Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Today was our last day in London. We had all day as our flight wasn't until 10.05 pm. We decided to do a Canal Boat trip, so we caught the bus to Camden Town, as we had heard that there were markets there. The bus trip took us through quite a few London suburbs that we otherwise wouldn't have seen. When we arrived we were amazed at the size and atmosphere of the markets. They go on for ever, and are very different. After wandering around the market, we headed off for our canal boat trip. Our journey was to take us to Little Venice which took about 45 mins. Once at Little Venice we had 11/2 hr before the return trip to Camden Town, so strolled around and then had morning tea in a canal boat that has been made into a Coffee Shop. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and would now more than ever like to have a holiday on the Canals (was one of our original ideas, but there wasn't enough time). It was a really lovely way to spend our last day. Earlier in the day we received a text message from Singapore Airlines, saying that our flight was delayed by 3 hours, luckily I decided to check again later in the afternoon, as it was rescheduled again, this time back to its original time. We were sad leaving London as there was so much more to see and do. We arrived in Singapore at 6.05 pm Monday after about a 13 hour flight, were the temperature was about 29 deg and humid - just a little different to the UK.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today we started off at the Churchill War Rooms. The rooms are as they were left at the end of the 2nd World War, combined with that is a Museum on the life of Winston Churchill. It is very well done and well worth a visit. It is incredible to think that people actually worked and then slept in the same place for the entirety of the war. When we came out of the War Rooms we were able to see the Household Cavalry pass on the way to their stables as they came back from Buckingham Palace. A little later we saw a troop of Army, Navy and Airforce Cadets march past, with the same precision as the professional soldiers. On to the Royal Mews - when you walk through the gate from the chaos of London into the quadrangle of the Royal Mews the hustle and bustle disappears - it's like a different world. As these are working stables you can see the residences of the people that live here around the quadrangle. Then you see all the magnificent carriages, the last of which is the Carriage used for Coronations....really spectacular. Next stop the London Bus system, which we think we have just about worked out (just as we are about to leave). We got off a bus at St. Paul's and walked across the Millennium Bridge to the Globe Theatre, which is in the round and the centre is open air, as it was in originally - which makes it interesting when in rains for the actors and those standing in the pit. We went on a tour, which was really good, and found ourselves in a rehearsal of McBeth. It would have been great to see a show. Maybe next time!!Back onto a bus and eventually (between the fact that the London Marathon is on tomorrow, so lots of roads are closed and buses are being diverted, and the fact that the Tower Bridge opened), we did a river cruise back to Westminster, which we did last time we were here, but was good to do again, and we needed to sit down for a while. Back onto a bus to Victoria Station, where we had been at least twice before, (which was a good thing) and onto the bus to the home, stopping in at the local for a drink and dinner. John doesn't understand how we went from our English/Irish heritage (with regard to pubs) and got it so wrong!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Today was a big day. It is after 11pm and we have just arrived back at the unit. First thing this morning we caught the bus into the city (as most tube stations have a lot of stairs) and collected our London Passes we then walked from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square to the Half Price Ticket Booth, where we purchased tickets for a show. We then caught a bus and got off at St. Paul's Cathedral, where there was a celebration of St. George's Day. We spoke to a policeman, who was riding a 17.3 hands high Shire/Clydesdale cross. St. Paul's is truly amazing. and different from others we have looked at, but then it is only a baby compared to Salisbury, and Notre Dame, as it is only 300 yrs old. Back onto the bus and off to the Tower of London. We had fish and chips here last time, when it was quite cold and windy, and they were really good - so decided to have them again. They were still really good only today it must have been around 20 deg - much more pleasant!! Into the Tower, with all its history, we saw armoury, statues of horses, but to me the most impressive was the Crown Jewels. The largest diamond in the world is here, along with a huge gold punch bowl, that is used at the Coronation. The Coronation Spoon, which of course is patterned gold dates back to the 1200's. There were Beefeaters and people in costume and character wandering around. By this time my knees were feeling all the stairs, so back onto another bus to Trafalgar Square, where we walked to Buckingham Palace.......it didn't seem that far when we looked down the Mall so decided to walk - big mistake, it seemed to go on forever! When we got there, we realised that the Royal Mews is closed on Fridays, !!!!!!so went to the Queen's Gallery and will go back to the Mews tomorrow. We then went for drinks at The Bag of Nails Pub, which is the Queens local - it's right next door!! It was then a reasonably short walk to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see "Wicked". The show has been running since 2006 and was fantastic, we really enjoyed it (even John did). Since coming home I have been on the Singapore Site and checked in for our flights from London to Singapore on Sunday night - it's hard to believe that our wonderful trip is almost over

