Week of 3 July

We’ve been to Russia visiting Moscow and St Petersburg this week!  We had a great trip organised by the Russian Tourist Board with just one blip – we arrived in Moscow and our driver wasn’t there to take us onward.  Luckily the couple standing with us in the hour long customs throng were also staying at our hotel – The Best Western Vega – but on a different tour!  So we shared their taxi!  How lucky were we!

It was hot and sultry when we arrived but the Russian weather then became un-seasonally wet and chilly….We saw all the key sites  of Moscow by coach and had walking and metro tours.  The latter is very easy to use actually and artistically fascinating.  I  enjoyed walking in Red Square, the Impressionist collection in the Puskin Museum and I enjoyed sheltering from the rain listening to the high standard of licensed buskers in one of the underpasses. The rain was torrential at one point, so inside the Kremlin we were very glad to get into its cathedrals and armoury with its magnificent collection of valuables which were even more interesting knowing it was torrential rain outside!  There are no drains so the pavements are just running rivers.  Never been so wet!

We took the Sapsan (”high speed”) train to St Petersburg and in the day light we saw the endless forests and waste land punctuated by hamlets of woodern houses of varying levels of dilapidation.  Some hamlets had great mobile masts but not all had street lights nor tarmacked roads.  Even in the sunlight the stations we glided through belonged to towns that looked grim. But then we got to St Petersburg.  We came out of the station and thought we had arrived in Paris!  The BA check-in lady said to us ‘are you going to see the White Nights? – pop group? armoured horsemen? No, she meant the long daylight hours.  And yes we saw the sun still shining at 10pm in St P.

St P looks and feels European.  There are endless roads of beautiful buildings of the early 18th century built by French and Italians for Peter the Great.  The canals add to the attractiveness of the place.  It is magnificent.  The sights are stunning.  In our free time, we walked lots and soaked (different context this time) the place up returning back to our hotel, the Demetra Art Hotel, some 10 hours later….

Included were tours of the Winter Palace and Summer Palace (1 hour drive away)  which if you are familiar with them are sumptuously decorated and not to be missed. We chose to go to the Faberge museum.  Also, we did a canal cruise and we queued to see inside the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood – another amazing interior.  Nearly saw spilled blood in the throng trying to buy tickets to go in…

So to food,  we ate at a range of places.  The hotel buffet in Moscow, a canteen restaurant inside a supermarket with the locals, at a window in a wall where the locals order hot dog which came with a really, really nice cup of coffee – the best I’d had for ages actually. In St P we ate in local family run kebab restaurants, in a Russian Italian chain restaurant and snacked at open air snackeries trying cheese bread (bread with cheese inside) and potato pie (bread with potato inside).  However, there were few opportunities to eat cake.  In the Moscow hotel buffet they served little squares of traybakes for desert.  In the supermarkets there were more biscuits than cake on offer.  But I did spot this selection of special cakes in a supermarket (left) and at breakfast in St P we could choose a little traybake or even scrumptious macarons…. heaven……

    

Week of 5 June

This week started on the Isle of Wight! Julia and I wanted to see Osborne House and grounds – Queen Victoria’s estate.

We spent a few hours there exploring, reviving ourselves with tea in the garden, (no, the lady behind has not collapsed…..) before heading to our hotel, the devine Albert Cottage Hotel which was once a royal residence.  We supped on delicious blanc-de-blanc and dined on fine food, walking it off along the prom at Cowes the following day until the wind was too much and we turned tail.  We visited Whippingham and Victoria’s finely decorated church and can recommend the Folly Inn too, situated on the River there.  The rain arrived as predicted as we drove up to the Brading Roman Villa and we dived in doors to look at the well preserved mosaic flooring and enjoyed the homemade cake and scones!

I’m posting this from Sandbanks Hotel as the last couple of days have been spent in Dorset.  It is a strong on-shore wind and the grey sky has kept the tourists off the beach…I spent the last 2 nights with Sue in her new holiday home at Burton Bradstock, a sleepy town near the coast at Hive Beach where the National Trust have a wonderful café.  Another windy spot….We explored Bridport and in West Bay we identified key Broadchurch (the ITV drama) locations; we stopped there for tea and Dorset Apple Cake at Sladers Yard an interesting art gallery, returning to West Bay to have  dinner at the infamous fish restaurant – Riverside.

