July 2017
  • Day24


    July 27, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    Left the hotel on Wed 26/7 8.30am London time and arrived home Thu 27/7 11.00pm. That is 29 1/2 hrs door to door.
    Unfortunately flight KL to MEL left KL about 1 1/2 hrs late but now we are here - dark, rainy and a cold 11C.
    Time to crawl into our bed as we have only had a few hours sleep.
    Holiday finished, time to start planning the next.........
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  • Day22

    Portland and travel

    July 25, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    On one of my first gazes out of our sea view window this morning I noticed man and his best friend were out paddle boarding again. They have it mastered.
    After the obligatory B&B big breakfast at which I tried kippers for the first time and didn't mind we drove down to Portland which is south of the seaside town of Weymouth connected by a causeway of sorts. The area was much bigger to drive around than I had imagined but only one road in.
    We drove to the top of the island, not really an island but thats how it feels.
    The views were spectacular and they had a statue of olympic rings up there as the area hosted the sailing events for the Olympic Games in 2012. Portland also has the National Sailing Academy on site.
    We then drove across to the other side where the light house is situated and had a walk around there too. It operates all electronically now after removing the last light house keeper in 1995.
    On the drive around the homes become very same same as most are built from the same stone - Portland Stone! An interesting fact that this is where Portland Stone comes from.
    It is a very rugged coastline and no sand in sight, just stones on the beach, as the area is part of the World Heritage listed Jurassic Coast.
    It was another beautiful day today in this area with the temp getting to 25C by late afternoon. Two lovely days to finish out trip - a bonus!
    We left Portland stopping in Dorchester for lunch and a short wander on our last real day in the UK. The town centre area was quite a cute mall area.
    From Dorchester it was a long drive to Heathrow where we are booked into the Premier Inn which has a walkway to Terminal 4 where we depart from in the morning. Now that is handy!
    Phil did have to drop me off with the luggage though while he found his way around to the other side of Heathrow to return our rental car. All went well and he was even lucky enough to get a shuttle back to this terminal so he is now 'home' safe and sound.
    And now at the end of the day the sky is cloudy again.

    Phil - Well, the drive is over! Dropped back the little car that never missed a beat. It tried to match Volvo's, BMW and Mercs that zoomed by us, but the egg beater engine could only do so much. However, after driving 2200 km, around the freeways, and local small lanes, I would rather have the small car. You can literally put them anywhere. So my summary on cars in the UK, is size does not matter.
    Heathrow Airport is big. It takes about 30 minutes to drive around it, as there is a perimetre road around it. Mind you, you see a plane taking off every few minutes, so it is hard to keep an eye on the road when watching the tyres fold up into the plane.
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  • Day21

    Beachside at Weymouth

    July 24, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    After Highclere Castle we drove to Stonehenge, technically only Stonehenge carpark as we appear to be tight wads and did not appreciate how much they wanted to charge for entry. On careful consideration we felt that it was more expensive than a number of other tourists attractions we had visited and was way too much for the amount of time we expected to spend looking at a few rocks.
    I did tell Phil that the last time I was at Stonehenge (35 years ago) I pulled up on the side of the road with Deb and many other vehicles and took photos at the fenceline then kept on driving.
    We drove back out of the carpark and headed for Weymouth and the further south we went the warmer the weather became. Where has this been for the last two weeks! By the time we arrived it was about 25C.
    We dropped our luggage off at our B&B, overlooking the seaside, up lots of narrow staIrs to the second floor and walked one way along the beach promenade and returned past our place to get changed into something far more summery and then continued in the other direction along the promenade to the harbour end of town. Some of the boats/yachts resting in the harbour where very impressive. On one even the dog had been brought along. We relaxed with a cool drink in a pub overlooking the harbour then continued our walk further around town.
    Most of the beach is stones like Europe but one section is sand so I assume they truck it in.
    This town is certainly geared to the summer tourist, you can rent a version of bathing boxes (some more swish than others) by the day, week or season, there are carnival rides everywhere along the beach and several amusement stores along the Esplanade.
    The view from our bedroom window over the promenade and water is great. It was a very pleasant place to relax enjoying the view with a pre dinner drink before dining italian tonight.
    While taking in our view we even got to watch a guy paddleboarding with his dog. A very happy pair indeed!

