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Trip Report 2 AUSSIES IN LONDON, PARIS, YORKSHIRE, LAKES, WALES, COTSWOLDS IN 5 WEEKS

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First and foremost a BIG thank you to all of you for your help and friendship in guiding me through the maze of planning and questions, and for putting my mind at rest for numerous bits and pieces of the planning. A special thanks also to Morgana (Yorkshire) and JuliaT (Cotswolds) - your knowledge helped me a great deal.


BACKGROUND: We are a married couple in our mid 50’s from Perth. This trip morphed a few times in the planning stages as all the best laid plans do. It started with Italy, Ireland and more UK for 8 weeks but a super cruise deal came up in October 2010, Perth to San Francisco then cruising back to Sydney on the P&O Oriana with an extension to see our DD in Whistler. We hadn’t seen her in two years – how could we pass this one up? That then depleted our bank balance as well as our annual leave.

We already had a booking at the Morgan Hotel in London for May 2012, so we knew our original plans would have to change, we would worry about Plan B when we got home.

The Early Bird Singapore Airlines fares for Europe came out on the day we left for Sydney; it was a good deal saving us 350AUD each so we held our breath, put the cursor on the purchase button, gulped and did the deed. Then off we went for 5 wonderful weeks, including a week spent with our DD in Whistler and Vancouver – can’t tell you how great that week was but I bet you can guess!

Lazy days on the ship gave us time to rethink our plans and consolidate Plan B down to 5 weeks, Unfortunately Italy was the casualty as well as Ireland – they’re both still on The Bucket List, we will get there someday. On our return we rebooked our week at the Morgan for two weeks later then set about booking the rest of our accommodation and sorting out our plans. In the end our holiday all came together wonderfully, we had an amazing time and wouldn’t change a thing.

We took two small cases roughly 21”, a backpack for DH and a computer/messenger bag for me. I also had a small Hedgren bag that fits my camera, purse, tissues, lip balm, hand wash etc. This was packed flat in the case for travelling. Didn’t do carry on as I prefer my own bathroom products and wanted enough to last 5 weeks. We do use packing cubes, one each fitted side by side in one case with other bits packed around them. The other case had our small packing cubes for underwear which fit again side by side in the mesh section on the lid. Toilet bags, shoes, laundry stuff etc filled the rest. We both wore our heavy hiking shoes, fleeces and coats on the plane. I use a large zip lock bag in my carry on with our iPods, my Kindle, his book, a pen and a little mesh purse for my liquids (the stuff that goes into my Hedgren bag for daily use), this goes into the seat pocket for our flights – works for us.

What follows is my journal that I wrote each day on my little Asus Eee PC, I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday – Travelling to London 21/05-/11

Left Perth on time at 1.10am, comfortable flight to Singapore. Spent 2.5 hours in Changi, time went quickly before the long flight to Heathrow, roughly 13.5 hours. Had the window and middle seats, bad idea as the guy next to us, although nice, spent most of the flight with the blanket over his head, which made it difficult to get out and have loo breaks. Food as usual was good but ran out of our 1st choice for lunch, we had to settle for a rather hot curry which included rings of green chilli! YIKES! But it was very nice and we both enjoyed it. Time seemed to go very slowly, we thought, last year’s trip to Vancouver which was even longer went quicker. We dozed on and off, really too tired to even read, just listened to the iPods and watched a couple of movies including the Boat that Rocked which was great. Quirky British humour – love it. The service was good with plenty of water, juice and snacks.

Arriving on time at 3.30 pm we went very quickly through customs, no questions apart from "are you here for a holiday", unlike last time when I got the 3rd degree. We did have to wait ages for the luggage to appear but at least both our little cases did come out. We negotiated the walk to the Tube station easily, having packed super light was a bonus as our cases are easily pulled or carried. Our Oyster cards were still valid, some 3 years later and showed a small balance so we just topped them up and went down to the tube.

Carriage was almost empty but as we got closer and closer to Central London it did fill up but nothing too bad - mostly families out and about on a Saturday afternoon going about their business. The Piccadilly line took us straight to Holborn Station, from there we easily found our way to the Morgan Hotel in Bloomsbury, though it is a bit disconcerting when you get out of the tube and don't really know which direction you are facing. Luckily London has plenty of “You are here” boards which do help a lot in getting your bearings.

At the Morgan had to ring a bell then enter when the door was unlocked. The manager just asked our name and quickly gave us our keys and said "up to room 209". So up we went 2 flights of stairs - again thank goodness for our small cases. Room is not big but suits us fine, 2 comfy chairs and small bathroom but very clean and also a nice firm bed. We are right next door to the British Museum and overlook a small leafy courtyard. After a quick unpack (read putting packing cubes in a drawer and hanging up tomorrow’s shirt) we took off with map in hand. We are very close of Covent Garden and had a pleasant wander around. Saw the actual markets and also the theatre were Priscilla is playing (which we hope to see). The weather is warm but soon cools down with a cold wind blowing. We ended up walking down to the Thames and saw the sun setting. Walked over the Jubilee Bridge and back again then back up to Covent Garden to Neales Yard and found a cosy little Italian restaurant. DH had a vegetarian Panini and I had minestrone soup washed done with a rather nice red wine, finishing off with a latte and a really nice chai latte for me. My watch on Perth time showed 3am, we had been on the go for nearly 48 hours. Quick walk back to our hotel, shower and bed. We were both asleep within seconds.

www.morganhotel.co.uk/

Sunday - Gardens and getting our bearings 22/05/2011

Up and showered then down stairs, 4 flights, to a pleasant breakfast room. Yoghurt, juice and fruit were set out then we were offered bacon, sausage, tomato, mushroom and a choice of eggs, we both had poached. Really enjoyed the bananas - also a choice of white or brown toast all washed down with a pot of tea for me and coffee for DH. As a side note on the bananas, our supplies were washed out in the floods earlier this year in Queensland and Carnarvon so what few bananas are available in the shops are very expensive – hence we made sure we had one everyday. It was like having a treat!

