By the time we got to Saint Lucia, we were really beginning to be worried about having to leave the Viking Sea FOREVER.  Saint Lucia makes day 19 of our 22-day cruise and is exactly as the Viking travel guide says…

“Rich in unspoiled and dramatic scenery, St Lucia boasts some of the Caribbean’s most idyllic beaches, many near the capital of Castries. This paradise is so seductive that the British and French fought over it for 150 years. 

“The British finally triumphed in 1814, but today Saint Lucia is its own nation, yet still part of the commonwealth. The island has a rich artistic heritage: the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Castries is adorned with lush murals painted by a local artist and batis artisan to keep a cherished tradition alive.” 

However, I’m sure that’s all true, but we didn’t see any of that. Instead the island’s west coast, the landmark Gros and Petit Pitons, two breathtaking rock pylon peaks, soared into view as we jetted out on a fishing boat to see whales.

Whale watching in Saint Lucia – race against the clock!

It was a bumpy ride as we sat on a double decker fishing boat hurtling out to open waters with the hopes of catching a glimpse of a blowhole. There are 33 varieties of resident and migratory pods of whales and dolphins, including pilot whales, sperm whales, humpbacks and false orcas which visit these waters.  Bottlenose, spinner and fraser dolphins often accompany whale pods. 

This is a three hour trip and sightings are never guaranteed. Our guide was pretty sure of himself ‘80% success rate’ he said when we boarded. Twenty pairs of eyes peered out onto the horizon. After 90 minutes with no such luck, I was beginning to think we were going to be unlucky on this occasion, we’d seen plenty of flying fish but no whale tails. 

Then ‘ahoy’, the boat sidles up to a female sperm whale and her calf, blowing majestic sprays as they come up for air. After that, the rain came, but it was worth the 60 minutes in drizzle back home. It’s not everyone who can say they’ve seen a whale, a real whale. 

I was upset that my Dad was ill the night before and missed our trip, although having said that he does not get on well with seasickness and boy, was our guide boat rocky. I mean it was like a rollercoaster and pretty uncomfortable at that, even with the free rum punch on offer. 

However, Dad did take a super trip in the afternoon, which took in a number of vistas of Castries. It then took in the Morne complex, where the Inniskilling Monument was erected to honour the British regiment that overtook the French in 1796.  Dad also stopped at the estate of Stony Hill, a private home with lush tropical gardens, which I think Tom would have loved to have seen. 

Whilst Dad was on his scenic tour, we took a walk around Castries. The cruise ships dock at Port Seraphine which has a well established shopping area with duty free stores and several bars – a couple are very popular with the Viking Sea crew as you can see them all letting their hair down ashore, so they are obviously the ones to head to! 

I think we arrived on market day, a Tuesday, as Castries Market was teeming and the stalls flooded the surrounding streets selling fruits, vegetables, homewares, beauty products, clothing. Pretty much anything you could possibly need. Unfortunately for us we had two restrictions, one a tight luggage allowance which meant lightweight and small souvenirs only and no cash.  

After walking around the market, we stopped for a few beers and lunch in The Pink Papaya Cafe, which I would heartily recommend in Port Seraphina. Tom and I had jerk chicken in wraps, Luke had jerk chicken on a pizza and Mum had jerk chicken with rice. Overall, the jerk chicken was excellent. 

With just one day in Saint Lucia, we raced against the clock to see whales!
With just one day in Saint Lucia, we raced against the clock to see whales!

After this I have only two more days to write up, I feel as sad about that as I did about the actual prospect of leaving the Viking Sea. 

I’m beginning to miss being a tourist. So I thought I’d try some of the virtual local attractions on offer – makes a change from yet another Netflix box set.  Here are my top seven!

Virtual local attractions to Tysoe – Top 7!

Compton Verney Art Gallery

Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park (Banbury/Warwick) was due to be showcasing two brand new exhibitions: ‘Cranach: Artist and Innovator’ and ‘Fabric: Touch and Identity’. They’ve moved both online, allowing you to explore the exhibits with detailed photography and narrated information by the artists. 

Ashmolean From Home

Oxford’s Ashmolean has launched  ‘Ashmolean From Home’. The museum was set to be staging the highly anticipated ‘Young Rembrandt’. Now you can watch the curator’s introduction and explore some of the artist’s most iconic works. They are also encouraging you to submit your own #isolationcreations via social media. 

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (Stratford upon Avon) is one of my favourite tourist haunts. During lockdown, they’ve launched a lecture series entitled What Was Shakespeare Really Like? Plus there are a set of shorts featuring famous faces and you can even download a virtual souvenir – your own Zoom background!

