Arena Travel Blog

  • Quilting in Assisi

    Back in September Karin Hellaby led a group of keen quilters on a holiday to beautiful Assisi. The group stayed in a superb 4* hotel and sewed on Bernina machines. They also enjoyed an afternoon at the Assisi school loft embroidery and a trip to Perugia and Basilica. Here is a selection of photograph's taken on the trip.


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  • News from the Turkey Bridge Room

    Bob and Jacky Our first visit to the Hotel Villa Side Residence saw a group of nearly one hundred players enjoying a superb bridge room that would have housed many more. The staff, and especially the local representative Natalie, deserve a special mention. They were extremely helpful and looked after us all very well. It was a five minute walk down to the beach, where there was a pleasant cafe which belonged to the hotel and was part of the all-inclusive package. There were, in addition to a wide range of drinks, light lunches available, and on several occasions an open air barbecue tempted us with with an aroma of cooking meat and chicken. A similar gentle stroll in the other direction brought you to the local town of Kumkoy with many opportunities for a bargain. For those wishing to venture just a little further away there were many trips organised to Side, plus several nearby sites of historical interest and a large market near to a waterfalls. The lounge areas in the hotel were very popular after the evening bridge sessions and nearly all of the players gathered to discuss the hands and enjoy one of the wide selection of (free) drinks. The facilities in general were excellent, with a lovely indoor spa and heated pool, and many guests enjoyed the massage service and Turkish baths. Much appreciated was the weekly laundry service which was free of charge. Finally, our thanks go to Ro and Chris who were always willing to help both before and during the bridge sessions and who were cheerful and friendly throughout. We look forward to working with them again on a future holiday. Director's report With nearly a hundred players at the recent holiday in Turkey there was often a good crowd for the afternoon sessions. To show that not all of the interesting hands occurred in the evenings, the following was hand dealt one afternoon: untitled At one table East-West, despite vigorous opposition bidding in hearts, found the excellent contract of 6♣ played by West. Declarer won the heart lead, discarding 2 from dummy, and, with eleven trumps between the two hands, laid down the ace of trumps. The 1-1 trump split failed to materialise and declarer crossed to dummy and took the diamond finesse. This lost to K and the slam was one down. Rubbing salt into the wound, North then revealed that theK had been singleton. Admittedly declarer was unlucky, both with trumps (a 1-1 split is slightly more likely than a 2-0 split, although the bidding may have suggested otherwise) and then with the diamond king being offside. However, declarer could still have brought the slam home. After cashing the trump ace, he should have played king, ace and queen of spades before ruffing the fourth round. Having eliminated the major suits he then throws North in with his ♣K. North must either lead a diamond (when the position of the king in the suit becomes irrelevant) or give a ruff and discard, when declarer can discard the remaining low diamond from dummy. In either case the slam is made. It would have made no difference if North were able to ruff one of the rounds of spades, as he would have found himself facing the same dilemma of having to lead a diamond or concede a ruff and discard. This was a classic example of an elimination and throw-in endplay. Meanwhile, at one of the evening bridge sessions, on one occasion I received the usual call of "Director, please!" and I approached with the standard "How can I help?" The response was "Director, I have made a rotten bid!" to which I replied "Strictly speaking, that is not against the Laws" and let the bidding continue! Congratulations to the following winners of the principal events: Random teams Paula Ollive, Margaret Sawyer, Jeff & Lydia Stanford Random Teams winners-1             Men's Pairs Michael Whittaker and Jack Clarke Men's Pairs winners - Michael Whittaker & Jack Clarke             Ladies' Pairs Jennifer Kinloch and Brenda Miller Ladies' Pairs winners - Jennifer Kinloch & Brenda Miller           Consolation Pairs Winners Linda Lazarus and Alex Davoud 103_2836        
  • Our Northern Lights Quilting Cruise

    Northern Lights Quilting Cruise Read the blog and see photographs from our Northern Lights Quilting holiday on Karin Hellaby's Quilters Haven website. Read Karin's blog >>
  • Stitchtopia Festival News