We headed back to Covent Gardens, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Sq, heard the bells ringing at St Martins in the Field and popped our heads in the door. We then headed to Admiralty Arch down the Mall, along the Birdcage to horse guards parade ground then through St James's Park to Buck house where we happened along the changing of the guards. We got a spot on the Queen Victoria Memorial right in front of the main gates. A lot of pomp and ceremony but a bit boring, although we did enjoy the bands. We wandered up Constitution Hill avoiding the horse droppings to Hyde Park corner then did a full circumnavigation of Hyde Park. We certainly left a bit of shoe rubber behind.

We headed to Lancaster Gate tube but somehow took a wrong turn so had to backtrack to Queensway then took a tube to Tottenham Court Rd. (Note: avoid this station at all costs as its being renovated, it’s a mess, from then on we used Holborn to get back to the hotel.) We were totally turned around when we got out of the Tube but finally figured out where we were. We walked down to Charing Cross National rail to get one day travel card for tomorrow. Wish we had thought of it this morning, would have saved ourselves a good hour at least. I put it down to lack of sleep! We wandered back to the hotel for a short rest, then went and had a couple of fortifying drinks at our local, The Museum Tavern. There had been a fairly cold wind blowing and it was getting colder so we went for a quick walk around the block and went to Tas next door to our hotel for a yummy dinner. It is a Turkish restaurant, very nice with linen tablecloths etc, we shared entrees, then I had Moussaka and DH had a lamb dish with along with a very enjoyable Chilean red wine. A quick walk up the street to settle dinner but the wind was so cold we headed back to the hotel.

Monday: Hampton Court Palace - 23/05/2011

Our off-peak travel card was valid after 9.30am, this allowed us all day travel out to Hampton Court Palace and back, pretty good bargain along with our 2-4-1 voucher for the Palace that I had printed before we left home. We had another good breakfast at the hotel, scrambled eggs this morning, yum! We decided to walk to Waterloo station, leaving the hotel at 9.00am we got to the station at 9.41 - train leaving at 9.42 from platform 2 - of course right at the other end. Anyway we made it as it was running 3 minutes late!! Train tracks all look the same, dirty and covered with graffiti, it was certainly true here. Seniors moment #1 - I remembered I had left our 2-4-1 vouchers back at the hotel - bugger! After a 30 minute journey we hopped off and followed the signs and people, over the Thames and into the gates. The size of the Palace and grounds was very impressive and much more beautiful that Buck House - King Henry V111 certainly knew what he was doing. Expecting to pay full price admission which was 15 pound each (!) I mentioned to the girl that we had vouchers but I had left them at the hotel she suggested we walk back to the station as they had pre-printed ones there we could use. YES! DH quickly walked back and grabbed one, we were very glad to save the money and it was well worth an extra 5 minute walk.

Their whole operation is very well done with lots of staff running around in costume giving talks and an audio guide that you could follow. We were half way into this when an alarm went off, everyone had to evacuate. The staff were excellent and the Yeomen used their King Henry voices and herded us out onto the forecourt, however we were only there about 10 minutes before we could go back in. The Palace is very opulent, must have been amazing in its day, how they build these things without modern machinery is mind blowing. I would have loved to have seen it all furnished - some of the remaining tapestries are just huge and cover entire walls. We particularly enjoyed looking up at all the chimneys and there were an awful lot! Can you imagine trying to heat a place like that in an English winter - well every room had at least one fireplace. But the amazing thing was that each chimney had a different pattern made with the bricks, some were crossed and some were spirals - hard to explain but pretty neat to look at.

We enjoyed the kitchens - just huge as you can imagine but very well organised. The roasting room had an enormous fireplace which was working; tended by two "servants" - you could just picture the huge animals being cooked on the spits - the heat must have been intense. The Royal Chapel was made entirely in oak with the most beautiful peacock blue ceiling painted with gold stars.

We rested our feet for a while and enjoyed a coffee in the Cafe then headed out into the gardens. We happily spent a couple of hours wandering around - the size and scale were fitting to match the size of the Palace. Shame some of the beds were empty, but spring was turning to summer so new planting was starting - would be a riot of colour and lovely to see. However the rose garden was in full bloom and the scent intoxicating. This was our first time seeing a formal garden of this kind, the work that goes into it is mind blowing. Again, how did they manage things of this scale in the 1500's???? Seniors moment #2 - I had brought along some embroidery to do and discovered on the plane I had not put in any needles - how dumb is that! Anyway as we were heading off to lunch we noticed a sign saying Royal Embroiderers Society - only open today between 1 and 2 - well it was 5 past 1 so in we went. The lady behind the counter very kindly found me a little packet of gold needles - understanding of my plight (sewing girls will relate to this!) I happily left with a lovely souvenir. (And truth be known, didn’t touch the sewing for the entire time we were away.)

We had lunch in the cafe then sat by the Thames and waited for a ferry to take us down to Kingston, pleasant 1/2 hour journey and interesting to see some canal boats still in use. Found the train station and happily rested our feet for the trip back into town.

