Well thank you Vietnam……

for making my first mid-life crisis, empty-nest adventure so wonderfully brilliant. From Hanoi to Hue to Ho Chi Minh city,  I have fallen hopelessly in love with this wonderful country and it’s people and quite honestly I can’t wait to go back.

Because that’s the beauty of modern technology. If you can use the internet, all the information you need is available to book your own itinerary. We trawled through Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Air B&B, making notes, reading reviews and finally pulling a trip together that we hoped would tick as many of our boxes as possible in three weeks. We booked a mixture of Homestays, overnight trains, budget hotels, treks, cruises, street food tours, cooking courses, taxis, internal flights, mopeds and even a posh hotel, all from the comfort of our kitchen  before we left, our accommodation when we there or even the airport at last minute.

And amazingly, nothing went wrong. Not one single thing. It all turned out to be a brilliant adventure from start to finish, all of which I will tell you about and pass on tips in my next series of blogs.

I know I keep harping on about it but life is short and there’s a big amazing world out there, offering experiences that you can’t ever really describe but which enrich your soul and hopefully make you a better human being. This fifty-something window of opportunity is too good a chance to miss especially if you’re still fit enough and brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

 So follow my blogs over the next few weeks as I try and show you that life at fifty doesn’t have to mean a Thrifty Fifty Travel card or a Saga Holiday. It’s not too late for an adventure and it’s never, ever too late to chase a sunset!

 

Advertisements

WELCOME TO MIDDLE AGE

Well I finally did it. I finally came out in public and asked for a free cup of coffee with my ScotRail Thrifty Club 50 card. To be honest, I only plucked up the courage as I was with my elderly parents-in law and thought that I may pass it off as one of theirs as I asked for three coffees and flashed the card so quickly, that he wouldn’t be able to see my jauntily angled, glamorous headshot beaming out at him from the blue plastic. Sadly, the coffee wasn’t worth waiting for, as annoyingly it was half the size of the other two, probably because, I surmised through gritted teeth, they think I may need frequent trips to the toilet if I consume a normal cup of coffee. And we wouldn’t want that would we madam, numerous fifty something’s queuing for the toilets and all hyped up on caffeine? We don’t want any trouble. Doubly annoying, was the fact that he handed it straight to me and not my mother-in-law, there wasn’t even a hint of hesitation which was another blow to the ego on top of the trainee in the hairdressers last week, asking if I preferred any particular magazine. Giving her a free rein to make a choice was not a good idea. No Elle, Marie Clare or Cosmo for me, she gave me bloody House Beautiful and Homes and Gardens, obviously to go with my greying hair. So depressing.

Anyway, when my Thrifty Fifty card arrived, it was accompanied by a nice little flyer which advertised the many benefits of admitting to being middle aged. Aside from the travel discounts and the miniature coffee, (but only one per journey Madam), the leaflet enticingly offered discounts on events, concerts and entrance to venues. T in the Park? The Hydro? Groove Inverness? Not a chance. Madam, you are a mature woman now, please show some decorum. It’s the National Trust, The Hampden Experience and classical concerts for you. You can groove if you want to my dear, as long as you stay in your seat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a stately home as much as the next person, but I’d rather be living in one than visiting and I’d obviously naively assumed that National Trust discount was more ‘Senior Railcard’ than ‘Nifty, thrifty, fifty’. I would love to meet the researchers behind the marketing, I wonder whether any of the team are over thirty?

As I write this, I am once again sitting on a train, this time heading to London Paddington from Oxford. You can tell it’s the South East as there are four carriages for First Class. Inverness Edinburgh has 8 seats if you’re lucky. Even the announcer sounds more like an airline pilot. I used to commute on this train every morning from Oxford to Reading, in the days when there were individual compartments with sliding doors, like the Harry Potter train for my younger readers,(if I have any), but without steam, (I’m not that old), or chocolate frogs. It was always warm and cosy with it’s under seat heaters, glorious on a cold winter morning when my feet were frozen to my eighties, synthetic stilettos. Sadly, while quicker, it is not quite as cosy on this train, in fact I am a tad chilly and there is no trolley and a train journey is just not the same without the trolley and it’s dodgy coffee, which is always too strong. Of course it’s not helped by the fact that two milk sachets, (the new cows udder shaped ones are mildly more manageable than playing Russian roulette with the mini long life milk cartons), are simply not sufficient. And no trolley also means that I don’t get the opportunity to grapple with my conscience again as I try to choose between a Kit Kat, Sour Cream Pringles or a packet of Kettle Chips. For the trolley, in my opinion is the highlight of a jaunt out of Inverness, a cosy accompaniment to the joy of gliding through the majestic beauty of the Scottish Highlands,a totally underrated service that brings happiness to many. Lord help the messenger who has to deliver the “No Trolley on this service” announcement to a train full of Highlanders on a day oot.

