Tag Archives: travel

Killing Me Softly

blood red (mrscarmichael)

Mr Carmichael and I are recently returned from a trip to Mexico – the Pacific side. Los Cabos. Well, not exactly Los Cabos. Our 5, or was that 6 star spa resort was half was between Cabo St Lucas and Los Cabos on a very fast road. Actually, all the roads we travelled in Mexico were very fast roads due mainly to the fact that all our drivers drove very fast. And, when I say fast, I mean muy fast. Muy fast indeed. Gracias a Dios that Mr Carmichael was not at the wheel of any motor vehicle in Mexico. We had been informed that driving was not part of the plan and I, for one or two because I do speak for Mr Carmichael at almost all times, was/were very happy to go along with any plan that included no Carmichael driving.

Another part of the plan, we were told, was that we were to have a very good time, on the company, because this was an achievers’ club, a presidents’ club, a club for people who had done all their numbers (and more) in the year previous. Mr Carmichael is good at doing his numbers. This is something I love about Mr Carmichael.

Mr C and I have a history, joint and several, of achievers’ clubs. We have been lucky over mumble years to have done our numbers, been counted as company success stories and jetted to continents various. There has been much back slapping, cheek kissing, prize winning, alcohol drinking, laughter and bonding on beaches, in Far Eastern capitals, olive groves, the Coliseum and …….. with Micky Mouse. Good times.

Or not so good. But, arguably, amusing in hindsight. Although #metoo could have had one hell of a field day with some of my experiences. It was the 80’s and I did come out unscathed. Sorta. Harvey, where were you when I needed your help?

Examples, comprehensive but not complete, follow below.

In and out of years and foreign hotels, yours truly has been chased around a suite in Sydney (salesman heading home from Manila but not yet arrived at his wife); been forced to share my super superking bed with a salesman whose roommate was sharing his bed with someone he’d spent a bit of money on and got more, under the sheets, than he bargained for (that was in Bangkok and the clue, as they say, is in the name) and been pushed up against at fire exit stairwell wall (classy) by an over-amorous and obviously polyamorous salesman from Down Under who, when rebuffed, sashayed back to Melbourne and told everyone in the office that I’d come onto him but his marriage vows were sacrosanct. I wonder how that marriage is going.

Mrs C, before she was blissfully married, had to alternatively, beg and drag a previous live -in- lover, multiple times, off An Wang, founder and CEO of Wang Industries, on a dinner/dance boat circling Alcatraz because he ( the l-i-l) wanted to sell her boss’s, boss’s, boss’s, boss’s boss shares. My colleagues cheered and guffawed at my expense as the self centred, self-serving l-i-l went in for a fifth try with Mr Wang up at the prow of the vessel. Perhaps my dislike of cruising stems from that night. I must speak, with alacrity, to my psychiatrist.

I am certain that my husband has similar stories (not too similar I hope) but they are his to tell. Suffice it to say we are, us two, veteran achievers’ trip travellers and up for anything.

Never, however, has ‘anything’ included being sent to the murder capital of the world!

It’s true. Mr Carmichael has done his due diligence and discovered why so many people were telling us to travel jewellery naked, hire no cars and stay as much as possible within the confines of our be-butlered sanctuary. This would go a long way to ensuring that the ‘have a very good time’ plan panned out.

most sancturyesque (mrscarmichael)

I had booked myself a day trip to Todos Santos. On the hotel. It’s one of their perks. But a friend who was, wasn’t, was, wasn’t coming, came. I flagged the trip and chose, instead a gaggle of sun loungers, to the right of this picture of paradise, where B……., G…….., I and husbands various stayed slumped for four days.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. And surely it was safer?

The flow included my sunhat and bag getting the 5, or was that 6, star treatment. I’m certain Heidi Klein would approve.

waiting to be worn in style (mrscarmichael)

I flowed to the hair salon to be coiffed. It was included in the 5, or was that 6 star, package. I managed to kept my hair dry and elegant for the remainder of the event. Keeping my hair dry and elegant is something I have perfected over the mumble years and am a pretty good hand at it today. Bandana in the beauty salon where yours truly had a comprehensive rub down and oil up courtesy of the resort (how good is this?) and by not going in the ocean. Not going in the ocean was mandated by the 5 or was that 6 star spa and resort and impressed upon us also by Mr C’s employer who wanted to ensure we all stayed happy, having a muy good time and, as a minimum, alive. Entering the Sea of Cortez by our hotel would, we were told, kill us. Watching the churning, dragging, high waved water from our breakfast table ensured compliance by all. Safety first our new motto. And my hair stayed perfecto #winwin.

Feeling drugged by leisurely happiness B……., G…….and I needed little more than the free flowing free food and extremely free flowing free alcohol that our daytime butlers provided for us. Oh and the sunshine and warmth Mexico turned on. We relaxed into a hedonistic and safely sybaritic existence. Enhanced by tequila.

it’s another tequila sunrise (mr carmichael)

We dined on the beach. It was low tide.

spotlit at sunset (mrscarmichael)

The boys played golf (brave souls) and, as a group, we did venture out (jewellery naked) on the last night to Flora’s Farm for supper. Negotiating the taxi down from an ambitious $900.00 to, a reasonable in the context of every else being free, $160 for the six of us, another win.

In hindsight, I think we could have bejewelled ourselves. Judging by the cost of the wine and the cowboy hats in the onsite shop, we were not in (that kind of) bandit territory. And the place was wonderful. I must say.