We hopped off the train and onto the tube up to the Leicester Square, we were hoping to get tickets to Priscilla. TKTS booth is where they sell off all the unsold tickets to that nights theatre events, they show on a board what is on offer and luckily for us we managed to get tickets for 45 pound instead of 68 – we were happy. We walked back to our hotel for a rest, tried to get into our "local" for a meal but it was full so settled for a sandwich and fruit juice at Pret a Manger down the road.

We had dress circle seats in the theatre, four rows from the front, great view. The musical was as good as the film; they certainly did a super job of recreating the bus trip with a full size bus on the stage. Anyway it was fabulous, we sang and laughed and clapped till our hands hurt - and laughed and cringed some more at the accents. It was pretty funny listening to some of the actors trying to flatten out their vowels. We weren’t really sure if everyone “got” some of the jokes as we found ourselves laughing when most other people were quiet. Aussies have a pretty weird sense of humour. Everyone swarmed out onto the street singing and smiling, all in a happy mood and taking photos in front of the theatre and that pink shoe! We timed our walk back to the hotel - 8 minutes at a brisk pace. Again, we are so happy with our hotel, we can walk anywhere from here. You might have guessed by now – we love walking.

There has been a very strong wind blowing (hoping it doesn't blow the volcano ash our way!!), at times it almost knocks you over. The worst thing is the blossom falling from the trees, it gets in your throat and eyes. We did notice last night that there wasn't as much falling - I think It’s all blown off onto the street by now. So far no rain - fingers crossed.

Tuesday - St Paul’s and the British Museum 24/05/2011

After breakfast we decided to walk to St Paul’s, which is a fair distance I can tell you after the event! Mainly because we keep getting off our path to see things down an alley or lane that takes our fancy we then have to get back on track. We finally make it and parked ourselves in a coffee shop using a voucher I had found on the internet to get one 1/2 price. Every little bit helps! We were joining a tour by the London Walks tour group. They use actors, historians etc and professionally qualified Blue Badge Guides - the best you can get. And yes, I managed to get DH to agree to doing it!!

We met Mary outside St Paul’s tube, paid our fee of 8 pound each and discounted entry - bargain for over 2 hours worth and her knowledge. There is no pre-booking, you just show up, luckily there were only 15 people so it was very manageable. Mary started by telling us some history of the area and about the original St Paul’s, was all very interesting. We then walked around the front and learnt about Christopher Wren and the design. We went in and bypassed all the queues then we walked to different areas while Mary described the building and all that it contained. We were fairly blown away by the size of it, the ceiling is stunning and the colours are so beautiful. I was looking at it all with the eyes of a patchwork quilter! I could feel myself designing a quilt using those rich colours. So much to take in and so much history. It really is much more than a church. The crypt was a treasure trove of famous names.

At the end of the tour Mary took us to the stairs heading up to the Whispering gallery, which is the first level and said farewell. Most of us went up and up and up the circular stairs, all 257 of them. The view down into the main church was made all the more interesting as a service was taking place. We then went up a very narrow stone set of 119 steps, this was a bit claustrophobic! Outside onto the Stone Gallery for an amazing view over London, next was the final set of circular iron stairs. A bit scary as you could see all the way down below and only a small handrail but you could see the inside brick cone that holds up the outer dome. We had seen a TV show on how St Paul’s was made so it was interesting to see it in real life. We popped out on the very top called the Golden Gallery, a total of 528 steps from the start. Not a lot of room to move so we did a circumnavigation then started the descent which was a lot easier than going up!!

We grabbed some water, sandwich, fruit and continued our journey. Found Postmans Park which has a wall dedicated to ordinary people who have died while trying to save the life of another. There are lovely old tiles that tell the story, most dating back to the 1800's. Onwards to the original old London Town, passed the Bank of England's very Romanesque facade, so much history here and wonderful street names like Pudding Lane, Poultry Street and Threadneedle Street. We found Leadenhall Markets and finally came to rest at Monument. There was no way we were going to climb it so after a rest we headed to the tube and back to Holborn. We spent about 2 hours at the British Museum but there is so much to see it needs to be done in a couple of visits. We were wilting badly and both had sore feet so the only thing to do was to head over the road to our "local" for a pint and a scrumpy for me then headed home to rest up for tonight’s visit to the Tower of London.

We really needed to eat some veggies so thought we would try Wagamama just down the road - well it was pretty expensive and didn't fulfil our expectations. . . .but you live and learn. We walked off dinner but really wasn't much to walk off with a wander down to the Thames. We watched the sunset over Big Ben and walked over the Jubilee Bridge and back then caught the tube to Tower then walked down to the Tower of London. The Ceremony of the Keys is held each night - well each night for the last 700 odd years to lock up the Tower and Crown Jewels. You have to apply in writing months in advance and you are sent tickets if lucky enough as there are only about 30 tickets issued. At 9.30pm a yeoman lets you into the Tower, bag search etc then we were led down to a spot where we were told not to take photos, talk etc. Just had to stand and observe, anyway It’s all a bit of pomp and circumstance but good fun. At exactly 5 1/2 minutes to 10pm a small group of Scottish guards come forward carrying a lantern and the keys, all dressed up in the red uniforms and big furry hats. Halt, who goes there etc, they swap the keys, bless the Queen; we all have to say Amen. Then the last post is played and it’s all over as the bell peels 10. We are then ushered out the door and into the night, good fun and it was free. We also got to see the Tower lit up and the Tower Bridge which was pretty speccy.

We decided to tube it back to Westminster so we could see Big Ben and Parliament House lit up then a brisk 30 minute walk home by just on midnight. There is no way we would catch the train at home or walk around Perth at that time of night but here we feel perfectly safe for some reason.

