For the past two weeks Bean and I have been enjoying a holiday exploring The Peloponnese area of Greece.
We were some of the lucky ones who were already on a Thomas Cook holiday when the company went into liquidation. When you book a package holiday from the UK you should automatically be issued with an ATOL or ABTA insurance certificate. This guarantees that you are repatriated back to the UK. It is always worth checking that you have this.
Six of us had flown from London Gatwick two weeks ago. Arriving at Kalamata airport yesterday, two of our friends were put on flights to Birmingham with a coach transfer back to Gatwick. The other two were put on a Manchester flight, priority given to families and those with medical conditions and 141 of us were left behind. Eventually we were taken to a very nice 4* hotel overlooking the beach in Kalamata.
All our meals and accommodation is paid for by the CAA (civil aviation authority) until one of the 100 planes used each day from the UK to repatriate the 150,000 holiday makers all over the world, collects us. We have four officials deployed from the UK foreign office looking after us in the hotel. The atmosphere is calm and patient, as the British Dunkirk spirit prevails!
There just happens to be a railway park and old station near the hotel so Bean is happy!
There is also an excellent Greek costume museum according to our Lonely Planet guide, unfortunately closed on Mondays. But you never know we may be here for a few days longer?
There are worse places to be stranded. Here we have a beach and clear blue sea to swim in plus a pool, sunshine and hot temperatures, great accommodation, internet and meals for free. I have my knitting, a diary to write and I am revisiting the book ‘Labyrinth’ ready for my Stitchtopia quilting tour to Carcassonne in France next week.
You never know, I may get time to post some photos of the fascinating historical sites we have visited in Greece.
PS just got posted that we are here for another night!
February 2019Who wouldn’t want to escape winter in the UK and enjoy sunny warm days in Madeira? And if you are a quilter with four days of sewing and tuition and the use of a Bernina machine you would feel close to heaven!
Fifteen quilters have really enjoyed this experience.
Included was a morning exploring the capital of Madeira, Funchal. We saw gorgeous flowers, fruit and exotic vegetables on sale in the market, painted doors in the old town and had a visit to the embroidery factory/school. The latter was a highlight as all of us admired the exquisite hand embroidery. We were shown each stage from pattern designing to marking the fabric and finally had a good look at the various stitches used in Madeira embroidery.
We also visited Monte and were encouraged to sleigh down the cobbled roads in a basket.
Our teaching area in The Golden Residence hotel was huge and full of light. Each quilter was assigned a large table and a Bernina 350 sewing machine.
Five projects were taught and most tried at least two and some also added their own work to stitch. Coffee and tea were bought up to the sewing area each morning and afternoon and we also had a terrace to sit on. Breakfast and dinner were from a lavish buffet with a bar close by for evening drinks. Lunch by the outdoor pool overlooking the Atlantic ocean was a popular choice.
One day had been set aside for a full day excursion around the island. We drove east, north along the very scenic coast and west, stopping to view A-frame houses, villages and panoramic vistas.
Lunch was at a restaurant called Orca in Porto Moniz, the waves were crashing over the rocks and forming large pools.
Another afternoon was an optional trip to Gaula with a walk along a high up Levada (a terraced irrigation system) followed by afternoon tea in a typical Madeiran family home.
Six of our group also booked a 90 minute embroidery class held in the Embroidery Factory in Funchal, where local skilled Embroiderers taught some of the various they used.
Our final evening was celebrated in a restaurant near the top of a mountain where we could see the lights of Funchal. Dinner with Maderian folklore music and dancing bought to an end a week to remember. Thank you Stitchtopia!
Some of the students quilting and patchwork stitched this week in Madeira.
I was delighted when Deb Luttrell, owner of Stitchin Heaven asked me if I would like to teach on this cruise. Planning takes place a couple of years before the cruise and she asked me for a quilt design with a Canadian theme. Instantly, I thought migrating geese and mountains set in rows, using my Sew a Row book, in the red and white Canadian colours. The fabrics were chosen from a range that reflected the theme and incorporated into my design.
The quilt, which I had named ‘Alluring Canada’ (I thought that I was going to be travelling on ‘Allure of the Seas”!!!) was made by one of Deb’s staff and quilted with a maple leaf design. I loved it! And now have one of Deb’s beautifully cut kits ready to make my own quilt. I have always been impressed with these kits that are offered on all the Stitch Heaven cruises. Students can then immediately start to stitch as all the cutting has been done, expertly.