But returning to murder. “Where is it?” you ask. The danger, discomfort and near death experience. I’ve brought you to this point under flagrantly false pretence. Are you cross with me?

Next year’s achievers’ trip is to be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’m channelling William Faulkner already.

Lasting Friendship: a Recipe

friendship recipe (pixaboy)


Four women of a certain age

Thirty years of history

One defunct computer company

Bouquet of Facebook

Large measure, sense of humour

One converted barn

One, small and very warm, Mini

One free weekend in August

Wine (add as required)

Desire to press -on -through (as much as necessary)



Take four women of a certain age who all, thirty years previously, worked in London for the same company.  

Having just arrived on the shore of Blighty, Mrs Carmichael reneged on her vow to never, never, never work in the computer industry again and joined a computer company that promised to pay her more than others she interviewed with and was, more importantly, based in the pulsing heart of London’s red light district – Soho and just behind Liberty of London (her favourite shop).

Here she met many sales colleagues who liked a laugh, a drink, another drink and a bit of commission. She also met a secretary, K……, a customer support rep, D…… and an in-house trainer, L…… They also liked a laugh, a drink, another drink and a good lunch and/or dinner out.

Infuse Facebook friendship with copious slugs of ‘liking’ each others’ life events.

K……, D……, L…… and yours truly all moved on to other companies, lives, marriages, more marriage (not speaking for myself here) and for some, yet more marriage. We all joined Facebook. We became ‘friends’ on Facebook. We admired the children and, dare I say, grandchildren? (not speaking for myself here  – that’s the beauty of birthing late). We congratulated new ventures and commiserated over sadnesses, illnesses, accidents and stupidities.

Allow to marinate for three or four years.

Three/fours years on Facebook easily equates to the 25/30 years that, in reality, most of us had not seen each other. K…… and I have holidayed together a soupçon of times (some of which you’ve devoured, dear reader, and enjoyed both Barcelona and Marrakech through our hazed/glazed eyes). The other thimbleful is for another time and another post. Or not!

Combine and bring to the boil.

One of us suggested a get-together. We all agreed. It wasn’t the first time suggested or the first time agreed but with the incorporation of time and aeration it seemed that this time, the venture might just have wings.

Transfer to converted barn.

converted barn (mrscarmichael)

L….., now a sales training mogul, invited us to her casa, just shy of Cambridge (but NOT in the Fens).

Sprinkle with a free weekend in August.

We scoured our diaries, calendars, and fading minds coming up with the weekend just gone. We were all free, willing and somewhat unnaturally keen.

Garnish with a liberal desire to press-on-through.

I do like a private Facebook group, don’t you? It gives me the opportunity to be secretive, top up photos as and when I choose and to keep any designated flock under control and ON TRACK. We called our group Soho Slummers. Don’t ask. In my back catalogue I found an evocative pic of K……in a Soho ‘shop’ sporting a long blonde wig. Just perfect for the cover photo.

Everything was going so well.

That is until, L…… had a pacemaker fitted, D……’s sciatica got no better but maybe a touch worse, K…… broke her right foot at work and I fell down a rabbit hole in Orford and nuked my left foot. That too, is another story. Suffice it to say I did not come out of the tumble as well as Lewis Carroll’s Alice but, thanks be to God, a helluva lot better than K…… #smallmercies.

Top up with more pressing-on-through and a side of black humour.

We agreed the adventure would continue as planned.

Add one small, bright blue manual, non-air-conditioned Mini. NOTE: this ingredient is optional. There are both trains and MUCH bigger, better, more comfortable cars but this is the original recipe and so, for veracity’s sake, I have included.

This is how three of the four (plus k……’s boot) come to be squashed, on one of the hottest weekends of the summer, in Mrs C’s dog walking Mini on our way to a GOOD TIME in Cambridgeshire (but not in the Fens). Yours Truly, the only one uninjured enough to contemplate doing the drive.

It was very hot (windows up), very noisy and windy (windows down) and very, very cramped. K….. (and her boot) were pressed into the passenger seat dashboard. D……, spreadeagled in the back had more room to move around but not much due to the amount of luggage women of a certain age pack for ONE night away.

A generous dash of UNOPENED wine.

Oh and the coupla dozen bottles of vino did not help the space or windows down/noise scenario either.

 Pour continuous glugs of vino verde (and a bit of aperol, prosecco and red wine for seasoning purposes).

We did not stop laughing. We laughed at the barn, at the pub, back at the barn, still at the barn, at another pub and …..back at the barn. We drank quite a bit as well. We surprised/shocked each other. We found a weekend mantra (didn’t we K…..?). We ate like queens and had a really, really good afternoon, evening and night.

The next morning L…..drove us to Cambridge to punt. Punt we did. We took good photos:

This is a good photo of Kings College (mrscarmichael)

and very bad photos:

not my breasts (mrscarmichael)

And boy, did we laugh.

We re-establised a friendship that is so much more precious now than in those heady days of our twenties.

Did I mention that our twenty four hours near Cambridge (but not the Fens) was filled with laughter? Well, dear reader, it was. And still, I can’t stop smiling.

We’ve agreed to do it again. I really hope we do.

Make a toast.

A toast to lasting friendship. Cheers, chin chin and bottoms up.

Entranced by Essaouira: Jour the First

mrscarmichael of arabia (mrscarmichael)
mrscarmichael of arabia (mrscarmichael)

Emboldened by our mastering of Marrakesh twenty months ago, Gracie and I did little preparation or forward planning for our five day, September break in coastal Essaouria, save booking flights and paying a £1.00 deposit on a hotel just outside the medina.

