A Travellerspoint blog

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Almost Time

The run up

For those of you who don't already know, this trip has been a year in the making. After returning from a wonderful 3 weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia last year we immediately started planning this years trip, in an attempt to beat the "post holiday blues" Originally we decided to go to England mainly because it had been soooo long (about 6 years)since I had been "home" and I was getting homesick. As we started to work out the finer details of the trip, where we wanted to go, how we'd get around, how long in each place and so on, it started to take on a life of it's own, getting bigger and bigger and devouring everything in it's path. The conversation went something like:

W - "I'd really like to go home for a visit next year, it's been ages since I've been home" (sob, sob)
S - "That's fine Babe, I'd like to go to England too."
W - "Is there anywhere else you'd like to go?"
S - "I'd like to go to Ireland to see where my grandparents come from."
W - "I've never been to Ireland, but I've heard it's lovely"
S - "Also I've never been to Paris and it's on my wish list, can we go there?"
W - "That's easy, it's only 'bout a half hour flight to Paris from London, or we can go by train"
W - "I've never been to Rome and would really like to go."
S - " If we go to Italy there are other places I'd like to visit too."
S & W at the same time - "Florence, Venice, Pompeii"
S - "and Verona"
S - "Everyone keeps saying how lovely Barcelona is, perhaps we can visit there?"
W - "Well if we go to Spain, it's only a short jump over to Morocco. I'd love to go to Morocco"
W - "Morocco is right next door to Egypt, we'd have to visit Egypt if we were that close"
S - "A trip down the Nile would be fantastic"
S - "Maybe we should buy a round the world ticket."
S- "I have three months long service leave I can take, plus annual leave."
W - "I can add some purchase leave on to my annual leave and then have unpaid leave for the rest. Maybe we should take a year off and travel round he world. After Egypt we can go through Africa"
S - "I've always wanted to go to Africa."
W - "We can make our way eventually to New York"
S - "On the way back we can go to Hawaii and visit Ken" (Ken is Susan's brother, he lives in Hawaii)

After about 30 seconds of seriously considering this option.........

S - " This is going to cost a fortune."
W - "The round the world flights aren't that expensive, but it's the cost of living for a year."
S - "Exactly"
W - "Perhaps we should just stick to England this time and do each other country separately in future holidays"
S - "I'd still like to see Ireland on this trip."
W - "We should still go to Paris too, as you've always wanted to go and it's easy to get to."

That is pretty much how we decided what this holiday was going to be.
Then we had to decide where in England and Ireland we went. So final decision is:

Dublin (we pick up a hire car and drive to)
Dublin (where when fly to Gatwick and pick up another hire car)

We have rented apartments or cottages for all of our stays, except in Ireland where we are in B'n'B.
We decided to spend a week in each place and take trips out to see the surrounding areas.
So from the Cotswolds we will visit Bath, Oxford, Stratford etc.
We're also spending one day pottering up and down the Thames around Windsor in a boat. We'll just moor alongside one of the riverside pubs for lunch.

After all the planning, it's almost time to leave.
Our flight leaves Adelaide tomorrow morning (Wednesday 1st June). We fly to Sydney, then Dubai and finally London.
The weather is supposed to be 22 when we arrive on Thursday - "Perfik" as Pop Larkin used to say!

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 16:32 Comments (2)

Long flight. Case of mistaken identity. Uncanny & knackered.

I'd forgotten what a long trip it is from Australia to England.
I don't reckon Captain Cook took as long as we did.
The journey started at 9:30am on Wednesday with a taxi ride to the airport. As we got into the car, Susan said to the driver - "Virgin please" I told her "he's a taxi driver, not a pimp" However the taxi driver took it in his stride and enquired how I knew he wasn't a pimp. I apologised for underestimating him.
We flew from Adelaide to Sydney, then had about a 5 hour wait for the flight to Bangkok - don't even get me started about security at Bangkok!!
From there to Dubai, which by the way was totally manic - never seen so many people in one place!
Then on to Heathrow. We queued for about an hour to get through immigration. At last we made it to the desk. The immigration officer looked at my passport and says " oh you were born here! I know someone with the same name as you." I asked if she was as attractive as me, to which he laughed and asked not to incriminate himself, however a woman officer sitting at the adjoining booth decided to put her tuppence worth in with "well she's does have big tits too." Charming, I thought, welcome home!!
After leaving Heathrow, we took the tube to Tower Hill. Now normally this would be fine, however Tower Hill underground station has no lift or escalator. Let me tell you walking up two flights of stairs with a 30kg suitcase and 10kg carry on bag is not so much fun (knew I shouldn't have packed the extra underwear). To our relief and much gratitude, two young guys took pity on us and carried our suitcases up the stairs for us. Who said chivalry was dead?
We eventually made it to our apartment at 4:30pm, so around 1am Friday morning Adelaide time. We were totally knackered.
Must say that Emirates were great, would highly recommend the airline.

