Liebster Award. What an honour!


I have been nominated  for the Liebster Award for my blog. Amazing. I’m very honoured.

Thank you to the fellow blogger who nominated me.  Two Travelin’ Chicas…..A Grand Adventure. Check out this fun blog

The Liebster Award 2017 is an award that exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011.

Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. I hope that reflects my blog!

I accept this award with great pleasure. Hopefully it will help grow my readership. So please mention my blog to friends.

The questions for acceptance of this award.  And my answers


Why do you blog? I blog because I like to write. I like to record my travels stories to be able to share them with friends . I originally started back in 2010 when I started to teach blogging at the school I was working in. I decided to start writing about my travel. I’d always kept a diary so this was a new,  more accessible form. Over the years friends started to ask if they could read my blog and it started to grow.

2. What’s been the scariest thing in your travels?   Fortunately there haven’t been too many scary things! Probably travelling on my own was a little scary. It really challenges you to open your eyes and your mind.

3. As a blogger, do you feel a sense of responsibility for blogging “how it is” ?  Yes, if people are reading my blog to get hints and suggestions about places and experiences then I have to tell it as it is. I’m not sponsored by anyone so I need to tell describe things accurately even though it is just my experience.

4. What was your favourite blog?  There are so many great blogs out there on every imaginable topic. For general I like Nikki Parkinson’s ‘Styling You’ – it’s very professional and sponsored. For travel I like Nomadic Matt. But really there are heaps of wonderful blogs. Just get online and Google.

5. If you had to describe yourself as an animal what would it be and why?  I had to think hard about this question! After my recent trip to Galapagos swimming with  all types of animals I think I’d choose a sea lion. They are sleek, fun, fast in the water. They like to play and be around people, they rest by  basking on rocks in the sun and swim and swim and swim. That’s me pretty much!

I will reveal my nomination for this award in the next blog. Keep reading……….




  • img_9711img_9683 img_9684 img_9686Our last stop is the seaside city of Valparaiso.

We decided to stay here in preference to another 2 nights in Santiago. We like the sea, we’d heard about the liveliness of the city and we thought it would provide a rest before the journey home. It’s been a busy time.

Unfortunately our luggage was lost between Cusco and Santiago airport. So our late arrival turned into an even later night. Luckily for us our booked driver Carlos waited and we finally got to Valparaiso at about 2am!

Needless  to say we washed the smalls!

Our hotel is beautiful and overlooks the big harbour.

We took to the streets in our only clothes and didn’t stop all day. It’s a vibrant, slightly grungy, dynamic, friendly and extremely colourful city.

Graffiti is everywhere. The city is well know for it.

I loved it.

we went on the trolley bus, the funicular, we walked  we took a walking tour and finally at 6pm we sat with a gorgeous view

Then dinner and a funny night which included me dancing in the street and singing at a bar with some Germans!

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Magical Machu Picchu

Travelling needs to flexible.

Our plan to rise before sunrise to be at Machu Picchu (old peak) was shelved. It rained all night and there was heavy fog so we pushed our leaving time back to 7.30.
Our guide Jo Ricardo from Chimu Adventures arrived promptly and was all smiles and full of sayings. ‘The early bird catches the worm’ ‘make haste while the sun shines’ ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket ‘. It was like he’d swallowed a book of proverbs.
A brisk walk to the bus station to a very short queue and we were at the main gate when Joe announced ‘no time like the present ‘ as we entered the gate.


Right from the start I was captivated by this amazing sight. We walked with Joe for 2 and a half hours as he brought the story of the Incas alive for us.


Joe resting while we take photos

The building of this city, how the Incas lived, how potatoes were as precious as gold, the invasion of the Spanish, the customs of living in such a remote place, and the discovery by Hiram Bingham. Hiram Bingham III was an American academic, explorer and politician. He made public the existence of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911.p1000628


The walk with Joe was the history part. He gave lots of information and took us to the most intact and important buildings on site. Then he left us to discover on our own.


Dressed ready for walking Including one walking stick to aid my poor knee


We were keen to go to the Sun Gate. This is the Top Gate which is the entry port for those intrepid walkers who have done the 3 night / 4 day walk up from Ollantantambo. People like our Rob and the Youngs’ and Baartz’. I have such admiration for them as it’s not an easy walk.