Our get-away was planned on a day in July – cold, wet, dark and horrible. You know, a normal English summer. An infusion of blue sky was not just needed it was a true medical necessity. Four nights beside the Sahara would, we decided, do us a treat and go some ways to getting us through to mid-winter sunshine breaks – yours truly to Sri Lanka with the Carmichael clan, Gracie to god-knows-where yet but believe me, she’s working on it as I type.

Our in depth lack of preparation meant that as we queued for Moroccan immigration, we found the need to fill some gaps and were forced to quiz multiple travellers about the local currency:

What was it called? Dirham.

What was the easy conversion rule to/from British sterling? There wasn’t one.

Where in the airport could we get some? Nowhere.

How were things going so far? Great! The sunshine beating on our backs t’wixt plane and terminal just the tonic we needed.

And anyway, our charming taxi driver told us via limited French and a cornucopia of hand signals that lack of funds was no problem. He would take us to a cashpoint machine on the way to our hotel. Really, he seemed more interested in getting us to admire his antique blue Mercedes the like of which I have not encountered since a visit to a Waikato farm circa 1965. That Merc was being used as a coop for roosting hens. It had slightly fewer dents than our transport to town.

While Gracie admired a tree full of goats and text her hubby to say ‘safely arrived’, I battled with my iPhone relic, failing miserably to get Vodafone to link me with Africa. Three hours of connection on Wednesday was, I now realise, my full allowance (I am not worthy) but even that and very intermittent wifi at the hotel did little/nothing to spoil our adventure. In fact it was rather liberating, truth be told.

Room 101

There is a British television programme called Room 101 where celebrities are invited by the host to discard people, places and things they dislike and/or that annoy them. They are banished to room 101 as long as the celeb can provide adequate argument as to why said person, object or locale deserves this ignominious end. We were handed two keys to room 101! Who sent us there? Actually who cares? We thank you.

Although the irony was not lost on us I can think of worse places to be abandoned. Let me tell you a bit about Essaouira.

Essaouira (def:planned) used to be called Mogador but was changed when European engineers laid out the medina in such a way as to allow one to not get lost while walking through the souk. Getting horribly lost in a souk is quite fun once (see previous posts) but on a daily basis can be wearisome. Marrakesch, Fez, Cassablanca are three of numerous metropolises in Morocco where you can enjoy getting lost. Essaouira offers you the option. I like that. Gracie and I almost didn’t get lost ever. And whenever we did, we found something so pretty, so yummy, so interesting that the tiny getting lost was more than worth it.

Here’s a beach bag I wouldn’t have bought if we hadn’t gone off piste.

off piste purchase (mescarmichael)
off piste purchase (mescarmichael)

I rest my case.

Essaouira is a working fishing port on the Atlantic. The small blue boats above catch the big fish and are all painted blue because the last thing a fisherman wants to do is be showy and rile the sea gods. The big, nay huge boats catch the little sardines. It’s true I promise. A nice sardine catcher offered to show me round his boat. I thought it better not to go. Although I love sardines it is a truth that one can have too much of a good thing. Up front and personal with a hold of sardines and their catcher just might have been too much good.

Safely back from the port, we swam, showered and changed into evening medina attire. We headed out for food. And wine.

Wine, the food of life, is always an interesting obsession in a ‘dry’ country. Being experts (remember Marrakesh?) we didn’t give it a second thought. We should have. And we should have on future outings as well. It’s that old preparation thing again. Or lack thereof.

Anyway, night the first, we were lead by the boss of a lantern seller round numerous twisty alleyways and at fast pace to a lovely looking riad that had a sea facing roof terrace, nice menu and most affable hosts. They, the hosts, met, greeted and ushered us to the lift (trans: elevator). Said lift was tiny. Possibly the tiniest lift I have ever been in with other people. It’s proportions were Lilliputian but nil desperandum, Gracie and I were on our way up to view, food and a glass or two of vino.

“We are really looking forward to some fish and a lovely bottle of Moroccan wine,” mumbled Gracie, bouche pressed into the light blue collar of mine host.

“Mmmm,” said I to her shoulder.

The lift ground up another floor.

“We don’t serve wine,” said she of the collar and proceeded to tell us about the fresh fish on offer as we crawled up a further floor or two. As if nothing was amiss.

Gracie cast half a right eye on me. I glared a quarter of a left at her. We could see no more of each other in the capsule-like enclosure. The doors opened, the terrace looked beautiful, a waiter gestured us to our table.

I gave Gracie the full ‘you do it’ look.

“Ahh, we were really wanting wine, “said she. “We’re very sorry.’

“Would you like the table over there?” asked the riad owner.

“We’re so sorry,”we said in tandem.

“We won’t be staying.”

And we all piled into the open door of the micro – lift and crept back down to reception.

“Sorry, so sorry, sorry” we effused backing out the entrance as fast as we could.

Lordy, did we need a glass of wine!

hooray (mrscarmicahel)
hooray (mrscarmicahel)

Tits and Knickers, Canary style

Parking on market day in Teguise is surprisingly easy we agreed as I hurtled the Fiat Panda into just one of the hundred or so vacant spaces in the centre of this Lanzarotian town, in the centre of Lanzarote on our March time trip to the Canary Isles.

“And there was me thinking this was the touristic market,” I gushed, flushed with the success of, not only surpurlative navigation skills but also staying on the correct side of the road the whole way up to the white walled, green shuttered pueblo.

