India  
Day 1
Arrived in Jaipur late at night - Diwali lights were visable as we landed it looked pretty amazing. My taxi was waiting and I was whisked off to my hotel. The traffic is pretty bad even though it was midnight, lots of motor bikes, tuktuks and scooters. The hotel didn't look too bad but not up to my usual standards and certainly not a patch on the Element!!  Once I'd checked in I went straight to bed and slept well.
 

Day 2  Travel to meet the group at The Amber Fort.  

Had the buffet breakfast – less than £3.00 - didn't have a lot of the usual stuff but had lots of Currys, tomatoes, omelette, cereal and toast, so enough to make a good breakie. Asked if I needed to check out but was told I didn't so no extra stuff to do. I arranged a taxi to the Amber Fort to meet ‘THE GROUP'. We set off – the road we were going to take was jammed with cars and Tuktuk, I've never heard so many horns, or seen such chaos, the driver did a u turn and we headed a different way lots of cows, dogs and pigs to avoid. 

Arrived safe and sound – surprisingly - and Promod, the Intrepid tour gide, was waiting to meet the taxi. He explained the plan for the day and offered me a lift in a vehicle up the hill  - I took it. This was where I met my new roomy, Charlotte, she is American – I'm destined to share with Americans – probably in her mid twenties and on a round the world trip heading East. Her itinerary is very different from mine but she is heading into Bali so we might have something to chat about. She’s apparently not feeling 100% hence the ride up the hill. Once at the Fort I met the rest of the group Phil and Amanda, Ed and Carmen (on honeymoon) and Dave all from the UK. Fiona and Mike, Lucy and Lizzie and Doug from Australia (Lucy is an ex-pat living in Sydney), and the afore mentioned Charlotte an American.

The Amber Fort was pretty amazing – it’s name has nothing to do with its colour even though it looks orange. The fort was built in the 16th century by a trusted general of Akbar Maan Singh. Later, Maan moved to Jaipur and started to rule the area surrounding the fort which was called the Amer state. Amer fort or Amber fort is located a little away from the main city of Jaipur. It is an important tourist destination in this city.

Amer fort was built with red sandstone and white sandstone. The fort still stands as a grand example of ancient Indian architecture. It is known for its blend of Rajput and Hindu style of architecture and mixture of Hindu and Muslim style of ornamentation. The carvings on the ceiling and the walls are extraordinary features of this fort. There are many paintings of ancient hunting styles, portraits of important Rajput rulers and others. There are a series of gates in the fort and each one has a unique structure and architectural element to marvel at. There are many buildings inside the fort including Diwan-e-Aam, SukhMandir, Sheesh Mahal and others.

Diwan-e-Aam or Hall of public audience is a large hall that stands from the support of two rows of pillars. Each pillar is ornamented. The hall is open on three sides. The king used to sit in the hall and listen to the queries of common men. This hall is famous for its mosaic glass works. Kings also used to meet important ministers and guests in this hall.

Sukh Niwaas or Sukh Mandir is a hall made with sandalwood and ivory. It is located right opposite to the Hall of public audience. There is a small channel that runs through it that carries cold water. This is an ancient method of keeping the place cool. Though the term ‘Mandir’ is used in the name, this is not a temple. It is a hall where kings and queens relax. The name can be translated as residence of pleasure.

Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace is the most beautiful part of this fort. This palace has been used as a location for many local movies. The walls and the ceilings in this palace are carved with beautiful flowers and other paintings made with glass. A queen of the fort used to love sleeping under the stars. It is said thatfor the ancient custom of the land did not allow women to sleep in open air. The King called upon the finest architects in the region to solve the problem. Thus, the mirror palace was built. It is said that if two candles are lit in the palace, it would look like thousands of stars glittering in the ceiling.

Kesar Kyaari or Mughal Gardens have a beauty that cannot be tallied by simple gardens that you see around the country. This part is located on Maota Lake, in front of the fort. The garden is formed in a star shape. It is said that saffron flowers were planted in the garden. Now, climatic conditions do not allow saffron plant to thrive in Jaipur. You can find beautiful flowering plants in the garden now.

We returned to the bus and headed for the hotel – annoyingly I ended up having to check out of my original room and move into a twin room to share with Charlotte. The room was not as good – at the rear of the hotel and next to two air con units so a bit noisy, I’m surprised how easily I sleep with all the noise.  

