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Season 2: The story so far … – Featured Blog

Today s posts from our featured Port Elizabeth 1 Blogger: Season 2: The story so far by Look Sharp in Lycra 2 : Welcome to the second and what I hope will be the final season of Look Sharp in Lycra. A brief recap for those of you who are new to the blog, or have been as inactive here as I ve been for the majority of the last six months! Here s where we left off back in July 2015 I m taking part in Ironman South Africa on 10 April.

I don t know exactly why I m doing it, but I like a challenge. It involves swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles, and running a marathon, all within strict time limits and in any case within 17 hours. Plus two other challenges (more of those later), making five in total.

I ve been thinking about it for a long time, going back to when I first saw Ironman when I was living in South Africa. That s when I knew I wanted to do it. Nearly four years ago (yikes, that long!) I cycled from Land s End to John O Groats 3 with my mate Dave Bickley.

Last April I ran my first ever marathon 4 . And last September, I completed a 5km swim in Bray Lake, accompanied by my swimming coach Tanya Bartram, who also helped me practice with an earlier 1 mile effort at the Great East Swim near Ipswich 5 . After that, I got on with life satisfied that I could do all of these things as long as they were separated by a few months, got my nose back to the grindstone, and started eating and drinking my way towards a happy Christmas.

Then on 1 January 2016 I realised I was overweight and had just under 100 days left to prepare for what was going to be a very difficult challenge! You can read elsewhere on this blog about how much I think this is a mental challenge, but at the end of the day a considerable amount of physical effort is needed too. I needed to put some in, and pronto.

Here s what I did. First, I set myself a weight loss target, to get myself down from 85.4kg (about 13st 6lbs) to 76kg (about 12st 0lb) by the time of the Ironman. I plotted it on a graph, with the average weight loss shown by the dotted blue line, and my actual weight by the solid blue line.

With the first month (January) gone, I m still ahead of target, despite a few fluctuations along the way. I m down to around 81kg now. I also plotted a training programme I d made up myself based on the number of miles I thought I should swim (blue), cycle (green), and run (red) each week.

It s not very scientific and I should probably have a proper plan. But it s a start. The dark colours are the target, the lighter counterparts show how I m actually doing.

I update it every day. With a month gone, it s obvious I m already (literally) miles behind, especially with the big towers of dark green showing I m not hitting anywhere near my 100 miles a week cycling target a big concern. I m happy with my swimming, despite finding myself the slowest swimmer in the fast lane after a two year absence.

I m not swimming far enough, but I m getting my speed up and I can do a mile in about 35 mins now, so should be good for the 2hr target I ve set myself to have completed the 2.4 mile Ironman swim (though swimming in the sea is a different kettle of fish, and that 2hrs also needs to include transition time to be starting the bike leg). I m happy with my running, again despite not putting in much distance yet. I ve been running short distances but quite often, with a fair bit of interval training that s bringing my average pace up from around 11-12 mins/mile to around 10 mins/mile: I just need to increase the distances at that speed now.

I ve been helped greatly by our fabulous Runners-next-the-Sea running group (pic below), organised by Kevin and Evette, which meets every Monday. It s amazing how much help a properly qualified running coach can give you, and even though our group is very informal, the fun we ve had and the lessons we ve learned have gone a long way to making me feel confident about the run for Ironman. I m sure I could run a marathon comfortably within 5hrs now (I did London in 4hrs, 55 mins), but that s obviously going to be a lot harder after a long swim and bike ride earlier in the day.

Some of the Runners-next-the-Sea enjoying a summer training session on Holkham Beach, Norfolk Which brings me back to cycling, the part for which ironically I am most under-prepared, given that cycling had been my thing for the last few years. There is little to be gained by maxing out on swim training (it s the shortest part of Ironman by some way); and there are good reasons not to overtrain for the running leg (greater wear and tear and increased risk of injury). But training for cycling is all-important: for most people it s the longest part of the day, a 10% increase in speed will deliver big time savings, and it s great for stamina.

So I must get some miles on the bike very soon. Swimming. Cycling.

Running. Those are three of the five challenges I mentioned at the outset. The fourth is nutrition, and I need help here.

You don t need to worry about nutrition too much when you re practising disciplines separately, but you really do need to know what works for you and what doesn t before the big day comes. For an Ironman you need to take in some 8,000 calories in a day, while you are on the move; you have to digest them, and you have to keep them down . If you re reading this and can help, please let me know.

I do have some ideas, but I d welcome yours. And the fifth challenge? Well, that s fundraising.

I successfully managed to raise 2,765 including Gift Aid for my efforts last year. I ve kept the fundraising page 6 open to take in Ironman too, and I m now looking to get another 1,300 in donations to get past the 4,000 barrier in total. Please give generously: it s going to the Pattenmakers Charitable Foundation who will distribute it to a number of good causes.

That s it for your Season 2 opener. Now we re all back up to speed, I ll be posting more regularly as the 10 April deadline draws ever closer. Thanks for reading this, and thanks for your support.

Read more here: Look Sharp in Lycra 7 Jumping in by Look Sharp in Lycra 8 : Swim start: Ironman South Africa Last week I booked my place at Ironman South Africa, taking place on 10 April 2016 in Port Elizabeth, so there s no turning back now (not that there ever was). It s an exciting event, and this video brought all of the buzz I got as a spectator right back to me. 9 With the running taken care of (for now at least) it s been time to turn my hand to swimming, which was the one triathlon discipline that scared me most. When I registered I came across the above photo, which shows just how daunting the swimming leg is: hundreds of people jostling to get to the first buoy, with a whole 2.3 miles ahead of you.

I wasn t surprised to read advice from Terry Laughlin 10 this week about how to cope with open water swimming anxiety. He s a renowned expert on distance swimming, but even he recognises that in reality up to 70% of the people in the picture above are actually struck by panic within seconds of entering the water. To help me overcome my nerves, my swimming coach Tanya Bartram has been going out of her way to help me, and we recently negotiated a cool 1 mile swim at the Great East Swim, where with Tanya s help I finished in just under 40 minutes 11 .

Tanya and I finish the Great East Swim together I have to say I really enjoyed it, and Tanya swimming alongside me gave me a real confidence boost, especially when I got a bit jostled early on and my goggles started to mist up. Stop faffing and get on swimming seemed to be her advice, and it worked. Tanya and I after the Great East Swim: she doesn t look too scary in this pic!

I d been pretty relaxed going in to the Great East Swim, but nerves got the better of me as I got changed into my wetsuit, and somehow I managed to lose my timing chip, pick up someone else s (sorry David Edwards) and turn up at the start chipless. When I told them I d lost the timing chip on my ankle, they asked me if the one sticking out from my neck (that had obviously got caught on the velcro of my wetsuit) had anything to do with me? Red faced (me), laughingly (they) processed me through to the start Tanya promised me she d have me swimming like a frog in time for Ironman, and despite my scepticism (and with her superb coaching skills) I m feeling a lot more confident.