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We started from Watford with the directions from the Motel and managed to get to the Avis Car Return without taking so much as a wrong turn......we had thought it would be difficult, as Heathrow Airport is so big. After dropping the car, we went to the Singapore terminal to get an update for our flight on Sunday night, and were told that as our seats are confirmed we don't have a problem. We then got a little black London Taxi to our apartment near Paddington. After we settled in, we decided to go to Portobello Road, and wandered among the antique shops and looked at things we either couldn't afford, or couldn't have because they weighed too much. We stopped for a beer and Pimms and Lemonade in the Duke of Wellington Pub and then caught the tub into town to Harrods. We decided that we would cook our own dinner tonight, as we needed a break from pub food, so got some lamb & salad, and of course some red wine and had a relaxing night, reminiscing over some of our photos so far. Booked our London Pass tickets for tomorrow and then I chatted to Sue on Skype for about 1/2 hr

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We had a busy and interesting day today, which started in Salisbury. After wandering around this Medieval City drinking hot chocolate and eating sausage rolls, we went in the direction of the Cathederal. We did a guided tour of the Cathedral, which took longer than we thought it would, but was well worth it. It is a really amazing Cathedral, quite different from some of the others we have seen. From here we drove for about 30 mins to Winchester Cathedral to find a small exhibition on Jane Austen. We were not aware that she actually died in Winchester and is buried under the floor of the Cathedral. She was only 41 when she died. After having a what we would call a Devonshire Tea (scones,jam & cream), here it is called a Cream Tea, we walked through some parts of Winchester and found the Great Hall, which has the Round Table (King Arthur) hanging on the wall. John didn't believe that it existed, but then he doesn't believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Robin Hood - how silly is he!!!!Anyway, again after spending more time than we thought, we set off for Windsor Castle....only to get there just as it closed. We are hoping to do a day trip from London back to the castle. It is so impressive to see as you drive around. Today the Queen must have been there as the Royal Standard was flying. Tomorrow we have to return the car to Heathrow, and make our way to Maida Vale, near Paddington, where we will be located for our last 3 nights in London - we think!!. Planes have started flying here, but who knows what the backlog of passengers is. ??????

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We didn't travel as many miles today as we have over recent days, but nevertheless our day was still full. On leaving Stroud we took the back roads all the way to Bath, which once again meant that we saw some spectacular scenery. As we drove into Bath, I saw the Jane Austen Centre, so we spent some time there at the exhibition. We the walked around the town, checked out some of the housing prices, and decided that we couldn't afford to live there !! Some of the properties were 1,800,000 GBP - they must be really special. From Bath we drove to Avebury, which is a 5,000 year old megalithlic site, similar to Stonehenge, but a village has been built around Avebury. Next stop was Stonehenge which is really amazing. To think that these huge stones were moved with only man power!!! Our last stop for today is Salisbury, where we are staying in a Tudor Style Hotel which was built in 1220 and is thought to be the oldest purpose built hotel in Europe and possibly the world. On a different note, the Volcanic Ash which has grounded all flights into and out of the UK and Europe is hopefully getting better as British Airways and some Irish Airlines allowed some planes to take off from 1pm today. However, it is possible that they will stop again at midnight. I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens over the next couple of days.

Today we continued our drive through Wales, and found some of the smallest roads we have come across. We started off at Cardiff harbour, which seemed at lot more modern than other cities. Up through the hills and across to Stroud. We spent the afternoon walking around the township, mainly in search of a Thimble for my collection.....but there wasn't one to be found. We had dinner at the hotel, and spent the night talking to a fellow from Cambridge. We are heading towards Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow

