Too posh

After travelling up from Cardiff this afternoon, we are spending our last night in London at the Langham Hotel. It seemed like a good idea when I booked it! An absurdly good price for a five star establishment – I thought it would be a nice way to finish off our grand adventure. However, Dad and Dave have nothing on the two of us. 

G'ma reclines in grand style

G’ma reclines in grand style

Our room is very swish – lovely beds, beautiful bathroom, separate pantry / walk in wardrobe.  We spent the first fifteen minutes just exploring! One indication of how upmarket this place is, is the fact that (a) there IS a little fridge and (b) it actually has stuff in it! We lashed out and had a beer each – how’s that for high living?

The bathroom is a chrome and marble affair with more pipes and knobs and hoses than you can poke a stick at. There’s even a little spray nozzle dangling conveniently next to the toilet, presumably for those who haven’t actually mastered the use of toilet paper! We haven’t tackled the shower controls yet, that’s a challenge for later on. 

Enough controls to fly an Apollo mission

Enough controls to fly an Apollo mission

We decided that our wardrobes included nothing suitable for the restaurant here so we ordered room service, nothing flash, just fish and chips with a prawn cocktail to start. Well … The photo says it all!

White linen, a single rose and quite a bit of food

White linen, a single rose and quite a bit of food

We are looking forward to getting on the plane tomorrow. One last leg on our grand adventure. 

Take care and love to everyone. 

M and E

Things we have learnt

They say that travel provides the best kind of education and Mum and I would certainly agree. We thought we’d record a few of the important lessons we’ve learnt along the way. These are in no particular order. 

  1. Pommy hotel bathrooms do not have drain holes in the floor.  This means that if you let go of the hand held shower nozzle thingy and it flings out of the bath, you will flood the bathroom floor and have no option but to sop up the water with some of the towels / hand towels / bath mats with which you have been supplied.
  2. There are two ways to get clean underpants when travelling. The first is to pay the hotel £2.50 (yes, that’s five hard earned Australian dollars) EACH to have someone wash them for you. The second is to wash them yourself (using the body wash provided by the hotel) and pray that you have a heated towel rail which will do an admirable job as a drying rack.
  3. If you find yourself in a twin room with only one towel, look in the cupboard. Accepted practice seems to be to secrete the rest of the towels in a plastic bag on the top shelf of the wardrobe. 
  4. When packing, put out everything you thing you’ll take, then put half of it back in the drawer. The remainder will still be roughly four times what you will actually need. 
  5. People from Scotland are quite difficult to understand. People from Wales are virtually impossible to understand. 
  6. Everybody in the UK wants to go to Australia. How badly they want to go is directly proportional to how crappy the weather is. 
  7. At any given moment, Midsommer Murders is on at least one British TV channel. 
  8. If breakfast is included, people will sometimes eat enough to feed a small town. This might include scrambled eggs, fried eggs, sausages, tomatoes, fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt, black pudding, toast, croissants, muesli, chocolate Danish, baked beans, fried mushrooms and hash browns. 
  9. Small fridges in hotel rooms no longer contain overpriced alcohol, chocolate bars, sparkling water and milk. Alas, the minibar is no more. 
  10. The cheaper the souvenirs being sold are, the less likely it is that the person selling them will actually be from that country.

These are just a few of the lessons we’ve learnt. We’ll add to the list as we reflect. 

Love M and E

Welsh valleys

Yesterday we were up early again and after a quick breakfast, we walked the few blocks to the museum steps and joined our Where When Wales group.  There were ten of us aboard a Mercedes minibus along with driver John and guide and local expert Jan. We headed out of Cardiff at about 9.10 and drove to Newport, just a few miles east. 

The signage in Wales is primarily in Welsh, with English subtitles. As a result, we often felt adrift in a sea of consonants and double y or w sounds! So, if I’m a little unsure of exactly where we were, you’ll have to forgive me. 

First stop was a little, tiny castle that was the hunting lodge of one particular nobleman. It was gorgeous, like a cubby house for dukes! Perhaps even more impressive was the surrounding forest which was dense and lush an would have originally served as hunting grounds. 

Made of stone - not gingerbread

Made of stone – not gingerbread

Then it was northward towards the Brecon Beacon National Park. We stopped in Caerphilly to look at their castle and this time, rather than an opulent display of wealth and political power, we found the most beautiful, huge pile of ancient stones, the purpose of which was clearly strategic and military, as much as domestic. 

