A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Caught in the rain

After a week of hectic sight seeing, today was a little more sedate.
Coffee and a muffin in a local cafe among all the converted warehouses for breakfast.
We were off to a good start when a little local girl (Sophie) took out her dad's wallet and gave us 50 GBP.
I was ready to do a runner with it but Susan insisted we give it back - much to the relief of Sophie's father!
It was probably the right thing to do, I mean I could easily have out run this guy, but with Susan being a little unsteady on her feet lately she probably would have been caught.

We crossed the river and had a brief stop in Hays Galleria. The old tall clipper ships used to unload their goods here during the 19th Century. They reckon around 80% of London's imported dry foods came in through Hays Wharf. It was badly bombed during he war and left in ruins until the 1980's when a lot of redevelopment along the South Bank area took place. Now it's a mix of shops, cafes, offices and apartments. A bronze sculpture - The Navigators - stands in the middle as recognition to it's past. It looks like something from a Jules Verne novel to me.
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We really wanted to see the roof top gardens in Kensington. Originally created in the 1930's by the owners of department store Derry and Toms on the shops roof. They were grade II listed in the 1970's. The gardens are divided into 3 sections, a Spanish garden with fountains and vine covered walkways, a Tudor garden with wisteria, roses and lavender and an English woodland with a pond that has real ducks and flamingos. The gardens are now owned by Richard Branson. When we got there though the gardens were closed for a private function. Where was the good karma for giving the 50 pounds back???? pfft.

We caught the tube back to Tower Hill and walked over Tower Bridge.
On the south side of the river is St Saviours Wharf. Once a working dock, it is now upmarket apartments, bars and shops and a bit different from how it was in Dickens day when he based a lot of his story of Oliver Twist here. This is where Fagin had his den of thieves and where Bill Sikes falls from the walkway and drowns in the mud below.
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We continued to walk along Tower Bridge Rd towards Bermondsey. This is the area where my mother, grandmother and family for generations were born and grew up. My mum always spoke of a shop called Manzes. She and my grandmother went here all the time and my mum worked there when she was a kid before the war. Manzes has been operating from the same shop since 1902 and is still run by the same family. They sell traditional Cockney food, pie 'n' mash and jellied eels. When I was a kid we had pie 'n' mash at least once a week. I convinced Susan we should have some lunch there as it's delicious and it would be nice to go somewhere my family had eaten for generations and be served by the descendants of same people my family were served by. When we arrived it looked as though it hasn't changed at all since it was opened in 1902! I found this fascinating and exciting, by the look on Susan's face, I'm not convinced she felt the same. I ordered two pie mash and liquor (liquor is parsley sauce) By this time Susan really didn't look impressed. I assured her it would be delicious. This is the kind of traditional food that puts hairs on ya chest. That's a good thing for London as it keeps you warm in the winter months, a little electrolysis might be needed when we get back to Australia, but we'll deal with that when we get back! As we tucked in memories of my childhood came flooding back with every mouthful, it was delicious. For some reason Susan left most of hers, said it was the most disgusting thing she's ever tasted - a little harsh I thought, considering she eats Vegemite!!
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As we left it started to pour down with rain and we got soaked - finally a good old English summer!

We took the bus to Pimlico to visit the Tate Britain art gallery. They have a whole wing dedicated almost entirely to Turner, so it was heaven.

Our stay in London has reached it's end and now Paris awaits.
For me London is the most magical place in the world. Susan has fallen in love with it too and we have vowed to come back again and stay for longer. Much has been written about London over the years, but I think Samuel Johnson sums it up best during a conversation with James Boswell in 1777 - "Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 22:35 Comments (3)