             

The second day we spent in Abbotsbury at the 600 year old swannery (more Dorset Apple Cake) and the tropical gardens.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable and we whiled away a few hours at both. On the way to Sandbanks I stopped off at Monkey World to see the orang-utans – just incase I don’t get to Borneo….One of the babes was so cute and spent a lot of time doing roly pollies on the grass but then I noticed some juveniles using rolling techniques to descend from the top of their structure.  I took it to be an innate movement…

This week I got my hair analysis results from Freddie the White Witch detailing my food allergies and the food types my body craves.  What was interesting was the hair she requested from the back of my head above my neck was new growth this year, (it fell out from there if you recall) yet the results revealed I should eat more fruit, peppers and live yoghurt (which I have been this year but I didn’t historically).  Umm.  The foods to avoid were all additives and preservatives (found in processed foods I would have eaten once) plus white bread and rice which I’ve not eaten for ages…..Off to eat some yoghurt and fruit…..

Week of 22 May

Jeremy and I went to Corsica and Sardinia this week.  It was fab, fab, fab!  We started in Sardinia having flown into Olbia, an attractive town, where we stayed for 3 nights.  One day we travelled out to the beautiful Costa Smeralda, a beautiful coastline with hidden coves of turquoise water.  We stopped at costal tourist towns with marinas, designer shops, cafes and bars.  We ventured further another day to Alghero, a picturesque fishing port with its cobbled narrow streets again full of bars, cafes and this time coral shops. Here in the north of Sardinia, the arid landscape is untamed and sparsely inhabited made up of granite outcrops and wild grasses.  Some vines, olive groves and animals were spotted though.  The supermarkets had a great choice of breads, meats and cheeses predominately locally produced.  (No cake got consumed here in Sardinia but we did enjoy the Italian gelato…..)

Then we crossed a sparkling royal blue Med Sea to Bonifacio, Corsica with its Haute Ville perched on the cliffs.  After exploring we went on further to the capital Ajaccio where we stayed for 4 nights. This island appears greener as trees grow on the granite outcrops giving it a more lush and less arid look.   As we travelled it seemed more inhabited yet we still saw deserted beaches and inviting coves of turquoise sea.   No cake got consumed here either but on a half board basis we didn’t go hungry……

It was a lovely week and so nice to combine both Islands which are very similar geographically and historically but have differences to each other and to their respective motherlands…

My Decision

We saw Mr Cecil today for the results of the quarterly CT scan which shows that the cancer is stable – no growth.  Great News!  I told him that I have chosen not to have surgery.  I am feeling so well and 2 operations over a few months with around 6 months recovery will set me back big time – physically and mentally.  The laparoscopy gave me a taster of that. The operations won’t remove all the cancer cells and cure me though it is good to know there is still an opportunity for surgery in the future.  So we will review the situation in 3 months time after the next CT scan.  In the meantime I will continue with the complementary therapies and I will be telling you more once my oxygen concentrator and masticating juicer arrive……

Home Again

So very nice to be back home!  Thanks for your good wishes. I had a 10 hour wait which was very unfortunate as it meant I had arrived at hospital 7am having fasted.  But at 9.30 I was permitted a slice of toast and coffee. However,  by 4pm when the registrar and anaesthetist came to see me in my little room I was famished, weepy and wobbly.  Jeremy wasn’t permitted to stay so I had been on my own.  TV, radio and a book hadn’t helped calm my mind.  Mr Cecil did only the laparoscopy in the end – he decided he wouldn’t be able to remove the ovaries and all the cancerous tissue surrounding them.  The major surgery (earmarked for end May) would do that.  But on a positive he had a good look around – I was ‘out’ for 2.5 hours!  He found nothing that would prevent his team doing major surgery.  Naturally I’m rather sore and not venturing very far….

