing all the way out. He got us through immigration (the diplomats’ aisle), helped us find our bags, and waited with us until Pat’s daughter Rachel came to collect us in the car park. He put our stuff in her car and disappeared,


So that’s all we can remember of 2021 except for 3 vaccinations and a flu jab each. AND we’re still laughing.


Enjoy 2022!