I ve done a couple of early Saturday morning swims in the lake at Milton Country Park in Cambridge, and have just signed up for a 5km swim 12 (that s about 3.1 miles) in Bray on 5 September by far the longest I ll ever have swum, and if I ve worked it out right equivalent to 200 lengths of a standard swimming pool. Yet again, despite the 06:30 start, Tanya has agreed to join me for this one last big effort (as she says: I don t do early mornings! ). I need to get a lot of training in before then.

It s the ultimate test for me: if I can do this, I can do the Ironman swim. With autumn arriving soon, then my final chance to practice my swimming outdoors comes at the North Norfolk Triathlon 13 , helpfully taking place where I live at Wells-next-the-Sea. All being well, I ll be taking on the 1 mile harbour swim, handing over to Tanya for the cycling and a local friend to do the running.

A good chance for me to experience the cold water and currents of swimming in the sea. A month or so ago Kevin and Evette from our running group took 20 mins to swim against the tide, and 9 mins to swim the same distance back, which shows the nature of the task. So thanks to Tanya, at the moment at least, it s all going swimmingly P.S.

David Edwards didn t seem to suffer from me misappropriating his timing chip, finishing his 1 mile swim in just over 36 mins. Read more here: Look Sharp in Lycra 14 Click HERE 15 to submit your blog 16 to be part of this daily feature. CLICK HERE 17 to get a daily digest of PE Goodness straight into your inbox with the MyPE Monday to Friday Newsletter 18 .

The following two tabs change content below. Port Elizabethan This author is a ‘catch-all’ for occasional articles and letters written to MyPE. The Author of each article can be found in the signature at the bottom of each individual article.

Latest posts by Port Elizabethan ( see all 19 ) Select a PE Interest Select a PE Interest References ^ Port Elizabeth (www.mype.co.za) ^ Look Sharp in Lycra (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ I cycled from Land s End to John O Groats (www.facebook.com) ^ I ran my first ever marathon (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ an earlier 1 mile effort at the Great East Swim near Ipswich (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ fundraising page (uk.virginmoneygiving.com) ^ Look Sharp in Lycra (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ Look Sharp in Lycra (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ this video brought all of the buzz I got as a spectator right back to me. (www.youtube.com) ^ advice from Terry Laughlin (www.ironman.com) ^ I finished in just under 40 minutes (www.greatrun.org) ^ just signed up for a 5km swim (www.f3events.co.uk) ^ the North Norfolk Triathlon (www.wellsharbour.co.uk) ^ Look Sharp in Lycra (looksharpinlycra.wordpress.com) ^ Click HERE (mype.co.za) ^ blog (mype.co.za) ^ CLICK HERE (mype.co.za) ^ MyPE Monday to Friday Newsletter (mype.co.za) ^ see all (mype.co.za)

Retirement Homes Burnham Thorpe Norfolk – Find Homes for the …

Dressed in a hunting suit, I arrived at the Holkham estate near Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, where this picture was taken by which is near the Queen s Sandringham home, dismissed the claim. He said: It may be a large domestic cat owned by someone town, such as The Bircham Gallery in Holt, or the Fairfax Gallery in Burnham Market. You can boat around the Norfolk Broads, a hundred square miles of Property for sale in Burnham Market with the UK’s leading online Property Retirement No preference Open House estate agents are delighted to offer this spacious 4 bedroom Semi-detached house located in a desirable village of burnham market just a few .

Creake Road, Burnham Market, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE31. Admiral Lord Nelson reaches his 250th birthday 1 To mark the 250th anniversary, many different celebrations were held in his home town of Burnham Thorpe, west Norfolk over the weekend of the 27 and 28 September. The Lord Nelson pub hosted an array of activities including a feast on Sunday, 27 Retirement Homes Groby Leicestershire 2 The police and the Crown Prosecution Service were also criticised for failing to arrest Lord Janner, search his home and interview him in was A Grade II star listed home on the edge of Norwich was top of 10 highest priced homes to sell in Norfolk in September.

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Retirement properties: Non-retirement (2) The medallions were a goodbye present to the family, who moved back to their Surrey home at the Burnham Thorpe rectory. His father was rector for All Saints Church. The war hero was one of 11 children and was born in the north Norfolk village Find new homes for sale in Norfolk RightmoveFind new homes and developments for sale in Norfolk.

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Retirement properties: Retirement (6) Nursing homes and residential homes providing care for the elderly in the United Kingdom He has bought a Georgian manor house in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, from the Earl of Leicester s nonagenarian He never realised he d be so busy when he bought his retirement home.

Bond author Ian Fleming spent his final 11 years living in a early Retirement Property for sale: Secure serviced accommodation; Retirement Housing and Sheltered Housing, Assisted Living References ^ Admiral Lord Nelson reaches his 250th birthday (www.bbc.co.uk) ^ Retirement Homes Groby Leicestershire (erel.xyz) ^ Retirement Homes Brighstone Isle Of Wight (erel.xyz) ^ Retirement Homes Torquay Devon (erel.xyz)

Few women have won Catherine Duchess of Cambridge's trust as …

With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry known as the Turnip Toffs it s no surprise that Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge s world. By enrolling two-year-old Prince George at a rural nursery school in the village of East Walton, William and Kate have made a declaration of intent. They are no longer Londoners but (ooh, arrr!) Norfolk folk.

And since Princess Charlotte s christening last summer at Sandringham, they have been spending ever more time in the county with a close circle of Norfolk friends. With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry known as the Turnip Toffs it s no surprise Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge s world No fewer than three of Charlotte s godparents have firm family links to the county. As you d expect, the Cambridges new court are all hugely posh and more than a little eccentric.

These young blue bloods most of whom have houses as grand as the Cambridges Anmer Hall are discreet, trusted and, importantly for family-minded Kate, have small children of their own to play with George and Charlotte. So just who is who in the inner circle of Turnip Toffs? KATE S RIGHT HAND WOMAN Few women have won Kate s trust as thoroughly as Norfolk girl Sophie Carter.

Kate s close Norfolk friend Sophie Carter. The pair are pictured Kate s close Norfolk friend Sophie Carter. The pair are pictured The winsome blonde, who is also godmother to Princess Charlotte, was part of the close-knit circle who celebrated the Duchess s 34th birthday at Anmer Hall earlier this month.

She even made up part of the exclusive royal party who later attended St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, for a service attended by the Queen that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. Country girl: Kate s close Norfolk friend Sophie Carter. The pair are pictured, right, at Wimbledon in 2008 Discreet Sophie, who has been a friend to Kate for many years, is often to be found quietly by the Duchess s side at various parties and events.

While in their younger days the girls used to party the nights away, they now mainly watch tennis (they play together and hang out at Wimbledon), though they were pictured cheering exuberantly at Cirque du Soleil for Kate s 31st birthday. The daughter of Norfolk construction tycoon Robert Carter, Sophie is also, helpfully, an expert in early years learning, having been a nursery and prep school teacher. The Durham University graduate has developed a phonics educational app, Hip Hop Hen , with which Prince George is no doubt already familiar.