The next thing was an orientation walk around Jaipur (The Pink City). It’s Diwali so everything is manic, lots of lights, noise, music and food. The walk took us down one of the main streets which was full of lights and people all wishing us Happy Diwali. A plethora of things to see and sensory overload. The walk took us to Hawa Mahal, and a number of sights which I’ve now forgotten the names of!

On our return to the hotel we boarded the bus for a Diwali party, Pramod explained what the celebration was all about and he and our 2 drivers organised food (a sweet chickpea concoction) and drink – gin and lemonade both of which flowed freely. We danced in the aisle and had a thoroughly good time.

Dinner was quite late so non of us ate very much and we retired to bed after eating. The late hour wasn’t a problem as we didn’t need to get up too early tomorrow.     


Day 2  Free day in Jaipur  

After breakfast and a lazy start. I tagged along with 5 of the others and hopped in a tuktuk to the City Palace. An interesting place where the current Royal family of Jaipur still live – obviously we weren’t allowed in their bit. We saw a textile display with some pretty astounding costumes, one was ginormous, others were quite small but all were heavily embroidered with intricate designs and a mixture of threads including gold. We then looked at the courtyard with the seasons doors in it - each decorated for each of the seasons. My personal favourite was the peacock door – the green door features on the cover of  the Lonely Planet guide for Rhajistan.  

We were all feeling hot and needed a drink, there was a cafe were we had variety of cold drinks- salted lassi  for me, I need salt to maintain my ability to sweat – it was delicious.  By the time we’d finished in the Palace I’d had enough so hopped on a tuktuk and headed back to the hotel – I needed money and a SIM card still. I knew where there as an ATM near the hotel so managed to get money – not without being pestered for a ride to go shopping etc. It seems no one is used to tourists walking. I was less successful with the SIM card.

Had lunch then went for a lie down until 6 when some of us were meeting to go to a Bollywood film. An experience and a half, crowds pushing to get in – it was the first night of this particular movie, lots of noise when we eventually got in. The film started and as each character that was a known actor showed up cheers, whistles and shouts erupted. It was in Hindi so I couldn’t understand a word, I ended up going to sleep in the first half! Ate Samosas during the break and had Masala Chia before heading back for the second half, I managed to remain awake! The film was like Laurel and Hardy meets the Chuckle Brothers, more slapstick, very little singing and dancing which was not what I expected in a Bollywood film. Even though I’d fallen asleep it wasn’t an experience I’d have liked to have missed – I quite enjoyed the atmosphere when I was awake!!

Back to hotel and straight to bed for me 9.30 is proving to be my ideal bed time!


Day 3  Jaipur to Rathambhore

Up at a reasonable time and left the accommodation on our trusty bus to travel to Rathambhore. A pretty uneventful journey spotting one or two Kingfishers sitting on the wires, cows, pigs, water buffalo and a squirrel (chipmunk). The journey took over 4 hours and was hot! The hotel had a pool but once we'd checked in and had lunch I didn't think there was time for a swim.

Rathambhore National Park was once a famous hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur,  and was one of the original Project Tiger reserves. Our guide and vehicle for the Safari turned up about 3 and we boarded and headed out on our tiger hunt after collecting a few others. The Tigers were in hiding but we spotted a number of other animals and birds including Samba deer, Spotted deer, Red Vented Vulvul, Rufus Tree Pie, White Breasted Kingfisher, Indian Mhyna, Palm Squirrels (Chipmunk to you and me), Large Red Chested Kingfisher, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Drongo, Laughing Dove, Collared Dove and a Monitor Lizard to name a few. BUT NO TIGERS very disappointed!!!

In the evening there was dancing in the garden and a few drinks before dinner and then bed for me.


Day 4 travel to Bundi

Great break at a roadside shack – masala tea and a fried lentil filled thing called Kachori, it was delicious.

Arrived Bundi - Heritage property called Ishwari Hotel. Properties like this are often linked to the Royal Families of the area in which they stand and are part funded by the government for refurbishment to provide accommodation for visitors. The owners have to provide up to 60% which means that some are only basic before they open to make money. This one has been open a while and is not too basic - it has beds, air con and heated water. It was once used by the Royal Family and has a tiger skin on display in the dinning room (a man eater shot by Lord Mountbatten aparently).