Week of 27 March

Shirley and I went to Milan and Lake Como for  short break this week.  We had lovely weather as you’ll see from the photos.  I was looking forward to seeing Leonardo’s Last Supper, on our walking tour, as it was on my bucket list!  I wasn’t disappointed.  Whilst there we sampled everything typically Italian: prosecco, prosecco and prosecco.  Only joking! The surprise was the salty and custard filled croissants not together, I add!  We visited the beautiful Lake Como on two days by train tearing ourselves away back to Milan each evening after visiting Varenna, Bellagio, Como Town, Moltrasio and my favourite Brunate (high above Como).Yes I’ve updated my favourite places. Our cake eating was very restrained.  We noticed Italian’s are into little pastries – just mouth size like these two here.  (But they are big on ice cream!) Just before we left Milan on the train we had a coffee and pastry in a cafe we enjoyed eating at on a previous evening: The Cat Café (direct translation) or Bar Gatto – much more romantic sounding. It’s near Loreta metro station and our hotel Adi Doria Grand which was perfectly placed for the central railway station and attractions including Milan’s canals which are worth a visit on a Saturday.

I would like to go back and take Jeremy and stay at the Bellavista in Brunate – the food, view and staff were fab!

        

Week of 20 March

Jeremy and I went to Paris this week.  I wanted to see the Mona Lisa. We joined the stampede to see her when the Louvre opened but when we went back to her room about 3 hours later – well you couldn’t get near her for a selfie!  It was pretty airless in there.  No wonder she is behind glass!  Everyone said to me ”she’s very small” so I was surprised how much bigger she was than I expected:)  We recovered with a café crème and a gander at some beautiful patisserie in the Louvre café. That day we walked through the Tuileries, up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and bussed it back to Saint Chappelle and Notre Dame. We spent another morning at the Musee D’Orsay to see their collection of Impressionist paintings and walked beside the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower and bussed it to Montmartre and back. We stayed at the fab Hotel Louison and had a upgrade to a Prestige room (ooh you say).  It was very classy.  We ate our way though all things considered French: croissants, bagettes, crepes, mussels, snails, onion soup, steak au poivre,  tarte tatin, and gateaux.  Speaking of which, we went up the Montparnasse Tower to the cafe with the best view in Paris and shared a delicate chocolate patisserie. It is said that the view from the top is the most beautiful in Paris, because it is the only place from which the tower cannot be seen!!

Mum and I went to a rather under supported Cancer Research coffee morning but ate some very nice salted caramel cake.  I bought a chocolate cake with white choc buttons on and took it to Jacky’s craft class later that day where we all scoffed some and tried to avoid crumbs getting on the lovely greeting cards we made. That’s Jeremy’s slice below……..

Off to Milan next week.

Hot News

We saw Mr Cecil this morning.  In short, he will do a laparoscopy on 11 April.  The MRI scan done 3 days ago shows MORE shrinkage.  Oooh interesting! The last chemo treatment was 30 December!  Does that mean the new diet, supplements, reiki, yoga, meditation, visualisation and exercise is paying off?  And of course the chocolate cake?  The down side is that the extra detail obtained from the MRI scan shows cancer cells within tissue in the pelvis area that cannot be removed with surgery.  So, more decisions to make in the coming weeks.

Breaking News…

We saw Mr Cecil, the King of the Bowels at Basingstoke, one of two centres of excellence for the nether regions.  A lovely, lovely man. He is pleased with my shrinkage and can suggest some pick and mix  options which I need to consider.  One end of the range is major surgery (in hospital 2/3 weeks and  2 months recovery) followed possibly by minor surgery (depends if a temporary stoma was attached) then followed by chemo through to the other end (of the range that is) which is do nothing but monitor with quarterly scans.  He can also offer  a laparoscopy followed by the major surgery, or chemo or nothing.  Plenty to think about but of course he cannot guarantee that doing any of these will cure me.  You may understand why I had lie down when I got home………

2017

So on January 1st, I had the 48 hour pump removed and the PICC line taken out.  My last chemo session was on my birthday (30th December)!  I always like to do something different on my birthday!

wp_20161230_001Anyway we took chocolate cake (Tesco’s) into the unit to share with the other patients and staff. It will certainly be a memorable 55th birthday!

 

Cheers!  This is the start of a new chapter.  I purchased a bottle of champagne from the cellars at Waddesdon Manor on a visit last year, just for this day……

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