So Steve and I set off up hill for what we thought would be an hour walk. The path was rocky and shaded in part by vegetation and you needed to concentrate on your footing. We were passed by young groups of all nationalities. After about 35 mins of steady slow walking stopping for photos we thought we were only half way when we rounded the corner and there above us was the gate. It took about 40 mins. We actually got there before so the younger ones who tended to sit on the way up and have a break. We walked steadily!



Was it worth the climb. Yes, yes and yes. The cloud came and went and revealed, as if by magic, the ancient city of MP below. We sat in silence on a rock overlooking this magical place thinking. It’s a special place and as the Incas thought – close to God, if that is your belief. It’s certainly a spiritual place and apart from a few noisy people every now and then it’s quiet.

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We loved it. Coming down is a different walk. Going down is hard on knees but again we moved steadily. Stopping for photos of some men planting ground covers, and a posse of three spotted hens, we made it back to a shaded terrace overlooking the city of Machu Picchu. Quicker time.


The walk back from the Sun Gate


See the City of Machu Picchu behind Steve


The livestock on the track

A little more walking to the guard house.

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Some photos and by 2pm we cp1000712alled it a day.
We would love to have climbed to mountain next to MP – Huayna Picchu. Word was it is a hard climb quite treacherous at times because of its steepness and narrow track. But if you can climb and don’t suffer vertigo then go for it. We would love to have stayed another night and go up but ………
we were satisfied.

We sat at the cafe overlooking the old city and had a beer before returning back to the hotel for a shower and the train ride back to Ollantantambo and then car to Cusco.
A late dinner with our new swim buddy friend Bill , father of Swim Trek owner Simon Murie, from London. We were exhausted but happy.
In a separate post I’ll give some suggestions of ways to plan for a visit to Machu Picchu

Secret Valley Tour onto Machu Picchu. 

Pick up at 7.30am and a new guide with a name that sounded like Alora! He spoke with gusto and is a born story teller. He was raised in Ollantantambo so when we reached there he was in his element.

First stop, a llama and alpaca farm. Close up they are inquisitive faced messy haired creatures.

The drive towards the top of the valley is a sight. After so much rain it’s green and flat with crops growing toward the hills and mountains which are terraced, intact from Inca days. My how those Incas worked. Al told us that they all knew ‘no work no food’ so to the locals it was as important to grow potatoes than it was to have gold ‘ because you can’t eat gold’.


View of the Sacred Valley



First stop Pisac. We walked up hill and got a very good story from Al about how the Incas survived. Potatoes! We climbed to the top – the guard house where the view was magnificent.

Next stop the town and a rather good look at a jewellery shop with explanation of the design, materials and stones used.
As it was Valentines Day I was spoilt with a pair of silver and mother of pearl earrings.


Young man in the bakery in Pisac

Onto lunch at a hotel that was Monastery. A beautiful place in a very humble town. Mind you we could have stopped at any of the road side roast guinea pig stall to try the local delicacy.

We shared lunch with a couple from a NSW country town. Steve happens to know his brother!
Then it was onto Al’s home town of Ollantantambo. It’s charming.

p1000531He was so excited to tell us about the 200 steps we would walk to the temple, the faces that can be seen in the rock face, the point where the sun appears on summer solstice. He explained how clever the Incas were to be able to transfer rock to such high places, to cut it straight. To join it without mortar. Impressive.


p1000548By the time we climbed down it was onto our next adventure. Our train to Agua Caliente.

There are several trains going slowly up to Machu Picchu. The top shelf ride is the Hiram Bingham. It’s expensive. We had decided on the next class down. But I was so disappointed.
It was hot when we boarded. We weren’t seated together. I was on the aisle next to a big bear of a man and across from the toilet. Not a good place for a view. Steve was a row in front. On the aisle as well. He offered to swap but I stuck with my bad seat and after a while struck up conversation with Carl, a most interesting Austrian man. A retired naval architect. He’d lived a lot in South America and had with him 14 other Austrians. He was their tour leader.
We chatted most of the way. He was a font of knowledge and funny as well. So my bad seat turned into a good seat. Never can tell. Steve was quite jealous. No view though!