After lunch we headed out and into a collection of Tuktuks which took us to the step well on our way to the Palace. Step wells are traditional in this part of the world – the one we saw was very ornate and fills with water to the third level in a good monsoon season. It wasn’t even full to the 1st level when we saw it and the monsoon season only finished in September. Raniji ki Baori also known as Queen’s Stepwell, is one of the most popular attractions of Bundi town. This famous stepwell was constructed way back in 1699 and was commissioned by Rani Nathavati Ji, one of the queens of the then ruler of Bundi, Rao Raja Anirudh Singh. This baori is a well with steps and is 46 meters deep. It has a towering narrow entrance and its pillars are adorned with delicate carvings. A multi-floored arrangement with intricate sculptures and terraces, it also has places for worshiping on every storey. The narrow entryway of the stepwell stands on 4 pillars and has a stone elephant statue on each of its corners. The archways of Raniji ki Baori are adorned with ogee brackets, gutters to you and I.

We then headed through the narrow streets of Bundi to a view point above the town to see why it was known as ‘The Blue City' - the majority of the houses were painted blue a part of the tradition for Diwali. Then further up the hill to Bundi Palace, a building almost in ruins but preserved sufficiently to give the visitor an idea of its past grandeur.  The cobbles leading up to the entrance gate were highly polished and the climb was steep - I excused myself from the group and let them go at their pace while I explored at a more leisurely one. I caught up with them several times but on each occasion missed the talk by our local guide, and hotel proprietor, Jogi  - he was keen to remind us he wasn’t Yogi Bear.

This extraordinary, partly decaying edifice – described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the work of goblins rather than of men’ – almost seems to grow out of the rock of the hillside it stands on. Though large sections are still closed up and left to the bats, the rooms that are open hold a series of fabulous, fading turquoise-and-gold murals that are the palace’s chief treasure.

The palace was constructed during the reign of Rao Raja Ratan Singh (r 1607–31) and added to by his successors. Part of it remained occupied by the Bundi royals until 1948. Once inside the palace’s Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate), I climbed the stairs to the Ratan Daulat or Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), with a white marble coronation throne. Then pass into the Chhatra Mahal, added by Rao Raja Chhatra Shabji in 1644, with some fine but rather weathered murals. Stairs lead up to the Phool Mahal (1607), the murals of which include an immense royal procession, and then the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace; also 1607), with Bundi’s very best murals, including a wonderful Chinese-inspired ceiling, divided into petal shapes and decorated with peacocks and Krishnas.

I waited for the group in a small cafe at the entrance where i chatted to the owner his daughter and grandson. We all eventually met up and headed back to the hotel walking through the old town, with very narrow streets and the usual plethora of bikes and scooters with the occasional car thrown in - a game of walking dodgems. A visit to the ATM and a few fruit stalls for breakfast supplies and snacks for the train tomorrow and we were home for the night.

Dinner and yet another early night – these night are no longer early but standard for me now.  


Day 5  Bundi to Bassi and Bijapur

Left at the crack of sparrow this morning not in a good state as I forgot to set my alarm and only woke when Charlotte’s went off. I was all flustered and only had 30 mins to shower, dress, pack and check out. Managed to do it but felt pretty rubbish. Jeep to the station and onto a ‘local' train to Bassi – even managed my own bag!!

The local experience was quite something - seats are not booked and the train only stops for a short time to allow people on and of – it doesn’t wait if you’re not quick enough – a bit worrying! We all managed to get on and get a seat in the same carriage though not all in the same compartment. The trains are not air conditioned open windows are the only means of keeping the train cool. There are sleeping benches above all the seats and guys come round selling peanuts, Bombay mix etc all served in newspaper, plus small measures of Masala Chia. I had Chia and a few of Doug’s peanuts didn't want to risk anything else.  

We all managed to get off in time – the guys helped me with my bag. Some of us went to the loo on the platform (not a brilliant experience) before setting off in jeeps to our accommodation in a Castle in Bijaipur – another heritage property. En-route to the castle we stopped at another Step Well in ......?.... There was also a lake behind the well where a large group of kids were swimming and some women were washing clothes. The well was surrounded by numerous temples were a few people were worshiping. We then went to a woodworking place but there wasn’t anyone working as it was the final day of Diwali.

Our journey continued to Bijaipur where we were welcomed with drumming, flower garlands a drink – coke! Our room is pretty good, really ginormous with an equally large bathroom. The Castle which is owned by the ‘King' of the area, is quite spectacular, it has a pool, several courtyards, and varying rooms – Amanda and Phil have a marble room with a bed up on a stage!  