So, Scotrail Marketing team, you need to up your game. While I admit that the aforementioned rant and my admission that I’m turned on by the trolley service, may in fact indicate that I’m slowly turning into a fifty something grumpy old bag, I’m not quite ready for your depressing pigeon hole. I can still manage to drink a normal sized coffee without having to pee fifteen minutes later, I do not yet have grandchildren that I want to take to the Zoo and I would prefer a Cosmopolitan and a day out at the Spa than 2 for 1 tickets to The Scottish Maritime Museum. Fifty something I may be, ready for walking tours I am not.

Although if the 2 for 1 walking tour involved cocktail bars, I could possibly be persuaded.

scotrail.co.uk/club50

 

BOOM BANG A BANG BABY…….

And so, after much begging and pleading, it’s the big reveal. A pair of trousers (or slacks) as my granny used to call them, which I couldnt even get away with in Ibiza let alone a wee Highland Toon.

I have no idea what possessed me, other than the after effects of the Jacaranda Bar’s Crazy Mandy’s Cocktails combined with too much Ibiza sun but if I look back I seem to have previous for buying dodgy trousers while on a trip,.and by trip I mean a girls trip, not a psychadelic trip. My last dodgy pair, and I have to admit to it being a rather long time ago when my kids were young and I had been let off the leash for the first time in ages, was purchased in Ayr as my lovely friend Mo and I wandered aimlessly around the town having missed our flight to Dublin. The rest of the girls had made it of course, but Ryan Air soon had us booked on the next flight. If I remember rightly, Alex Salmond was wandering the streets too that day but he has nothing to do with the trouser purchase. The trousers in question this time were, wait for it, black pvc but at £8 they were a bargain compared to the 30 euros I forked out for these ones.  I’m sure we both bought a pair and actually I still have mine but they have never seen the light of day since the Dublin trip.  Yes I did wear them out because the other girls made me and yes, it was a very sweaty relationship but I feel a sort of affection to them probably because it was my first break out from the constraints of early motherhood and probably I just needed to do something radicle.

And thats the thing with clothes, they label us and categorise us into stereotypes.  By dressing a certain way we send out a message to the world that this is who we are or who we would like to be and where we want to fit in and too often we let ourselves be drawn into conforming to a type that just doesnt really represent who we really are. Why we do it, I have no idea, its a little bit sad really and I know when Ive done it, because I ending up spending the whole day or night feeling uncomfortable and not quite myself. And so maybe, just maybe I thought that the multi coloured snake skin flares ( cant belive I just wrote that), represented something, (God knows what) that I just needed to express all these years down the line now the chicks are flying the nest and  freedom is once again on the horizon

Or of course, they could  just as easily  represent the fact that at the time of purchase, I was actually still pissed.

Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now…..

And so here it is, my final blog from Ibiza, or it would be if I was still there. I am, however, back home, ankle bracelet back in the cupboard and my tan encased in jeans, jumper and winter boots, absolutely bloody freezing. Ibiza, like my brain, seems so very far away. I couldn’t have written this while I was there though, as quite frankly there was so much emotion going on after the Cafe Mambo Sunset experience I doubt I would have made any sense.  It’s been good to have time to reflect.

Sunset at Cafe Mambo is on many a bucket list and if you have ever thought about going, I urge you to make the trip We were fortunate that we were there for the 2015 opening party and the atmosphere was, quite honestly electric as from our beach side table we watched as  disciples of Temple Mambo, silhouetted against the setting sun, descended from all directions. And as the sun set into the sea to the sound of Nessun Dorma ( translation: None shall Sleep, very appropriate in our case)  I  can quite honestly say that it was the closest thing to some sort of spiritual experience I have ever had. I can’t describe it, you just had to be there. Mr Derbyshire kindly suggested that it was probably because I was pissed but the fact that the video I took has bought many close to tears, says it all. It was intensely moving. Some of you reading this probably won’t get it and agree with Mr D but for those who do make the journey, the experience will I am sure stay with you forever.

I have also had time to reflect on the enigma that is Charlie’s Bar, a bar in Es Cana with great staff,  which caters for anyone that enters it’s doors and makes everyone welcome. If you had told me before I left that I would spend a great deal of my holiday in a bar that offered everything from lovingly made cocktails to bingo,  tribute bands, karaoke, freefall vodkas, raspberry sambucas as well as a dance floor, I  would probably have ripped up my ticket, laughed in your face and hung myself. But, you know what, Charlie’s Bar was special. So special that every night we quite literally lost complete track of time. We laughed like we hadn’t laughed in ages, we certainly danced like we hadn’t done in ages and we shared it with new friends who may never have crossed our paths back in the real world.  I will miss our  pizza and chips at 3am and the slightly ( I use that term loosely)  drunken philosophising on the meaning of life before moving on to Granny’s Bar ( no idea why it’s called that, I should have asked) for a wee night cap. Needless to say The Panorama Hotel did very well out of us as we only made breakfast twice but strangely we never seemed to get a hangover. In the real world I would probably have died.