    Well, what a week we had at STITCHTOPIA 2014, The new venue at Wyboston Lakes was superb, the classes magnificent and the food delicious. On Monday Karin Hellaby, Debbie Abrahams, Jane Crowfoot and Sally White all had afternoon classes and they were much enjoyed. After dinner we were all entertained by Stuart Hillard's talk about his life and time on BBC's Great British Sewing Bee. It was great fun and many of us rounded off the day with a drink in the bar. quilters1001220_775677752459937_725748245_n On Tuesday Stuart held the first of his classes and we were joined by Jennie Rayment and Carol Meldrum. The Bernina sewing machines were humming away in the Bernina Centre, needles were clacking in the knitting classes, fabric was being twiddled, tucked and folded, and crochet hooks were working overtime. A break for lunch and then the work continued. After dinner Jennie Rayment treated us to a fascinating talk that had us all in stitches. I will never forget her demonstration in schoolgirl French, or her transformation into a saucy maid! Wednesday morning greeted us with bright sunshine and the arrival of Jane Greenoff who was teaching counted threads cross stitch. So now we had a full compliment of tutors and the work produced was wonderful. There was a buzz in the air, the sound of laughter and occasional silences caused by concentration! GreenhoffOn Wednesday evening Debbie Abrahams and Jane Crowfoot presented their new book 'Kaleidoscope' and showed us some of the beautiful items created for it. An amazing mix of knitting and crochet. We rounded off the evening with a quiz night - yes there were prizes - and then, for some, a nightcap before bed. Sadly, Thursday came with the last classes taking place in the morning. It was all over so quickly and many asked if STITCHTOPIA could run for longer - 2 weeks lease, or a month!   Of one thing we were all sure... We must do it again in 2015. And we will. For more pictures from our event please go to our Stitchtopia Facebook Page   magnify1920592_775131802514532_1363584584_n janeStuart
  • Cascais Bridge

    News from Cascais Bridge Our first trip to Cascais exceeded expectations. As well as enjoying some fantastic bridge sessions, guests also had time to relax on the resorts beautiful beach, play golf or rejuvenate in the hotel spa. We stayed in the luxurious Grand Real Villa Italia Hotel and Spa where the hotel staff could not have been more helpful and efficient – nothing was too much trouble for them. Bridge sessions were played in the library used by King Umberto of Italy which, as might be expected, was a grand room. On two of the afternoons a group from the International Bridge Club of Estoril (just a short distance away) were invited to join us for a Pairs session. They added five tables of players to our numbers and both our guests and the visitors thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The hotel overlooked the sea, and on the days when the weather let us down the sight of the waves crashing on the beach was quite spectacular. Cascais centre is just a ten minute stroll from the hotel and there were a variety of restaurants, museums, galleries and shops. Also, a trip to Sintra was arranged and proved to be very popular. For those who wished to venture further afield, there was a train station with a regular direct service into Lisbon (at only €2.20 fare), well worth a visit. Finally, thanks to Jacquie Corbyn who was a great help and whose cheerful manner added to the atmosphere in the bridge room. From Jacky Baker News from the Bridge Room Bidding a Grand Slam We all look forward to picking up a real powerhouse of a hand. It is only when the bidding progresses beyond the inevitable Acol 2♣ (or Benji 2♦) opening bid and the equally inevitable negative response from partner that we begin to worry. In a hand from one of the evening sessions in Cascais South, with neither side vulnerable, picked up the following impressive collection: ♠ void  AKQ62  AK2  ♣ AKQJ6 Players who were using standard Acol were happy to be able to open with a 2♣ bid and, over the negative 2 response, rebid 2, game-forcing. Good news arrived at this point when partner raised to 4. Although this is weaker than a simple raise to 3 (which leaves more space to explore slam possibilities) it is still encouraging, as it is almost certainly based on four or more trumps. The problem now was how to proceed. With a slam almost certain there is perhaps an urge to bid 4NT, Blackwood. However, this urge must be resisted. The reply, almost certainly denying an ace, will hardly tell you whether a grand slam is on – only the most pessimistic of players will be thinking of stopping short of a small slam after partner’s heart support. Instead of relying on a convention, South should apply logic. Surely if there were any diamond losers then they could be discarded from dummy on declarer’s club suit, after first drawing trumps of course. For this to not be possible, dummy would have to have something like five diamonds and three clubs, when it would be possible to discard just two of the diamonds, perhaps leaving a losing diamond in dummy. However, assuming the raise to 4 is based on four trumps, this distribution (four hearts, five diamonds and three clubs) would leave room for only one spade. Surely the opponents, with twelve spades between them, would have found some way to enter the auction. So the only worrying distributions for partner are 1-4-4-4, when only one diamond discard on the clubs is available, or 0-5-3-5 (i.e. the same as the South hand) making it even more likely that the opponents would be bidding. Even then partner may contribute Q – a card that it is difficult to discover even for the most advanced bidders. All in all, it must be a reasonable gamble to bid the grand slam. For the record, partner (North) held  ♠ KQ6  108754  953  ♣ 75 and although the spade honours were not the cards that South needed, the contract was cold once the opening (diamond) lead was not ruffed. Declarer simply drew trumps and discarded a diamond from dummy on his club suit, as anticipated, before ruffing his third diamond in dummy. And the winners were... Championship Pairs winners Random Teams winners-1 Teams winner Teams winners

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