WILLS TRUSTED CHILDHOOD CHUM One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk and that s Prince George s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem. His landowner parents actually rented Anmer Hall in the Nineties, and Princes William and Harry were regular guests at the property. One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk It s fair to say, then, that the Prince has many happy childhood memories of the place that s now his own home.

Indeed, van Cutsem s mother, Emilie, was an important maternal figure to him after the death of his own mother, Princess Diana. Today, the van Cutsems live less than half an hour from Anmer, on a 4,000-acre estate near Swaffham. The late Hugh van Cutsem, Prince Charles s friend from Cambridge who died in 2013, built an enormous brick and flint neo-Georgian house with its own chapel there in the Nineties.

One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk and that s Prince George s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem (pictured with wife Rosie) Fortunately for the Cambridges, the much-trusted William van Cutsem has also chosen to move back to Norfolk from London with his blonde wife, Rosie. He s tall, handsome, debonair and discreet, something that William relies on. According to a friend, van Cutsem knows every inch and cranny of Norfolk every pub, every discreet publican, every country house, the yachts, horses, home help.

Chartered surveyor William, who works for a property development company based in Bury St Edmunds, is considered to be the most handsome and best shot of the four van Cutsem brothers. So he was quite a catch, then Indeed, the two Williams have a history of, shall we say, trading girlfriends. Van Cutsem s wife, the former Rosie Ruck Keene, consoled the Prince when he briefly split from Kate in 2007.

And he also dated van Cutsem s old flame, Olivia Hunt, while they were at university together. As well as blonde good looks, former City headhunter Rosie has an entrepreneurial streak. Recent business dabblings include starting a private riding club, as well as launching a fashion brand, Troy London, with her sister.

Described as an outwear brand , it sells things such as cashmere capes with a fox fur trim for 950. Perfect for watching your husband shoot in the chilly Norfolk countryside, one would imagine. KATE S EX AND HIS FASHIONISTA WIFE Weekend visitors to Norfolk include Kate s ex-boyfriend from St Andrews, cricket-playing lawyer and local boy Rupert Finch.

He is married to Prince William s old friend, Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquess of Reading and the co-founder of ethical fashion label Beulah which happens to be one of Kate s favourites. Rupert Finch and Natasha Rufus Isaacs pictured at the Cartier Queen s Cup at Windsor in 2015 While in Norfolk, the couple stay with Rupert s horsey parents, who live in an idyllic brick-and-flint farmhouse in North Creake, outside Fakenham, surrounded by land that belongs to William s uncle, Earl Spencer. The Finches also have a baby daughter, Georgia, who is a perfect playmate for Princess Charlotte.

FROM COCKTAILS IN BOUJIS TO PEEKABOO WITH PRINCESS CHARLOTTE They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William, but today Charlie Savory and his wife, Lucy, are more likely to be playing peekaboo with Princess Charlotte. Norfolk lad Savory, an accountant, was brought up at Thorpland Hall, a Tudor house outside Great Snoring, North Norfolk. They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William Today, he works for a firm in Norwich.

He and Lucy, a major-general s daughter, have a young son and daughter, ideal playmates for George and Charlotte. Another nearby chum is Rory Penn, a childhood friend of William s. Married to Francesca, the couple have two young daughters and live outside Burnham Market, the Sloaney village in Norfolk where Kate likes to go shopping.

Penn whose grandmother is the Queen s cousin has also set up a property company with Thomas van Straubenzee, another of Charlotte s godfathers. The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes (pictured) Last year, Penn helped to sell a 39 million penthouse at the Bulgari hotel in London s Knightsbridge, so he s clearly doing all right for himself. THE COUSIN WHO LOVES TO TEASE The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes.

Her parents are Lady Jane Princess Diana s elder sister and Lord (Robert) Fellowes, the Queen s Private Secretary, who is said to be the most charming dinner guest in the county . Fellowes comes from Norfolk stock himself. Indeed, his father was the Queen s land agent at Sandringham.

Shy and delightful , Laura was a bridesmaid at Fergie s 1986 wedding, and shared a flat at Edinburgh University with William s old crush, Isabella Calthorpe, who is now married to Sam Branson, son of Virgin tycoon Sir Richard. Very close to her royal first cousins, William and Harry, Laura is allowed to tease them both mercilessly according to a friend. While she s notably discreet and terribly loyal, Laura is also known for her vivacious character and love of riding and dogs.

She married equity analyst Nick Pettman in 2009 in Snettisham, west Norfolk, where her parents live in a pretty, old rectory. William and Kate were both guests at that wedding there is no greater indication of inner-inner circle status than getting both of them at your wedding, says one associate. Other than becoming a godparent, of course.

Today, Laura writes fiction under the name Mave Fellowes her nickname is Mavis and has two young sons to play with George. DIVINE DAVINA, THE GLAMOROUS BLONDE Also on hand to chat about nursery schools and phonics with Kate is the glamorous blonde Davina Barber, nee Duckworth-Chad. Davina Duckworth-Chad and her husband Tom Barber pictured at a wedding in 2011 The Duckworth-Chads are perennial Turnip Toffs, as well as being second cousins of William s, and live in splendour at red-brick Pynkney Hall near King s Lynn.

Davina s mother, Elizabeth, was first cousin to Diana, who was her bridesmaid. Elizabeth is still on good terms with Prince Charles and the whole family attended William and Kate s 2011 nuptials. Beauty Davina, with whom William has a strong, jocular friendship , lives in Norfolk with her Old Etonian husband, Tom Barber (above with Davina), who runs a luxury travel agency.

They have twin daughters. THE DASHING DINNER PARTY HOST While most of the Cambridges inner-circle are married with young families, Old Etonian Archie Soames is an exception. Great-grandson of Winston Churchill, he is a close confidant of William s.

The 27-year-old financier holds lively dinner parties at his Norfolk family home, West Barsham Hall, near Fakenham racecourse. William and Kate are regular guests. Though still single, Soames did notably have a liaison with the much older American model Caprice when he was only 17, after meeting her at the London nightclub Boujis.

THE PRINCE S FOOTY-MAD MATE Football-mad Tom Howard is the son of Tory grandee and life peer Lord (Greville) Howard. The Howard family have played very shouty football with William and Harry for years, including at the annual Christmas Eve match which is held at the family s estate, Castle Rising. And if everyone in the Cambridges Norfolk circle has an estate, the Howards outdo them all with Castle Rising, which is right next to Sandringham.

Not only does it have a Victorian Hall that the family live in, it also has an ancient keep which was the palace-in-exile of Queen Isabella, the widow and alleged murderess of Edward II. ETON PAL HITCHED TO A PRINCESS Just 60 or so miles from Anmer which is nothing for East Anglia folk, who consider an hour in the car nipping round the corner live Lord and Lady Tollemache in the ancient, vast and moated Helmingham Hall, where the Queen is a regular overnight guest. Their two sons are both true Turnip Toffs: banker Edward, Prince Charles s godson, and his wife, Sophie, have two young sons; and fund manager James, who was at Eton with William, is married to Princess Florrie von Preussen (of Prussia), who used to style for Oka, the upmarket interiors label owned by Samantha Cameron s mother.