Monday, April 19, 2010

We sadly said goodbye to Ireland, and caught the ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard, with what seemed to be hundreds of walk on passengers, who all looked very tired. They were actually sleeping in the corridors on the ship. (no flights due to volcanic ash), We drove to the Village harbour, which was very picturesque. John says if we can't get home, that's where is going to live!!
We headed on into the Welsh countryside, and came across a burial site that is said to be 3200 BC, from here we went on to Cardigan, and then to a mill town, Cenarth and stopped for a beer in a tiny pub that is over 350 years old. Off into the hills again, and through some really pretty countryside and some really depressing towns. We stumbled across a Steam Railway, but unfortunately, got there to late for a ride. Back towards the coast again looking for accommodation, we came to Swansea, which seems scruffy!!! so decided to keep going and ended up at Bridgend.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We started our last full day in Ireland by driving to Dublin, about 1 1/2 hrs from Kilkenny. We used the freeway, as we had very limited time. John was hesitant about going to Dublin, mainly because of the traffic in the city centre, but I really wanted to go if only for a flying visit, which it was!! We parked the car and walked to the Tourist Centre and then to the mall. Even though it was quite early (not many shops open or people about before 10am)there was a great atmosphere - there were buskers, and human statues, and a lovely flower stall, coffee shops, and the closer it got to midday more people. Unfortunately, we could only spend the morning there, as we needed to be in Rosslare tonight as we need to be at the ferry before 8.00am tomorrow. We are sad to be leaving Ireland, it is so lovely and the people have been so friendly. We took the back roads from Dublin to Rosslare, and came across a cycle road race, and were diverted by the Gauda (Police) which got us wonderfully lost, and we ended up in Hollywood !! Finally made it to Rosslare to the B&B, and headed off to the Pub for Dinner.
We left Killarney and drove to the Dingle, missed the turn and the trip ended up taking a lot longer than we expected. We found a farmers market where we bought some cheese, olives and bread and started back towards Killarney, along the coast road. about half way along we came to Inch Beach, a pretty spot, so we stopped for lunch. As we were running behind time we used the freeway and headed towards Kilkenny, driving through Tipporary, which we found a bit shabby and disappointing. When we arrived in Kilkenny the city was in the mist of a huge traffic jam, as they are changing the trafffic system. Fnally we found the B&B we were looking for and then headed to the Pub. It was built in 1253 and was really amazing. The Irish music started at around 10pm. We weren't going to stay for long, but the music was so good, we ended up not leaving the pub until after 12.30. Anyway we have a long day in ahead today, as we head for Dublin, and then back down the coast to Rosslare

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our day began in Oranmore with a good breakfast. We changed our mind and didn't go back to Athenry and instead headed straight for Galway. It took a while as there was traffic everywhere, so just drove down along the foreshore of the bay and around the city. From there we started south towards Limerick. We went to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which was really good. It showed life as it was in 1850. We are both glad we don't have to live in a Castle, the stairs are horrific!!! Onto the back roads again, and managed not to get lost today, found ourselves in the village of Adare, which we have since found out was voted the prettiest village in Ireland - no wonder we were impressed. After afternoon tea, it was about 3.30 and time to find our accommodation for the night, which we had decided would be down in Killarney, about 1 hours drive. We are staying in a Hotel tonight and at present are in the bar, where the TV is on - the 1st news we have seen since leaving Sydney, we have seen plenty of Soccor though! Apparently all the airports over here are closed, due to volcanic dust from Iceland. We are having dinner here, then going out to another Irish Pub, complete with music.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last night was spent at another great B&B this time in Strabane, about 20 miles south of Londonderry. Margaret, the owner is a lovely lady and we spent a considerable time chatting. After leaving the B&B we found a supermarket bigger than Woolies. It is 2 storey, Woolies on ground floor and Big W on next level. We then headed into the Republic of Ireland down to Donegal. We stopped and went to the Info Centre, had coffee by the river (we think the tide was out!!!! see photo) then walked around the ruins of the Abbey, drove past the Castle and the set off down the "freeway" to Sligo, we visited Yeats grave in the church yard where he grew up and continued on our way to Galway, we haven't got there yet, as we got sick of the major road and took off into the country, where we got thoroughly lost, and stumbled across the wonderful place where we are, which is Oranmore. We were going to stay in Athenry, but couldn't find accommodation, so here we are. Tomorrow we will go back to Athenry to have a good look around, as it is a walled town, with a real castle. We have been trying to find a real old Irish Pub, as different from the ones you can find in any city of the world. We did!!!! The pub is called MacDonagh's built in 1642 complete with thatched roof, Guinness, and lots of Irishmen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last night we stayed in a fabulous B&B just out of Belfast. Iris and Ernie built the B&B on what as their dairy farm and you couldn't meet two better people to run a B&B. This morning we went into Belfast, and was surprised at how different it was to Glasgow/Edinburgh. There were lots more modern buildings than we expected. We walked around and then headed off up the coast to the Giant's Causeway, which is spectacular. From there was went to Bushmills Distillery, which is the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. We then headed for Londonderry and drove around until we found the wall (Derry is the only city left that the has the original walls around it). Today was quite a bit cooler than the previous few days, probably around 14 deg max. although at times the wind was cold, especially at he Giant's Causeway. I am still amazed at the scenery, and how it can change so quickly, from lush and green to rocky shore lines and then to quite desolate country, before it changes back to the green pastures again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lucky this wasn't our car!!!!