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    Oh Maudie, I'm pleased to see this, and read it too! It's a lovely trip report. Please continue with it.

    I remember more than a year ago when you booked your Cotswold cottage and we agreed to meet, and then we actually fixed a date and time to meet - 2 weeks ago this evening - and I was looking forward to it! Then unexpectedly I had to cancel but you never got my email and you sat there thinking you'd been stood up! I'm sorry, I feel bad about that, but you now know why, and I couldn't have done anything differently.

    But no doubt you will come to that as your report progresses, and I look forward to reading the rest of it.

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    Hi Maudie
    Loving your trip report. We love to walk a lot too.
    We will be back in London & Paris this Sept/Oct. We spent 5 nights in the Cotswolds last trip and loved it.
    Looking forward to reading more.

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    Thanks for your feedback everyone, glad you are enjoying it.

    Hi Julia, oh please don't feel bad about our "date" at the pub, we were more worried that something had happened to you. We didn't feel that you had stood us up at all.

    aussie - wish we had met up for a drink, that would have been fun. Lucky you going back again so quickly, I thought you were planning Italy?

    Here we go again:

    Wednesday - Tower of London and lots more walking 25/05/2011

    This morning we braved peak hour on the tube to get to the Tower again to see it all by daylight, luckily we seemed to be going against the crowd but the masses of people using the tube were amazing, scary! We had to stop ourselves from getting sucked along in the wrong direction. We survived and were able to use another 2-4-1 voucher (bought the cheapest train ticket to qualify), saving ourselves well over 10 pound. I thought the Tower was just the home of the Crown Jewels and had some ruins in it, but it’s far more than that. There was so much to see, ramparts to walk around, displays and best of all the jewels - WOW. It was worth going just to see them. There must be billions of pounds worth of goodies in there - no wonder they have to lock it down at night. One crown originally had 1231 diamonds on it, none remained BUT they had put the same number of them around the crown just to show you what 1231 looked like - all with the kind permission of De Beers. Talk about sparkle, I would be happy with just one. Some of the stones used in other crowns were the size of small eggs - they could feed starving hordes for years if they sold them off. We were soon wilting after all that and needed a coffee break. Best day weather wise today, the strong wind dropped, the sky is blue and the sun is shining.

    Next on the agenda was to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition, which again we saved on with a voucher. We went up to the top level walkways and had a great view up each stretch of the Thames. There were lots of photos of the construction and a series of famous bridges from around the world which was really interesting. We then went down to the engine room to see all the workings, that was a bit boring for me but DH enjoyed it. Next up was a tube back to Temple to try and find the Temple Church, which was built by the Knights Templar - well we went round in circles and finally came across it. So many interesting places are down lanes and in behind modern buildings so you have to look hard for them. This beautiful little church was no exception, surrounded by buildings on all sides it just sits quietly in a small courtyard. The stained glass was very beautiful and the knights were all there laid out on the floor - how many people have trodden on this stone floor or sat on this bench???? It really does your head in; the history here in London is truly amazing and makes our visit so worthwhile.

    Out onto Fleet Street and right before us is this HUGE old building and I mean HUGE! All domes and arches and majestic doorways - well we finally walked far enough down to read - The Royal Courts of Justice. What a magnificent building! As I was trying to get a photo in during a break in the traffic I noticed we were standing right in front of the Twining’s Tea Shop! This was on my list of places to visit and we just stumbled across it. The smell was divine - so many varieties to choose from, hard choice but I went for an assorted box of Green tea flavours, most I haven't seen at home. What a happy little vegemite I was! Further along we found Australia House and thought it was only right and fitting that we stop for a sandwich and rest right opposite it.

    Onwards we went until we reached Trafalgar Square and the British Art Gallery, our mission here is to find room 43 and Monet's Waterlilies, well all I could do was to sit and gaze in wonder at it all. There were nearly a dozen of his works but the Lilly Pond is just so beautiful and those blues and greens are my favourite colours. We looked at a few other bits and pieces, some dude called Michelangelo too. Most of the works are not at all our taste and there is a very heavy sprinkling of religious paintings that we don’t care for. Out into the sunshine and sit on the steps along with half the population of greater London sunning themselves. A long slow walk back with sore feet and lo and behold our favourite watering hole appears. DH has started at one end of the beer selection and is slowly working his way through it, I just enjoy my Strongbow Cider as it’s always nice and cold unlike some of the beer. Back to the hotel to rest our weary selves and think what we would like for dinner tonight - it sure won't be Wagamama!

    We decided to try and find Carluccio's in the Brunswick shopping area. Carluccio had a TV show that we had watched a few years ago on Italian food and also one he did in Australia so it seemed like a good bet. A couple of streets were blocked off so that threw us off the scent for a while but we managed to get there in the end. There is just a huge amount of building and construction going on here in London as it readies itself for the 2012 Olympic Games. Back to the restaurant - it was fairly bustling but managed to get a table for 2 inside as it was cold and windy out. We shared Courgette and Gorgonzola soup and cheesy garlic bread - great start to the meal as it was yummy! We picked a bottle of Italian red wine from Montepulciano in Umbria, excellent choice at 14 pound which we thought was good value for such a nice wine. Wish we could take a crate home. Next up we had the special, Seafood Risotto, very very good then splurged with a Raspberry Mascarpone tart, I almost licked the plate it was so good. DH had a baked Ricotta with lemon/lime syrup - which was just plain delightful all washed down with a latte (closet thing we can get to flat white).We strolled home and wondered if our DD had walked these same footpaths two years ago when she stayed in the area. We both slept very well!