It was at James s 21st that William did a lap of the moat, clad only in his boxer shorts, with his good friend Guy Pelly. Those kind of larks are unlikely to happen again until Prince George is a teenager or at least until Harry comes to stay. BADGER WHO WAS WILLS BEST MAN Alongside Sophie Carter at church for the Gallipoli commemorations was James Meade, fellow godparent to Charlotte and an Old Etonian chum of William s.

Nicknamed Badger (he picked up the moniker at university but the reason is lost in the mists of time), he is such a close friend to the Duke that he made the joint best man s speech at the royal wedding. He s close to Kate, too, taking her to the Badminton Horse Trials during her split from William in 2007. Badger s wife is Lady Laura Marsham, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Romney, and one of the key movers and shakers of the Turnip Toffs set.

The Romneys live at Gayton Hall, a Georgian house outside King s Lynn which has a 20-acre water garden. THE ELEGANT ARISTOS There are the two rival grandees of North Norfolk: the Leicesters of Holkham and the Cholmondeleys of Houghton. Both make up part of William s Norfolk shooting circle.

The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke and are a few years older than William and Kate The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke (pronounced Cook) and are a few years older than William and Kate. While Polly is a former milliner, giving her easy chit-chat with fashion-conscious Kate, former Army boy Tom is a royal equerry. Norfolk s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley They have four children, and home, Holkham, is a Palladian masterpiece with a 25,000-acre estate and a four-mile-long beach where Prince Charles and Princess Anne used to play.

Norfolk s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley filmmaker David, 55, and his wife, socialite and model Rose (above), who is some 24 years his junior. They live at Houghton Hall, once home to Britain s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE Related Posts Prince George, Princess Charlotte Shown Together for the 1st Time 1 Queen Elizabeth has already informed Catherine Duchess of Cambridge there is no way the Duchess is getting out of the big event 2 According to reports Letters warning against acts of harassment of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at their Norfolk home have been distributed by Police 3 William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge are fiercely protective of their children s privacy and it is likely that Princess Charlotte s christening 4 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have gone the diplomatic route of alternating the yuletide holiday between their two families 5 Duchess of Cambridge joins royal family at the Order of the Garter 6 Princess Charlotte s name cost bookmakers 1million 7 The royal couple may release an official portrait of Prince George and Princess Charlotte 8 It reflects that he does have a normal life away from his duty as a prince 9 With her mother s charm and father s blue blood, she was destined to be a perfect princess 10 While the service inside the church will be private, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be pleased to welcome well-wishers into the paddock outside the church, a Kensington Palace spokesman said 11 The cast were left red-faced by the props team, who left a smelly fridge on the set 12 Catherine Duchess of Cambridge announces her new BFF will be godmother to the new arrival 13 We will admit, though, to being especially tough critics when it comes to Little Prince George 14 When you look at them, they re just gorgeous, their clothing is gorgeous.

The royals stay relevant and modern 15 Here s How Catherine Duchess of Cambridge Spent Her Birthday Weekend 16 Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge are breaking with tradition 17 The combination of the two concepts were so powerful that Social Media naturally freaked out 18 Catherine Duchess of Cambridge accompanied her husband William and brother-in-law Harry to the church 19 Duke and Duchess of Cambridge keen to do things as they wish 20 Proud parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge experienced a parenting first yesterday, dropping off Prince George for his first day at nursery school 21 Royal fans were excited to see four new official snaps of adorable loving siblings holding each other 22 Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, 33, must have been inspired by the old photos when she picked out George s adorable outfit! 23 Prince George and Princess Charlotte pose for their mum, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, at Amner Hall 24 Related References ^ Prince George, Princess Charlotte Shown Together for the 1st Time (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Queen Elizabeth has already informed Catherine Duchess of Cambridge there is no way the Duchess is getting out of the big event (www.royal-fans.com) ^ According to reports Letters warning against acts of harassment of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at their Norfolk home have been distributed by Police (www.royal-fans.com) ^ William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge are fiercely protective of their children s privacy and it is likely that Princess Charlotte s christening (www.royal-fans.com) ^ The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have gone the diplomatic route of alternating the yuletide holiday between their two families (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Duchess of Cambridge joins royal family at the Order of the Garter (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Princess Charlotte s name cost bookmakers 1million (www.royal-fans.com) ^ The royal couple may release an official portrait of Prince George and Princess Charlotte (www.royal-fans.com) ^ It reflects that he does have a normal life away from his duty as a prince (www.royal-fans.com) ^ With her mother s charm and father s blue blood, she was destined to be a perfect princess (www.royal-fans.com) ^ While the service inside the church will be private, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be pleased to welcome well-wishers into the paddock outside the church, a Kensington Palace spokesman said (www.royal-fans.com) ^ The cast were left red-faced by the props team, who left a smelly fridge on the set (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Catherine Duchess of Cambridge announces her new BFF will be godmother to the new arrival (www.royal-fans.com) ^ We will admit, though, to being especially tough critics when it comes to Little Prince George (www.royal-fans.com) ^ When you look at them, they re just gorgeous, their clothing is gorgeous.

The royals stay relevant and modern (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Here s How Catherine Duchess of Cambridge Spent Her Birthday Weekend (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge are breaking with tradition (www.royal-fans.com) ^ The combination of the two concepts were so powerful that Social Media naturally freaked out (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Catherine Duchess of Cambridge accompanied her husband William and brother-in-law Harry to the church (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Duke and Duchess of Cambridge keen to do things as they wish (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Proud parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge experienced a parenting first yesterday, dropping off Prince George for his first day at nursery school (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Royal fans were excited to see four new official snaps of adorable loving siblings holding each other (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, 33, must have been inspired by the old photos when she picked out George s adorable outfit! (www.royal-fans.com) ^ Prince George and Princess Charlotte pose for their mum, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, at Amner Hall (www.royal-fans.com)

As Kate Middleton and Prince William turn their backs on London …

With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry known as the Turnip Toffs it s no surprise that Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge s world. By enrolling two-year-old Prince George at a rural nursery school in the village of East Walton, William and Kate have made a declaration of intent. They are no longer Londoners but (ooh, arrr!) Norfolk folk.

And since Princess Charlotte s christening last summer at Sandringham, they have been spending ever more time in the county with a close circle of Norfolk friends. With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry known as the Turnip Toffs it s no surprise Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge s world No fewer than three of Charlotte s godparents have firm family links to the county. As you d expect, the Cambridges new court are all hugely posh and more than a little eccentric.

These young blue bloods most of whom have houses as grand as the Cambridges Anmer Hall are discreet, trusted and, importantly for family-minded Kate, have small children of their own to play with George and Charlotte. So just who is who in the inner circle of Turnip Toffs? KATE S RIGHT HAND WOMAN Few women have won Kate s trust as thoroughly as Norfolk girl Sophie Carter.