The view through a window reveals the moat and dam that formed part of the defences

The view through a window reveals the moat and dam that formed part of the defences

Somehow I neglected to take a snap of the whole castle, so focused was I on the individual stones and the evidence of habitation.  It was very impressive. However, more than the castles, the landscape captured our imaginations. It was as you might expect, green valleys and hedgerows and the dry stone walls that we’ve seen in other rural areas. As we climbed higher into the mountains, the trees dropped away and the land was what I’d call heath or moors. It is ‘common’ land and farmers are free to graze their stock on it.  We saw a number of lovely sheep -Welsh mountain sheep we were told – as well as fat cattle and even wild Welsh ponies. Just beautiful. 

Welsh mountain sheep grazing along the roadside. Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon

Welsh mountain sheep grazing along the roadside. Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon

 We had lunch and explored the cathedral in the town of Brecon before continuing on through the national park and then south to Cardiff

The Welsh countryside

The Welsh countryside

We listened to Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey as well as the obligatory Welsh choirs and thoroughly enjoyed the day. We stuck to our hotel for dinner – beer, steak sand ale pies with mash! Yum!

Today we plan a walk in Cardiff, some shopping and a serious examination of the suitcase situation. Mum is doing quite well but my case is in constant danger of exploding. You can almost hear it thinking “If you try to cram one more souvenir in here, I’ll just give up and go home by myself!”

We are both a bit tired and looking forward to coming home. We miss you all and look forward to seeing you soon.  With lots of love

M and E

 

 

London and Cardiff

When we arrived in London we had a well deserved sleep in, getting up at about 9.30, having a nice cup of tea and reflecting on our journey so far.  When we could avoid it no longer, we got dressed and ventured out for coffee and a short walk.

The streets of London are jam packed with people, half of them looking down, intent upon getting to work – the other half looking up, marvelling at the skyline or the buildings or the statuary. Mum and I meandered amongst them, found a lunch bar selling salad and fruit and retired to our room once again.  We felt like Phred or Smoke! A snack, a walk and a nap. Repeat. Lovely!

Mum and I on the steps of the National Gallery. That's Nelson's Column in the background. Sadly the Czech tourist who took the photo cut his head off!

Mum and I on the steps of the National Gallery. That’s Nelson’s Column in the background. Sadly the Czech tourist who took the photo cut his head off!

Later in the afternoon we walked down to Trafalgar Square and took in the lions and the Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery.

Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery

Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery

We managed to get into a matinee of Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre which was wonderful. We didn’t expect a big crowd given that it was a Tuesday afternoon but we should have known better. The place was full! Complete with Pommies drinking pints of beer out of plastic cups IN the theatre! It was like a footy crowd. The show was great, it’s no wonder it’s been so successful.

This morning we checked out of the Strand Palace and got a cab to Paddington Station. It was quite a hairy ride and our driver got tooted at more than once. We eventually sorted out tickets and access to the 1st class lounge and when the time came, more by good luck than good management, we found ourselves on the right train in the right seats.

Cardiff is not an immediately charming city. It’s a bit grubby and fairly rustic in its presentation. The next few days may prove fairly interesting! We are planning a little walk this afternoon and then tomorrow we are going on a minibus tour of the welsh countryside.

Hope everyone is well and taking care.  Lots of love

M and E

Bronte country

I am writing this in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel somewhere in the countryside near Bradford. It is our last day and it looks like being a big one. Everyone is bleary eyed and that strange combination of amused and grumpy that results from not quite enough sleep. Last night we shared the hotel with a wedding reception – lots of men with loosened ties outside smoking and women drinking cocktails with rude names, wearing shiny dresses that revealed poorly executed tattoos!! We had our dinner, packed our cases and were in bed at 10.30.

At about 2.50am, we were awakened by the screams of the fire alarms going off! We all emerged into the hallway wearing a variety of night clothes (including one woman – not with our group – who was wearing the hotel bedspread) and stood around wondering whether to evacuate or call Reception. The sirens stopped as quickly as they’d begun and with no sign of anyone official, we all went back to bed!

The wake up call at 6am was greeted less than enthusiastically and we were eventually told that one of the wedding guests had had a skinful and decided to have a bit of fun. With the police conducting interviews, we think that the fun may have been short lived.