Today started off relatively early as we had about 1 1/2hr drive to the ferry. All was going well until we stopped at a red light, and the lady behind us didn't...........we are both OK, just a bit shaken for a while!!!!!Our rental car is OK only the rear bumper damaged, but the other car John thinks will be a write off. Lucky we had allowed plenty of time to get to the ferry......On a brighter note, the ferry trip was fantastic. It's the biggest boat I have been on, even had semi trailers on it. We drove our car on and as we had a premium ticket, we were one of the 1st onto the boat. We then had access to the Stena Lounge, with complimentary tea, coffee and snacks. We were able to order lunch, and be waited on. At the end of the 3 hours, we went back to the car, and again had priority, so were one of the 1st off the boat. We then drove about 20miles to the B&B where we are staying, just out of Belfast. The B&B is great, people are very friendly and accommodating.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We left our hotel in Beauly this morning and drove through Dingwall and Inverness and headed towards Glasgow. The scenery once again was spectacular, going from tree covered mountains to mountains covered in snow. We drove through the beautiful town of Pitlochry, where we had the best Hot Chocolate we have ever had!!!! We continued down the motorway for another hour or so to Falkirk to see the "Falkirk Wheel" which is an incredible piece of engineering. It is a system of moving barges from one canal to another without using a lock. Hopefully we have some footage on video.....
After seeing the wheel in operation, we found our hotel and checked, and then drove into Glasgow where we spent the remainder of the afternoon. Tomorrow we will travel to Stranraer, where we will catch the ferry to Belfast. The trip will take about 3hours, of hopefully smooth sailing!!!!
Thanks to all who have been sending us messages, we love to hear from you, either by email or adding a post.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Our day today started by a walk through the Old Priory at Beauly. It was built in 1290 and is nowadays a ruin, and has been since Cromwell's time. From there we headed towards Ullapool, which is on the north west coast of Scotland, about 48miles from where we are staying. As usual we dressed for cooler weather, but on arrival in Ullapool it was a very pleasant 18 degrees. This town is a white wash coastal village which relies on shipping and tourism. It is a very pretty place. We headed back out of Ullapool, through the highlands again, and then took the road to Isle of Skye, another pretty little place that seems very quite - here we saw Castle Moiar (not sure of spelling) another ancient ruin. Back in the car we travelled through the highlands ever changing landscape, it goes from craggy forested country to open rolling bare hills
We arrived back with a little time to drive through Inverness, past the castle - John says it's a pretend one!!!! Since being back at the hotel I have had and enjoyed a relaxing bath - and John went to the bar and finally found a Scotsman who he could hardly understand. Apparently they had a great conversation

Friday, April 9, 2010

Some different road signs over here!!!

Our plan for today was to tour part of the Highlands of Scotland....we drove from Beauly to Loch Ness, which is much bigger than I expected. We didn't see the "Loch Ness Monster" - that's a surprise!!!. We were able to see Urquart Castle, which is a ruin on Loch Ness. We stopped for a cup of coffee, beside a bridge and discovered that it was an opening swing bridge. While we were there some boats needed to get through, so we were able to video the operation of the bridge. We then went in search of "Glen Bogle"(Monarch of the Glen, BBC Series, for those who don't know). Knowing that it the Castle was on Loch Laggan, we had no trouble finding it. We originally wanted to stay at the Gatehouse of the property, but rentals were for a minimum of 6 nights, and we didn't have that much time to spend in one place. I am happy to have seen the gatehouse and the castle from a distance. We then travelled to Fort William, for to have a look around. It was a very enjoyable day in the Scottish Highlands. We are at present sitting in the bar of the hotel, and are considering having Indian for dinner.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Castle Venlaw

