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27 April 2016

celebrate england, on the isle of wight (pt two)

we woke early on the second day, despite our best efforts or actual desire to, as we had even more planned than the day before and the thought of having a lazy morning was not one that coincided with our full itinerary. with a quick breakfast at one holyrood and a giant cup of coffee to set us up, we headed off toward the bus station, wanting to make sure we allowed plenty of time to get there and on the right bus, bound for the first stop of the day: west wight alpacas.

and llamas! we met up with owner michelle, and katie and holly on her team, and were introduced to a few of their male llamas who we'd be hanging out with for the morning. with over 70 alpacas, 12 llamas and variety of other animals on site to choose from, we were excited to get our two boys - ramses and taffarel, harnessed up so we could take them on a walk around the farm (taffarel is the one what looks like rebekah, haaaaa).

the once-hobby farm is now one of the island's most well-loved attractions, with visitors coming from far and wide to talk a walk with the animals. not one person we spoke to that weekend was unaware of the farm's good work, and we were very lucky to get such a great day for our trek. in the forty minutes we spent walking our new pals we got to learn a lot about the animals on site, and what the idea behind the farm is; the breeding that occurs onsite isn't just for the fleece that is considered to be some of the most luxurious in the world, but also because the suri alpaca is one that has the potential to become extinct unless breeding programs like this are set up.

want to know something horrible? a llama's gestational period is 370 days. that's more than one entire year. the day we visited, they were due another llama baby as its mama was at day 377 of her pregnancy. that poor old duck! we hoped she might give birth while we were there so nineteen-day old jolene would have a friend to play with, but no such luck. in fact, our luck was so bad that the baby was actually born later that day, after we'd already left the island...

we were on a tight schedule that morning as the bus that dropped us at west wight only ran hourly, and we didn't want to miss it. we were only in the farm for an hour, and when we jumped back on the bus, it was the same bus driver that had dropped us off an hour earlier. that wasn't the first time that'd happened to us either; we kept running into the same bus driver the entire weekend - from one route to the next. this time though, we were headed back to newport before jumping on yet another (new bus driver, thankfully. that would have been freaken weird otherwise) bus, headed towards ryde. 

we were off a few stops before that though - at least, we were meant to be, but the driver forgot to stop. thankfully a nice lady on the bus had overheard us ask him to let us off where we wanted to be, so when she saw us pass quarr abbey, she called out to the driver who pulled over right there on the road all apologetic. it was a short walk on a muddy path back to the entrance, so that wasn't the end of the world.

quarr abbey is home to a small group of benedictine monks who dedicate their lives to prayer, work, and community life. the abbey grounds are completely open to the public, who are free to come in and wander around the grounds to experience the calm and tranquil atmosphere, check out the art gallery where local artists show their work, or enjoy the facilities of the quarr abbey's tearooms where visitors can indulge in afternoon tea, or pick up locally-produced bits and pieces from the farm shop. we settled for a bit of cake and a fizzy drink out in the beautiful garden, while we let the morning's activities play over in our heads... i mean... we'd just walked llamas.

we went for a bit of a wander around the grounds and walking trails, and then followed the signs to the gothic abbey. it was whelming, at best, with not a lot of information available to completely understand what we were standing there, gawking at. we were approached by a lovely old lady and her little dog charlie - who we suspect could smell the llamas on us, who stopped to chat for a bit before we had to get on our way again. with a different bus driver again, this time we headed right back to where we started our weekend - in ryde - where our next stop was a only short walk away.

it was about a twenty minute walk along the seafront to our next stop, but we'd arrived about an hour too-early. how's that for excellent time keeping, eh? rather than head into our reservation at three buoys restaurant too early, we grabbed our first ice creams of the weekend, and took a slow walk in the sunshine up to the look-out tower that stood all alone on the beach. 

we couldn't quite believe the weather that had turned up for us that day, with the bluest skies we'd seen in months, and the pretty serve of clouds i think i've ever seen. with the tide out so far, we could see nothing but sand for miles, before a tiny sliver of water and then portsmouth just glistening there, far off on the horizon. we could have stood there and stared out across that stretch of water for hours, but... we had reservations.

we definitely over-stayed our welcome at three buoys, which i am not even sorry for, because when the food (and the service) is a good as what it was that day, you have no reason to leave. the staff were so welcoming and insistent, so who were we to say no to their incredible generosity? our lunch on the seafront was our last stop of the weekend, and one we could finally stop to savour. there was just so much to reflect on, as we looked out towards the mainland, that we both decided then and there that we would just have to come back. and hopefully plan for some warmer weather (those skies might have been blue, but it certainly was not warm).

with so many thnigs going on, we're not short of reasons to head back. there's all the festivals, for a start, and not just the ones you already know about (isle of wight and bestival, i mean); there's a walking festival where you too can walk with alpacas. there's the jazz music festival. there's the festival of the sea (and mardi gras!) which sounds amazing, and there's the fringe. and this is just in the next few months! 

honestly, there's so much happening on this island, and one short weekend was not enough. another massive thank you to visit england and visit isle of wight for having me over and for showing me such a great time. yes, this weekend was in collaboration with their #stgeorge and #celebrateengland campaigns, but if i'd had anything less than an amazing time, you know i would not have written about it. so, trust me when i say you'll have nothing short of an incredible time if you decided to check the isle of wight out for yourself. 

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