We dumped our bags down, had showers and went out for a walk to explore our local area. Let me just say a few words about our apartment. It is in fact very nice, however it's perhaps not the biggest apartment I've stayed in. I think "compact and bijou" is the term that springs to mind. I wouldn't say the shower is small, but when I bent over to pick up the shower gel (I swear I dropped it accidentally!!) my bum opened the door!
Anyway,we are staying in Wapping, just the other side of St Katherine's Dock and about a 10 min walk from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
The area has been subject to some serious "urban rejuvenation" All the old wharfs have been turned into apartments and every second block has a park. There is a canal that runs through the centre that has walkways along it leading to the river and Tower Bridge.

About a 2 min walk from where we are is our nearest pub. Now as some background info, for those who don't already know, I am rather partial to a 18/19th century English artist - JMW Turner. I wouldn't say I'm obsessed but our cat - Turner - is named after him. Anyway, our nearest pub is called, Turners Old Star and there is a plaque on the wall explaining that Turner had spent a lot of time in the Dockland back in the 1800's and after inheriting two cottages, he turned them into a tavern, named it The Old Star and established his mistress, Sophie Booth, as the proprietor. Now Turner was quite a secretive guy, so to keep his anonymity he adopted her surname. Turner was only about 5ft tall and a touch on the ummm "portly" side so was given the nickname, and was known as "Puggy Booth" The pub was renamed in his honour.
Turners Old Star

Turners Old Star

As we continued walking we were discussing how weird it was that I liked Turner so much and we were staying so close to this pub and that we had a cat named after him, when out of nowhere comes a cat, who looks just like our cat Turner, only fatter. He comes up to us and starts purring and rubbing up against us, jumps up onto the wall and demands our attention. We have named him FT (Fat Turner)
We continued our walk along to the river and ended up in a small pub we found in a courtyard, off a lane way. To anyone who knows London, you will know this is one of the real wonderful things about this city. It's full of hidden alleys and lanes that lead to lovely courtyards, like hidden oasis's. We didn't realise it but the pub backs directly onto the river. It has a large bay window that overhangs he water. We decided to have dinner there and Reno if you read this, I had bangers and mash in Yorkshire pudding!! The pub is called The Captain Kidd. Named after the pirate who was one of the last to be executed at the nearby Execution Dock. Prisoners were taken to another pub close by - The Town of Ramesgate (which is still a pub and we will visit) and given a last drink. They would then be taken at low tide to the river and hanged. The bodies weren't taken down but left for the tide to wash over them 3 times. Particularly notorious pirates were then gibbeted as a warning to others. Captain Kidds body was left gibbeted in an iron cage by the Thames for over 20 years. Can't think why the practice was discontinued??DSC02663.jpg

Anyway, by the time dinner was finished we were ready to crash, so it was back home to bedddddddddddddddddddddddddddd


Posted by RUMissingUsYet 14:37 Comments (1)

Isn't it ironic (don't you think)?

Who'd have thought two Aussies (well one Aussie and one ex-pat Brit) would go to London and get sunburnt on their first day?
Strange - but true! Both of us looking like lobsters at the end of our first day in London.
It was a huge day though and we managed to pack loads in.
We got up early and left home about 7:30. Yes Maria, I do realise that is earlier than we get up for work normally, but maybe site seeing in London is a little more exciting then heading off to work, could be wrong, but that's my gut feeling. As we walked along the canal FT (Fat Turner) came over for a hug and some attention. Susan picked him up and he wrapped his paws round her like he was there to stay.
Anyway, onwards we went to the Tower of London, looking for somewhere to have breakfast. We ended up in a place called The Kitchen, which is next to All Hallows by the Tower. This is a church that dates back to 675 AD and is the oldest church in London. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised there and John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the USA, was married there in 1797. It was hit by a bomb in 1940 but repaired after the war in 1948. The Kitchen is attached to the church and the Tower of London is adjacent, there is a small garden in front and it was very peaceful. Hard to believe it was a Friday morning in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the world. We both had the traditional English breakfast, but Susan also had black pudding. She was overjoyed, I was repulsed!
We took a city bus tour, which is a great way to see where everything is and work out what you want to go back to and spend more time exploring. We saw pretty much everything you'd expect and were entertained by some interesting and funny anecdotal stories and history from the guide. I was very disappointed however, when the guide mentioned England had been invaded by the Normans in the 10th century. Outrage overcame me (I tutted) "That's not right!" I said indignantly to Susan, every primary school kid knows that England was successfully invaded by the Normans when William of Normandy (strangely enough) aka William the Conqueror (again strangely enough) defeated the Saxon King Harold Godwinson (Harold II) at the Battle of Hastings (although the battle didn't actually take place at Hastings. It was actually at a place called Senlac Hill, near the town of the aptly named Battle - "The Battle of Battle" doesn't quite have the same ring to it) Anyway my point is, this occurred on 14th October 1066 - this makes it the 11th Century NOT the 10th. You'd think a tourist guide would know better.DSC02827.jpg