Get a Shakespeare themed Zoom background!
Copyright: Jade Smith / Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace (Woodstock) has launched #BlenheimPalace #StayConnected offers you the chance to take 360 degree tours of their most magnificent rooms. And for an even more immersive experience you can use a VR headset such a Google Cardboard. This is probably my fav!

Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford) from Home has a virtual reality tour that allows you to physically walk through its galleries looking at each individual artefact – like a Google Maps for the museum. You might need all of the lockdown period to get through everything in the museum. It looks pretty cool on a giant smart screen TV. 

Oxford Botanic Garden

Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum has new stories showcasing different parts of the garden and uncovering unusual plant-based mysteries – such as how do pitcher plants evolve? Its social media accounts are also showing us what we are missing each day in the gardens.  

History of Science Museum

History of Science Museum, Oxford also has a 360-degree virtual tour that allows you to explore three floors in a single click and satisfy your curiosity by zooming in on individual objects. Plus you don’t have to worry about closing time – it’s open 24 hours a day.

Are there any I’ve missed? Leave a link in the comments below. Have you seen my guide to best lockdown takeaways to Tysoe?

Tobago was day 18 on our 22-day cruise aboard the Viking Sea and we had precisely 480 minutes on its famous Pigeon Point Beach.

Tobago is actually twinned with its larger sister, Trinidad, to form one republic.  It’s actually been the colony of various parties and changed hands some 33 times between the colonial powers of the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Swedish and French. That’s partly due to its strategic position – it’s the closest Caribbean island to South America. 

Our ship docked in Scarborough, the cultural hub of the island where the 18th century Fort King George stands as a reminder of its pre-colonial past.   

480 minutes on Tobago’s Pigeon Point Beach Club 

I was quite certain before we even left for the Caribbean that I would have at least one day in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean sea. I got my wish when Tom and I visited Pigeon Point Beach Break, home to Tobago’s most picturesque beaches. 

It’s a private beach club, which charges twenty Trinidadian dollars (GB £2.25) for a day’s access, and further $18 (£2.03) for a sunbed. It’s also a heritage park with 125 acres of nature reserve which protects nesting ground of native turtles. There were about sixty-odd people from our ship heading to Pigeon Point Beach, but we were definitely outnumbered by the number of local families and friends hanging out on the sandy shores. 

It was busy, but that said, it wasn’t overwhelming – there was still space for us to pitch up our sunbeds underneath a shady palm. There wasn’t much information on the ship before we disembarked about whether you’d be able to use a credit card at the beach resort. 

As a precaution, we nipped to the cashpoint just outside the cruise port terminal (on the city side) and withdrew $50 or so.  In the end, most of the eating establishments on the beach take cards and there are even a few brightly huts selling souvenirs. We opted for lunch first, and after we’d thoroughly investigated all our eating options, opted for the bright pink Outback bar for two portions of fried chicken and chips, washed down with several Carib beers. In fact, quite a few beers, as we waited quite a while for lunch to arrive. 

Eventually, we got in the sea and we eeked it out until they were literally hounding us back on the bus.  It wasn’t until we got home and saw Ainsley Harriott boarding a boat on his latest programme, ‘Ainsley’s Caribbean Adventure’ from Pigeon Point, that we realised the wonderful waters of the ‘nylon pool’ were just a boat ride away.  So named because when Princess Margaret visited she exclaimed that the pool was as clear as her nylon stockings! 

Tobago Cocoa Estate 

Whilst we had 480 minutes on Tobago’s Pigeon Point Beach, Luke, Mum and Dad visited Tobago Cocoa Estate, after a drive through Scarborough. The cocoa estate is on the fringes of a forest reserve and includes 43-acres with more than 20,000 cocoa trees.

Historically, cocoa was the major crop of the region and as part of the tour, the guide showed the different stages of growing, harvesting, and drying the cocoa beans.  I was expecting at least a taster when I came back, but I was told that the chocolate cost a small fortune. 

This is partially due to the fact the beans are shipped to Francois Pralus an artisan master chocolatier, in France where it’s turned into award-winning bars – it’s even won a Great Taste Award! The bars on sale at the farm have then been shipped back for sale!  

I was sad to leave Tobago, it was one of the few places, where I felt we’d only just scratched the surface. I was somewhat appeased by the Calypso band that greeted us on the dockside and the champagne flute handed to me as we boarded. Easily pleased.  Tobago is definitely an island we’d go back to.

480 Minutes on Tobago's Pigeon Point Beach

There’s a culinary silver lining for Tysoe during this lock down – the ability to have a takeaway actually delivered! This is the first time in my life (except the 3 at university) where I have enjoyed such a privilege.  