The winsome blonde, who is also godmother to Princess Charlotte, was part of the close-knit circle who celebrated the Duchess s 34th birthday at Anmer Hall earlier this month. She even made up part of the exclusive royal party who later attended St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, for a service attended by the Queen that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. Discreet Sophie, who has been a friend to Kate for many years, is often to be found quietly by the Duchess s side at various parties and events.

While in their younger days the girls used to party the nights away, they now mainly watch tennis (they play together and hang out at Wimbledon), though they were pictured cheering exuberantly at Cirque du Soleil for Kate s 31st birthday. The daughter of Norfolk construction tycoon Robert Carter, Sophie is also, helpfully, an expert in early years learning, having been a nursery and prep school teacher. The Durham University graduate has developed a phonics educational app, Hip Hop Hen , with which Prince George is no doubt already familiar.

WILLS’ TRUSTED CHILDHOOD CHUM One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk and that s Prince George s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem. His landowner parents actually rented Anmer Hall in the Nineties, and Princes William and Harry were regular guests at the property. It s fair to say, then, that the Prince has many happy childhood memories of the place that s now his own home.

Indeed, van Cutsem s mother, Emilie, was an important maternal figure to him after the death of his own mother, Princess Diana. Today, the van Cutsems live less than half an hour from Anmer, on a 4,000-acre estate near Swaffham. The late Hugh van Cutsem, Prince Charles s friend from Cambridge who died in 2013, built an enormous brick and flint neo-Georgian house with its own chapel there in the Nineties.

One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk and that s Prince George s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem (pictured with wife Rosie) Fortunately for the Cambridges, the much-trusted William van Cutsem has also chosen to move back to Norfolk from London with his blonde wife, Rosie. He s tall, handsome, debonair and discreet, something that William relies on. According to a friend, van Cutsem knows every inch and cranny of Norfolk every pub, every discreet publican, every country house, the yachts, horses, home help.

Chartered surveyor William, who works for a property development company based in Bury St Edmunds, is considered to be the most handsome and best shot of the four van Cutsem brothers. So he was quite a catch, then… Indeed, the two Williams have a history of, shall we say, trading girlfriends.

Van Cutsem s wife, the former Rosie Ruck Keene, consoled the Prince when he briefly split from Kate in 2007. And he also dated van Cutsem s old flame, Olivia Hunt, while they were at university together. As well as blonde good looks, former City headhunter Rosie has an entrepreneurial streak.

Recent business dabblings include starting a private riding club, as well as launching a fashion brand, Troy London, with her sister. Described as an outwear brand , it sells things such as cashmere capes with a fox fur trim for 950. Perfect for watching your husband shoot in the chilly Norfolk countryside, one would imagine.

KATE S EX AND HIS FASHIONISTA WIFE Weekend visitors to Norfolk include Kate s ex-boyfriend from St Andrews, cricket-playing lawyer and local boy Rupert Finch. He is married to Prince William s old friend, Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquess of Reading and the co-founder of ethical fashion label Beulah which happens to be one of Kate s favourites. Rupert Finch and Natasha Rufus Isaacs pictured at the Cartier Queen’s Cup at Windsor in 2015 While in Norfolk, the couple stay with Rupert s horsey parents, who live in an idyllic brick-and-flint farmhouse in North Creake, outside Fakenham, surrounded by land that belongs to William s uncle, Earl Spencer.

The Finches also have a baby daughter, Georgia, who is a perfect playmate for Princess Charlotte. FROM COCKTAILS IN BOUJIS TO PEEKABOO WITH PRINCESS CHARLOTTE They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William, but today Charlie Savory and his wife, Lucy, are more likely to be playing peekaboo with Princess Charlotte. Norfolk lad Savory, an accountant, was brought up at Thorpland Hall, a Tudor house outside Great Snoring, North Norfolk.

Today, he works for a firm in Norwich. He and Lucy, a major-general s daughter, have a young son and daughter, ideal playmates for George and Charlotte. They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William, but today Charlie Savory and his wife, Lucy, are more likely to be playing peekaboo with Princess Charlotte Another nearby chum is Rory Penn, a childhood friend of William s.

Married to Francesca, the couple have two young daughters and live outside Burnham Market, the Sloaney village in Norfolk where Kate likes to go shopping. Penn whose grandmother is the Queen s cousin has also set up a property company with Thomas van Straubenzee, another of Charlotte s godfathers. Last year, Penn helped to sell a 39 million penthouse at the Bulgari hotel in London s Knightsbridge, so he s clearly doing all right for himself.

The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes (pictured) THE COUSIN WHO LOVES TO TEASE The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes. Her parents are Lady Jane Princess Diana s elder sister and Lord (Robert) Fellowes, the Queen s Private Secretary, who is said to be the most charming dinner guest in the county . Fellowes comes from Norfolk stock himself.

Indeed, his father was the Queen s land agent at Sandringham. Shy and delightful , Laura was a bridesmaid at Fergie s 1986 wedding, and shared a flat at Edinburgh University with William s old crush, Isabella Calthorpe, who is now married to Sam Branson, son of Virgin tycoon Sir Richard. Very close to her royal first cousins, William and Harry, Laura is allowed to tease them both mercilessly according to a friend.

While she s notably discreet and terribly loyal, Laura is also known for her vivacious character and love of riding and dogs. She married equity analyst Nick Pettman in 2009 in Snettisham, west Norfolk, where her parents live in a pretty, old rectory. William and Kate were both guests at that wedding there is no greater indication of inner-inner circle status than getting both of them at your wedding, says one associate.

Other than becoming a godparent, of course. Today, Laura writes fiction under the name Mave Fellowes her nickname is Mavis and has two young sons to play with George. DIVINE DAVINA, THE GLAMOROUS BLONDE Also on hand to chat about nursery schools and phonics with Kate is the glamorous blonde Davina Barber, nee Duckworth-Chad.

The Duckworth-Chads are perennial Turnip Toffs, as well as being second cousins of William s, and live in splendour at red-brick Pynkney Hall near King s Lynn. Davina s mother, Elizabeth, was first cousin to Diana, who was her bridesmaid. Davina Duckworth-Chad and her husband Tom Barber pictured at a wedding in 2011 Elizabeth is still on good terms with Prince Charles and the whole family attended William and Kate s 2011 nuptials.

Beauty Davina, with whom William has a strong, jocular friendship , lives in Norfolk with her Old Etonian husband, Tom Barber (above with Davina), who runs a luxury travel agency. They have twin daughters. THE DASHING DINNER PARTY HOST While most of the Cambridges inner-circle are married with young families, Old Etonian Archie Soames is an exception.

Great-grandson of Winston Churchill, he is a close confidant of William s. The 27-year-old financier holds lively dinner parties at his Norfolk family home, West Barsham Hall, near Fakenham racecourse. William and Kate are regular guests.

Though still single, Soames did notably have a liaison with the much older American model Caprice when he was only 17, after meeting her at the London nightclub Boujis. THE PRINCE’S FOOTY-MAD MATE Football-mad Tom Howard is the son of Tory grandee and life peer Lord (Greville) Howard. The Howard family have played very shouty football with William and Harry for years, including at the annual Christmas Eve match which is held at the family s estate, Castle Rising.