Our flash hotel had sent someone to meet us and carry our 5 kg bag to the hotel. We had a suite. Very nice. It’s a good 60 step climb to our room with its heated outdoor spa pool. I wanted to stay in the room for dinner but we were meeting Barry our swim trek friend, who had arrived in style on the Hiram Bingham train!

Our guide also met us and we made a plan for the morning. We are hoping for fine weather as it’s raining steadily tonight.

It was Valentines night so we made a lovely threesome in the dining room by candlelight, eating our 3 course included in the tariff meal.

Too excited about tomorrow to sleep. So listening to the rain and imagining.

Discovering Cusco

Do you feel energised  arriving in a new city? I do. The sense of discovery. Wanting to get straight out on the streets.

Cusco looks great. We changed and got out walking. Loved the road dividers


Then to dinner.
After a great dinner at Green  we gave up the city by night walk. It was drizzling, very cool and our colds were making us feel very ordinary so we went to bed in our lovely room. We’ve managed to avoid altitude sickness so far.

The next day we got up late, a luxury in our trip so far. The Hotel El Mercado is very comfortable and make the guest very welcome. Lots of choice for breakfast.

Then a walk through the streets to the markets. Interesting new new sights and sounds in this important Peruvian city.
The San Pedro markets are divided in category according to items. We bought Steve a warm jumper – not genuine alpaca according to its price! But it suits the moment- now ! It’s quite cool. Such a change to Galapagos.

The remainder of the morning we wandered and soaked up the sights and sounds. Steve’s favourite was the traffic policewoman and motorcycle police . Decked out in cream jodhpurs with knee high boots and leather straps at the top of the thigh securing a large gun. It’s a mystery how they get it out quickly!The road police stand in the corner of the Main Street waving arms and blowing whistles. The fluorescent green gloves on their hand reflect as they wave cars on.


Funny thing they all look like they could be sisters. Young, pony tails, gorgeous really, so with Steve happily watching I ran into a shop with beautiful alpaca jumpers

The window displays are very inviting. A rainbow display of coloured knitwear  and fabrics just waiting to be bought but with Brisbane having so little winter I’m going to resist!

The afternoon city tour included the main Cathedral, built in 1563, with Flora our entertaining guide who sweetly insisted on calling us ‘my friends and family’. She gave a good run down on the importance of Catholicism and some of the ways the religion is observed. She told us about the ‘ cinnamon Christ’ who was cinnamon coloured but is now black. There are many important festivals where statues, beautifully dressed in gorgeous coloured dresses embellished with scores of gemstones , are carried through the streets.


Illegal photo before i was told to put my camera away. so no silver altar car!

The solid silver altar to Mary was the ‘piece de resistance ‘. It has a port hole on top which houses a large vase of flowers and in Holy Week  the flowers are removed and a driver pops into the hole, the alter is raised and it becomes  6 tonnes of silver car to be driven through the streets. Classy!

Next stop was a monastery which had been home to an Inca temple.


Thankfully some wonderful examples of the stone work remains and you get an insight into just how amazing the Incas were at creating buildings. The precision of the shapes and the piecing together of the cut stone. Incredible. And the rest of the short tour will build the story until we get the climax, the main event the day after when we visit Machu Pinchu.
We left the town behind to visit 3 important sights. Each one different but all adding to the Inca story.
Saqsayhuaman ( “sexy woman” as Flora called it !) our first stop we saw great evidence of the building skills and also the effect altitude has in your climbing! Puffing heavily we made it up to the top and were rewarded with a view back over Cusco. Reassuringly everyone seemed to be puffing – even those years younger than us.  A walk down and across a large green flat area to the car park. We were farewelled by men, women and children all trying to sell up some bright and beautiful and possibly made in China. Can’t escape it!


Second stop Q’enqo for more examples of stone work and we walked through a labyrinth and went underground to see the stone altar.


Last stop at Puka Pukara had us walking up a steep hill to view the water temple.


All very impressive. And lots of walking. 