We had a very good lunch, mushroom masala, the portion was too big for me – that’s a first – with roti and lassi. After lunch we had some free time to use the pool and catch up on some sleep – I dozed for an hour before going to explore the castle and make use of the very poor internet connection.  

Before dinner we walked round the village which was very small by comparison with some of the other places we’ve been. It was the 2nd time I’d noticed the smell of the open drains, it reminded me of my dad’s pig sty, he kept pigs on the allotment. The local buses were dropping folk off so the main junction was quite busy and had a lot of traditionally dressed people, great photo opportunities. After an ice cream at a local shop we headed back by a slightly different route and were invited into the house of one of the locals where they were cooking dinner – all extremely friendly and really happy to show us round. Quite different from anything at home and hard to explain but great to see.

The Castle also has a stable, and offers horse ridding amongst other activities, the horses are Arab looking and have a curl at the tip of their ears. They looked magnificent and very well looked after. I must find out what kind tgey are!
Another short period to ourselves before the family’s temple worshiping and dinner by the pool. Very romantic.  


Day 6  Bijaipur  Castle to Pangarh Retreat

A short journey with a few stops after a reasonably late start to the day. Our trip today took us to our tented accommodation owned by the ‘King’ of the area the same guy who owned tge heritage property. En route we stopped first at what looked like a grave yard but it was explained to us that in Hindi tradition bodies are cremated to free the sole from the body and allow for reincarnation. These grave like structures were in fact memorials to the dead and places where offerings were given to them on special occasions. 

Our next stop was in a small, rural village where we were treated to visits to houses with lots of garlic being cleaned, peanuts in their millions being sorted and to the fields where people were working weeding and irritating the crops. It was like going back in time, the tools and agricultural methods were very basic, the work looked back breaking and was being done in the heat of the day. Everything was being done manually. The animals in this area seemed far better cared for and much healthier plus they were penned and had access to more green matter as they were fed the stalks from the corn etc.

Once on our way again we turned off a reasonably well surfaced road onto a track marked by a flag, this description is pretty loose, it was really just a route down a hill towards a lake. This was our first sight of Pangarh, the tents are on the shores of the lake which is full of Lilies and Water Chestnuts. Women were on the lake in dug-out canoes harvesting the water chestnuts. As we made our way down the hill the sight got more beautiful, birds everywhere, egrets of every variety, White Browed Wagtails and lots more.  

The ‘tents' were definitely on the glamping side of camping with air con and ensuite bathrooms – no where near the luxury of the ones on the Kakadu tour but pretty good for India! We had quite a lot of time before an evening walk to a ruin on top of a hill over looking the lake. I walked to the bottom but decided that sitting watching the birds and the sunset was more my cup of tea.

Back to the retreat and a session sitting round a fire-pit drinking G&T before dinner was a perfect way to round off what for me has been one of the best days in India so far.

Shame my nights sleep wasn’t the same!


Day 7   Bijaipur to Udaipur

After being awake of and on for most of the night – I eventually gave up at 6.00 and decided to get showered and dressed. The shower was cold – but that didn’t really matter as it was refreshing and made me feel much better.  
I dressed and packed and went for a wander before breakfast – this place is so peaceful, some of the group were doing Yoga under one of the trees, the birds were chirping and flying about while the two pet rabbits wandered around making a nuisance of themselves.  

After breakfast we were loaded into 3 cars for the 4 hour journey to Udaipur – back into the frenetic activity of a city. A very interesting journey - the first time we've been in cars for long distances on major roads. Weirdly Cattle still wander freely about, people with herds of goats still walk them up and down the road,  it's a bit like someone herding their animals on the M6. Cars, lorries bikes you name it, weave in and out at will, undertaking and cutting in - an interesting time - talk about putting your life in their hands. surprisingly we all arrived in Udaipur safely and were loaded into Tuktuks for the next leg of the journey - another life changing experience. Arriving in Udaipur was quite a shock after our countryside sourjon. Its quite a frenetic city with lots of hills and small side streets to get lost in. I'll never worry about the drivers in the UK again - they are all brilliant, even the ones in the past I've thought were crap. Out of the tukktuk and a walk to our Hotel, not far but up a small hill and down a very step one. One of the boys from the hotel took my bag - he struggled with it almost as much as I would have - the lane was very uneven and it wobbled all over the place.   