And if everyone in the Cambridges Norfolk circle has an estate, the Howards outdo them all with Castle Rising, which is right next to Sandringham. Not only does it have a Victorian Hall that the family live in, it also has an ancient keep which was the palace-in-exile of Queen Isabella, the widow and alleged murderess of Edward II. ETON PAL HITCHED TO A PRINCESS Just 60 or so miles from Anmer which is nothing for East Anglia folk, who consider an hour in the car nipping round the corner live Lord and Lady Tollemache in the ancient, vast and moated Helmingham Hall, where the Queen is a regular overnight guest.

Their two sons are both true Turnip Toffs: banker Edward, Prince Charles s godson, and his wife, Sophie, have two young sons; and fund manager James, who was at Eton with William, is married to Princess Florrie von Preussen (of Prussia), who used to style for Oka, the upmarket interiors label owned by Samantha Cameron s mother. It was at James s 21st that William did a lap of the moat, clad only in his boxer shorts, with his good friend Guy Pelly. Those kind of larks are unlikely to happen again until Prince George is a teenager or at least until Harry comes to stay.

BADGER WHO WAS WILLS’ BEST MAN Alongside Sophie Carter at church for the Gallipoli commemorations was James Meade, fellow godparent to Charlotte and an Old Etonian chum of William s. Nicknamed Badger (he picked up the moniker at university but the reason is lost in the mists of time), he is such a close friend to the Duke that he made the joint best man s speech at the royal wedding. He s close to Kate, too, taking her to the Badminton Horse Trials during her split from William in 2007.

Badger s wife is Lady Laura Marsham, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Romney, and one of the key movers and shakers of the Turnip Toffs set. The Romneys live at Gayton Hall, a Georgian house outside King s Lynn which has a 20-acre water garden. THE ELEGANT ARISTOS The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke and are a few years older than William and Kate There are the two rival grandees of North Norfolk: the Leicesters of Holkham and the Cholmondeleys of Houghton.

Both make up part of William s Norfolk shooting circle. The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke (pronounced Cook) and are a few years older than William and Kate. While Polly is a former milliner, giving her easy chit-chat with fashion-conscious Kate, former Army boy Tom is a royal equerry.

Norfolk s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley filmmaker David, 55, and his wife, socialite and model Rose (pictured at the Serpentine Gallery last summer) They have four children, and home, Holkham, is a Palladian masterpiece with a 25,000-acre estate and a four-mile-long beach where Prince Charles and Princess Anne used to play.

Norfolk s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley filmmaker David, 55, and his wife, socialite and model Rose (above), who is some 24 years his junior.

They live at Houghton Hall, once home to Britain s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

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Berlin, Monte Carlo and Biarritz: Amazing European destinations …

Biarritz, France You can keep your fancy five-star hotels for a family holiday for me there is something instantly appealing about arriving at a mobile home in hot, sunny weather. Here, the fresh aromas of the pine forest canopy at Al Fresco s Sylvamar campsite catch you by surprise. Situated near Biarritz on the Aquitaine coast above Spain, it s sandy under foot here, with the beach just under a kilometre away.

Indeed, if you like a beach holiday, Sylvamar takes some beating, although the campsite also comes with a spectacular swimming pool. Our three children, Sam, 16, Lucy, 13, and Emily, 10, were just as much at home at the beach as they were in the pool, which has slides, showers and a lazy river. There s an indoor pool too, should the normally reliable weather let you down.

Next door is the site s main restaurant if it s a Saturday night you may need to book, but there s also a brilliant takeaway just 10 metres away with friendly English-speaking staff. The on-site supermarket has all you would expect, including a superb on-site bakery. You could be a little bit more adventurous and seek out the Carrefour Super (15 minutes away towards Biarritz) where Basque specialities abound I found Serrano ham and a chunk of C te de Boeuf to barbecue, which won over my son immediately.

We stayed in the roomy three-bedroom Vivaldi mobile home, which was up to the usual high standards of Al Fresco. There was good space outside the mobile, too great for games with the kids or, more than likely, watching them from two sun loungers. Because, yes, there is sun and lots of it.

But the nice thing is that the heat is far from punishing, with a gentle sea breeze in the late afternoon making conditions very pleasant during our stay. At the nearby beach, Labenne Ocean, you can take a surf lesson or hire a board for 6 an hour. It s a seemingly unending stretch of golden sand where you won t struggle to find your spot.

North of Labenne are the equally delightful beaches of Capbreton and Hossegor, amazing for experienced surfers and spectators alike you ll stand there open-mouthed watching the modern gladiators of the sea ride 10ft waves. Capbreton is definitely worth a visit and has a very child-friendly beach. In the centre of the town is a pleasant and affordable shopping strip and heading further towards Hossegor is the port and marina area, with several highly recommended restaurants including Le Deck.

If you like moules in its many forms, you will be in your element. I couldn t resist the surf n turf. Biarritz is a glitzy resort town south of the campsite, which once hosted Napoleon and his wife.

Nowadays it s home to chic shops, brasseries and bars. Further south is the resort of St Jean-de-Luz, another jewel on the Basque coast. Just like Biarritz, this is popular among surfers, swimmers and promenaders alike.

On the main beach, there are inviting floating platforms 30 metres from shore from where you can have a plunge and take in the mist-shrouded Pyrenees to the south. Sun, sea, surf n turf, served with a side order of the Basque this is the perfect base for a summer holiday. David Stephenson Seven nights in a Rossini mobile home at Yelloh!

Village Sylvamar (sleeps six) on May 21 (off-peak) is 191 with a 30% saving. On July 23 (peak) it costs 1,222 with a 10% saving. All savings are valid on holidays booked before April 4.

Call 0161 332 8900 or see alfresco-holidays.com. Norfolk When we were shown to our cottage and found a lemon drizzle cake waiting for us it was clear we were going to enjoy our stay at Great Barn Farm. It s a little slice of luxury nestled deep within the quiet Norfolk countryside and the perfect retreat any time of the year.

The farm, run by owners Julian and Sarah, has been converted into perfectly designed barn conversions for couples, families or larger groups. All the barns are named after their original purpose, such as The Tack Room, The Cow Shed and The Stables. We stayed in what was once a piggery, now a spacious self-catered two-bedroom, two-bathroom hideaway with its own large outdoor space.

The privacy of each barn has been carefully considered, giving a feeling of total seclusion; you wouldn t be blamed for thinking you were the only people staying on the farm. A log burner makes a winter stay extra cosy while a gas barbecue is perfect for summer. Great Barn Farm is ideally located for day trips if you want to explore the local area.

Just over half an hour away is the Norfolk coastline, which is full of nature reserves, and there are plenty of options for long, leisurely walks. Enjoy a spot of shopping in the quaint narrow lanes of Wells-next-the-Sea, with its quay and boat-lined harbour. The north Norfolk coastline also has numerous opportunities for boating enthusiasts, from gentle day trips to challenges for more serious sailors.