Back to Cusco and a quick turnaround as we were meeting Barry and Bill from Galapagos Swimtrek. Both are suffering the team cold but hoped they could make it to Limo restaurant.
Fortunately they did and we reminisced as we sipped a Pisco Sour before eating the local delicacy – alpaca. You can eat it and / or wear it – or pay to photograph it with women and children dressed in traditional costumes in the streets of Cusco. Alpacas are very much appreciated in this area!
After much chatting I gave Bill the last of my cold tablets – I’m over it!
And so to bed after packing for tomorrow’s trip to the Secret Valley. We have to leave most luggage behind as you can only take a 5kg bag on the train as we head to the township closest to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes – hot water).

Lost day in Guayaquil

We were the first to fly out of the swim trek group. An 8.10 flight to Guayaquil. I was feeling very unwell – my head cold had really taken hold and after the dinner last night I got very little sleep.

Oh well only a flight to Guayaquil a night there and an early start for Cusco.
We walked along the river front with lots of locals and watched various displays put on by the Army, Navy, Airforce recruiters.

Finally found somewhere for lunch – the Naval Sailing Club. Very old fashioned but it was fine.

Then the heat got to us and we returned to the Palace, our hotel, after which I headed out to the pharmacy and mimed my sore throats and congested nose. They sell drugs by the tablet. I was given 6 tablets and 8 lozenges. Hope I’m better by the time I’ve finished them!

Dozed and read and worked on my blog. Good downtime. I think we would have enjoyed Quito better. Some of the Swim Trekkers headed there on their way to Cusco or back home.

So a bowl of the local potato and corn soup for dinner – great for a cold.

Then to bed ready for an early wake up call for a 6 am taxi to the airport.
We flew via Lima and arrived in Cusco around 2.30.

I sat next to the loveliest 9 year girl called Johanna. At least I think that’s what she said. We were amused when she blessed herself on take-off at there mother’s prompting. We mimed lots, as my Spanish is awful and her English non existent. I did try Italian but that just confused her.

We were met at the airport by Yannick, a German, the representative of Chimu South American travel.

First impressions of Cusco. 


A mix of colours. Both on the people – their colours can be so colourful and in their window displays.

Balconies on the buildings with flowers like in Germany! Or Spain.

Cobbled and paved streets.

Lots of restaurants. And hostels and young people.

I was a little worried about altitude sickness but we drank the cocoa tea, avoided alcohol ( no hardship as I’m full of a cold) and had a small meal at Green Organics. It’s a fabulous little restaurant and I’d love to return.

So no effect on the first night.

We took things slowly as we have been so busy all last week.

Tomorrow a sleep, in then a city tour with Chimu Tours.

Can’t wait to explore

Guest Blog

Today I’m including a guest blog from my new friend and swimming buddy, the whip smart, very funny Alex/ Lexie Harrison-Cripps.

It descibes her day after we all left and describes to alternate boats trips.

Here it is. Thanks Lexie

Hi Everyone,

San Cristóbal is fantastic. I travelled over on a luxury yacht where they supplied endless gin and tonics and mantas hung out on the edges ready to provide shade if you needed it. They have trained the sea lions here to assist you in any way you need, so they act as taxis, waiters and even sun loungers (which isn’t that pleasant as the sea lions smell a bit). There are so many land iguanas here they are having to cull them and have a big BBQ. I was also surprised to learn that they censor the news so nothing about Trump can get to this Island. The bag checks consist of any literature or podcasts that may contain such references. Fortunately they took my sun burn line from my swimming hat as a sign of a recent lobotomy to delete all such knowledge.*

*alternative version: boat was the same as ours to Isabella except twice the amount of people, giving it the feeling of refugees escaping an island, and being the last one on meant that I tested out my English skin in the sun for 2 hours. I adopted Steve’s method of hiding under my Turkish towel and using my baseball cap to keep it in place -it was a strong look. Highlights of the trip were watching the rays do flips next to our boat. It seems similar here to the other Islands although a lot more sea lions. I went for a swim today but definitely felt lost without my (far more) adventurous swim buddy. I even had to buy my own ice cream afterwards!!!

I haven’t heard to call of the Galapagos Step-hen yet, but I shall listen out for ‘Frannnnneeeeee’ just to check if they exist here on this island too.

Andrew, I hope that you are feeling better. That foot will surely need to heal before getting near any of the hygiene hazards that present in our London pools.