“It does seem very empty,” Gracie commented. “You’d think that would be the epicentre of any market, wouldn’t you?” She waved at an empty square and an even emptier marquee, its plastic doors flapping in the not inconsequential breeze that Teguise is famed for.

“I told you the last time I came here it was like a wild west town, complete with tumbleweed infested streets,” said I.

“But that wasn’t market day, was it?” a backseat driver inquired rhetorically.

And of course, dear readers nor was this. Mrs Carmichael had dragged the Lunching Ladies of Lanza on a wild ‘bargain’ chase. The island’s biggest and oldest out-door market is held on a Sunday morning. This being Saturday, we were a good twenty hours early. Still, there was plenty of parking.

just me and the sixteen others (mrscarmichael)
just me and the twenty others (mrscarmichael)

And, as it turned out, plenty of ‘bargains’ to purchase.

But first we consoled ourselves with brunch.

tortilla heaven (mrscarmichael)
tortilla heaven (mrscarmichael)

And then, along with the other seventeen people in town that day, we hit the shops. Mis tres amigas acquired a lot of jewellery. I mean a lot, a lot.

I bought this………..

ever so slightly more garish in the flesh (mrscarmichael)
ever so slightly more garish in the flesh (mrscarmichael)

“Why?” you ask.

I am the first to agree that the question is a reasonable one. And the answer.

I don’t know.

but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I did meet the woman who crocheted it. That makes it better I think. And it suits me. Well, in a dark room with a following wind. It suits me better than it suits my friends. I guess, on reflection that could and probably does say more about me……………and not in a good way.

A wee while later I bought this………

make mine a cactus cocktail, por favor (mrscarmichael)
make mine a cactus cocktail, por favor (mrscarmichael)

“Why?” you ask.

It is in many ways an even more reasonable question. More so when you know that it cost more and I have worn it even less than the yellow crochet hat. I wore the hat for the rest of our time in Teguise because I thought I was funny. Hmmmmm. Photos don’t lie unfortunately. Thirty one of Yours Truly sporting this fashion forward item of clothing have gone into the virtual bin. It’s for the best.

Or should I say breast?

Breast might indeed be best because I was still wearing my sunny hat when I avoided arrest by wink and a nippy burst of speed an hour or so later.

Bored ever so slightly with the conspicuous consumption of baubles by the only three people I knew in Teguise, I had plonked myself down at a café to await empty- wallet- time when my eye was drawn by two mannequin contemporaries of mine in a distressing state. It was that good ‘ol Teguise breeze you see.

oh no (mrscarmichael)
oh no (mrscarmichael)

Her friend was similarly exposed.

tits ahoy (mrscarmichael)
tits ahoy (mrscarmichael)

I jumped up and and attempted to cover their modesty. My café owner, coming out for a not so swift fag, caught me with both hands on a bosom and made the ludicrous assumption that Mrs C was stripping the gals for her own pleasure and an x- rated photo opportunity.

Shouting he rushed at me. I dodged his parry and, fleet of foot vanished into, you guessed it, a jewellery shop.

My friends, looking up from their jewel buying for a nanosecond, found it hilarious. Thank heaven the mannequins’ manager realised I was more good samaritan than sex pest and called off the one man Spanish Armada. Phew.

“I’m putting a white wash on,” I announced on return to Villa Vida later that afternoon. The girls brought me their whites and we collapsed by the pool to discuss nonexistent markets, excessive jewellery consumption, lucky escapes and clean clothes. All discussion complemented by a well deserved vino blanco. Or two.

“Huston, we have a problem,” I was forced to concede on attempting to allocate lavender scented linen and lingerie to four piles a wee while later.

Gracie it transpires, has the same taste in bras and knickers as YT and apparently we had both stocked up well for our holiday. The bras were easy (she has no tits), the seven pairs of identical XXS knickers not so. Thank goodness we’ve been amigas for mumble, mumble, mumble years. What’s a bit of polyester – sharing between old friends?

We met, last Friday, in Soho for a catch-up. As tour guide, I booked the themed venue – tapas of course and set the rules of attendance.

All purchases made in Lanzarote must be worn.

I thought it amusing at the time. Gracie and K…… were there sporting identical volcanic orange pendants and rings on most fingers. L…… apparently hasn’t taken off the silver ring she had fitted in the breast shop. And I, M’lud? I ‘forgot’ the self imposed rubrics and arrived looking great.

Do Not Underestimate the Power of Sunshine on the Soul

The rays of unadulterated sunniness beating down upon Casa Carmichael this day (stronger, bluer, clearer, cleaner than predicted) force my thoughts back to Lanzarote and the Lunching Ladies’ trip, March- time. There too we expected to be met by pockets of cloud and a ‘now you see me now you don’t’ yellow globe in the Atlantic sky.

nary a white interference (mrscarmichael)

“if this is partially cloudy,” we purred, “It’s time to move to Spain.”

This view of Montana Roja from our villa in Playa Blanca at the foot of Lanzarote is sublime. It encapsulates all that this volcanic island is and the violent beauty it parades for a tourist’s delectation. How I wish the inside of our villa lived up to the same majestic standard.

Thankfully, Gracie was a little out of sorts on this our first day in Life Villa and thus K…… and Yours Truly could leave the lengthy itemising of transgressions, faults, flaws and downright disappointments that our accommodation presented, to our friend. She went to work with both an alacrity and intensity missing from her persona prior to arrival at the house.