    THURSDAY - WESTMINSTER, SOUTHBANK AND SHOPPING 26/05/2011

    Rain forecast today but they haven't had any here for about 2 months so are quite happy to get some. At breakfast we planned our day starting with finding a shop called Cath Kidston, I was searching for a purse for a friend of mine to match a bag she had. It was only in Covent Gardens so it didn't take us long but we forgot that most shops don't open until 10 so we planned to return on our way home later in the day. Next up was Leicester Square to the TKTS booth, we wanted to see if we could get tickets to Jersey Boys tonight. Stood in a small queue for about 10 minutes until opening and chatted with a young couple from Oklahoma. They couldn't believe how long it took us to fly to London, it only took them 8 hours - we told them we were still on the ground in Singapore after 8 hours! They got tickets for Billy Elliott and we got ours, wished them a happy holiday and strolled down to Trafalgar Square.

    Quick loo stop (one becomes particularly adept at finding loos whilst on holidays) at the National Gallery and we headed towards Big Ben. Barack Obama has been in town and yesterday the helicopters were circling the city but we think he has gone as It’s much quieter in the sky today. We walked down past Number 10, plenty of armed police around and barricades which we assumed was something to do with Obama's visit. Onwards to Westminster, this would have to be one of the busiest intersections around with Parliament House on one side and Westminster Abbey on the other. We did the usual gawking at the buildings then went over to the Abbey - very long queues as it had been closed while Obama was in town - something about security as he was staying next door according to an American woman at breakfast this morning. Anyway we weren't going to part with 18 pound each just to see inside - as a passerby said a church is a church is a church. We had seen it on TV for THE wedding that was enough for us. We walked around outside and visited pretty little St Margaret’s next door for free.

    We walked on to the end of Parliament House and into the park for a while then back over Westminster Bridge to see it from the other side. The clouds were gathering but no rain yet though the wind was chilly. We walked down Southbank in the Tower Bridge direction enjoying the sights but soon the heavens opened but luckily we were under cover - time to stop for a coffee. As we headed towards Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre we had a few more light showers but didn't get too wet. Our mission was to get to the Borough Food Markets for lunch. I was very disappointed to learn on Fodors just days before we left for our trip Kappacasein had moved from the markets – no gooey, cheesey toastie for us. Fresh food as well as cooked, the smell was amazing and so was the choice. Into our little bag went - a spelt roll, a piece of Spanish cheese, a small container of olives and half a Pork Pie. We found a place to sit undercover and had our little picnic. Reminded us of our last market picnic with DD in Vancouver. I found the pie too salty but thoroughly enjoyed the rest. Oh and we shared an Apple Strudel and thought of our son – anything with apple and cinnamon he is a sucker for - yum.

    We realised the Tower Bridge was lifting at 2.15 so hightailed it back along the river to find a good viewing spot - oh I guess I forgot to mention the fresh raspberries that we grabbed on the way out of the markets? Well that was a nice snack to enjoy while we waited. Soon along came a motor yacht and the sirens sounded, traffic stopped and up she went. Great to see the Bridge in action. At this point we decided the clouds were getting very dark again so we found the closest tube at London Bridge, rode to Green Park and changed to Covent Garden. Found the Cath Kidston store again and made my purchases, note the plural. A quick detour into Marks & Spencer, found a pretty scarf but the price was ridiculous so left it there and we wandered the food court and found some salads and a mini bottle of wine to have at the hotel tonight before the theatre. Happy to have a rest now, its raining and we are having a nice thunderstorm as well so we are glad to be indoors at present.

    We had our little picnic in our room, enjoyed getting some veggies into us. With coats and scarves on we did the 10 minute walk to the theatre - no sign of the earlier rain. Our seats were about 10 rows back to one side but still had a good view of the stage. We got chatting to the couple beside us, they asked us where we were from, turns out they were born and raised in Melbourne but moved to Calgary in 1969 - they had interesting accents! They were a lovely couple and we had a good chat with them, they were in London to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, along it seems like half the world’s population. Jersey Boys started and "Frankie Valli's" voice was amazing, he got right up there to the high notes - no problem at all. At intermission the four of us decided to move two rows down and into the middle as there were unused seats, we just got settled when there was a bit of a commotion behind us. A lot of people were taking photo's of a man that seemed to have a couple of "minders" around him, we looked at the guy but couldn't place him, thought he must be some local identity. The show finished with us up dancing and clapping, everyone was going crazy singing etc, such a good vibe just like the end of Priscilla. The lady we had been talking with looked at me and said "I think that guy is Frankie Valli" - "Yes I think you are right" I said but of course by that time he had been ushered out before the lights went up. On our way out the doorman confirmed our suspicions - how cool is that!!! We sat a couple of rows in front of Frankie Valli at Jersey Boys!!!!! Wonder what he thought of the show? We said farewell to our Melbourne/Canadian friends and walked back - too hyped up to sleep.

    FRIDAY - OUR LAST FULL DAY IN LONDON 27/06/2011

    Our plan today was to check out St Pancras for our Eurostar trip in the morning. We walked to Holborn tube and went through to St Pancras/Kings Cross. Such a huge station complex but plenty of signage so we easily found the check-in area were we skulked around watching people go through the barriers. At least we know what to expect tomorrow. We walked around St Pancras and did some window shopping and checked out the Champagne Bar - hhhmmmmm guess it will be a bit too early to imbibe in that in the morning.

    Out of the station we headed into the British Library, I was surprised by the building - guess I was expecting a lovely old relic with some sort of amazing reading rooms but its just a modern ugly building. We used the loo - always, always take advantage of loo's when you can is my motto! We found the Manuscript Room which had some wonderful things in it - The Magna Carta, Jane Austen's writings, Beatles music, the original score of Handel’s Messiah, works by Shakespeare - what a treasure trove that room is.