    Phil - I made the mistake of packing the cat. This was bad, as a few of our accomodation places did not let me get it out and swing it around. But to her credit Wendy has picked some great places to stay. I can say I am now converted to B & B's. We did them in Europe, and now here, and they are more homely than a cold hotel room. Also, you just do not know what you are going to get. (Or how many steps up a spiral staircase you will need to manouvere with a loaded suitcase).
    Stonehenge was a rip off. They know it , so they charge you £5 to park your car, and this comes off the entrance fee. This is because so many people would have parked and gotten to entrance and then decided it was too expensive, and went away.
    On the way to Heathrow tomorrow. I am ready to come home fully satisfied I have done the UK.
    And a big Happy Birthday to my mum, Norma. This will save me the cost of an overseas phone call, as our money is running out.
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  • Day21

    Downton Abbey morning

    July 24, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    We left Oxford on a breezy, cloudy, cool morning after having a lovely chat with our hosts - Pauline & Peter.
    We arrived at the castle after driving in along a long driveway and parking in a field and there it is just like you see in the series except that there were a queue of people waiting for entry standing along the driveway.
    It is a wonderful experience as everything you see from the moment you arrive is as you see in Downton Abbey series.
    The castle is amazing inside with masses of paintings and massive tapestries and the outside lawns and gardens are sprawling. It also has many family photo's scattered in every room which often include members of the royal family.
    It is a credit to the castle that during the filming there were no changes made to the actual home. I will be revisiting a few episodes to check out the scenery indoors and out.
    We were able to visit several rooms on the ground floor and first floor and then exit through the basement area, aka servants quarters. You could not access the second floor or towers.
    The family live in the house beside the castle and actually still spend a lot of time in the castle, particularly when entertaining.
    The only disappointment is that you can't take photo's inside.
    The exit off the property is an even longer drive out of the grounds. This property is 5000 acres!!!

    Phil - Wendy saved the best till last. This was the best castle we went to in the trip. Yes, all of the others had something good going for them, but this was a stand out. Seeing pictures in many rooms, of the way they used it in the Downton Abbey series, really gave you a good insight, as to how it would have been back then.
    The place was huge, and also seeing pictures of the children brought up in the castle, makes you think that a game of Hide & Seek could have lasted days.
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  • Day20

    Oxford in a day

    July 23, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    A big day out!
    As we are staying in a local village (North Hinksey) bordering on Oxford we decided to walk into town instead of trying to find parking. It was 30 minutes to where we had to be to meet our booked tour. This morning we had booked a 3 hour tour which was a combined 2 hour walk and 1 hour bike. There were only three of us for the tour, which makes it very personal and easy to interact.
    Our guide was a recent physics uni student with Balloil College which was founded in 1263 and he was able to take us thru his College where others couldn't go. We visited the quad, the chapel and dining room, whilst talking about how great it was living there and how the process of all 38 Colleges works under the umbrella of Oxford University.
    Then we went to the Sheldonian Library which holds graduations for every College, the Divinity School next door where graduates prepare for graduation ceremony and the filming sight for Harry Potters Duke Humfrey's Library, the Bodliean Library, Weston Library were we went into the Treasury Room which showcases 20 chosen pieces per year from the 12 million held by the library. We actually saw a copy of the Magna Carta amongst other amazing written pieces of history, the Radcliffe Camera (another library), Hertford College where the Bridge of Sighs links two of its buildings.
    We then walked back to the bike racks and picked up what were possibly antique student bikes and went riding around Oxford with several other Colleges being pointed out to us along with various faculty buildings and then out to Port Meadows and over river Thames.
    From here it was to be a ride back to the city centre but we left our guide and one other tour member as we had arranged to borrow our bikes for the rest of the day. We kept riding out along the river alongside the meadow until we reached Binsey village stopping at an Inn for lunch but it was booked out so kept riding along the Thames and thru fields to Godstow and Wolvercote where we stopped at an Inn for a light lunch out the back with the locals. After lunch we continued and moved across to the Oxford Canal and rode back to Oxford along the Heritage Trail.
    We loved our afternoon cycling along and the beautiful views.
    The weather fairy was watching over us today. The weather forecast was mostly rain, but it didn't eventuate.
    After we returned the bikes we walked to The Turf Tavern which our guide had pointed out to us where it resides down an alley which is a very popular student haunt. This tavern is also the tavern that Bob Hawke, Rhodes Scholar, downed a yard of ale in 11 seconds in 1963 whilst he studied in Oxford. The record has not yet been broken. It is also the same tavern that Bill Clinton, another Rhodes Scholar, allegedly smoked marijuana, but assures all he did not inhale!
    After a relax over a drink in the coutyard we walked the 40 mins back to our loft and have put our feet up while savouring a whiskey liquer.
    Today is done and I think we will sleep!