Lexie. Xx

Thanks Lexie for the laugh! Loved meeting you on Swim Trek. Had dinner with Bill tonight. How come you had the key and poor Mumma Betty had to sleep on the couch! Bill said he wasn’t pleased you didn’t swim on the last morning!

Final Swim. A cracker. 

All good things come to an end. Well I guess that’s true as SwimTrek finishes today.

Would it be the sensational last day we hope for?
You betcha!
Everyone was very chatty on the walk to the port. Last day brings an extra energy even though some have picked up coughs and colds!

Into the water taxi and off to our two waiting boats for the day.

Luck put me on Nicko’s boat. Even though it has less shade, it is more business class style of travel (not that the other boat was bad – perhaps not quite the same level of service!) I had been told by Joe and Lexie that Nicko provided rolled towels, boxed tea selections, iced lemon water, a set table for lunch and a pristine ship-shape cabin. I did not quite believe it until it happened.


Nico’s boat. note the tea pot, the tea box and the little table all set up

We motored for about 45 mins to a new island, Isola Santa Fe. Into the water and once again gorgeous swimming weather. I needn’t have worried about needing a wet suit. It would have been perfect in just swimmers, or cozzie or bathers or togs. Whatever you call them! I used my wet shirt / rash vest against the rather brutal sun.

Along we went stopping more frequently than usual to look at fish, turtles and assorted sea life just to make the day last longer. In the end we got to a small island which we could circle and circle until they dragged us out of the water.

Morning tea and then we motored along to a protected bay where we did some more snorkelling and played with the super friendly sea lions. I’m not exaggerating when I say they come up to you and roll, wanting you to imitate them. They blow bubbles at you. They practically nudge you to get you going! So much fun.

Lunch on Nicko’s boat was great. Places were set up when we climbed back on board. I’m becoming an expert at getting back on the boat! Being stronger helps.
Our boat had grilled tuna on his little bbq with a lovely side of rice and veggies. Followed by chocolate and tea. The other boat had mixed cerviche and fruit. We are definitely being spoilt. Our “girl guides” Marlys and Kelly would normally have to have shopped and pre prepared our lunch as is done on other swim treks! They are enjoying the change as well.

Nico in the water telling us about the sea life.

To finish the trek we found another beautiful section of coastline and swam, all groups together, for about 2 km – we didn’t want it to finish.

And it didn’t! We pulled into no-name beach and were allowed ashore. It had sand and before long the group were doing yoga – started off by Canadian Mr Fresh, Barry, then continued with a few different poses by Roly, before the finale of Lexi and Roly doing handstands.
Lots of laughs and clapping. Back on the boat for our trip back to Porto. Nico chatted to us about his life in Galapagos, his political views, and Lynn our American journalist took a few notes. She is going to be writing a commissioned article about this first Galapagos Swim Trek. It will appear in a Swimmers World magazine in America. Can’t wait to read it.
Final night on Swim Trek is always a a buoyant fun night, tinged with sadness. It’s over. Something we all looked forward to for months is finished.
Lots of laughs from a group of not just fellow swimmers but friends. Lots of exchanging of emails,  instigated by Lynn, our funny determined journalist from America. She and her sister Lynn, who had only had a knee replacement a few months ago,  were both so much fun and wouldn’t give in. Wonderful gals.

We felt for Andrew who had cut his foot and it had become infected. So no final swim for him. No party night. Good luck Andrew. Lexi is going to continue the party on San Cristobel. She is the ‘whip smart ‘ youngest member of our group and we’re starting to think she should move from law to stand up comedy. I will feature her description of her first day without us all! Watch this blog. Bill and Barry ( Mr Fresh ) are in Cusco when we are,  so more party time with them. Yah! Patricia folded and missed party night  with ‘the shared  cold’. And she was one of our strongest swimmers. Rebecca our funny, never say die, pinky swimmer and yoga Roly and wife Yvette ( she didn’t swim but was part of the group each night). Joe , how can I safely swim without you looking out for sharks? Miss you all.

We had the usual end of week awards. Mine was for being “the group minder” I guess the one who looked out for people both in and out of the water. I thought I could have shared that with pocket rocket Betty , my ‘wing woman’ who was such a fun caring women. But she won the ‘pyjama party girl’
Steve got ‘ Ice cream ‘ award. He managed to polish off several serves each time it was offered. He also was commended on his determined swimming and life saving skills. Joe got his for being our ‘shark spotter’

We all plan to stay in touch and I’m sure over the months and years we will catch up again.