I’ve missed a day or to so I’ll just recap. We left Edinburgh on Friday and headed South crossing the border with England and getting a glimpse of Hadrian’s Wall.

I wonder if Hadrian would have imagined Elizabeth perched atop his wall after a light lunch at the nearby pub

I wonder if Hadrian would have imagined Elizabeth perched atop his wall after a light lunch at the nearby pub

The weather was cool and cloudy with showers but we took advantage of the fine breaks to stretch our legs. We called in at the house once owned by Sir Walter Scott where there is the greatest collection of antiques / collectibles / junk you can imagine. Mum and I lasted long enough to see Napoleon’s pistol, some 18th century armour and several stuffed animals before we retired to the gardens and spent our time enjoying the grounds.

Sir Walter Scott's house - part medieval castle, part 18th century manor house, part junk shop

Sir Walter Scott’s house – part medieval castle, part 18th century manor house, part junk shop

More miles through the moors. Kept my eyes peeled for the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy by to no avail. The afternoon brought us to our hotel – near Shipley … or Bradford … or Leeds … or somewhere!

Friday saw us make the relatively short journey to York, a beautiful city of historic buildings, great tea shops and quirky corners.  My photography does no justice to the proportions or the grandeur of the cathedral but, as you can see, the sky was blue.

York - the cathedral standing over the city

York – the cathedral standing over the city

The streets of York are lovely and we would have liked to spend more time there. One of the pitfalls of group travel is having to move when the guide says move!

At one stage we wondered whether Phred had a passport because we’re sure we saw her on one of the roofs in York.

A grey cat disappears across the rooftops of York. Could it be ...?

A grey cat disappears across the rooftops of York. Could it be …?

York has a famous tea shop called Betty’s and we availed ourselves of their wares. Yum!

Mum enjoys a small sample of what Betty's has to offer

Mum enjoys a small sample of what Betty’s has to offer

Outside Betty's befriending the locals

Outside Betty’s befriending the locals

York was followed by yet another grand house and then a drive back to our hotel.

And that brings us back to today and the trip down to  London.  The last dregs of Hurricane Bertha was making its presence felt and our stop at Cambridge, although lovely, was a little damp. Alison, Mum wants to know why, when you thoughtfully insisted she bring your aqua jacket, you didn’t offer her the matching gumboots! She could have used them today.

Mum enjoys the markets in Cambridge ... that's a sizeable capsicum she's holding up

Mum enjoys the markets in Cambridge … that’s a display of local tomatoes she’s admiring

And so tonight we are happily ensconced in the Strand Palace Hotel. Dad, we have a very similar view to the one you and I enjoyed and, believe it or not, there’s an old bloke with a collection of cardboard boxes setting up for the night opposite.

Goodnight and take care. Love to you all.

M and E

 

The Tattoo

Yesterday was a quiet day spent conserving our energy for the evening.  We had a lazy morning walking around the city of Edinburgh.  It’s an amazing city, old and a bit grubby and at this time of year, full of people attending the Tattoo or the Edinburgh Festival. The place is alive with tourists and performers.

Lunch! It's supposed to be Welsh rarebit but it appears to be an enormous piece of white bread with melted cheese on it. Oh well.

Lunch! It’s supposed to be Welsh rarebit but it appears to be an enormous piece of white bread with melted cheese on it. Oh well.

We had a sleep in the afternoon, knowing that the Tattoo would not start until 9pm and may well finish late. We had dinner with the group at a city restaurant with views of Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle perched on an extinct volcano, looking over the city

Edinburgh Castle perched on an extinct volcano, looking over the city

Looking towards the old city

Looking towards the old city. The scaffolding on the right is the seating erected for the Tattoo

The Tattoo begins as the sun sets

The Tattoo begins as the sun sets

Highland dancers and images projected onto the Castle. Wonderful.

Highland dancers and images projected onto the Castle. Wonderful.

Fireworks complete the spectacle

Fireworks complete the spectacle

It was a wonderful evening and we were very proud of the Australian Federal Police pipe band, as well as the New Zealanders who performed. We struggled back to our bus through the crowds of people. We are very lucky to have made some friends on the tour, all of whom look out for us and make sure mum doesn’t get lost or left behind. We were late into bed and getting up this morning and it was a grey, rainy day, most of which was spent on the coach travelling from Edinburgh to a little town near Bradford. Mum and I plan to get an early night and look forward to the last night on tour tomorrow.