    Back over the road into Kings Cross station we walked for miles until we found the tube connection we wanted. For those of you that don't know the tube, there are quite a few different lines that run all over London, the large stations have lots of connections to the different lines. There are tunnels, stairs and escalators to get you where you want to go to, some of these run for ages which means a lot of walking to get you there. It’s hot and can be crowded but very efficient, the longest we have waited for a train is 3 minutes. There always seems to be a train on the way. We travelled to Warwick St and found our way to Little Venice on the canals, a very nice area to live in by the looks of the houses. Little Venice is like a lagoon where tourist canal boats are moored before plying the waterway to Camden Lock. We had a walking map so off we headed, no sitting back and enjoying the ride for us. The first area we came across was "the" place to moor your boat, very pretty with gardens etc but other parts were a bit tacky. The sky was overcast but no rain so it was pleasant walking, along past the ritzy houses on Regents Canal, past London Zoo until we made our way to Camden Lock. Luck would have it that there were two canal boats just going into the lock, one each way. We enjoyed watching them - one up and one down before they continued their journey.

    We headed into the market to find something to eat - plenty of choice and it all smelled great. We did give the croc burgers and roo steaks a wide berth though. Food from all over the world, hard to pick but the Seafood Paella won me over and DH settled on a selection of Spanish chicken, lemon beans and potato cooked with chorizo, both were really nice! We resisted the beer urge too.

    We re-traced our steps along the canal until we found the signpost to Regents Gardens, I had been looking forward to seeing this and it didn't disappoint. First stop was a nice hot coffee as that cold wind had sprung up again, the clouds seemed heavier but still no rain. Queen Mary's Rose Garden was just blooming into life, still a lot of buds but enough roses to make a pretty picture and the perfume was dancing in the air. Each bed has one variety and the rich colours were like jewels - I just couldn't pick a favourite. Wish I could have picked a couple of dozen stems to take back to our room. We spent plenty of time wandering in and out of the paths, finding special little spots, ponds, statues etc. Some of the beds are now empty which is a pity but others are bursting into life. We slowly made our way towards the main road, sorry to be leaving this quiet oasis in the middle of busy London. We sat down for a rest, just to savour the moment. Out into the traffic and noise - peak hour is starting to build, did a Monopoly Board walk almost along Marylebone, to Euston Road then down Gower which becomes Bloomsbury which is "our" street.

    We went for a last pint or two at our local and decided to stay there for a meal. We ordered fish and chips which came with mushy peas - yuck why would you eat them! We both tried a mouthful and left the rest - can't see the point of mushing them up, DH reckons its because they stay on your fork easier! Meal was ok but nothing wonderful. We walked the long way home, then packed up, placing the packing cubes back in the case. I have learnt over the years, always put everything back in the same place because you know it fits!

    We have been very lucky with the weather, it’s been cold at times and the first couple of days the wind ferocious but we didn't get drenched so all's good. Our hotel has been wonderful in terms of cleanliness, good hearty breakfasts, great position - nothing but praise and not a bad word to say. If we ever come this way again we will stay here in a heartbeat. We will leave the Morgan Hotel after breakfast around 8am, onwards to the next adventure


    SATURDAY - WE HEAD FOR PARIS 28/06/2011

    A final breakfast and pay the bill, say our farewells before we went out to hail a cab - didn't wait too long luckily as it was early and fairly deserted. Those black cabs are very roomy, wish they would introduce them at home, so much better than an ordinary car. We walked into St Pancras to a sea of people, unlike the few we saw the previous day. There were queues and queues of travellers so we just hopped onto the first one and waited in line. Turns out it’s a Bank holiday on Monday and end of term so every man and his dog were off to Paris or Paris Disney. So glad we had checked things out yesterday or it would have been pretty overwhelming to walk into that lot without knowing what we were doing. Our pre-printed tickets didn't work on the reader but the little French gentleman took us directly to a ticket booth and saw us through. Glad we took the suggestion on board of arriving early! We grabbed a coffee and before long we were boarding, in 2.15 hours we would be in Paris. We stored our luggage and found our seats, not a huge amount of leg room but enough. We plugged in our IPODS and settled back for the journey, time went quickly. The Chunnel itself only takes about 20 minutes to go through. DH went to the information desk and purchased our Carnets, little books of 10 tickets that are good on the buses and Metro. We were set to go.

    Arrival at Gare Du Nord was a bit daunting - so we just went out the closest exit which luckily was near the front. The taxi queue was huge and getting longer by the second so we decided we would brave the bus. The crowds were huge, people everywhere - we thought London was busy! We saw some buses lining up so headed in that direction looking for number 54 (the entire time saying to ourselves Car 54, where are you - only oldies would know about that!!). Our bus came around the corner, there is no polite waiting in line here, its every man for himself. We watched a couple of people validate their tickets in a little machine so on we jumped, the bus was nearly full but somehow we managed to get on with our luggage. Everyone seemed to make room for us with plenty of Mercis, Bon Jours – wow – we were in Paris! We knew we had to get off at Blanche - and kept an eye out for the Moulin Rouge which is easy to spot on course. Saturday afternoon traffic was bumper to bumper and there seemed to be some sort of fracas going on with lots of police vehicles and cops wearing riot gear, no one seemed alarmed on the bus. Must be a day to day occurrence! We did learn that Obama is in town - he is following us.

