Tinsel and Turkey

Debbie and I had never even heard of “Tinsel and Turkey” short breaks until our friends from the cruise earlier in the year, George and Thelma, invited us to join them on a festive break in Weymouth.

Little did we know what to expect but we booked for three nights from Friday 25th to Monday 28th November through Gibbons coach holidays.

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Friday 25th November “Christmas Eve”

The day started at 7.45am when we got up without waking James and Hamish, got Molly her breakfast and put her in her crate and drove in the Freelander up over the Blorenge Stumble to Blaina avoiding the Heads of the Valleys road due to the unpredictable construction & commuter traffic.

We arrived at George & Thelma’s house around 8.30am only to find our companion’s suitcase standing in their parking space.  As I parked up we saw them looking worried coming down from the house in the freezing cold which seemed way too early as we’d been told it was booked for 9.40am!

It transpired that Thelma had thought it was 8.40am so after a bit of relieved banter, I put their luggage into the Freelander next to ours and fixed our Gibbons luggage tag to our suitcase, before we all went back up to their house to warm up.

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A cup of tea later I went down and got all our luggage out onto the road and waited for the taxi which arrived bang on time to take us the short distance down to Blaina workmens club, where the feeder mini-bus arrived almost as soon as we did at the scheduled time of 9.50am.  The driver was really friendly as Deb and I sat at the front and he took us on a journey of about 20 minutes down the valley to a lay by where the coach was to pick us up for the journey down to Weymouth.

Nothing was too much effort, our luggage was transferred for us and we settled into our reserved seats ready for the 4 hour trip down to to the Jurassic coast.  This included a 15 minute comfort break at a service station in Wales and a more leisurely hour at another in England for lunch.  Although you could buy drinks on the bus very cheaply we elected to get a shared Costa coffee at the latter while enjoying the rolls, flan, tomatoes etc. we’d brought with us back on the coach.

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Our first coach selfie
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Gibbons coach holidays – highly recommended – a very comfortable modern bus!
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A slightly concerned George & Thelma finally en route to Weymouth!

On arrival mid afternoon the hotel manageress came on the coach and briefed us on the schedule each day which was breakfast at 8.30am, evening meal at 6pm.

At the end of each meal it was also explained that you ordered your choices for the next meal and that the bar downstairs opened at 5.30pm then following dinner there would be a quiz, with bingo at 8pm and the night’s entertainment on at 9pm.

Saturday was to be a free day with Sunday having an optional coach trip to Poole.  Monday morning our return home was to start slightly earlier with us leaving our luggage outside our rooms by 7.30am, breakfast at 8am and departure at 9am!

Apparently Friday was to be our Christmas Eve, Saturday Christmas Day with a present for all from Santa with the evening meal of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange as it happened. Sunday was scheduled to be New Year’s Eve closing with us all singing Auld Lang Syne and a fancy dress competition!

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Room 109 overlooking the seafront, George & Thelma were to our left in room 110 and we watched two windsurfers one with a wind kite riding the waves too & fro outside the hotel

We were all very pleased with our rooms, the radiators were so hot in ours we switched them off and the sea views were well worth the extra we’d paid.  Debbie and I decided to stretch our legs before dinner and well wrapped up against the cold and wind we walked into the old town shopping area passing on the way the distinctive clock tower we remembered from our last visit of nearly 20 years ago.

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Queen Victoria clocktower selfie

We also passed a World War Two war memorial commemorating the sacrifice of many America soldiers killed on and just before and just after D-Day in 1944 and the friendship established with the Royal Navy personnel supporting them.  Dad would have been very proud and of course very sad at the same time.

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After a brief shop in M&S for some snacks and wine for later in our room, we had our first waitress served three course dinner of the holiday.  It was delicious and served hot, from memory I had mushroom soup followed by pork, gravy, veg main and ice cream pudding washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio secured from the bar for £14!

After a quiz on animals and 2 games of bingo we settled down for the evening’s entertainment and a very good singer who used to play drums in a band but had gone solo. He turned out to be very good and of course my dear wife tried to persuade me to join her in being first to dance but alas I hadn’t consumed quite enough of the old “el vino” and so she got Thelma up instead!

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I wish I could remember the chaps name but he was very good.

Eventually, with most of the coach party going in the dancing, myself included we headed off to bed for a well deserved first night’s sleep.

Saturday 26th November “Christmas Day”

This was our free day so Debbie & I walked back into town to see where we could go out to lunch later with George & Thelma.  This time we went past the shops as far as the harbour and inner marina where loads of pubs, restaurants and souvenir shops were open.  On the way we passed even more War Memorials such as the ones below remembering the Anzacs and the other family remembrances laid by private individuals.

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RNLI lifeboat in background

After buying a Father Christmas snow globe for our house & finding the local taxi firm Bee Cars office where I took one of their cards for later, Debbie and I decided to have a drink in the Old Rooms Inn.  Finding the ambiance and prices to our liking, but knowing it was too far away for George to walk, we decided to book a taxi back to the hotel to pick them both up pick up and return for lunch together.