Having been the finder, booker, interacter and haggler with mine hosts it would be more than fair to say that whilst I was pleased Villa Vida actually existed and we had ingress (always a risk even if ever so slight in using Owners’ Direct) I felt a tad responsible for the drab and I bowed, just a mite, under the barrage of complaint.

Thank god the sun shone.

We drew straws for the bedrooms. Those of you who have followed my ‘girls on the hoof’ series will know that recently Mrs C’s luck has been out in the allocation of bed and or boudoir. No change to report I am afraid. I popped my suitcase on one of my two micro-beds and practiced my fakey, snaky smile.

The winning of the West Wing, complete with uber-king sized bed, ensuite bathroom, changing room and direct access to the pool did little to improve Gracie’s mood and went no way in counterbalancing the missing plunger in the coffee percolator.

We set her onto the landlord. Fangs bared through smiling bouche, Gracie effected a meeting for the morrow and a replacement cafetiere to be rushed to Villa Vida with armed escort imediatement.

The sun shone.

We went shopping for food and wine. The food and wine on Lanzarote is very cheap in comparison to London. Gracie’s mood began to improve. We bought a lot of vino blanco and some rosé for good measure. Bread, cheese, olives, salami, tomatoes, crisps, water, coffee (in anticipation of a working coffee maker) more cheese and a couple of backup bottles of wine. At four euros a pop, it would have been churlish not to, you must agree.

The sun still shone as we repaired to the villa and settled in for a very late lunch.

Lunch was particularly late due to the fact that, idiots that we are, a hire car booking had been made with Ryan Air at the time of cheap flight confirmation. Fools. My advice, for what it’s worth, is if you’re going to Lanzarote do not book your hire car with Ryan Air. Here are a couple reasons why:

It will not be as cheap as you think it is.

We got done for the extra driver. Others in the hundred deep queue appeared to get done for quite a load more. The was shouting, weeping and some rather threatening language. Oh and a little bit of over the desk lunging as well. K……., our newest holiday recruit, felt the need to step away from the front line of battle and check out the sunshine beyond the terminal walls leaving hardened campaign veterans, Gracie and myself to fight the good fight and wait our turn to collect the Fiat Panda.

Collection will not be a speedy as you hope it to be.

With every single passenger from every single Ryan Air flight in this one queue it will take time to get your hire car. Every other car rental desk will be empty but you will have already paid in full so must wait your turn. Ha – you think you have paid in full. I promise you will not have (see above). The crying man in front of us seemed to be fund- less. Fundlessness takes time. A great deal of time.

Your car will be way more dented than the itemised dent/scrape list presented to you.

You need to take more time to have it re-calibrated or it will cost you more than you think. Our flight took three and a half hours of not too bad Ryan Air timeliness and service. Getting the hire car took almost two.

Need I say more?

But, the sun was still shining as we sat down to a late lunch on our patio with a view to die for.

“You know how we said we’d get L……, from the airport tomorrow?” I asked Gracie as we ploughed into our second bottle of Spanish wine.

Our fourth wheel was joining us Thursday through Monday.

“Mmmmm,” Gracie grunted while wrenching the cork from a third bottle.

“Why don’t we ask if she’d get a taxi instead? There’s something utterly unappealing about that airport. And look at the sunshine we’d be missing.”

Gracie sent a text informing her of the new plan.

Bikinied up, we prepared to enjoy the last few moments of Canarian sunshine while anticipating a sun bathe to die for in the morn now that airport run duties no longer stood in our way.

some of my favourite colours viewed from a prone position (mrscarmichael)
some of my favourite colours viewed from a prone position (mrscarmichael)

“Do you want to swap bedrooms?” I asked Gracie from my sun lounger.

There was no reply from mi amiga, too busy was she collating and binding the pages of villa defects for presentation to Steve, our landlord, in the morning. For his sake I hoped he got a good night’s sleep.

There’s Something About Lanzarote

And it’s not just the price of wine. Although it behoves me to say that, having drunk twice my bodyweight of white, red, rosé and a wee slurp of Hendricks for good measure (the quinine in the accompanying Schweppes tonic protected me against mozzie bites, M’Lud) the price of wine in Lanzarote is very, very acceptable. As is the wine. And the gin.

oh go on then (mrscarmichael)
oh go on then (mrscarmichael)

Ooh and the honey flavoured stickies that I, just for a moment, forgot about.

even nicer in a balloon glass with loads of ice (mrscarmichael)
even nicer in a balloon glass with loads of ice (mrscarmichael)

No, it’s not about the alcohol.

It’s about the weather. It’s about the warmth, the sunshine, the sea, the sand.

sun, sea, sand…..where's the sangria? (mrscarmichael)
sun, sea, sand…..where’s the sangria? (mrscarmichael)

And it’s something is about the landscape. Oh my, the landscape! Lanzarote’s landscape is amazing.

The something is also about César Manrique. What a man. What an architect. My hero.

There’s something about an island that in its entirety is is a world heritage site and biosphere reserve. Maybe it’s the 300 volcanoes that do it. Or the fossilised lava flows, into which houses are built. Maybe it’s the historic towns of Teguise and Haría, pure in white, green shutters, with crosses, from another world or at least another time.

cruz street (mrscarmichael)
cruz street (mrscarmichael)

Lanzarote, a Canary Island just off the coast of Africa and only three and a half hour’s flight away from Casa Carmichael, sometimes gets a bad, ‘kiss-me-quick’ rap and I’m sure, if we’d looked harder mis amigas y yo might have found the grotty in Lanzarote but we didn’t and therefore we didn’t. We got what we, the tapas lunching ladies, deserved on our week long, anti SAD, winter break away.