We’re usually out reviewing restaurants as part of my blog, The Weekend Tourist, but since the new measures, we’ve now tried three of our local eateries offering takeout. 

If there are any I have missed – just leave me a comment below.

I’ll be regularly updating this post with new pubs, restaurants, eateries that I come across offering takeout – whether that’s collection or delivery.

Happy Herefords, Tysoe

You can’t get more local than these gals, Kate & Monica, moved into Tysoe at the beginning on May and have already been feeding the village from their Farm Pop Up with burger nights, steak night and Sunday morning breakfast club. Thoroughly recommend them! They guys, first-generation female farmers, look after their own herd of Herefords and produce a great meat box including their own burgers, steaks, home-cured bacon and sausages to name a few. Keep your eyes peeled on the blackboard by their gate at Herberts Farm or on their Facebook page.

WIN A HAPPY HEREFORDS BBQ MEAT BOX

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𝗚𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆! I’ve teamed up with @happyherefords who moved to Tysoe just a few weeks ago and already they’ve been feeding the village through their Farm Pop Up! I’ve one BBQ meat box to win - perfect timing for #NationalBBQWeek. ⁣ ⁣ We’ve already had a sublime burger, steak sandwich and bacon bap. We’ll be back on Friday for Burger Night. ⁣ ⁣ The box includes 6 x quarter pounder burgers, 4 X pork and beef sausages, 2 x volcano burgers, 10 slices for home cured back bacon, 18 x chipolatas, 200g diced lamb (perfect for kebabs!) ⁣ ⁣ I love these guys because a) they are super local (so basically no food miles) b) it’s run by two first generation female farmers, Kate & Monica! They also really look after their herd - the meat box features produce they’ve hand reared and cared for. ⁣ ⁣ 1️⃣To enter all you have to do is follow @theweekendtourist and @happyherefords 2️⃣Like this post⁣ 3️⃣Tag a friend in the comments below - each comment counts as an entry. ⁣ ⁣ This is only open to UK residents.⁣ Competition closes 8pm on 1st June. ⁣ T&C⁣ You must complete all steps to enter. The winner will be selected at random and contacted after the closing date. Promoters decision is final. Only one prize per winner and prizes are non-transferable. No cash or alternative will be offered. Competition open to UK residents only. Competition not administered , promoted or endorsed by Facebook or Instagram. #bbq #bbqlife #bbqlovers #baconlovers #meatbox #meatboxes #bankholiday #competition #giveawaycontest #giveawaytime #baconcheeseburger #baconbacon #baconburger #supportlocal #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocalbusiness #supportsmallbusinesses #supportsmall #keepsupporting #ilovewarwickshire #warwickshire #warwickshirecountryside #warwickshirelife #countrylife #cotswoldslife #thecotswolds #cotswoldsfoodie #warwickshirefoodie #warwickshirefoodies

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The Peacock, Oxhill

We’re big fans of burger night at Peacock in Oxhill, so when we spotted their signature beef pattie (£12 each) on the menu it was a must. They offer collection and delivery and our burgers were the excellent meat feasts we’re used too. The churros was a good dessert. Be sure to order early, they get booked up. 

Wykham Arms, Sibford Gower

Next up Wykham Arms in Sibford Gower, more oriental dishes on the menu and my satay chicken with noodles were delicious (£10 a dish). We didn’t have to wait long before dinner was ready for collection.  

Bower House, Shipston-on-Stour

On Easter Sunday, we had the Easter Feast from Bower House in Shipston, again collection. Of the three, it has the most sophisticated menu. True restaurant quality food in our home – roast lamb shoulder, dauphinoise potatoes followed simnel spiced panettone bread and butter pudding.  Still a reasonable £40 for two courses for two people. 

The Bell, Shenington

We’ve not eaten here yet, but they are just six minutes away!

The Straw Kitchen, Whichford

This one is a bit further away, but we love it, as it does the best vegetarian food around (and of course non-vegetarian!) It’s only open weekends at the moment.

The Stag’s Head, Swalcliffe

Always a fan of the Stag’s Head, and we visited just before lock down for it’s Greek Night. You can order some of their greek classics for takeaway. They are delivering to the Sibfords. Check out their menu here: https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/24fe0a06/files/uploaded/Menu%20Takeaway.pdf

Shukers, Kineton

Shukers Indian Brasserie has been a long favourite in the Friend household, although they are not delivering to Tysoe it’s only a short ride away in Kineton. They are still offering their full menu Wednesday – Sunday 5pm – 10pm, and have put in place social distancing measures. Takeaways are collected at the front door in an orderly fashion. https://www.shukursbrasserie.com/

Rose & Crown, Ratley

To my shame, I’ve never been to the Rose & Crown in Ratley, but the pub is offering takeaway Friday, Saturday (6pm – 8pm) & Sunday (midday – 2pm). They have also opened a community shop. https://www.roseandcrownratley.co.uk/takeaway-service/ Friday night is curry night!