Tale of Two Cities

Sorry this is going to be an abbreviated account of our Paris trip.
We haven't had a chance to sit and write, so I'm gonna try and fit it all in here.
I'll give you all the full version when we catch up once we are back home.
We were very sad to leave London but excited about seeing Paris.
I was also excited about Paris because for the last 6 months I'd been planning with one of my friends, Sarah, to meet up with her and her partner Lynne. Sarah had managed to keep the trip secret from Lynne, eventually telling her she needed to pack her passport and some Euros, but not where she was going or that they were meeting up with us. The look on her face when we walked in the door of the rented apartment was priceless.
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We were staying in the Bastille area, which was handy for getting around and close to a couple of metro stations.
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We then spent the next 5 days hectically running around Paris, and it really was "the best of times, it was the worst of times"
Paris is simply delightful. I love the way they haven't ruined the city skyline by building huge skyscrapers in amongst their historic centre.
What isn't delightful is the masses and masses of tourists, some leading with their elbows pointed out to effectively make their way through crowds (I have decided we were not tourists but pilgrims on the trail of historical and cultural enlightenment)
We went to Versailles and the line to get in was unbelievable. The last time I came, which admittedly was out of season there was no queue at all to get into Versailles and it was very pleasant, this time it was like WWIII. People were pushing, poking, shoving. I'm normally quite laid back but I "had words" with a couple of people and at one point thought I was gonna lose my temper. Eventually, after observing Sarah, I managed to see the funny side and had a bit of a chuckle. I would never go back at this time of year again though, it was far too many people crammed in. I hate to think what would have happened if a fire had broken out. A couple of times there were so many people trying to move through some of the rooms that I really thought some of their priceless vases and statues were going to go smashing to the floor.
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The gardens at Versailles are vast so we hired a golf buggy and drove round......we are NOT lazy!!
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We did the obligatory open top bus tour and river cruise. Always good value for money. Montmartre and Sacre Cour were wonderful and the view from the top over the Paris skyline is great.
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We wandered round for while and somehow found ourselves in the ummm "pleasure district" dunno how that happened!!
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I have pictures of the Eiffel Tower from every angle you can think of but we never made it to the top as some people are scared of heights (no names Susan & Sarah) and to be fair we'd left it to the last minute and really just ran out of time.
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We also didn't get to visit the Musee D'Orsay, which was high on my list of things to do, again because we ran out of time.
However we did visit the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus Di Milo.
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We also managed to fit in a couple of cafes and bistros. There was a great one at the end of the road we were staying on called Cafe Pure. It is quite famous and has featured in a few films. On the day we left they were filming the new Renault advert there. If it's possible in 5 days to become "regulars" then I guess we did.
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We have vowed to visit again, but this time out of season to miss some of the crowds.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 11:20 Comments (2)

Céad míle fáilte rómhat go hÉi

Or to you and me that's "A hundred thousand welcomes to Ireland".
As you may have guessed from the lack of updates, Paris was hectic.
We had internet at the apartment but we just didn't have time to sit and write.
We arrived in Dublin on Tuesday around lunchtime, picked up the hire car and headed for our hotel.
It's right in the middle of the city so handy for getting around.
No internet in the room though, so again not easy to keep you all up to date with our adventures.

First afternoon, guess what we did? The open top bus tour! Yay!
I think we are getting addicted to these.
When we get home I'm giving up my day job and I'm gonna be a tour guide on an Adelaide Open top bus. Imagine it now.......... (dream sequence)

"on on the left we have the Marble Bar where State Treasurer Kevin Foley was attacked in the early hours of the morning after a night out"
"and on the right we have Gouger St, where former State Treasurer, Kevin Foley was attacked in the early hours of the morning after a night out"......

Anyway back to Dublin, so we did the bus tour round the city and headed back to the hotel for a "nanna nap" - did I mention Paris was hectic?
We woke up, walked across the road for fish 'n' chips then back to the hotel and slept......did I mention Paris was hectic?

So ended day one, hopefully a little more to add for our second days activities.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 14:10 Comments (0)

"In Dublins' Fair City"