We were on the Royal Caribbean ship, ‘Anthem of the Seas” and our sewing room was on the 13th deck with an incredible view. Here, the Bernina machines are set up as we leave New York.
Classes are taught only, when we are at sea, although students had the opportunity to sew whenever they felt like it. Most preferred to take advantage of the places we stopped at either by booking tours or just wandering around with friends. And yes! Friends are like fabric, you can never have enough of them! Note the red T shirts given to each student.
Our first stop was Bar Harbour in Maine. Just beautiful! My new American friends asked me to join them as we visited a quilt and yarn shop, ate lobster rolls and had a free trip into Acadia National Park.
Next, we stopped in Boston, a city I had visited several times, so I booked a tour to Salem to see the witches!
Portland, Maine was our third port of call. I love eating lobster and here I had my third lobster roll. After wandering around the town with more cool American quilters it was time to try out the wind tunnel on the ship. This gave me a free sky diving experience, but NO I am not planning to jump out of a plane! I preferred going up in the North Star, which floated me high above the ship to give me a bird’s eye view as we left Portland.
The next day we arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was appropriate that we were piped ashore by a kilted man as we had arrived in ‘New Scotland’.
I was keen to see as much as possible and had pre-booked a 7 hour tour of the highlights of Halifax. The coach was full, with 60 Americans and me, but the guide came from Saxmundham, just a few miles away from my home town in Suffolk. His knowledge, fondness for history and British cynicism was much appreciated by us all as he took us through the Titanic cemetery, a maple syrup centre, Peggy’s Cove and Halifax City.
Our final destination St. John, New Brunswick in the Bay of Fundy was a place I remember from geography lessons at school, as it has the highest tidal range in the world. Here, I saw the reversing rapids, twice! Once as the tide flowed in and a few hours as it flowed back out over a 30 foot difference. We ate a chowder lunch in St Martins, a pretty scenic place known for its sea caves and two covered bridges. Again, a great guide, this time dressed up in 19th century costume.
In the evenings, I really loved the ship’s shows. The highlight was seeing’ School of Rock, straight from the West End. The female lead, Scaramouch, was broad Essex, and hearing Bohemian Rhapsody was just thrilling. So much so that I sneaked in 15 minutes before the final show, just to hear it again.
My final tour was around Manhattan, before catching a flight back to London. Visiting Ground Zero bought back memories of my first trip to New York in 1979 when I went to the top of The Twin Towers. The memorial is very moving.
A big thank you to Deb for inviting me to teach on her wonderfully organised cruises (at least 12 each year), and to the quilters (all American with a couple of Canadians) that I taught, many of whom had been with me before. I love their friendliness, willingness to learn and the way they are so complimentary. It is not often I am asked to explain ‘Bubble and Squeak’ and what does going for a ‘constitutional’ actually mean?
As well as four days of machine sewing there have been visits: to Lyon to see the history of silk weaving; Annecy for its beauty; and Chambery for its fascinating history and Trompe l’oeil (painted illusions).
A hot and fascinating day in Lyon
Entering The Chateau des ducks de Savoie in Chambery
The weather has been glorious with swims after class and alfresco dining. Each night our sommelier has matched the wine to the food, usually a white/rose and a red, all from the cellars below the chateau. With four bottles on each of the two tables, the conversation flowed as well as the wine!
After dinner, some quilters retired to the bar or beds and others returned to the sewing room for late night seaming. Straight lines were sometimes a problem, depending on the wine intake. Lots of giggles emanated from the room!
Late night sewing meant several completed two projects.
During the week, the sixteen quilters of varying abilities produced lots of gorgeous work, some of which can be seen below. Bargello wall hangings, bell pulls, lap and bed size quilts, red work embroidery, and several own projects.
Bed size quilt made by Ginnie
Pineapple Plus blocks made by Beryl
Klokkestreng made by Maggie
Redwork sewn by Marie
Bargello sewn by Pamela
Mary is a Kaffe fan!
Some Bargello Babes!
Thank you for being a brilliant group. Thank you to Arena Travel. for organising this super retreat.
A few comments…….
“My second trip with Karin and my first on a retreat. Loved the projects, really enjoyed the company and the Chateau was beautiful. I’d definitely recommend it.” Ginnie Willis.
