Monday, September 28, 2009

Days 26 to 28

Headed upward to Cumbria, which was about a 3 ½ drive from Warwick. Staying at a B & B in Windermere, which is next to one of a string of lakes in the region. On our first fall day we travelled to a town of Ingleton as they had a walk that included a number of falls. It was fairly rigorous for us and took us well over 3 hours to complete.

After a short coffee break we decided to soldier on and tackle the White Scar caves before they closed. We travelled about a ½ mile inside the caves, sometimes having to almost double over to get through. Monny was a bit claustrophobic and was glad to get out of there in the end.

The next day we decided to take it easy and take a couple of cruises over Lake Windermere to nearby towns.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 25

Headed off to Warwick Castle today, which is a more touristy type of castle than we have seen in the past. We spent about 5 hours there in total and saw a trebuchet fired, a falconry show, chatted to a long bowman, Grace went to the Princess Tower and got a princess make-over. Lots of walking as you would expect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 24

After another full English breakfast, we headed out to Stratford-upon-Avon leaving behind Gillian and her Mum and Dad. We did a tour of Shakespeare’s birthplace, which was quite good and then headed to the butterfly farm.

Days 22 & 23

We left Cornwall today, with Gillian and her Mum and Dad and headed to the Cotswolds (about 3 hours drive). We are staying in a beautiful country town called Bourton-on-the-water. It is a beautiful place with fantastic old buildings. Monny is looking to buy an old antique ring to remind her of our trip…so I am guessing that she will get her way.

Headed out to Stow-on-the-Wold today as it is another quaint town full of shops and fantastic architecture. Took the back roads through upper and lower Slaughter, which contained some great farm cottages and certainly a place to go if you need to unwind. Monny got her ring. It is an Irish Claddagh ring, that is quite nice.

Day 21

Out on our own today as Gillian and Adrian are both working. Headed out to Penzance, which is heading towards the south west bottom of the UK. We stopped and had some lunch here in a café overlooking the bay. After this we drove around to St Michael's Mount, which is an impressive castle that sits out in the middle of the bay. By low tide, which it was when we got there, you could walk over to it. Our Heritage pass gave us access to the castle itself so after some steep cobblestoned steps and paths we made it to the top for a fantastic view.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 17 to 20

Managed to locate Gillian and Adrian’s place though I am not sure how as it is trickily placed around a few blind corners. Roads are much thinner as you get into the smaller country towns so that is interesting coming to grips with that. We are actually staying with Gillians mum and dad who live just down the lane as they have a bit more room. Have been on a few morning walks with Gillian and her Mum….a beautiful part of the world down here and people are very hospitable.

Gillian has taken us out all over the place since we have been here. From Port Isaac, where the series Doc Martin is filmed, to St Austall, St Mawes, Padstow. We went out on Adrians boat from Wadebridge one day and Larissa out did everone by catching several mackerel. That meant though that she had to fillet them and cook them for us that night.

We saw some tall ships down at Charlestown on what happened to be "international talk like a pirate day" so there were several pirates around and many "arrr me hearty" and "shiver me timbers".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 16

A lazy day in Bath today as everything is within walking distance. Walked into the Roman Baths and walked around for a couple of hours looking at how these were built and used. Had a quick look through the Pump Room on the way out but looked a bit too up-market for the Hamlyn’s. After we left the Roman Baths we walked to the beautiful Parade Gardens beside the River Avon and had a nice relaxing lunch while Monny got to have her customary tea and scones. Browsed some shops in the high street before heading back to the apartment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 15

After getting another full English breakfast we headed out to Stonehenge to marvel at the large stones that can be used as a calendar. They stand in the middle of a large field in what is now the middle of nowhere, with the original henge appearing around 5000 years ago.We then headed to Stourhead which is a stately home with fantastic gardens (the house wasn’t too shabby either). It is what you would expect of a wealthy English person, the owner having made his money through banking…Hore Bank, of which there is still one branch around…a pity about the name.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 14

Started off the day with our first truly full English breakfast…no need to eat until tea time. Had a bit of a walk along the white cliff face in front of the hotel to walk off some of the breakfast before heading off to Brighton. We went for a walk along the Pier and then headed into town and had a look at the Brighton pavilion, which is a Royal residence with a twist. It is decorated almost entirely in an oriental style. Some of the rooms were unbelievably decorated with huge chandeliers that had dragons holding them up. Mid afternoon we headed off to Salisbury, which is where we are staying tonight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 13