So farewell swimmers,  my new friends. It was fun.

Thanks to our great ” girl guides” Marlys and Kelly and to Simon , the head of Swim Trek who joined the trip ( with his dad Bill) as it was a first.

Now to start the next part of the journey. Cusco here we come.

Day 5 Tintoreras

This morning it was hot as we headed to Tintoreras, a bay made up of lava channels and home to assorted wildlife. Predominantly the iguana.
The water here is yet another shade of blue. More a beautiful emerald colour.

We got off the boat and walked along the rough path, lead by Fernando. We saw the iguana nests and even managed to see some of them digging. The small beach onto the cove was like an iguana highway. Fernando gave us lots of information about iguanas and we once again were pleased Swim Trek had included him  on the trip.
We spent maybe an hour all up and by then it was HOT. We were all wanting to swim.
So back to the boat and off to a good spot outside the little harbour of Isola Isabela to start our swim.

We saw a little penguin sitting in companionable silence with a blue footed boogie bird and wondered if the water was going to be cooler.

No it wasn’t but it was divine. In and away. Today we followed Carlos on his kayak and made our way into the beach in front of our hotel.
What a way to finish the visit to Isola Isabela.

A quick shower and lunch, ( the lunches here at Casa de Marita are great) then onto the boat I’m now thinking of as the torture boat. It was hot and I was sitting mostly in the sun with no breeze. Two hours! By the end of it I was feeling slightly heat exhausted. Not like me at all.

So our arrival at the Port of Ayora was a blessing.
A very cold shower and things improved after a cool beer. Love a beer in this hot weather.
There was a festival happening in the port. A few floats and lots of music. Party atmosphere.

 Dinner at eat street before heading to bed. Eat Street is about two streets away from Posada del Mar and is made up of little restaurants with tables running down the middle of the road. Great in this weather and the food is inexpensive and good. I had octopus and salad. And rice. Everything here comes with rice. And Plantains –  a local food. They come mostly fried, like chips.
I think I feel a cold coming on. A number of us are coughing! Last swim tomorrow!

We’ll be sad to leave this beautiful place.

Day 4 Isola Isabela

Tortuga is the remains of a collapsed volcano. It’s shaped like a horse shoe.

The water was delicious. Perfect temperature. Nice little current and plenty to see along the way – both above and below the water. Frigate birds, sea lions, masses of fish, and of course marine iguanas. And of course Joe our shark spotter saw several sharks. I saw one and funnily it seems alright here because they are so well fed they aren’t interested in humans.

We set a good pace with Betty and myself finding a steady rhythm. After a few days you find someone who matches your style of swimming- not to mention speed!

the pineapple suit gets a workout! The yellow cap is not the most attractive and its so tight!

We swam for an hour and half or more and covered about 4km – including a crossing to another island (which had a distinct aroma of sea animals!). At the time I didn’t realise the shape of Tortuga but it’s a unique swim.
Back on the boat we motored along for at least 45 mins to Los Tuneles, which is a network of lava tunnels which have been eroded over time and now form archways which you can swim under.

We really would liked to have swum in the series of pools near the tunnels but the National Park is very strict about the area and recently closed the pools.

So we walked onto the lava which was rocky and home to many cactus and iguanas.

Back on the boat and a very late 3 pm lunch at our hotel. Unlike other swim treks we can’t land anywhere to eat lunch. It has to be back at the hotel or on the boat.
Then it was a walk through the small village of Porta Villamil to the Flamingo sanctuary. They are so beautiful. And the song Pretty Flamingo keeps echoing through my head.
By then we were well and truly exhausted and stayed at our hotel for a group dinner. A few didn’t quite make the dinner. Tiredness is setting in.
Beautiful Betty from the U.S. is sharing with Lexie, her swimtrek buddy over a few treks and tonight decided to stay in to be ‘mother’ to a heat exhausted Lexie. Thinking we’d headed off to the village, she came over to the outdoor bar in her Pyjamas. Very nice they were too. She carried it off so well!

The group is bonding.
Tomorrow another big day.