The tour lasted about 3 1/2 hours. We had a quick stop for some lunch and then hopped on a river boat. The boat trip is included as part of the bus tour. We went from Westminster up to Greenwich. We got off here and took a look around the Royal Naval College, the Queens House - named because it was commissioned by Queen Anne, wife of James I in 1616. We walked up the hill to the Royal Greenwich observatory, where Susan stood with one foot in the Eastern hemisphere and the other in the Western Hemisphere. It's also where she got into a fight with a woman for telling her child off - but that's a whole other story!!

One of the things that we've noticed is all the scaffolding everywhere. Just about everything is being spruced up ready for next years Olympic Games. A bit of a downside is that we don't get to see everything we normally would have. Whilst in Greenwich we would have liked to see the Cutty Sark but it's being restored so, no go. After a quick walk around Greenwich, it was back on the boat and back to Westminster. The river is a great way to get around and see things from a different angle. We saw a view of the Captain Kidd (the pub I mentioned in yesterday's blog) from the river.DSC02884.jpg

We walked up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where Susan managed to climb (with a little help from some passers-by) on the one of the lions.DSC02918.jpg

Then we walked through Leicester Square and into China Town where we stopped for dinner.
By this time it was 9:30 and we were both tired so we took the tube back home and the end of a very successful day.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 22:22 Comments (5)

3 in 1

Hi all,
Got some catching up to do as we've missed the last three days blogs.

Saturday was another early start as we walked over Tower Bridge and along South Bank to Borough Market. There was first mention of a market here in 1276, although they believe it goes back further to Roman times. This is a fantastic gourmet food market, and although we only intended to look (and perhaps "sample") it was far too tempting for us to resist and we ended up with a whole bag load of goodies to take on a picnic.
Next door to the market is Southwark Cathedral. There has been a church on this site since 606AD, the present one dates from 1220. Thomas Becket preached here before he went to Canterbury. It was here that Shakespeare worshipped and his brother, Edmund is buried here. The grave is unmarked but inside the church is a commemorative plaque, as well as a statue of a reclining William Shakespeare and stained glass windows depicting scenes from some of his plays. It's also the church where John Harvard, founder of the Harvard University was baptised.
Keeping with the Shakespeare theme, our next stop was the Globe theatre. The original Globe burned down in 1613. It was rebuilt but then closed and pulled down, along with all the other theatres by Cromwell's puritan government in 1642 (guess they weren't a fan). The present theatre was completed in 1997 and is about 300 feet west of the original site.
We took a brief stop at the Tate modern for a cup of tea/coffee then headed into Oxford St, Regent St, Old Bond St, New Bond St, Piccidilly Circus, Burlington Arcade for some retail therapy. Just as out feet were about to fall off we stopped for "afternoon tea" We attempted to "take tea" at Fortnum and Masons, but the queue was a mile long, so we settled for a little cafe on Regent St. We took a quick trip back home to shower and changed then headed back to the West End to see Blood Brothers. Fantastic show!! Susan kept saying she didn't like musicals, but as we were in the West End she like to see one. At the end of the show she was a complete convert and now wants to see more!!

Sunday started with a walk to Petticoat Lane market. Nice name - crap market. Full of tat and crap clothes. It was probably once a good place to go for cheap clothing, but not worth the effort now. If you're every here, don't bother, there's much better markets, like our next stop - Camden.
We had a look around and stopped for coffee in the main market then went to Camden Lock Market. Fantastic, full of arts and crafts, hand made jewellery and bags etc. Things you won't find anywhere else. We spent far too much, and could have spent a lot more.

Time for a rest, so we took a barge from Camden Lock up Regents Canal to Regents Park and back again. Half way through the trip the wonderful English summer came to an end and it started raining. By the time we got back to Camden, I was so cold a couple of unmentionable things had dropped off!!!
On the way back, coming out of Tower Hill tube station, Susan fell over - I swear I didn't push her and I only laughed a little. I did go to help her up, but a nice man beat me to it. She was ok, it doesn't hurt when you're drunk......ok ok she wasn't drunk - honest.