    Phil -Big day. Oxford is not what I expected, but after touring and hearing about it, I can see how it all comes together. Not as big as I thought it was going to be, as all the buildings are near each other. Each college has its own garden and lawn area inside its walls.
    Good to go to Bobs pub, as it has come up over the years and now I can say I have been there, done that. (Well, I had half a pint).
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  • Day19

    Village cruising

    July 22, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today was about me!
    Even though I hardly watch any TV I was a big fan of Downton Abbey.
    Phil took one for the team and chaffeured me thru the villages used for filming locations of Downton Abbey.
    But first stop was Anne Hathaways home on the outskirts of Straford upon Avon as we left town.
    First Abbey stop was The Swan Inn in Swinbrook which we found along a single width lane when we rounded a corner and there it was beside the river.
    This was the scene where Branson and Sybil planned their elopement. It is a very quaint inn and had a great outdoor area at the back too, but of course light rain began so we settled for the window seat in the front room beside the 'blue room' for our tea and hot chocolate.
    From here we travelled to nearby Shilton where the Forge which was used as The Red Lion Inn sits beside the ford.
    More narrow lanes and further away we came to Bampton Village, a lot larger than the last two but still very cute.
    This location was used for a lot of filming - St Marys Church, the village green, Isobel Cawleys home, the village street for the Post Office and Dirty Dog Inn, and the local library which was used as the Hospital and Doctors surgery.
    The ladies in the library were funny. The volunteers have set up a room with Downton souvenirs and local hand made handcrafts to raise money. The conversations with them were a wee bit funny and I am sure they both make a point of not leaving the village if possible.
    These wonderfully quaint villages in out of the way places were exactly what I had been waiting for. It is so much fun wandering around there places.
    Next stop was the Manor House Farm in Cogges were the filming for Yee Tree Farm was done. The rain was now much heavier and whilst we sat in the car we decided that wandering around a farm area was not fun and that for the first time the rain had beaten us. Time to venture onto our next accommodation stop.
    We are staying in a loft above a garage built by owners that live at the front of the property in their thatched cottage that was built in the 1600's. This couple only started renting out accommodation a year ago when the wife turned 70. She looks 55. Fantastic!
    Dinner was across the road at the local pub which is saying something as we are staying on a country lane outside of Oxford. Fortunately the food was great.

    Phil - I have only glanced at Downton Abbey on tv when Wendy was watching it, so I am not sure of the storyline. However, going to these very small hamlets and seeing how they are still clinging to the past is amazing. You can easily think you are back in time, and somehow you feel relaxed. Maybe our kids should all get a mandatory one week per annum visit to these places to de-digitalise.
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  • Day18

    Stratford Upon Avon

    July 21, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    An easier day, although cool and windy, which began with a two hour walking tour of town which we came across while wandering and which covered many of William Shakespeares homes and places of interest around town including the medieval and tudor architecture. Yet again you see areas of town that you probably wouldn't come across on your own.
    Following the walk we needed food so went wandering on our own and came across a tearoom with an amazing display of cakes in the front window. That made up our mind, in we went. I can't imagime how anyone could walk past this tearoom and not go in once you gape at the display. There would have been at least 15 cheesecakes, 15 cakes, pies, soup, sandwiches, baguettes, wraps, slices, scones and more......
    Phil had a great chicken baguette and hot chocolate that was like a sundae and I had a piece of huge apple pie and mulled wine.
    We rolled out of there very happy and headed to the river to walk some of the Avon Trail along the river, returning as the rain began and stopped off at an Inn for refreshments before heading home to make dinner plans.
    After our day out and about we both agree it is a lovely town.
    We returned to our room to find it had not been cleaned, upon enquiry finding it had been forgotten.... so I requested an immediate service. We ducked out to allow housekeeping to do her job while I spoke to Reception about a problem which was to be resolved which in due course included an offer of complimentary drinks while waiting for our room.
    I also found out that we were supposed to have Club Lounge access. Yay! Just another example of the disorganisation here. So off we went, free drinks for us and into the lounge for the 5-8pm complimenary service of hot and cold treats and bar, soft drinks and hot drinks.
    Whilst chilling in the lounge two ladies from Sydney came in that had been on our walking tour this morning so we had a fun chat and nibbled and sipped our way thru the evening. No longer any need to go out for dinner and fate is a wonderful thing because it is pouring down by this stage at 8.30pm.

    Phil - I love this town. So neat and tidy, old style buildings that have been kept well.
    I didn't know much about old William Shakespeare till now, and find that he was responsible for most of the english language being documented. Pretty cool dude.
    Funny how fate took over the evening. Problems in the hotel saw us getting into the Club Lounge with free grog and food. Got to love that!
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  • Day17

    Here, there and everywhere!