Malt & Shovel, Gaydon

Potentially the furthest away to Tysoe in this roundup the Malt & Shovel in Gaydon, which is also offering takeaway menu including pub classics, pizza and lunch baguettes! They are open for orders until 8.30pm.

Indian Queen, Wroxton

Another Indian takeaway favourite, the team at the Indian Queen are now open!

Like I said a true takeaway renaissance! 

We might be in the middle of a lockdown on travel, but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan where to go post-COVID. Plus, selfishly, finishing off these posts about our cruise is keeping me entertained. Here’s one day in Belém, Brazil…

We arrived in Belém on New Years Day and the cruise director in his port talk was quite clear that it might not be service as usual.  We had a whole day in Belém, the first European colony in Brazil, and it was certainly quieter than some of our other Brazilian stops. This was also our last Latin American destination before a few days at sea heading back towards the Caribbean. 

One day in Belém Brazil

Belém hugs the mouth of the Amazon, known for its mango trees which grace the park and boulevards.  In some respects it does have some similarities to Portugal, many of its buildings sport the colourful azulejo tiles and the Cathedral is neoclassical baroque in style – it wouldn’t look out of place in Lisbon. 

We were signed up for the Ver-o-Peso food market tour – which is the largest open-air market in Latin America.  It was New Year’s Day, so we really only got a flavour of what the market would have been like at full throttle. A few hardy and dedicated stallholders had braved their New Years Eve headaches to take advantage of the boatload of visitors coming in from the port. 

The Ver-o-Peso market translates to ‘see the weight’, a reference to the colonial practise of weighing the merchandise to determine payment and tariffs.   For over 300 years market traders have been bringing products foraged from the Amazon including acai berries and medicinal herbs. It’s divided into several sections with dedicated fish, meat, fruit and vegetable, live animals and traditional handicrafts woven by local craftspeople. Each street is clearly labelled – manioc, no prizes for what they sell there.

From the Ver-o-Peso market we ambled towards the 18th century,  Our Lady of Grace cathedral. As it was January 1st, it was also the inauguration of the governor. We’d earlier spotted the military parade in honour of the occasion and whilst we were in the cathedral, the celebrations moved on to an epic fireworks display. I think we all thought we were under attack in the cathedral, and the guide gave up trying to explain what we were seeing.

With the fireworks still going we walked over the square to the Castle Fort, also known as Presepio Fort, which dates back to 1616 and was the fortress on which Belém was built. 

We were on quite an early tour, so had the afternoon to wander around Belém ourselves. The Estacao Das Docas, is a former dockyard rejuvenated into a cultural and shopping centre. What’s nice is that it is clearly an area that is used by both locals as well as tourists. It has three or four large zones given over to restaurants and independent boutique shops. There’s even live music that travels down the length of the room on a giant moving platform. 

Knowing no Portuguese we opted for a buffet lunch, one of several on offer, where we could take a look at the menu. We then discovered Amazon Beer, the craft beer movement had even reached Belém. The micro-brewery was set up in 2000 and specialises in creating beers using exotic ingredients from the Amazon region.  It builds on Brazil’s long beer heritage since German settlers began brewing over 200 years ago. We spent most of the afternoon working our way through the menu. 

This was one of my favourite days in Brazil, chilling out with the local populace, but I do think that it was also one of those days that sharply through into focus the discrepancies between the haves and the have nots. Our guide casually dismissed those living on the streets as immigrants from neighbouring countries and the garbage collecting in the mouth of the dockside. Perhaps it was more noticeable because the streets were emptier. 

It was also the only place we visited where you felt mildly more alert to the crime levels. Our tour had both a guide and a minder, a burly bloke who brought up the rear and was keeping an eye on all the stragglers in the group. 

My mum and dad’s tour group also received a police escort at one point when the tour group needed to make a detour to avoid some of the governor’s celebrations. There was a large police presence on the day we were visiting, but I suspect that was also in connection with the governor’s inauguration. It was also worth remembering that the period in which we were visiting Brazil, was also the same period where the country had just elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right president, and if he’s anything like Mr Trump, I imagine that he divides opinion, which can get heated. 

All that aside, it was still one of my favourite days.