So for anyone of a certain age, or in fact any age, who just needs to reconnect with who they really are, who wants to go out when they are normally coming in, who wants to stay out longer than their kids, sing and dance to  dodgy eighties anthems,  eat chips, pretend to be a DJ, watch sunsets, play darts, drink cocktails, lie on tranquil beaches or lounge in cool beach side bars and generally just learn to be themselves again, then Es Cana, Ibiza could work for you too. For some it may be life changing. As I said at the beginning of my blog, life is short and for me, choosing to go to Ibiza in the first place was a step in the right direction.. Watching my sister and niece blossom in both the Ibiza sun and friendship of strangers was an added bonus. No, I don’t intend to take my fifties lying down. Ibiza was a blast!!

PS  A word of caution. Never buy a pair of trousers the morning after consuming Crazy Mandy Cocktails!

Relight my fire!

The Hotel Panorama is once again calm this morning as the hormonal frenzy which descended upon Charlie’s Bar last night slowly dissipates and wafts gently out over the clear Mediterranean water. Wives have reluctantly returned to the reliable comfort of their husbands and in return husbands have quietly accepted that there is no way that they can compete. Life can be cruel sometimes. As I lay here on my sunbed trying to write, having rejected the call to join in the Daily Puzzle or a game of Boules, conversations are awash with tales and glorious memories….”this is a good photo of you Trace, he looks bloody gorgeous and you can’t see your big belly….”

The exodus from The Panorama last night was something to behold as wave after wave of excitable, perfumed females giggled and wiggled their way to the doors of Charlie’s Bar and as I watched from the comfort of the cocktail bar, the atmosphere began to sparkle with womanly anticipation.There must be a collective noun for it but as I write this nothing springs to mind, probably because I’m exhausted.

I must admit this wasn’t what I had in mind when I headed to Ibiza, being more of a fan of Rudimental than Take That but as far as tribute acts go this has to be one of the best. Dan Hadfield – The Number one Gary Barlow Tribute Act, was indeed every inch Gary Barlow and as the love descended over Charlie’s I found myself caught up in the unified Gazzer glorification. His execution of Pray was sublime, despite the absence of waterfalls and Rule the World brought out a collective passion so intense that I seriously thought one poor woman was going to have a heart attack. It was brilliant. To top off the night we found some old school friends Jean and Jan and made some new ones, the mysterious and very delightful Mr Q (Q because apparently no one apart from his girlfriend can pronounce his name) and Nicky, who regularly travels to Ibiza by herself because, quite honestly, you can. It’s that sort of place.

And so it came to pass that another night flashed before our eyes here in Ibiza. Photos were taken, arms were waved and new friends made and as romance blossomed within our camp, no not me or my sister, and the dance floor emptied, at 3.00 am Mr Q made the very difficult choice between the eighties mega mix and pizza and chips and we all toddled off for some light refreshment. We have promised ourselves a quiet one and an early night tonight because understandably, we are all exhausted but I won’t make any promises. For in this dual reality that is Ibiza, quite frankly, anything can happen.

I don’t care…..I love it!

Sitting on the balcony of our hotel room I am trying to remember what day it is and for once it’s not an age thing but the fact that in two days we have had approximately eight hours sleep. Amazingly I feel remarkably perky for an old bird.

I have to admit that as we got on our Thomson flight I had my reservations as we seem to have somehow stumbled on to a saga trip. A Ryan Air flight to the party island it definitely was not and as the queue for those requiring special assistance shuffled forward I began to wonder if I had read my brochure properly. Disturbingly we were all on the same transfer bus. Maybe my choice of a child free hotel had been a horrible mistake.

However, despite the fact that the patrons of The Hotel Panorama in Es Cana appear to have an average age of seventy and as a result Amelia has raised concerns about possible contamination of the swimming pool, the hotel has suited us perfectly. The food is a bit ropy, more coach trip than Jamie Oliver but as we keep arriving late or miss the food slots entirely it is difficult to pass judgement. The rooms are clean and functional, the pool is large, relaxing and importantly child free and the staff are friendly and courteous, (even when Ali managed to blow a fuse with her ironing) and quite honestly it must be difficult to remain polite when faced with a relentless onslaught of elderly Brits. And there is an upside.The cocktails are surprisingly potent on the all inclusive and we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re keeping up with our five a day intake. We also look like supermodels around the swimming pool.

Hotel Panorama is also conveniently located opposite Charlie’s Bar which with its fabulous cocktails, tribute bands and a late late dj is already offering up a smorgasbord of characters, gossip and harmless goings on worthy of an episode of Towie. Hotel Panorama was a-twitching this morning amongst those in the know and I have no doubt that somebody’s husband, now affectionately known as Mr Sin Bin, was well and truly in the shit. I could, if I wanted to, have a field day but that wouldn’t be fair. Ibiza is obviously a place for letting your hair down and escaping the humdrum of the daily grind, letting those of us who are banned from dancing in public at home giving it large on the dance floor. There must be honour amongst thieves and hopefully my performance to the title song will never appear on You Tube!