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Taxi was driven by a South African driver who had been a shooting victim of a “car jacking” back home. He told us he likes the Christmas Day swim across the harbour as it’s safer!
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I had 35 day aged rib eye steak that was a bit chewy…don’t know why Debbie is putting her tongue out at me though…

Later we took another taxi back to the hotel and I had a short nap, readying myself for the evening activities.

Christmas dinner was a salmon flan starter, followed by turkey, pigs in blanket, mash, veg & gravy, finished with Christmas pud and custard, delicious!

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Later the quiz this time was on TV programs and then we had our usual bingo challenge.  With lucky number 24 being called Thelma won the full-house prize of £40!  Very generously she shared her winnings and we celebrated with yet more Pinot Grigio, but nothing was to prepare ourselves for the Allen Howard show on next who amazingly seems to be quite popular in the Weymouth area…

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“Playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order”

Things didn’t start too auspiciously when he came on stage looking really nervous & I was convinced he was wearing a wig!  Some of the audience muttered they weren’t sure if he wasn’t a woman, but all agreed his voice was flat and he often forgot his words once he started.  It reminded me of a television program Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer used to host called Shooting Stars where teams have to guess what song is being sung in “club style”.  Hilarious!  🙂

His repertoire thank goodness included Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks, Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus which were the only two songs anyone got up to dance a bunny hop to the whole night!  The rest were so bad it was actually funny, he murdered all my dad’s favourite songs from Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” to Jim Reeves “Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone“.  His rendition of the Elvis masterpiece “Treat Me Nice” brought me to tears of laughter and Debbie was speechless as were the rest of the Welsh audience with his Tom Jones “Green Green Grass of Home“…

We had found ourselves sat next to “General Montgomery” lookalike, aka Roy and his wife Lil, both aged 89 and from Bargoed.  He was really funny all weekend and made jokes about me being English and ex Intelligence Corps.

His comment about the Sun newspaper was “I wouldn’t even wrap my fish & chips in that” while holding his copy of the Daily Mirror which he called “a working man’s paper”. It reminded me that he’d served in the army in 1945 aged 17 and spent the rest of his working life as a coal miner down the pit.  A very smart couple and good company throughout.

One rather oversized chap near us got stuck in his wooden chair as he got up with his bum firmly fixed into the arms, which he was eventually pulled out of although alas it broke apart.  I deftly hid it outside in the bar area and he transferred safely to a metal chair…

Eventually we collapsed emotionally exhausted into bed ready for the next day.

Sunday 27th “New Year’s Eve”

As promised after breakfast we headed of at 9am by coach to Poole.  As we left the hotel a lady from another coach that we’d been talking to over breakfast told us that she thought she’d left one of her new shoes she’d bought in “Pavers” the previous day in a small Italian restaurant opposite and could we see if it was there?  We agreed although thought it unlikely and to be honest didn’t find the shop until we’d done a lot of walking down to the harbour area.

After spotting some Sunseeker super yachts at the Poole factory opposite (which to my surprise was advertising vacancies) we both felt hungry and smelled some beautiful Italian cooking coming from the Da Vinci restaurant and although pricy we decided to reward ourselves and splash out!

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Sunseeker Motor Yachts, Poole
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Let battle commence!
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One of the best meals we’ve ever had!  Pinot Grigio (£22.50) Bistecce Ai Funghi (£19.60) Tournedo Da Vinci’s £23 Veg £3.45 plus £10 tip to Marco!
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Selfie of Da Vinchi’s from “Sea Music” sculpture created by Sir Anthony Caro
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Another memorial of D-Day on the wall to the right of the Da Vinci restaurant

After paying the bill and feeling sated we headed off to the other Italian to see if the missing shoe could be found and to my amazement it was!

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Feeling rather pleased with ourselves we headed back to the coach which was scheduled to depart at 2pm, stopping off briefly to get some newspapers and another T shirt from M&S for me as I was running out with all my unexpected dancing at night!

On arrival I snapped the leaflet below showing the night’s entertainment was not thank goodness Mr Howard from the day before, but Barry Hobson, although I do believe the photograph might have been taken a few decades before or well photoshopped!

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Dinner comprised of roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes and swede followed by creme brûlée which was excellent, so good in fact that George polished of Debbie’s too!

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As we moved into the entertainments lounge we realise that many of the turkey and tinsel regulars were in fancy dress, the coach driver of one looked fantastic as Pavarotti!

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General Montgomery (Roy) looks on in amazement at the Italian opera star!
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Thelma dancing with Levinia who lost (and found) a shoe!
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Ghostbusters – from the other coach – that’s their driver again standing next to “Stay Puft” – interestingly he only had one tooth which seems quite common in Wales…
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Congratulating Stay Puft on a superb fancy dress!

Monday 28th November

Alas all things come to an end and having set the alarm early the night before Debbie knocked on Thelma’s door to make sure they were both ready for the early breakfast and the coach home.  For the first time the three of us (excluding Debbie who always had grapefruit segments and corn flakes for breakfast) decided against the full English and went for scrambled eggs x 2 and fried egg x 1 on toast.

The journey back had one stop at a service station before transferring back on the feeder minibus at Magor and heading for home via Blaina without any hassle.  All in all it was a great few days holiday that I think we’ll repeat in future years!

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Home Sweet Home in Blaina!
Tinsel and Turkey

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