That isn’t to say it was all plain sailing. When is it ever for Mrs Carmichael?

Part Dos to follow.

Oh Hey, BA

Good news first. The Carmichaels are in residence here:

from Frey to faraway (mrscarmichael)
from Frey to faraway (mrscarmichael)

And from another perspective:

from faraway to Albert Frey (mrscarmichael)
from faraway to Albert Frey (mrscarmichael)

Oh Lordy, I’m in heaven. Now. The getting to God’s pasture wasn’t pretty.

Stage the first

British Airways has a new fleet of planes. Don’t ask me the model. They are shorter and stumpier than 747’s and have two stories. The leg room is good and the pillow headrest most acceptable also.

Most importantly, the plane got us to LAX safely. In the end that is all one wants from an airline. Are we agreed? Ten out of ten for that biggy, BA. Tick,vg.

The niceties of transit were, however sorely lacking.

The lavatories

The lack of loos in our compartment, interesting. One toilet to service 100 plus passengers, more than interesting. To get to conveniences at the back requires a shuffle through the galley. And we all know how much flight attendants enjoy our company in the galley, don’t we? Ah me.

The comestibles

Hmmmm. My recommendation – don’t board this flight hungry. And yes, we are talking steerage here.

“There are an exact number of sandwich boxes,” H………, my stewardess informed me when I requested Mr Carmichael’s and my own miniature chicken caesar sandwich (thick crusts still attached). “You have to chose the chicken caesar or the vegetarian. You can’t have both.” Implication – you greedy pig.

Double hmmmm – and if I can chose surely there must be an excess of something. Apparently not.

“What’s that?” a just woken passenger asked of the selfsame H……. as she thrust the minuscule, crust laden sandwich box in his face.

“Food,” she replied loudly and with rough vigour. Oh and ever so slightly rudely too.

The flight attendants

Hmmmmmmm mmm m. Obviously, I cannot speak for the other sectioned seating but if I told you that, unrecovered from from my sandwich slighting and faint with hunger, I was forced to glean the following while strapped in for landing………..

H……… was very tired. No, seriously, really really tired.

Yes, yours truly prefers that it be H……. and not the pilot who needs to catch up on her Zeds but still. Isn’t she supposed to take charge in an emergency? Surely she should be our rock, our guiding light on landing. Not our night light.

H’s Tiffany ring cost £210.00

Interesting? Not really. She and her bench colleague tried each others rings on a multitude of times.

H…….. was engaged but broke the engagement off two days before the wedding. But they’re still friends. And no, he is not married. Implication – he’s not over her.

This was quite a lengthy story and took up most of the above LA holding pattern.

H……… didn’t think she’d like B….. (another stewardess on our flight) but actually she had turned out to be ok (as far as H……. was concerned anyway). As has D……., actually.

Thank goodness for that. I would hate to think there was no one to party with at the hotel.

L is gay but R…… turns out to be straight. This is a surprise to H…….. because she assumes all her male colleagues are gay.

Too simple, H………. Life is never that straightforward.

H…….. has been driven to smoking by her job. 

Nice to know that a) flying really is scary or b) we, her clients really are obnoxious or c) H…… really needs to smoke to stay awake or d) all three.

At this point my intelligence gathering was cut short by noises off. In the parallel aisle a makeup be-slathered BA crew member was shouting at a hapless guest as he rushed to the single toilet, a desperate look blighting his phizog.

I am pleased to report that he ignored her.

We, unfortunately could not because she still had plenty to yell across our heads about him to anyone listening down the far end of the cabin. After some gesticulation and much eye raising she ceased her rant and cross checked the doors.

interlude (mrscarmichael)
interlude (mrscarmichael)

Sorry, just had to put this image of nature’s glory in to calm myself down.

Stage the second

This bit will come as no surprise to LAites, I fear. Our projected journey of two hours, give or take, to Palm Springs took more like four, yes four, in stop/start traffic. Horror. I was as tired as H……. or perhaps even a little bit more than H……., if that were possible. Thinking about it, while we were stuck on the I10 dodging pot holes, H….. was probably having a pre nap fag.

At least we were in this behemoth:

hello big boy (mrscarmichael)
hello big boy (mrscarmichael)

But we’re here now:

you are my sunshine (mrscarmichael)
you are my sunshine (mrscarmichael)

And life’s just swell.






Palm Springs Encore

It’s that time of the year again, oh yes, oh yes. And oh yes, yes, yes!  And while the way less fortunate are saying, adios, sayonara and bon nuit to the heady days of summer, we the Carmichaels are hitching our wagon to British Airways and taking up residence in modernist desert heaven. I’m talking Palm Springs, Baby!

It cannot come not a day too soon.

Here is the forecast. I cannot tell you how much I love you little yellow ball. Yes, it’s ever so slightly hotter than last year. But the desert is meant to be heated and dry and fiery, isn’t it? So, with adaptable now my middle name, I just won’t pack my jeans, my jumper or my umbrella. My sad face shall stay at home.

It’s going to be bikini-a-go-go at this pool.

hello heaven (mrscarmichael)
hello heaven (mrscarmichael)

And Negroni’s at dusk (“Make mine a Mojito,” says Mr C).

voila et voila (mrscarmichael)
voila et voila (mrscarmichael)

There will be much modernism

'fill her up' (mrscarmichael)
‘fill her up’ (mrscarmichael)

plenty of perambulation

without the packs (mrscarmichael)
without the packs (mrscarmichael)

hairdo’s, hijinks and hilarity

I want that wig (mrscarmichael0
I want that wig (mrscarmichael)

With Casa Carmichael’s caretaker in situ and puppy Lyle packed for his holidays (wee tear) we are on the runway.