Hope all is well at home.

Love M and E

 

 

 

 

Lead on Macduff

I am taking a few minutes this afternoon to update our blog while Mum ha a little rest and most of out group is checking out the royal yacht Brittania.  Mum and I (and a number of others) decided we could live without trudging up and down the gangways of a decommissioned boat, albeit a famous one.

This morning we were up early and on the road north before we could say Och aye the noo!!  Travelling through the Lakes District was lovely.

The view from the bus including a dry stone wall typical of the area

The view from the bus including a dry stone wall typical of the area. Dour Scottish bus driver George is just visible in the rear view mirror.

The roads are narrow (until you join the motorway of course), the green hills roll away into the misty distance and the sheep and cattle are fat and happy. We had some rain and took the opportunity to nap on an off as we drove north.

Beautiful cattle 'meditating' in the fields

Beautiful cattle ‘meditating’ in the fields

Just over the Scottish border, we stopped briefly at Gretna Green, the quickie marriage capital of the north. There were several shops selling a range of local produce and souvenirs and it was all I could do to resist the urge to purchase a range of tartan clothing for the family. Sweet little pleated tartan skirts were especially hard to get past. Perhaps I’ll give in during the next day or two in Edinburgh!

We arrived in Edinburgh in time for lunch and had a few hours at the Botanical Gardens. It was damp and not very colourful (unless you count a thousand shades of green!) but we had a nice walk and a bowl of soup. The thing that really amazed us was the gift shop. As tourists, we are now officially experts in gift shops because every place you visit has one selling everything from plastic sharpeners and lollies to expensive knitwear and artwork. The shop at the botanical gardens included a vast array of stuff that was so far out of our price range that we has to laugh. Every now and the you’d hear an Aussie voice roar with laughter and shout, “Ahhhh, look at this cushion. It’s £82! Tell ’em they’re dreaming!”

Mum and I trying on a sample of the rustic tweed hats available in the gift shop

Mum and I trying on a sample of the rustic tweed hats available in the gift shop

We checked into our hotel and had a little rest before going out to Prestonfield for a Scottish dinner and music hall event, complete with haggis, bagpipes and dancing girls. We had a lovely evening, joined in the singing and laughed at the jokes and got home ready for a good night’s sleep.

Our piper obliged us by posing for a photo

Our piper obliged us by posing for a photo

Thinking of you all and hoping you’re well and taking care of each other.

Lots of love, M and E

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to the Lakes District

Yesterday was a day of travel. We were up early and on the bus by 8am. The hotel (just a little bit Fawlty Towers!) had neglected to give anyone a wake up call but we all managed to get ourselves organised on time except for the tour leader who arrived rumpled and bleary eyed just in time to leave. I’m not sure where they get these tour leaders from or what the Positions Vacant advertisement must look like – Wanted: irritating Pommy woman aged between 30 and 40. Must have grating voice and annoying manner. Organisational skills not essential. Must be able to muddle up the names of 34 people on demand. Limited interpersonal skills an advantage. Extensive knowledge of English monarchy and the ability to talk endlessly about hereditary titles a must. Knowledge of horticulture including crops, trees, flowers and hedgerows not required.

Either way, we were on our way north shortly after 8am and had morning tea in the most delightful little place called Ludlow. It’s quite near the Welsh border and there was a market going on. Then we headed on to Ironbridge near Telford. But … The best laid plans sometimes go awry. As the name implies, Ironbridge spans one of a number of precipitous valleys and after driving down into one such valley, the bus driver breaked heavily and in his typically dour manner,  announced that the little railway bridge ahead allowed all traffic to pass beneath up to a height of 12’3″. Sadly, the coach was 12’6″!! Bugger!! We spent the next half an hour on the edge of our seats as the driver reversed up a narrow English road (think Midsommer Murders), sticking to the right hand side of the road so that traffic going down could get past. It was hair raising to say the least.

Ironbridge - the oldest cast iron bridge in the world

Ironbridge – the oldest cast iron bridge in the world

After lunch in Ironbridge, we pressed on through the countryside. We loved the rural landscapes and the traditional hedges and dry stone walls separating the fields.

The view from our coach

The view from our coach

We were travelling on the M6 motorway for part of the journey and were amazed by the proportions of the service station we pulled into. It was the size of a small shopping centre, sold everything from food and clothing to cameras and included what looked like an air traffic control tower!!  We’re still not sure what it was for.