Picked up the car from Mayfair. There were quite a few other people in the same boat so I am glad I was there a bit earlier than the 10 am I indicated. Luckily they were able to upgrade me to a black BMW. The only problem is that it is a big squeeze to fit in all of our suitcases but we will live with that! What a godsend the Tomtom was, even just from getting from Mayfair to the hotel to pick up the bags. It was also great for getting out of London as there is no way I could have done it with a street directory.
We drove for a couple of hours before arriving at Arundel Castle, which is owned by the Duke of Norfolk. It was quite impressive as some of the rooms were used when Queen Victoria visited. Took us about 2 ½ hours to walk around and check it out.

Hopped back in the car and headed to Rottingdean near Brighton. Encountered a major accident along the way (not caused by me) which delayed us by ½ an hour. Had to turn around and take another route, which the Tomtom assisted greatly. The hotel we are staying at (the White Horse) is right on the white cliffs next to the traditional stony beach.

Day 12

Had a bit of a chance to sleep in but couldn’t resist heading out for one last caffe au lait before we left Paris. Caught the Eurostar around 1pm and got back to London in time to do some washing before heading out the city the next morning. Took it easy as we have an excellent room (more like the one in the catalog) where we could spread out a bit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 11

Had a good sleep-in today and we went for a brunch at Rue Cler, which was only a couple of streets away from where we were staying. This street has just about everything you would want to see in a traditional French street…from chocolates, florists, books to of course plenty of food. We stopped and had a beautiful feed of baguettes and stopped for some macaroons and citrus tart on the way back to the hotel. Monny’s feet were still sore so she decided to have an easy day resting with Grace, while Larissa and I set out for a long walking day (6 hours in fact).

We set out to the Arc de Triomphe and once we got there decided to walk to the top….284 steps. I think Monny made a good choice! What a great view! We left there and walked down the Champs Elleyses and stopped for a snack in one of the gardens. Scammers were about in the Place de Concorde but we were too smart for that…they were pretty feeble really.

We continued on to the Louvre and Larissa and I looked at the Italian paintings including the Mona Lisa. Saw the Venus de Milo and because of the size of the Louvre we decided to concentrate on just one main area…the Egyptian antiquities. This makes our museum pieces of this region look like a joke as there was room after room of Egyptian tablets, coffins, stone and brass idols. We left and walked back to our hotel and arrived at 7pm…sore feet!

Day 10

We had a bit of a sleep in until 8:30, which made us hurry as we had a walking tour starting at 10am across town. After some quick showering and no time for breakfast, we were lucky to flag down a taxi in time. Our guide was Guillaume who was a former art student and very knowledgeable about all things Paris. The good thing was that we were the only ones on the tour so we could basically go anywhere that we wanted to so it was tailored for us, which was great because we stopped for a coffee outside the Louvre to have a quick rest and coffee break.

He showed us some of the back streets of Paris, ones that are non-touristy but very beautiful as well the standard beauties such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, which we went into (there was a bit of drizzle around this morning so it was good timing that we were could do this). From there we walked along the Seine up to the Louvre. I can’t get over the size of this place…plenty of tourists there of course. From there we walked to the Latin Quarter which is more of an area frequented by locals with heaps of restaurants, cafes and bars. We parted with our guide and had a late lunch before heading back to the hotel for a rest…Monny’s knee and ankles are starting to swell again from all the walking.

Certainly one of the highlights of the trip so far as we had dinner in the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. We were lucky that our table was next to the window where the sun was slowly setting. The food was tres bon and the view you can see for yourself from the picture below. After leaving the restaurant, the first floor had several areas set up for visitors interested in learning about how the Tower was built and used over the years. There was a tent that was showing how the Eiffel Tower was used in films, showing snippets from some really old films + James Bond, Superman & even Team America. Had some great views from this floor…we didn’t bother to go any higher as it was getting late. Had a leisurely walk back through the Champs De Mars to our hotel, after purchasing the obligatory Paris T-Shirts.