The hotel is more hostel like but comfortable and as far as I can see clean. We are on the second from top foor - no lift! I may be getting fitter but it doesn't feel like it! Bags dropped and upstairs for lunch before heading out to the City Palace - yep another one! This one is massive as Udaipur is a major city in Rhajistan - I didn't know this. Some really ornate displays with a number of mirrored rooms and lots of gold leaf. Obviously a very rich Maharaja. Pictures of several British dignitaries and Royals were also on display - an important visiting sight for them. The Udipur Royal Family still live in part of the palace - we were shown it but obviously not allowed to visit

After the tour I left the group as they headed off on an orientation tour, and headed back to the Hotel, spent some time relaxing a little. I found the crowds overbearing and needed some space. I and a few of the others met the group for a cultural evening of dance and music at the  then roof top restaurant for dinner before walk back and bed.


Day 8  Udaipur day 2

Had a long lie in – not feeling great, I think I’m starting with the group’s cold! Everyone has had it at some point so I suppose it’s my turn. I have a cooking lesson at 11.00 – I made a basic error I had a late breakfast which meant that I  couldn’t manage to eat very much of what we made in the lesson. I learnt how to make Masala Chia, which has been something we’ve been drinking lots of on the trip it’s for sale everywhere and is really good. We also made fryums, chapatti, Dal, a smoked rhiata , and mixed pakoras. I was really cross that I  couldn’t eat more – I felt I was insulting the people who were doing the class. I left with a few spices and some fryums.  

I found my own way back to the hotel in time for my Palm reading. Really interesting,  he said I was strong and had good leadership skills and would lead lots of people. He also said I would live to be in my 90's which was heartening plenty of time for more adventures. I have to feed the monkeys every Tuesday and donated something red to charity on that day too. There were a few other things but I cant remember off the top of my head – its all written down so from Monday when I'm home I'm going to do some of the things he suggested.

We were all booked on a boat ride at 5.00 pm so we met in reception and wandered to the area where the boat was. We were taken out onto the lake and watched the sunset, before heading back to the shore where we headed to the tailors to pick up some stuff folk had ordered, before going to a hotel with a roof top pool and restaurant for dinner. There has been an on going story the Dame Judy is in town for a wedding – the locals keep spinning the yarn. At some point it was suggested that she was downstairs – whoo, we all jumped up - apparently there’s a picture in reception not quite what we expected.

We walked back to our Hotel in relative darkness but managed not to trip over the occasional cow, dog or pot hole in the road,  a pretty treacherous undertaking but we made it back.  I was there before everyone else and went straight to bed – some of the others went onto the roof terrace and had a couple of cokes - no alcohol sold in this hotel!


Day 9 -  Udaipur to Pushka

Up at the crack of sparrow this morning – we leave at 5.00am to pick up a train to Amjam and then onto Pushka by car. A bit frustrated as there was no water to shower wash or flush the loo, but this is India! All present and correct we loaded ourselves and our luggage into Tuktuks and headed to the station – it was dark and cold but quiet for this place. On to the train no problem and we headed north for our next destination.  

The train journeys are quite interesting definitely different from British Rail. They leave spot on time and only stop for a limited amount of time at each station – not waiting for anyone to get on or off if they are slow. This one wasn’t quite as basic as the last, it had air con and comfy individual seats rather than the benches on the local trains. We were on it for 5 hours so we’d all bought snacks and drinks to keep the hunger pangs at bay, bananas and crackers are the snack of choice with Chia and Samosas.

We arrived at Amman and picked up three cars that transported us over the hills to Pushka. The journey was another interesting experience, very windy, dusty roads and people driving on the wrong side - at one hairpin a bus in front of us swung over to the right a bit and a car coming up came up the inside of it heading straight for us – I was in the front and it was a bit scary.

Our hotel was the Gullab Walliss and at first seems pretty posh. Fur coat and no knickers comes to mind. We were allocated a room which was fine for about 15 mins – just long enough for me to begin unpacking to sort my stuff before I head home (we don’t arrive in Delhi until late and I leave early the next day so not enough time to sort stuff once there). The electric went off and although I reported it wasn’t back on after a 2 hour lunch – that’s another story. We were given another room, so I sort of packed and headed to the new room.  