I’m channeling Rat Pack mol.

that's me on the right
that’s me on the right (columbia.com)


Jersey, Merci

I had never been to Jersey until last weekend. Friends, R…… and L…… have just moved back to the isle of their childhoods and Mr C and I thought it a brilliant idea to carpe le weekend and go somewhere new and not too far away.

We arrived just behind the pantechnicon containing one thousand plus boxes. Actually it was slightly more complicated than that. Because of the narrow, unforgiving, stone sided roads, the furniture removal truck had to remain in St Helier and the gang, van the boxes to our friends in a convoy of white. There were a lot of boxes. Both opened and unopened all over the house. Thankfully it’s a very big house.

We arrived just behind the 789th van deposit. I think R……. was quite pleased to see us as it gave him the perfect excuse to stop unpacking boxes. L……, like most women, was much more dedicated to the task and I believe, because of l……, the thousand boxes will all be opened and contents assigned quarters in a relatively short space of time. If it were left to R……., I have my doubts.

We flew in at lunchtime so out for lunch we went.

I considered joining the surf school (mrscarmichael)
view from our table (mrscarmichael)

I considered going the surf school but opted for

oh so yum (mrscarmichael)
oh so yum (mrscarmichael)

calamari, chorizo, beans and rocket salad with garlic mayonaise. Oh, and a nice big glass of rosé.

Then we went for a drive. Jersey is only 45 miles square. You would think it were much bigger if you, like me, were in the backseat of a Volvo going at speed, breaking at speed, cornering at speed and attempting to cover each and every mile of the isle before pre-prandials.

Before I got really car sick we saw a lot of beauty.

After a wee nana nap (to settle my stomach and prepare it for the evening) we went out for a slap -up meal. I remember very little about the food. I believe it was good. It seems I might have drunk my body weight in rosé at the restaurant. In my defence, it slipped down very easily. Although I did manage to force another down back at the ranch, it would be fair to say that I slept like a baby. An unconscious baby.

I woke feeling a tad seedy but two slices of toast and a strong black coffee sorted that out. Once I woke from my 9.30am nap I managed to make it to a sun lounger (another strong black in hand) and have a well deserved sleep while L……. unpacked more boxes. She is a machine.

I must tell you that L…… is also a Michelin starred chef. At least she has been referred to as such, so great are her skills in the kitchen. Unfortunately, her kitchen was brown- boxed- in last weekend. R…… rounded us up and all four headed to Marks and Spencer for lunch. Mr C insisted I come to ensure he didn’t horlicks up his choice of sandwich for yours truly. L…… came because her husband refuses to pay M and S for the carrier bags so many hands were needed to carry our carb laden repast back to the Volvo. I ate way too much and, bolstered by another mug of caffeine and an indigestion tablet, I dressed for an afternoon on the high seas.

Have any of you see the movie, Captain Ron? Made in the early 90’s it stars Kurt Russell and Martin Short and if you’re in a silly mood and want to watch a silly movie, this is a goody.

laugh out loud with a cult following (crusingoutpost.com)
laugh out loud with a cult following (crusingoutpost.com)

R…… is learning to captain/sail/drive a rather powerful motorboat. He’s mastered the going fast in a straight line in open water. He does that very well. Anchoring and mooring are proving ever so slightly more problematic. There are aspects of Captain Ron’s character that I see reflected in our friend R…… I was thus relieved to learn that, in ensuring the well being and longevity of all on board, he’d invited N…, his best bud, along for the ride. N… is good at anchoring and mooring and as such an asset to our afternoon’s adventuring.

We headed to St Brelade’s for a spot of swimming.

our boat did not look like this (mrscarmichael)
our boat did not look like this. This is way more Swallows and Amazons (mrscarmichael)

We anchored twice and began to bob around. I began to feel ever so slightly queasy. The queasiness got worse. Then it stepped up a gear. My mouth got all watery – usually a vomit precursor. By sitting high up, in the centre of the boat, looking with a fixed eye towards land and not talking to anyone I managed to hold my chicken caesar wrap down. I could not swim. The thought of changing in a confined and bobbing cabin brought tears to my eyes and more saliva to ma bouche.

We then drove/sailed to deeper water and fished for mackerel. This involved more bobbing so I couldn’t fish – having to keep my eye on land and sit atop the motorboat but Mr Carmichael gave it a go. He has fished once before when he was starving in Greece but is not sure if he used a hook or just bread and, unsurprisingly, caught nothing.

Saturday was very different.

“I think I’ve got the line caught on the bottom,” he says and with R…….’s help reels in a fish.

R…… catches a fish. And another.

Line cast again, Mr C is now a fisherman. “I’ve got another,” he shouts but he was wrong.

He had five! All tangled together on his now, and forever, unusable line.

R…… unhooked/cut them all off narrowly avoiding a tumble into the Atlantic.

I wish I could show you the photos. They are hilarious but, in the efforts of anonymity and without a pixalator, the amusement must remain on Mrs C’s camera. You will just have to use your imaginations.

We sailed/drove back to the marina.

At this point Captain Ron came to the fore and N… came into his own. Well, he would have if he hadn’t jumped off the boat prematurely. I think he was under the impression that because R……. had driven our craft full throttle into the berth he was planning to leave it there and ropes would need to be tied.