We arrived in Windermere (or rather Bowness-on-Windermere which is a full kilometre further on) late in the afternoon and after dinner with the group, we hit the sack.

We declared today a rest day and opted out of the activities planned. We had a sleep, a leisurely breakfast and then caught the local bus up the hill to Windermere where we divided our time between browsing in the local artsy – crafty shops and sitting down in lovely little cafés. The one where we had coffee this morning really tickled our fancy.

A cafe ... Complete with tartan rug gives to keep you warm!

A cafe … complete with tartan ruggies to keep your shoulders warm!

Windermere is lovely. It’s no wonder it inspired so many poets and artists.

The water frontage near our hotel

The water frontage near our hotel

Looking towards our hotel

Looking towards our hotel

We feel rested and refreshed and we’re looking forward to heading into Scotland where haggis and highland flings await. Lots of love to everyone

M and E

Shakespeare and the Cotswolds

Today was a more relaxing day. We drove through the Cotswolds admiring the incredible patchwork of fields and flowers and crops ready for harvesting.

Mum outside our hotel with one of the hanging baskets that characterise the towns and cities

Mum outside our hotel with one of the hanging baskets that characterise the towns and cities

We spent a couple of hours at Blenheim Castle and although we did have a little look, we also found time to sit in the sun and relax, admiring the views.  Blenheim is remarkable for its size and imposing architecture as well as for being the birthplace of Churchill.

Winston Churchill photo bombing G'ma and me at Blenheim Castle

Winston Churchill photo bombing G’ma and me at Blenheim Castle

The drive back to Stratford was lovely. We expected Chief Inspector Barnaby to appear around a corner at any moment because the narrow roads and green hedges are so like those we see on Midsommer Murders.  Stratford is very picturesque, there is a lot of Tudor architecture, heaps of little inns and a tribute to Shakespeare on every corner.

Anne Hathaway's house featuring a beautiful cottage garden

Anne Hathaway’s house featuring a beautiful cottage garden

We took snaps of Anne Hathaway’s cottage, visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and strolled on the banks of the Avon where white swans and rowing boats shared the tranquil waters. Dinner saw us at the Garrick Inn, a 14th century establishment serving humble but satisfying fare.

The Bard

The Bard

We have an early start tomorrow. We are heading to the Lakes District which is at least 4 inches on the map so we had best get a good nights sleep.

Love to everyone

M and E

We can jump puddles!

No entry yesterday … All too much. However, we decided that if we didn’t do one today, we’d forget what we’d done and there’d be no going back.

Yesterday we were up early, having been promised a half day rest.  We headed off from Winchester to Salisbury, an hour or so away,where Salisbury cathedral sat proudly in its grounds. It was breathtaking. How did they ever build such a place. One little corner is to quietly remember the soldiers who didn’t come home.  We saw an old chap with an Australian insignia on his cap – Mum spoke to him and he said “I’ve come all the way from Australia to sign that book”.  We might add, they serve a very nice morning tea.

From Salisbury we were back on the bus and off to Beaullieau (spelling?). ABC … Another bloody castle.  The house was interesting but the gardens were in need of a little TLC. We agreed that Alison and two strong men could transform it in a matter of days.

We looked at a motor museum – mum chose a Rolls Royce or possibly a Mini while I selected a 1971 Triumph – then it was back on the bus (can you see a pattern emerging?) and back to Winchester.  We were knackered so didn’t join the others at an Irish pub for a knees up, had a salad at our hotel and turned in.

Today we were up again at sparrow’s and soon we were BOTB (go on … guess what that stands for!  We saw standing stones near Avebury where the skies opened up and it was all umbrellas and muddy pathways. Alison, mum has had good use out of your aqua jacket. It has kept her snug and dry, not to mention easy to spot in a crowd. Another castle at Sudely along with the most beautiful chapel all set up for a wedding. Back to our hotel for a five minute breather then out to dinner at The Blue Boar.  Mum reckons the bread and butter pudding wasn’t a patch on Leigh Creek.

Out accommodation has varied between quaint and positively Fawlty Towers – no fans in the bathroom, no air con, Eastern European staff, doonas designed for the Antarctic etc etc. luckily we have some excellent travelling companions who can get a laugh out of anything.

Mum says has anyone given Aunty Nancy a call?

Lots of love to you all.

M and E