Everything seems dusty and grubby – I suppose we are in a desert, but it’s just not quite as pristine as it at first appears. The service leaves a lot to be desired too, it took all of 2 hours for us to get our lunch – it does say on the menu food will take a minimum of 30mins but some people didn't get their drinks for ages. We were meeting at 4.00pm to go on a camel ride into the desert but didn’t finish lunch until 3.15 so barely enough time for me to have a much needed shower.

I elected to ride a camel cart – I thought it would be more comfortable. Was I wrong! It was the most uncomfortable experience I’ve had. Apart from the bouncing about there is no seating and it’s basically a cart with aa roof and a few clothes on it – no cushions and no means of sitting comfortably. It's also impossible to see anything as there are loads of curtains and drapes everywhere. All seemed a bit pointless to me until we passed the camel fair where there were literally thousands of camels most of which would be for sale. Pushka is renown for it’s camel fair, races and related activities, including a moustache competition. I thought the moustaches dated back to the Rhaj but apparently the curled up bit denotes bravery and strength. Our guide had a tash but no curls – not very brave or strong!  

We stopped at a hilltop in the desert and watched the sun go down with a cup of Masala Chia and a biscuit – very civilised particularly when we looked around and saw the abject poverty of some of the Indian gypsies who were camped out in the area. One of the residences consisted of a wooden platform, a plastic chair, a camp fire and a Wigan made from bits of twigs – probably to provide shade during the day.

We were dropped of after our ride in the middle of the camel fair and started to walk back to the hotel. It was very dusty – we were in the desert and I was feeling pretty rough after the discomfort of the ride. We walked through streets which were lined with craft/souvenir shops of every kind. I was thinking of buying some things to take home but somehow couldn’t bring myself to spend any time looking.  At the point Promod, our guide said that the hotel was a hundred metres further down the road and then turned to go in the opposite direction, I gave up and left the group to hop in a tuktuk back to the hotel – I wasn’t feeling great.

At the hotel I grabbed some food which was served very quickly and then went to bed.


Day 10 Pushkar to New Delhi

This morning I woke up with a stinking headache and a streaming cold – I felt rough with a capital R. I went and had breakfast but elected to stay at the hotel, I ended up going back to my room and falling asleep – well dozing. Checked out and had lunch and hung around with the others until our taxi arrived around 2.00 to take us to the train.  I felt sorry I hadn't seen much of Pushka but I really didn't feel well.
 
Train to Delhi - we arrived in Amman and boarded our train to Delhi, a 6 hour journey ensued. Quite a comfortable journey with food and drink delivered to our seats, all included in the ticket price. However that didn't really relieve the boredom or stop the rowdy group behind us who persisted in bumping the backs of our seats which proved very annoying. We arrived in Delhi at about 11.30pm and headed to our Hotel. By the time we arrived it was well after midnight and after 1.00 before I got into bed for wheat proved to be a short sleep.


Day 11 Homeward bound -Delhi to Manchester via Heathrow

I was up early and ready for my pick up at 7.00am. Taxi to the airport was on time and efficient. My one and only sight of Delhi in day light were on the route to the airport it looked very like any other Indian city but it was shrouded in haze. It was equally busy, crowded with animals, people and had the same rubbish lying around. The haze made it difficult to see much as we left the business of the city streets and swapped them for the roads to the airport.

The airport wasn't that impressive although it was big. I checked in but was disappointed I couldn't get an aisle seat - not looking forward to the flight - 9 hours in the middle of a bank of three seats - not fun. I found some food for breakfast and sat near my gate waiting for my flight. Nothing eventful here and I boarded the flight home trying to get an aisle seat through the air crew as I boarded - no joy. My seat was between two men both of whom had extra long legs so they sat partially turned towards me which made my seat feel even smaller. I survived the flight by constantly getting up and walking about - non of the three of us had a comfortable flight.

It was so good to arrive in London - a rwally weird feeling. An internal smile to be on home soil and it was pleasant weather. Bags collected and rechecked headed for some food and a wait for my Manchester flight.

I had a window seat on the flight from London and watched the lights on the motorways and of the main cities as we headed north. Familiarity of the flight was good and I was looking forward to seeing Hilary and David.

Arrived Manchester 7.30pm local time collected my bag and headed out into the arrivals area to be greeted by two very familiar faces and a ride to Heightlaithe Farm for an over night stay and to collect my car. Now theres another story ..........