We had a late start this morning, slept in till almost 9am......didn't mean too, but I guess we must have needed it!!! After a hearty scottish breakfast we set off to Edinburgh Castle, after driving around in what seemed like circles for 30 mins, finally John dropped me off, and went to park the car - the castle is on the top of a huge cliff and the car park is at the bottom of the cliff, quite a long walk and lots of stairs. He was a bit tired when he finally reached the castle. The castle was quite different to Lincoln or Skipton Castles, as it has been added to up until about 150 years ago. It is still a working Army Base. We walked across the Parade Ground where the Military Tatoo is held every year - not as big as we thought it would be. The other difference is that it is still furnished. We heard and watched the 1 O'Clock Gun be fired, and I was able to catch it on video. We had afternoon tea in Queen Anne's Cafe in the castle grounds, and then set off to find the car. By this time the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and it was cold, windy and rainy. Once again back in the car we headed off for Inverness, or so we thought. Woops, wrong direction. Finally on the right road, we headed up the motorway, as we had about a 3 hour drive ahead. We drove up through the mountains, through some lovely country and towns, and also some ordinary ones. We drove into Blair Athol, and past Blair Castle (too late to go in) , which was different again, as it is all white. Further up the road the country became quite desolate and there were small bits of snow on the hills and the roadside. The temperature at its lowest was 8.5 deg and its highest was 13.5 deg. We have now arrived in Beauly, which is about 12 miles from Inverness, where we will be based for the next 3 nights.

We left Carlisle this morning and headed for Peebles, near Edinburgh, again we have seen some really incredible scenery, and some quaint little villages. We decided that we would have a relatively easy day, and after looking around Peebles headed into Edinburgh, about 20mins drive, for a look around. What an amazing place. We then headed back to the Castle Venlaw at Peebles at about 3pm to relax before dinner. The castle is lovely, lots of stairs!!!, but I expected that. It was built in about 1824. Dinner was great, 3 courses an we spent the night talking to a Scottish couple.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We spent last in Harrogate and then set off for Skipton this morning. Skipton Castle is a Medieval Castle, one the the best preserved in England. It is about 900 years old. It is amazing to see all the rooms within the walls. Almost right beside the castle is the Parish Church, which is beautiful, with an imposing Clock Tower. We drove from Skipton through the Yorkshire Dales and the beautiful rolling countryside. This is the area where the series "All Creatures great and Small"is based. We chose once again to take the snaller roads, rather than the highways, it took a little longer, but it was well worth it. The drive was a bit challenging as it twists and turns and at times the road is really only wide enough for 1 car. We arrived at Lake Windemee, where we crossed the river by ferry, which tok abiut 10mins and headed up the road to Hill Top Farm, which is Beatrix Potters Cottage. We arrived at about 3.15 in plenty of time to see it, so we thought. We were not aware that the entry to the cottage is timed entry, and they only have a certain number of tickets a day. Luckily, we got the last 2 tickets, but had to wait until 4.10......by this time it was raining quite steadily again. Oh well, off to the shop while we waited. The cottage has been kept as it was when she died, as was her wish. Ot os a beautiful cosy cottage with lots of Beatrix's personal things inside...including some embriodery and a quilt. There is even a rejection letter from a publisher, how incredible is that!!!!
By the time we finished at Hill Top Cottage it was after 5pm, much later that we expected. We drove to Cockermouth, but all the accommodation appeared to be already taken, so we drove on to Carlisle where we are spending the night. More photos tomorrow

Monday, April 5, 2010

We started today by having breakfast at the Ancastar B&B, and then heading to Lincoln where we visited Lincoln Castle, our first real castle. Apparently it has not been modified at all. Inside the walls of the castle, there is a jail, which was not a very nice place. In another room there was the Magna Carta, unfortunately no photos were allowed. The Lincoln Cathedral is very close to the castle and is equally amazing. We drove from Lincoln to York, which is another Medieval Town, and again the buildings are amazing. We have managed really well with driving - John is the driver, I'm navigator, and so far we haven't been lost!!!I haven't even turned the map upside down yet???We are spending the night at the Cedar Court, Best Western Motel in Harrogate. Tonight we went to the pub for dinner, came home early and I had a relaxing bath...didn't have any Champagne to drink while having a soak, so had to have a glass of red instead. Tomorrow we are heading towards the Lakes District. Hope everyone is well and that you all enjoyed your Easter Long Weekend.
Sue, thanks for the Skype call. It was great to have a chat. The internet connection dropped out. I did try to call you back, but you must have logged off . Will try to talk again soon