    Our stop came up on the overhead screen and we saw the Windmill - but you have to exit from the back of the bus and we were near the front – oh boy, but again everyone just helped us through and we found ourselves standing on the footpath heaving a sigh of relief. We found the little alley way called Cite de Veron and up we went - saw some people with suitcases who were also waiting to get in to No 7. We waited for a while as they said they couldn't raise the guy to let them in. They were a lovely family of 9 travelling together from Phoenix, Arizona. We had a nice chat with them and they were very interested in Australia and asked us lots of questions - most Americans can't believe how long it takes us to get to Europe. Turns out we waited at the wrong door! Senior moment #3. Anyway we found our doorway, rang the bell and a guy came out and quickly grabbed my case and took us though a door - had to punch in a code to get in then up one flight of spiral stairs (not too bad) and unlocked our little Parisian flat. It was as expected no surprises, thank goodness. Clean and a bit weirdly furnished but we knew that. He said the owner was out but would come by later. Any problems just come by and knock on the door of the flat below.

    We did a quick bit of unpacking and looking in cupboards, fridge etc. Everything we needed. We decided to hit the supermarket for some supplies, did well with DH's school French to find some low fat milk, some yoghurt, some muesli sans sugar, wine, beer (all the important things) cheese, tomatoes, bananas (yes bananas again) and bread. Dropped it all in the flat and took off to get the bus down to the Seine. The bus stop was only a few minutes walk across the street which was great and of course by now we were experts at catching the bus.

    We got off at the Louvre and wandered around, map in hand. It was a beautiful warm sunny day with a clear blue sky so that meant all the Parisians were out in the parks getting their gear off. We thought as first "what the hell are we doing here", so many people everywhere, tour buses by the hundreds, I was ready to run back to Montmartre and burrow down in our little flat. But we headed to the river and walked all the way along to the Eiffel tower, stopping here and there to look at things and just generally being tourists. We stood right underneath the Tower, there were huge lines of people waiting to get up the towers, we just took our photo's and tried to send a text to DD to tell her where we were but my phone didn’t have a signal. Really just wanted to make her jealous.

    We walked back down to the river in the hope of getting a boat to Pont Neuf but they were all round trips so we just walked back on the opposite side from earlier. Lots of people were heading to the Tower with picnics and rugs, I guess to see it at sunset. Our plan was to take the Seine boat trip from Pont Neuf - also I had a voucher that I found online to get 2 Euro's off per person - why not! We had to wait for about 40 minutes so just sat with he crowd lining the river, lots of people having picnics and plenty of wine being consumed. There were even people sitting on blankets on all the bridges spanning the river having picnics.

    We boarded the boat and did our circular trip, it was nice to sit back and relax and watch it all go by. We had some interesting commentary from a young lady who was learning the job, she was quite funny. We had the most beautiful sunset, the sky lit up with pinks and purples just as we were approaching Notre Dame, it was pretty spectacular and special. Well worth doing the trip, especially in the evening. Still can't get used to the sun going down around 10pm either!

    We walked back over the bridge to where we thought the bus stop was only to see our bus #74 fly past us. We waited and waited, no more 74's, finally asked a young couple walking by and they told us to go over to another street as they are more frequent. We found the right stop but again waited and waited, by this time it was nearly 11.30, we thought give it 5 more minutes then we walk. But luckily for our tired feet one came around the corner - the bus was supposed to run every 16 minutes - we hadn't seen one in well over an hour. Again the Moulin Rouge was a stand out sign for us to get off - we crossed the road and got home safe and sound.

    http://www.loftparis.fr/renting-montmartre/index.htm We stayed in the Suite

    Now this place isn’t for everyone and I copped a tongue lashing on the forum for booking it but we really enjoyed staying in the 18th. Cite Veron is a small alley just past the Moulin Rouge, looks a bit dodgy and did smell of urine at times (there is a bar next to the MR so guess the guys can’t be bothered using the loo) but we felt very safe in our little flat. It looks the same as in the photo’s, no surprises and it was clean. We loved walking up LePic to do our shopping at the Boulangerie and mixing with the locals. Supermarket just nearby as well as the bus straight down to the Louvre. Also a Metro but we didn’t use it. Yes, it is busy all the time but there just seemed to be a vibe going on there that we enjoyed and it was great for people watching.


    PARIS - SUNDAY MORE WALKING AND AN ELECTRIC BIKE TOUR 29/06/2011

    We had a good sleep in, breakfast and washing done - ready to start the day. First stop was our local Boulangerie (baker/patisserie) and what a feast for the eyes that was!! Display cases of baguettes with all sorts of luscious fillings, lots of different pastries, then the cakes and tarts - where to begin. Sunday must be a big day as the choice was monumental, I thought they will never sell all this - we went back later in the day to get a tarte citron but there was next to nothing left. We saw lots of people walking around with cake boxes and huge bunches of flowers, maybe it’s visiting family day or something? We later found out that it was Mothers Day which would explain the huge selection of cakes. We purchased one of those custard tartes that DS had told us about and an almond pastry. Past a florist with a stunning array of flowers and plants, huge bunches of colourful flowers for 35E which is about $50, twice the size of what we get here for that price. And the best thing was the peonies which I love, I hardly ever see them at home and the few times I have they are top dollar. My hand was itching to buy a huge bunch for our little flat but alas they stayed where they were in the bucket. We sat on the seat right in front of the Moulin Rouge and ate our morning tea, it was warm and sunny with a light breeze blowing - does life get any better than this! Oh and the Almond Pastry was to die for along with the custard tarte.