Day 9

Left a few bags with the hotel as we are returning there after our trip to Paris so that makes it a bit easier. Caught the Eurostar around lunchtime, which takes around 2.5 hours to get to Paris. Compared to other international travel it was very quick as they are quite organized. The actual amount of time under the English Channel surprised me as I thought we were just in a normal tunnel but when we reappeared at the surface, all the road signs were in French (a sure give away we were in France). Hopped on a long line for a taxi and made it to our Hotel by 4pm. The hotel itself is OK, we have a family room which is quite spacious but the bonus is that it is only a couple of blocks from the Eiffel Tower. After unpacking our gear we decided to go for a walk and stopped for some dinner at a nearby café. I can’t believe how many eating places there are, but I suppose anywhere there are tourists, there will be places to eat.

The Eiffel Tower was even more spectacular than I remember it, when I saw it 25 years ago. Its sheer size alone when standing next to it is just unbelievable.

We had booked a cruise on the Seine at 8pm so we could see the lights of Paris…and we weren’t disappointed. We went past the Louvre and D’Orsay museums, the island. The architecture is fantastic especially if you think that much of it was here many years before Australia was even founded. The end of the cruise brought us back to the Eiffel Tower and by now it was dark. The Tower was lit as you can see by the picture here but on the hour, fairy lights flash making a great spectacle.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 8

Last full day in London and we tossed up for quite a while what to do. In the end we opted to go to Regent’s Park and then on to the London Zoo. I liked Regent’s Park even more than Hyde Park and we sat in some deck chairs and had a bit of lunch.

The zoo had the usual suspects including several animals we don’t have in our zoo. There were several interactive displays that kept Grace entertained.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 7

Still a bit weary so we had a later start as all we had on today was a trip to Buckingham Palace. This turned out to be a bit of a surprise as we were booked in at 12:15 to the Queens Gallery, which contained a number of gifts that had been passed to the monarchy throughout the years. The audio headphones were a bonus as you got to hear some background on some of the works of art, clocks and porcelain.
We then visited the Palace state rooms where a number of functions are held for dignitaries. The size and design of these rooms were just unbelievable, unfortunately no photos were allowed. We followed this with a visit to the Royal Mews to view many of the carriages used for coronations, weddings etc. as well as the horses. Got home around 5pm with sore feet again.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 6

Much quieter day today with a later start to proceedings. We went and had a quick look at the British Museum, a fabulous bit of architecture by itself let alone everything housed in there. From there we travelled to Camden where there was a huge market but very crowded…it seemed to go on and on. Had a bit of lunch next to the lock before heading back as Gillian and Adrian were catching their train back to Cornwall.

Day 5

Today we covered a few miles. We were within walking distance of the Portobello markets, which on Saturdays incorporates antique markets as well as produce. After a 10 minute walk we just followed the crowds…it was like a pilgrimage. Some fantastic shops here and for anyone who knows Monny and me, we were in our element. We only ended up buying a couple of dresses for Grace but could have easily spent a small fortune here.

After a bit of lunch we decided to head into see a couple of museums. These are housed in buildings with fantastic architecture so that alone was great to look at. The Science museum had some huge exhibits to do with space travel and plenty of interactive things for Grace to keep her entertained. They had a Wallace and Gromit are that Grace and I went to while the rest of the gang headed for the museum of natural history, which was basically next door to the science museum. Grace had a ball there with the kids interactive activities. We then met up with everyone and went through the dinosaur exhibit which was pretty spectacular.

Down the road from here was Harrods so we thought that we would take the opportunity to look through parts of it…the food hall really…as it was open until 8pm. Larissa bought some chocolates in a Harrods tin and Monny got a Harrods apron, so everyone was happy. Luckily the tube station wasn’t far away and before long we were back in Bayswater and had some dinner before collapsing!

Day 4

After a late night a bit of a sleep-in meant that we were running a bit late this morning. Off to the London Eye where we had booked in for our “flight” at 11am. Luckily the weather was reasonably clear although windy so we had a good view from the surrounding London areas.

We left Gillian and Adrian after this and headed for the Tower of London. Fantastic history associated with this as we meandered through torture chambers, Henry the VIII armour and life generally. Plenty of other history about the lives of royalty who lived there.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 3

Off to Madam Tussauds this morning where the rich and famous had a chance to rub shoulders (literally) with the Hamlyns. Plenty of pictures with the likes of Elle, Madonna and for Grace, Myley Cyrus. The rest of the family was too chicken to go through the London Dungeon part and I am thankful that I had a group of girls either side of me that were picked on by the people paid to scare the living daylights out of you!