    July 20, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    Today was a transit day but we still managed to fill it with a variety of stops.
    We loaded up the car and left York behind at the same time that the rain began.
    Not a very enjoyable drive for the next 1 1/2 hours with the rain but we arrived at Sherwood Forest in pursuit of Robin Hood armed with umbrellas and waterproof gear.
    Although no Robin in sight we did find the Major Oak which is suffering from old age and is supported by many upright poles and ropes.
    Next stop another 1 1/2 hours later, which sent us slightly off route was Rieker Factory Outlet (shoes). Bargain time, the shoes were at least between 1/2 and 1/5th of the price in Aus. I walked out with four pairs (one of which was for Phil) which now takes my shoe purchase total in the UK to seven pairs, including the pair for Phil. Packing to go home is going to be interesting. And, the rain had just faded away - at last.
    Just under another hour of driving and we find ourselves parked three car spaces from the enrty to Warwick Castle with dry skies. Premium parking!
    This complex is huge and quite interesting covering several acres. The setup, furnishings and stories in the great hall are extremely well done.
    You can also get some great views of the area and town from The Mound or the Castle Walls. You can see why families could spend a day here.
    We did the dungeon tour and it appears that all dungeon tours follow the same script, in some skits, word for word. I will never be seen at another one in my lifetime and Phil is now aware of this.
    We departed at closing time and only had a half hour drive to Stratford Upon Avon where we will spend the next two nights.
    Found a lovely old pub, the oldest pub in Stratford - The Garrick Inn, with a bar area smaller than my bedroom.
    I'm very pleased to say that I probably had the best Pimms here that I have had anywhere., sorry Sharon!
    And the dinner choice was Indian.

    Phil - No Robin Hood but at least I can say I've been here and can see how easy it would have been for Robin and his men to hide in the forest. Especially in their trendy green outfits.
    Just when you think you are castled out, you go to Warwick Castle. It's huge and well spread out. They have really good wax models in most of the rooms and there is an audio story told. I did over 500 steps up the towers, so I am keeping up the average.
    I had to get petrol today. The guy behind the counter spoke to me and I had no idea what he said. Three times I said pardon, and eventually he pointed to a loyalty card he was flogging. We are all speaking our brand of the english language.
    The waiters last night, and tonight don't understand my sense of humour. Wendy says I just should say yes and no, from now on.
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  • Day16


    July 19, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    York in a day!
    Out the door of our apartment to join the early queuers at York Minister, a place you can't but your tickets on line in advance.
    Turns out it was a good idea as it was possible to take photos without anyone in the way and Phil was able to book for the first Tower climb.
    No doubt about it, the Minster is huge and impressive, but I think I preferred Chester Cathedral.
    Phil enjoyed his climb up 275 narrow twisting steps and snapped the views whilst I had time for reflection and relaxation waiting for him in the Minster.
    Next from the Minster we only had to take a few steps across the street to join the free walking tour we had scheduled into our day.
    The guide who looks like a bikie with his black jacket, black jeans and very long hair with beard thrives on history and for three hours he was in his element. He downloaded all his knowledge onto us non stop and whilst comprehensive and interesting at the time I will not remember a thing. Still the walk he took us on to view various sites and to walk part of the city wall was good as we saw places we would not have come across ourselves in a visit of a few days. We also got to enjoy a very pleasant tea and cake break during the tour.
    This afternoon when the tour finished Phil and I parted ways as he wanted to visit the National Rail museum somewhere in York, so I took myself off wandering the streets and The Shambles area where I eventually stopped off at the outdoor area of a tavern backing onto The Shambles Market for a relaxed shandy.
    A very pleasant afternoon had by all, catching up at our apartment at the end of the day to go out on a dinner date - Thai tonight.

    Phil - The steps to the top of the Minster were a bit tricky. The winding staicase was only a few centimetres wider than my shoulder width. The steps only gave me half a foot space to use. But I made it, and was able to get a good view from the top.
    The train museum was massive and incredible. It's supposed to be the biggest in Europe. There were at least 25 full steam engines plus carriages. Even the train that Queen Victoria and the previous king travelled in were there. Good to give Wendy a break from my indulgences, and me, as she would have been very bored.
    Came home to a well needed drink and what is on the tv - Carry on Cabby, With Sid James. I could have also watched George and Mildred, and I cannot believe that Coronation Street is still on. If you have no idea about the previous sentences, then don't worry, and enjoy your youth.
    Big day tomorrow, and I also will get on the net to see how my under 14 basketball girls went without me.
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