R…… had other ideas and within moments we were reversing rather quickly towards the behemoth moored behind us.

Because Mr Carmichael’s only job was to offer words of support and nothing else, I could actually enjoy the next thirty minutes or so of in/out manoeuvring, swearing, long distance exchanges between Captain Ron and land lubbered, N… and a few very close shaves.

We parked and had a rosé to celebrate and wait for other boaty people on their boats to stop laughing.

That evening, as a starter, we bbq’d the mackerel at the beach and watched the waves crash against the sea wall.

waves crashing onto sea wall (mrscarmichael)
waves crashing onto sea wall (mrscarmichael)

Mr Carmichael’s catch was delicious.

fish bliss (mrscarmichael)
fish bliss (mrscarmichael)

We had some rosé and and went for Italian. L……., my husband and I ordered seafood pizza. R…… doesn’t like fish so steered well clear. Sensible R…….

There are words that one never thinks they will concatenate into a single sentence. ‘Pizza bisque’ is a perfect example. Bisque as a soup – fantastic. A pasta sauce – perfect. A topping for a pizza -hmmmmm. So shocked was I, I neglected to take a photo. Again, please use your imagination. Think brown, think runny, think as far away from any pizza you have ever seen and you’re almost there.

“It says bisque on the menu,” our waitress informed us when I mentioned the utter oddness of my dinner.

We asked for a menu, believing that three of us could not have missed the warning. It said rein about the bisqueness of our chosen meal. Quel surprise!

L…….., she of the ‘michelin star’, took over from me and spent the good next while in the kitchen with manager and chef reinventing their menu. I drank rosé and waited to hear how she got on.

“Don’t think that’ll be appearing again,” she said and quaffed a well deserved mouthful of pink wine.

Mr C and I flew home in the arms of Hurricane Bertha, our little prop plane circling Stanstead in a left sloping holding pattern just long enough to make me airsick.

oh my god (mrscarmichael)
oh my god (mrscarmichael)

And so, to summarise:

A trifecta of motion sickness and then there was the rosé.

Fresh fish caught my Mr C, my pecheur d’island husband.

Beaches, beaches, sea, sea, sea and stunning hydrangeas.

Great company.

It’s Thursday and I have almost recovered.

Post Me to Puglia, Please

across the rooftops, sunset and a glass of vino (mrscarmichael)
across the rooftops, sunset and a glass of vino (mrscarmichael)

I have fallen for Puglia. Big time. Perhaps because most people don’t even know where it is, perhaps because of its lushness, perhaps its food, perhaps its people. I want to go back  – soon, this summer, tomorrow.

Puglia, FYI, is the heel of Italy. It’s not easy to get to but harder to leave. Puglia is also the garden of Italy with olives as its key product. The people of Puglia say their region has three seas: the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and the olive sea. I like that and they’re not wrong.

olive trees as far as you can see (mrscarmichael)
olive trees as far as you can see (mrscarmichael)

There are sixty million olive trees in Puglia, one for every Italian, and I think I saw at least a million of them. Some are a thousand years old! I love olives. I love olive oil. I love Puglia.

We were there because Mr Carmichael did a very good job at his job in 2013 and this was his reward. I got to tag along. I’m a good tagger-alonger, always up for an opportunity to accompany almost anybody.

Dropped in the most exquisite Borgo Egnazian accommodation we were fed, watered, wined and entertained for five days. I got to make pasta and more importantly got to eat it too.

Oh yes! (mrscarmichael)
Oh yes! (mrscarmichael)

I am now on a diet. Well, I will be on Monday once I’ve cooked and eaten all the pasta I brought home. I discovered that not all Chardonnay is ghastly. Pulian Chardonnay is fantastico. I made sure I drank lots of it and took photos of the labels for restocking purposes.

Grazie, Signore (mrscarmichael)
Grazie, Signore (mrscarmichael)

Obviously I tried the rose and the reds as well. It would have been churlish not to.

lunchtime tipple (mrscarmichael)
lunchtime tipple (mrscarmichael)

I had this with the rose.

straight from the Adriatic (mrscarmichael)
straight from the Adriatic (mrscarmichael)

And this just before a wobbly bike ride back to the hotel and a well deserved nap.

some drinks should stay in the bottle (mrscarmichael)
some things are best left in the bottle (mrscarmichael)

I visited Ostuni (a fortified white town with a Baroque cathedral) where I seem to have taken 37 photos of doors.

5/37 (mrscarmichael)
5/37 (mrscarmichael)

17/37 (mrscarmichael)
17/37 (mrscarmichael)

36/37 (mrscarmichael)
36/37 (mrscarmichael)

Somebody stop me!

In Ostuni, I devoured my second gelato in two days (arrrgh). The café had a bordelloish quality to its decoration, which I appreciated (almost as much as the ice cream).

peel me a grape (mrscarmichael)
peel me a grape (mrscarmichael)

And then we moved here for our last night. British Airways doesn’t think anyone wants to fly to/from Puglia on a Sunday and for that I thank them.

trulli, madly, deeply (mrscarmichael)
trulli, madly, deeply (mrscarmichael)

Here, Teo opened the restaurant at lunch time just for us (even though it wasn’t May yet) and we slept under blankets crocheted by an 85 year old woman with extreamly nimble fingers.

available for sale (mrscarmichael)
blankets available for sale (mrscarmichael)

The Masseria Ceravolo is a gem and a heartfelt recommendation for when you are no longer on the company buck.

I love Puglia and shall return sooner rather than later. Grazie mille, Puglia.