We were a little more refreshed for day two and after a very hearty breakfast headed out for Trinity College.
Founded in 1592 and with famous alumnae such as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett.
However it is probably best known now for being the home to the Book of Kells. It was to see this that I particularly wanted to visit. For those that don't know the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels, thought to date to around 800 A.D. There's some mystery surrounding where it was originally written, but is generally thought to have been started in Iona, Scotland and moved to Kells, Ireland for safekeeping after Iona came under attack from the Vikings. No picture for you I'm afraid as no photography was allowed. It was amazing though, Susan was a little overwhelmed by it.
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After Trinity College we walked around the shopping area's of Dublin. The pedestrian Grafton St and famous Temple Bar area. Filled with the usual high St shops and some more quirky independent ones, along with of course a million little pubs. It was on this walk that we met Molly Malone, or as the locals call her, "the tart with the cart" it is from this song that the title of this blog is taken - (altogether now)"In Dublin's fair city where the girls are pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone. As she wheel'd her wheel barrow through streets broad and narrow crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o"
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We walked down to the river Liffey and took the river boat cruise. The cruise takes you through the centre of town down to the port of Dublin and back again. Along the way we met Buddy the seal, basking in the sunshine.
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Near the port there is a collection of statues commemorating the people who immigrated during the famine. We took a walk down there later to check them out at close quarters, they were very moving.
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The river has loads of bridges across it, some so low that you felt you had to duck your head to get under. In fact our boat was delayed for almost an hour because it had to wait for the tide to drop before it could get under one of the bridges - and this was a low, flat roof boat! The most impressive was the Samuel Beckett bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2009. It resembles a giant harp, the Irish national symbol. It's an opening bridge and when open rotates at a 90 degree angle.
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We walked on to Merrion Park to see Oscar Wilde's house and the tribute to him in the park opposite. Not your usual dull bronze or marble statue, but then again he wasn't your usual dull character either.
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We hopped back on the open top bus (I swear we're not addicted) and saw the rest of the sights of Dublin - Guinness brewery, Phoenix Park, the many bridges across the river, churches, cathedrals and statues commemorating the leaders of the Irish rebellion and fight for independence.
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After that it was back to the hotel, a few drinks and bed - still recovering from Paris, did I mention Paris was hectic???

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 23:01 Comments (1)

Heading South

After another hearty breakfast (Susan's been stocking up on black pudding) we jumped in the car and headed south. Our final destination for the day was Waterford for an overnight stay.
We could have driven straight down in about 2 1/2 hours but the whole point of this part of the holiday was to take our time, take in the scenery and see a bit of the country.
First stop en route was only about half hour or so out of Dublin at a place called Powerscourt, the old home of the Earls of Kildare.
It's a big old stately home and garden that's open to the public. After the debacle of Versailles we were almost a little reluctant to do the "historic house" thing and left the house out but visited the gardens. The estate is in the Wicklow mountains, just outside a little village called Enniskerry which itself was lovely. The gardens at Powerscourt were fantastic. Divided into a formal Italian Garden with lawns, flower beds and fountain, Japanese Garden with a river, bridge and grotto, an English Rose garden and a woodland with a castle. There were a few other people but the gardens were big enough so that there was no sense of overcrowding and it was incredibly peaceful. Every few minutes you'd stumble over someone sitting meditating in the peace and quiet.
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As we drove we noticed a few signs to somewhere called Glendalough (pronounced Glendalock) It's an old 6th Century monastic site built around three lakes.It was founded by a monk, who has since transcended into sainthood - St Kevin, St KEVIN, KEVIN! I mean I ask you, what's saintly about a Kevin??? Karen and Mem have an esky called Kevin. St Kevin aside, Glendalough was beautiful. The monastery was built around the lower lake and we decided to take a walk up to the middle lake, about 1.3k away. We got about half way and it started to rain. Well, it didn't actually rain, it poured, it bucketed down, it pissed like an elephant after a night out on the town. In fact it didn't just rain, it hailed too. As we were half way we didn't know whether to continue up to the lake or turn back. One look at Susan's face told me it would be wise to turn back. Poor Susan looked so cold and miserable, I on the other hand felt alive and invigorated (yes me!)
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We got to the car and I got some dry clothes out of the suitcase for Susan to change into. I thought she'd do it discreetly in the car, you know the way you pull jeans half way up, wiggle around, push yourself up on the chair trying not to overbalance whilst you struggle to pull them over your bum. But no, she just stood outside the car and striped off. What was I thinking? The seats in the car are heated so we soon warmed up once we got under way again.

We continued south through the Wicklow Mountains. We'd been driving merrily along, minding our own business when suddenly out of nowhere , up would pop some old ruins. A castle, a monastery, a church, a tower, a something unrecognisable, just sitting in the middle of a field.
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The next big(ish) town we came to was Wexford (as in Inspector, although he was from Oxford not Wexford, how confusing. I wonder if Wexford has an Inspector Oxford?) We stopped off briefly for a late lunch and a quick look round before setting off for the last part of the days trip.

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We arrived at Waterford later than we'd planned and by the time we got there it was too late to get anything for dinner, so we settled for a bottle of wine in the bar, a view of the swans on the water and a couple of chapters of our books before heading off to bed.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 11:43 Comments (2)

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