Lovely week made more special the wonderful company and food! Judi
Well arena came up trumps again! Pam H
Brilliant location. Great Arena staff. Great find. Friendly and helpful hotel staff. Marie and Jill.
We arrived at The Chateau de Comtes des Challes, in the Savoie region of France, late Sunday afternoon. What an interesting place, with beautiful views and quirky decor including suits of armour, as the buildings date back to the 15th century.
After welcome drinks, sitting under the trees and then enjoying a delicious dinner on the open terrace, we set up the 15 new Bernina machines in our designated sewing room.
At 10 am this morning, 16 eager quilters were ready to start sewing. Fourteen had chosen Bargello as one of their chosen projects so the day was spent learning this technique.
Our sewing room opens out onto a terrace with lovely mountains views. An ideal place for morning coffee and afternoon tea. Let me tell you about our Americano order. Some of us thought we were ordering a large coffee, but here in France it is a Campari type drink! Not a good idea when you need to continue sewing straight lines.
Two hours was allocated for lunch, time for a swim in the pool as well as lunch. Some walked around the beautiful grounds and others just relaxed with a book.
This evening, we had a wine tasting in the cellars below the chateau. Very atmospheric, with a good sommelier who explained in detail how we should taste the three wines. The canapés that were served with the wines were delicious.
And finally, a beautifully presented dinner, outside in perfect temperatures, and no mosquitoes, just like all our meals here so far!
The picture below shows the old lighthouse. The basket was filled with burning hot coals.
At 2.30 we arrived at Tilda’s World to be welcomed by Tone Finnegar, the designer, we had not expected this. Tone then went onto teaching a lovely workshop using her fabrics to make birds. Here we have a short video of the project.
This was held in a old Norwegian house which they had recently converted into meeting and display rooms. It was very tastefully decorated and showed off her products beautifully. For obvious reasons we cannot display photos as we saw many future fabric designs and patterns. However, Tone has approved the following photos from the house for me to show you.
They also provided refreshments, goodie bags for each of us and there was a sales table to further entice the group. This visit exceeded all our expectations and the group are all inspired and buzzing with enthusiasm.
Thank you Tone, Torje and Anne for our amazing experience. We are the first group to visit Tilda’s World and it was a real privilege. You made us sew welcome and we have many wonderful memories!
This is the view as I am writing this blog at 9.15pm.
Another beautiful sunny stunning Norwegian morning. A ferry took us to Utne where we were visiting the Hardanger Folk Museum.
First we had a talk and guided tour of the traditional Norwegian costumes, The Bunad.
Just opened was a fantastic display of over 1000 bodice inserts some dating back to the 1700’s. Some were cross stitch, others beaded and some displayed other embroidery techniques. Can you see patchwork designs?
We were introduced to the history of Hardanger embroidery also dating back to the 1700’s. We saw aprons, table runners, shirts, bed linen and cushion covers all featuring variations of this beautiful embroidery.
Following this tour we went up the light workroom with gorgeous scenic views, which proved to be quite distracting. Our eyes soon focused on the small but intricate project that we were stitching for the next few hours.
We had a lunch break, eating outside on the verandah. Then, back to work, but if our eyes got tired there was plenty to explore in this museum including old houses, carved and painted chairs, sculptures and fiddles.
Walking back to the ferry we saw dolphins frolicking in the fjord. Another spectacular ferry and coach ride back to Eidfjord.
Tonight after dinner we are starting work on a klokkestreng, entirely voluntary!
We woke up to a second fabulous sunny warm morning in Bergen. Breakfast was eaten in the hotel restaurant where we felt we were on the water, with boats gliding past the windows.
Passing through the fish market our group got to taste caviar and whale meat before taking the funicular railway up Mount Floyan.
From there we had wonderful views of Bergen and got to meet a few goats.
Then it was some serious shopping in the Hanseatic area down below before enjoying some seafood lunches.
A short distance from Bergen is the Salhus Tricotagefabric (1859-1989). Here, we learnt about the history and importance of the textile industry in Norway. We found it amazing that the guide switched on old carding, spinning, and a variety of knitting machines so that we could see how they all worked.
Our drive to Eidfjord, an arm of the Hardanger fjord for our overnight stop was beautiful with amazing views around each corner – waterfalls bursting with spring melted snow, hytte with grass roofs, dramatic snow topped mountains and so much more. We had an unexpected stop when the road was closed for an hour. It was 6pm and 21C so we enjoyed the sun and views.