The barns are situated within an hour s drive of five of Norfolk s stately homes, including Sandringham Estate, where you can rub shoulders with royalty (almost) or, at the very least, have afternoon tea at the Queen s residence. The house and gardens are available to look around, too, and a museum, which houses a vast collection of royal photographs and memorabilia, in addition to vehicles and rare ceramics owned by the Royal Family. Nearby Holkham and Oxborough Halls are also well worth a visit.

A short drive from the barns is the small market town of Swaffham, which boasts a twice-monthly farmers market and number of small independent shops where you can stock up on anything you may need for your self-catered stay. And if a night off cooking is on the cards, try eating out at the nearby gastro-pub The Dabbling Duck or the upmarket Congham Hall if you re looking for something a little more formal. After a day s sightseeing, head back to the barn for a bit of rest and relaxation.

The farm has fantastic indoor swimming pool known as The Sheep Dip it s heated to a balmy 28 C and there s also a spa Jacuzzi and steam room available for all guests to enjoy. Whether you want a quiet couple s break, family holiday or a big shindig, Great Barn Farm has all the comforts of home combined with the luxury of modern design. It’s a fabulous hidden secret.

Anna Woodham The Piggery at Great Barn Farm sleeps four and costs from 900 per week. Call 07713 256532 or visit sawdays.co.uk. Berlin I last visited Berlin in 1989 fortuitously and coincidentally arriving on November 10, the day after the wall was opened.

It was an incredible sight and sound. All you could hear was the chip, chip of concrete. It was so prevalent that Berliners even came up for a name for these chippers Mauerspechte or wall woodpeckers.

The woodpeckers are fewer today, and it is testament to the people of Berlin that they have kept large chunks of the wall as a reminder of a very tough and painful era in the city s history. Berlin has seen many changes from grand influential city in the 19th and early 20th century, to home of cabaret and free thinking, from the rise of Nazism to the rise and fall of Communism. It s very much incorporating its past into its future and everywhere we looked there was regeneration and a sense that this capital really knows itself.

It is a beautiful city, with great transport links we hopped on and off the tram and U-Bahn with ease and it has a whole host of interesting and reasonably priced restaurants. We took a bus tour all around the capital from the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate, past the beautiful cathedral, the Berliner Dom, out to the palace at Charlottenburg and down the very chichi Kurf rstendam. You can jump on and off as much as you like and it s a great way of seeing this large and expansive city.

The commentary on board is great too, pointing out art works and sculptures, the majority gifts from other countries to mark various historical anniversaries. The Germans have a word for coming to terms with the past Vergangenheitsbew ltigung. The Holocaust Memorial near the Reichstag is very poignant and a place to stop and think.

It was purposely kept plain and stark by the architect Peter Eisenman. Five minutes walk away there are other memorials to gay and Roma Holocaust victims. Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, is so touristy and commercialised a McDonald’s on one corner is highly ironic.

If you really want to know more about the city s divided past, the best place to visit is the Berlin Wall Memorial, which runs along the majority of Bernauer Strasse. You follow a trail that tells the story of the people who tried to flee, and it is heartbreaking to see the images of those who made it and hear about those who didn t. The museum is superb, with first-hand accounts from people who lived through it.

We also visited the Stasi Museum, erstwhile home of the Secret Police (Staatssicherheit). Even approaching the building, you get a sense of foreboding. When we visited, an elderly woman, who worked in East Berlin during those times, told us what life was like spies everywhere, sometimes even within your own family.

We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Prenzlauer Berg in the former East. A lot of the city was bombed, so it is slowly being rebuilt and gentrified. It is a great way to see the untouristy side of the city plus a lot more comfortable and cheaper than a hotel. (Our four-bedroom apartment shared between two families cost 700 for four nights.) We had a supermarket right across the road, which was handy for the essential German foodie gifts of beer, chocolate and sausage.

We also tried out the very famous Currywurst, a speciality of Berlin. But then Berlin has so many special qualities we want to go back. Margaret Hussey For details on Airbnb, visit airbnb.co.uk.

Prices vary according to location, size of accommodation and length of stay. A return flight from London Heathrow to Berlin starts at 118. See britishairways.com for details.

Monte Carlo There s only one way to arrive in Monte Carlo and that s by helicopter. Hopping aboard gets you from Nice airport to the principality in just seven minutes, giving you a taste of how the other half lives. It s costly, but then Monte Carlo is no place for penny-pinchers.

We arrived after an overnight stay at Gatwick s Bloc Hotel (a brilliant place to rest your head before an early flight) and were whisked by minivan from the heliport to the Novotel a sleek and modern hotel that provides a great base to explore this playground of the rich and famous. There s no income tax for residents, which is why the likes of Shirley Bassey, Roger Moore and Bono have homes here. The principality in which Monte Carlo is situated Monaco lends it an air of glamour that wafts around its casinos, fancy hotels and high-end shops everything from Gucci, Dior, Herm s to Prada.

The Novotel is mid-price, which means you can save a few pennies for shopping and champagne, but the service is first-rate and the executive rooms have nice touches such as free snacks and Nespresso coffee machines. We ate in the restaurant, where the buffet breakfast is top-notch and the set menus are very reasonable. We were there during the Monte Carlo TV Festival, the biggest and most respected in Europe, which occurs each June and offers plenty of opportunities for star-spotting on the Grimaldi Forum s sun-drenched red carpet.

We also saw some famous TV faces enjoying the lively atmosphere at Cipriani, which is much buzzier than its Venice counterpart and has so many attentive staff no one could ever complain about service. Yes, the prices are high but the portions washed down with a famous Bellini are huge and their desserts are the essence of temptation, even if you re full up. Quieter and fancier, Elsa is situated in the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and has wonderful ocean views, while the produce from its gardens tastes so fresh it s like it s only been picked seconds earlier.

Then there s the Beefbar in Fontvieille harbour, a must for steak lovers where again the portions are far from stingy, the d cor is strikingly modern and the wine list extensive. Aside from the TV Festival, Monte Carlo also famously hosts the Grand Prix, which races noisily through the otherwise sedate harbour and rushes past the beautiful Japanese Gardens. These, along with the majestic Saint Paul s Church, are peaceful spots amid the hustle and bustle.

On the edge of Monaco is the township of Cap D Ail, which is where we headed after our stay at the Novotel. There we checked into the lovely Riviera Marriott. The best rooms face the port, as does the restaurant terrace with its reasonably priced set menus.

Cap D Ail has lower prices, a more laid-back feel and the Marriott has a regular one-way shuttle to Casino Square, so it s a great base for exploring the area. It s also on a main bus route and near the heliport, handy for the end of your trip perhaps feeling poorer, but in the knowledge that, for just a few days, the life the other half lives was yours, too. Simon Button Prices at the Novotel start at 106 per night for room only.

To book, visit novotel.com. Prices at the Riviera Marriott start at 108 per night for room only. To book, visit marriott.com.

British Airways operates daily flights to Nice from London Gatwick. Hand baggage- only economy fares start at 36 each way. For more information, visit ba.com.