Monday - The rain was still going from yesterday afternoon but it wasn't too bad. First stop today was to explore St Paul's Cathedral. We walked in and as soon as Susan looked up to the ceiling in the Dome, she burst into tears. I think she was overcome by the sheer majesty and beauty of it (either that or she was still shaken by yesterday fall) St Paul's, of course was built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century after the previous one had burned down during the Great Fire of London in 1666, but there had been a church on the same spot since 604AD. It was here that funerals for Lord Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill were held. Inside are the tombs of these and other famous people like Wren himself, Florence Nightingale, Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Johnson, William Blake and (my favourite) Turner.

By the time we left St Paul's the rain had cleared up so we took a walk over the Millennium Bridge and into the Tate Modern. I'm afraid it was more tears here too. This time for both of us. I went first after being overwhelmed in the Rothko room. I don't pretend to understand art (and I certainly can't make it, you'd be lucky to get a recognisable stick figure out of me) but sometimes something beautiful just touches you (I said someTHING not someONE!) if you can't explain it, then emotion is the only way to release it. Next it was Susan's turn. We were like a crying tag team! For Susan it was a series of paintings by Gerhard Richter called Cage, after the composer John Cage. It was definitely time for a coffee break!!

Hyde Park was the next stop for today.
We took a short walk round and then headed to Marble Arch.
Some very interesting new statues here, a mix of traditional and modern.

As we were leaving Marble Arch to head to Covent Garden Susan fell over drunk again! She tells me she wasn't, and admittedly I hadn't seen her drink anything stronger than tea, but I have my suspicions!! Covent Garden was a welcome rest point from the day's walking.
A couple of glasses of wine (to get Susan steady on her feet) whilst listening to some classical buskers and we were off walking again.
This time along Charring Cross Rd and finishing off in Leicester Square, where we stopped for dinner.
Another walk along Whitehall to Westminster, which is lovely at night and the tube back home.

Another day over, this week in London is racing past!
Might have to extend the holiday (hint, hint Maria)

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 23:15 Comments (2)

Fancy a cuppa?

Today started with a trip on the London Eye.
Susan is petrified of heights, but wanted to experience the views so faced her fear, and I must say she did very well.
Apart from sweating profusely, screaming and grabbing anyone that came within reaching distance, you'd never know she was nervous.
The views were fantastic. On our first day here the guide on our bus tour told us that on a clear day, from the top you can see Australia. It may have been my imagination but I did think I saw Ian crossing over Waymouth St with a bacon and egg sandwich!

Next up was Westminster Abbey.
Well what can I say? It is just magnificent. From the tombs of Kings and Queens - Edward the Confessor, Elizabeth I, Mary, too many to mention them all. The Coronation chair, which has been graffitied by 18th Century boys from the nearby School of Westminster, carving there names into it! Poets corner, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. The cloisters, the hidden gardens - it's all just beautiful. You've all seen some of it, admit it - I know you were all watching the wedding a few weeks ago! Yes even Terry watched! Which reminds me, I saw a coaster for Terry, it said "Don't worry, you can still marry Pippa"

As we walked up Whitehall Susan made a new friend. She was patting one of the horses on guard at Horse Guards Parade when it decided to nuzzle into her neck (or as Susan likes to put it "it gave me a cuddle")

After a sit down and some lunch at Trafalgar Square we visited the National Gallery.
No tears this time (we've hardened up) We did see some wonderful paintings though, Monet, Van Gough, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, and even a couple of Turners!! Most of Turners paintings are at the Tate Britain, but there were a few here.

Next up was a tube ride to Knightsbridge and a wander through Harrods. Oh how the other half live. Want a jewel encrusted four poster bed for your pet? Or perhaps your pooch would like it's own leather couch? Or replica Louis XIV chaise lounge? Then this is the place to go. We were tempted, but a little concerned about excess baggage for the flight back.
We really needed some refreshment so decided to have afternoon tea whilst we were here (one does need to rest ones weary feet once in a while) We went to the Florian Cafe inside Harrods, but decided that over $100 for a cuppa and some cucumber sarnies was stretching it. We settled for tea/coffee and shared cake - even that worked out to be about $40. Still, it was served on a silver tray, in nice fine china so well worth every penny!!

Dinner was in a lovely restaurant near to where we are staying. It's only been opened a couple of weeks and is on the river with great views of Tower Bridge. As we were sitting having a drink in their lounge area before we went into the restaurant, I asked Susan if a woman sitting over the other side looked familiar. Susan didn't recognise her but I was sure she's an actress. Later during dinner we sat near her table and we could over hear their conversation (not that we were eavesdropping!!) She's definitely an actor and they were discussing various parts and films etc. Neither of us could remember her name though. So I guess she can't be that famous, although listening to her conversation, I think she thinks she is.

Another day gone and Susan manage to get through it without falling over - although she did walk into a wall. Still not bad.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 22:37 Comments (1)

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