Caught the tube back to Bayswater and around 1pm met up with Adrian and Gillian who had come up from Cornwall to spend a couple of days with us. We had some lunch at the local (the Prince Albert) and decided we would head to Leicester Square to see what shows were available that night.

We decided to see The Lion King but unfortunately there were no cheap tickets so had to pay the full quota, but worth every cent….absolutely fabulous. It was playing at the Lycean Theatre just off the Strand…time in London is bringing back memories of games of Monopoly!

Day 2

I woke up at 4am so my body clock wasn’t still adjusted but everyone else had a reasonable sleep in. off for a busy one today as we get an overview of London.

Our first experience was to grab the tube. Again luckily the station only had the one line, which was the Central line so we had a 50/50 chance of catching it in the right direction. Got to use our Oyster cards and that all went OK. Talk about blowing a gale as we descended into the depths using steps and escalators. Got down there and there was a train immediately, which we got on and went to Marble Arch, which was only a couple of stops away.

Got off and managed to find the stop for the London Tour bus, which again came straight away so we hopped on with our headphones as they had commentary on all the sights we would see….and there were plenty..from Big Ben, Nelson’s Column, Regent Street, Picadilly Circus, Thames, London Eye, Tower of London….whew!

Got off in front of Big Ben and hopped onto a cruise boat which travelled down to Greenwich.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 1

Super smooth airflight to both Singapore, where we stopped over for 5 hours. Only so much you can do in an airport but Changi is so huge that at least we got to look around. There are 3 big terminals all connected by an automated skytrain that runs between them all. We walked through the butterfly garden, the koi fishfond and of course had some more food to eat as we were only fed every 10 minutes on the plane. Grace booked into the transit hotel for a shower and the rest of the time we just lazed about.

Flight from Singapore to London was in the new airbus plane but unfortunately we were only on the main deck to to us it didn’t really feel any different. 13 hour flight I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, especially when there is a full flight and no spare seats to spread out on. Grace didn’t fare that well and was a bit dilerious before finally getting a few hours sleep on Monny and my lap. Larissa finally grabbed a few minutes sleep while Monny and I only managed a few minutes. Lucky the Singapore airlines have on demand movies, TV, games to keep you entertained. Murph..had a tiger beer just to relive our overseas trip 25 years ago.

Finally arrived at Heathrow at around 6am, which was a relief. The customs and immigration wasn’t as bad as I envisaged and it only took around 45 minutes for us to get through and our driver from JustAirports was waiting for us. He was great making it easy to get out of there and on our way to London. I picked his brain along the way since I would be driving myself in the next couple of weeks.
Arrived at the Grand Plaza apartments around 8:45am. Lucky for us that although check-in wasn’t until 2pm that the room was not being used so they let us use it. The hotel itself could be used for a tourist attraction as a man-made maze..this is our route to our room – from the reception, through a door to a 20 m coridor, veer right down some steps around a corner to a lift. This was so small that only 2 people at a time could use it. Out the lift at the first floor, veer right through a door, 2 m through another door, 10m veer left up small stairs, through another door, over a corridor through another door 10m, veer right 20m to out room…which by the way was a similar configuration waling up and down stairs. While the rooms are small it is quite cosy.

After unloading our gear we decided to pop out and grab our first taste of the UK and walked down to the Queensway which is around 50m from our apartment. Had a bit of breakfast and then decided that we weren’t going to make it through the day as we were all looking like zombies. An executive decision was made and after brekkie we went back to the apartment and decided just to grab a few hours sleep…any more and our body clocks would be out of whack. Got up around 2pm and decided to have a bit of a walk. Back to the Queensway and took the other direction down to Hyde Park…unbelievable amount and variation of eating places…we must be in heaven.
Did a lot of walking around Hyde Park…what a fantastic place to unwind. Grace especially loved the Princess Diana Memorial Playground which was pretty packed for a school day. It sprayed with rain a few times but not enough to deter us. Kept walking down to the Serpentine that runs through the middle of the park. Various things to see along the way…Italian fountains, Princess Diana water feature. Made our way back all very tired but it was a nice way to finish off a hectic and long period.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Well, we are almost there. Grace has had a cold all week which has now turned into a cough but we are hoping that she is over the worst by the time we take off on Monday. Hope everyone enjoys stories of our travels.