Corfu Hanging upside down from a length of purple fabric, I felt like a gazelle. I had triumphed at aerial yoga and the way I was now tangled in cotton was something akin to Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately, I remained convinced of that for approximately 10 seconds, or however long it took my eyes to find my squished face in the mirrored wall.

I may have made it into position, but I had not retained my dignity getting there. This was my last day at the MarBella hotel in Corfu, Greece, and I was discovering that an activity I had previously thought as hippyish was in fact a fairly intense workout. We started with simple moves and getting accustomed to the harness, gaining trust that it would not snap under pressure, but before long our class of six were high in the air.

Every muscle of my body was straining as I attempted to copy my instructor Efi, who had been practising for almost five years. She was small but had the strength of an Olympian, pulling and pushing herself into gravity-defying positions with ease as the rest of us struggled to follow. Despite exhibiting absolutely no grace whatsoever, I felt energised and ready to try more when I had achieved some of the moves by the end of the hour.

My aching muscles, however, were looking for something more indulgent and a massage in the spa seemed perfect. My masseuse was professional, with 10 years experience, and put me at ease as I lay on the table. Her fingers felt like needles targeting every knot in my upper back, giving me one of the best massages I have had.

At about 36 for half an hour, she assured me that it was one of the most luxurious massages on the island . Afterwards, I emerged into the Greek sun, blinking as the heat hit me on the face. A quick shower later and I was relaxing on a swing in my private garden terrace looking out over the Ionian Sea.

It felt like a different world. Mainland Greece and the hills of Albania faded into varying shades of blue, while white sails dotted the glassy water. The MarBella Corfu s luxury appeals to a huge variety of people families, young couples, older travellers and adventure seekers.

Offering activities including trekking, kayaking, archery, and excursions to the cultural Corfu Town and a local fishing village, it successfully caters for all. I had a week of exciting activities and much-needed pampering, ending each day in a stylishly decorated junior sea-view suite. On the last evening I could have sat in my hammock for hours watching the sky turn to pink, but I peeled myself away for my final meal.

Locking the door behind me, I took one last look at the view as the sun dipped behind the cliffs of south Corfu and vowed to come back for longer next time. Jaymi McCann Sovereign (01293 731 566, sovereign.com) is offering a seven-night holiday to Corfu staying at the five-star MarBella Corfu Hotel on a half-board basis from 515 per person, saving up to 138 per couple. The offer includes an exclusive, free la carte dinner and free breakfast in bed.

It also includes an airport security fast pass, access to UK airport lounges (where available), private airport transfers and return international flights from London Gatwick with EasyJet. Based on departures for May 4. Mediterranean cruise My secret to visiting a different country every day without the chore of airport check-ins and hoarding heavy luggage?

Jump aboard one of Holland America Line s fleet of floating hotels. Before sailing away on my extravagant 12-day Mediterranean Romance Cruise, I stayed at the four-star Bonvecchiati Hotel in Venice. From here, I watched the world s most romantic city light up at night with the soundtrack from The Godfather playing out live in front of classic Italian restaurants.

Mind you, with the price of a beer in St Mark’s Square hitting double figures, I was relieved I was only there for one day. The following day I boarded the 936ft long, 2,000-plus passenger ship MS Nieuw Amsterdam. Sipping one of the many cocktails on offer at the Sea View Bar as the sun slid into the horizon, I watched the ship glide through the Venetian passageways and we were soon out in the ocean.

My first stop was Dubrovnik, and I was excited to stand at the exact spot on the historic city walls of the Old Town where my father, as an artist, had captured the colourful streets and vintage rooftops. It brought back childhood memories as I grew up with that painting framed on my wall at home. My journey then continued to Montenegro, Kerkira in Corfu, Naples, Rome, Livorno, Monte Carlo, St Tropez and, finally, Barcelona.

Holland America Line offers more than 100 organised shore excursions and, of course, there is always the option to roam freely from the ports. Montenegro was one of my favourite stops well worth a 5am alarm call to see the sun rise over the mountainous backdrop through the floor-to-ceiling windows in my verandah stateroom. Fishermen gazed up at our huge five-star floating hotel as we drifted towards the 12th-century old town of Kotor, situated in Boka Bay officially one of the 25 most beautiful bays in the world.

I also loved Corfu, where I burned off a few calories in a mountain bike excursion but only to make space for the amazing burgers and New York pizza at Dive-In, the ship s terrace grill. And after that, I rested my tired limbs in one of the five Jacuzzi hot tubs with a welcome glass of red wine. I discovered other ways of getting in some serious rest at the Greenhouse Spa, which offered a huge range of relaxation and beauty treatments.

The popular hot stones massage and the more intense bamboo massage kept me quiet for some time, and after hitting the indoor hydrotherapy pool made up of bubbling ocean water full of vitamins and minerals I was in a state of total calm. With more than 140 years of service to its name, it s easy to see why Holland America Line has a high rate of repeat bookings and a history of famous guests, such as Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth. The amazing staff are dedicated to guest satisfaction, and I was blown away by the quality of food on board.

An elite fleet of high-class chefs present the most stunning selection of dishes, my favourite being the Taiwanese braised pork belly at the Tamarind speciality restaurant. When I had no more room for food, I headed for the Silk Den bar, where I sat like a king on a chaise longue at one of the highest view points on board, looking out over the horizon as I decided which steak to opt for the next evening. The ship has everything you can think of a casino, cinema, three pools and a spa, as well as cocktail classes, classical music, art auctions, bingo and morning-stretch seminars, to namejust a few.

There is endless evening entertainment, too, with performances by world-class musicians, stage comedians, illusionists and talented vocalists. This year, the Nieuw Amsterdam heads to Alaska when this Mediterranean route will be taken over by its sister ship, the MS Eurodam. So if you fancy travelling in luxury and style, jump on board.

Greg Anderson A 12-day Mediterranean Romance holiday on board Holland America Line s MS Eurodam starts at 1,099 per person, based on two sharing an inside cabin.

Call 0843 374 2300 or visit hollandamerica.com.

Holkham Hall Village, Pub and Beech, Norfolk.

Holkham Hall is quite an amazing house but I will first show you a few before and after pictures. Having spent the morning walking around Wells-Next-The Sea (previous post) we needed lunch before our time in the house. We ate delicious Cottage Pie with saut ed cabbage and green beans in the Victoria Inn which is owned by the Coke family (Holkham Hall owners) and managed by the Estate.

Above photo courtesy of the website These muskets were used by Holkham Yeomanry in response to the threat of invasion posed by Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military leader and emperor who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century. Holkham village is a small village on the edge of the Estate and then after spending the afternoon at the Hall I had to visit and take a look at Holkham’s beach(which entailed a walk on the board walk through the sweet scented Pinewoods) before driving back to our cottage. It was early evening and mostly deserted and I could easily have sat until dark it was so peaceful.

The vast red are Sea Sedums which are only visible when the tide is out.

This place is said to be ‘where the sky meets the sea’ I am sure you will enjoy the Hall which will take at least 3 posts to cover It’s taking a long time to get my holiday snaps together and I am sure that Windows 10 is half the problem with the filing system