    Standing at the bus stop with the locals listening to the chatter, if only I knew what they were talking about! We really enjoyed using the buses, at times people spoke to us then switched to English when we shrugged our shoulders with a grin or helped us get off at the right stop, we found everyone so friendly. We hopped on the #68 bus down to the Louvre and walked through the Jardin des Tuileries along with all the Parisiennes enjoying their Sunday – it’s THE place to be seen. One thing that we dislike is the limestone like sand that all of the park walkways are paved in. It’s really dusty and coats your shoes and the bottom of your pants, when the wind blows or a mob walk past you feel like you're covered in it too. We entered L'Orangerie Museum, no queue we just walked straight in, which houses some of Monet's huge waterlily paintings. It was designed by Monet to display these paintings using natural light. The building has two huge oval shaped rooms with diffused skylights - the long walls are taken up with one long painting on each side and smaller ones on ends. The paintings just take your breath away, the colours and the sheer size of them are truly a sight to see. We just sat in silence and absorbed Monet's most loved paintings. I didn’t want to leave!

    We checked out Place de la Concorde - a huge roundabout with lots of statues, fountains including the Obelisk of Luxor, cars and more cars. Also famous for the Le Tour De France when the cyclists do their final laps in Paris, we had seen this many times on TV now we were standing there looking at it! We sat for a while in the gardens then found our way to Place Vendome and met up with Milani who was taking us on our electric bike your of Paris - after seeing the traffic earlier we were having 2nd thoughts!! She showed us how to operate the bikes and we had a test drive, they go fairly fast with minimal peddling - yeah! We thought it was only the two of us on the English tour but a family group of 5 Americans from LA turned up about 15 minutes late – and they were so rude. I can't remember all the places we went to but 4 hours later we were cycling like the locals, cars give way to bikes - which in itself is amazing but we have to give way to pedestrians. It was fairly hairy at times but Milani took good care of us and we soon got used to being on the wrong side of the road. She showed us some really unusual things that most people wouldn't see, at times it was a little heavy on history but we had a great afternoon and a sore bum by the end of it. Still can’t believe we rode a bike around Paris on a Sunday afternoon. I have a great photo of our bikes parked at the Louvre – who would have thought we would ever do that!

    Mrs America wouldn't listen to Milani but would then interrupt her and asked the very same questions that we had just been told. At one point she wandered off into a shop and we all had to waste time looking for her. She also managed to say 3 times in conversation that their son had just graduated from Yale – like who cares! He might have graduated but he couldn’t figure out know to use the stand on the bike. They really were the dreaded American tourists - we have met some really nice Americans and they don't like owing up to it - prefer to be called Canadians!! They really did spoil an enjoyable afternoon!!! And I felt very sorry for Milani – she was very patient.

    We headed home for a nice cold beer - its great having our own fridge and supplies from the supermarket - ice cold Leffe beer that we first sampled in Brugge. It has been warm today 28, very unusual we were told. After freshening up we headed up the hill behind us to the heart of Montmartre to find food. The outdoor smoking is awful here and it puts us off, in the end we found a seat inside at a pizza place and ordered pizza and a nice big mixed salad. We love the 1/2 bottles of wine you can buy – it’s a great idea, we have had red wine from Chile and Italy, even the stuff from the supermarket was nice. No drain cleaner amongst them yet.

    So ends another day.

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    Why thank you very much, we are thrilled with our membership of the Brigade. And let me tell you there is plenty more walking to come.

    We had well worn in hiking boots too!

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    PARIS MONDAY - MORE MONET AND A LONG WAIT 30/05/2011

    Up early this morning for a 15 minute walk to Gare St Lazare for 8.20am train to Vernon, no waiting at the ticket office and man that speaks perfect English sorted it out for us. We had a journey of roughly an hour then followed the crowd to the bus. No taxis anywhere to be seen. There were two bus loads going from the station to Giverny, we got on the first one and headed out for the short drive to the village. We were lucky enough to be there before the hordes descended - just! Paid for our tickets - through the gift shop(always through the gift shop) then we were in the garden. You can clearly see how Claude planted the garden in hues of colours - lots of purple shades, just stunning. The smell was divine, it just floated in the air all around me. I thought the hot weather may have taken it toll but it all seemed well watered and happy. We headed for the lily pond and had some quiet time there to just take it all in - managed to get our photo's on the Japanese bridge done without any trouble. Soon there would be a queue waiting. The lilies were flowering and you could pick up the colours that we saw in the museum yesterday. It wasn't hard to imagine old Claude there in his smock, painting at his easel. Everyone just stood or sat in hushed silence – it was almost like being inside a church. Only disappointment was that the wisteria had finished flowering but Mother Nature more than made up for it in other areas of the garden.

    We ventured back into the garden area for a second look around then toured his pink and green painted house. It was well worth the effort to get there and so glad we did, big tick off the list that one! We walked around the very pretty village - beautiful old stone homes and buildings and the gardens and roses were in bloom everywhere you looked. We walked along the narrow Rue de Claude Monet (yes, he has the main street named after him). My research had given us a good place to try for lunch, the Hotel Baudy. Once a famous meeting place for artists. The Hotel was on one side of the road and on the other a garden cafe set under the trees with wrought iron tables and chairs, flowers blooming - just a perfect place to eat a nice lunch. We were going to treat ourselves today. We just sat down and picked up the menu - rain drops started. The waiters quickly ushered us inside the hotel - we were so disappointed. However we still had a great meal and washed it down with a glass of French Champers - yum! We went for the set menu as there was just too much to choose from. I had a duck terrine, DH a cheese terrine - both very good but mine was the winner. Then I had salmon with Normandie sauce and rice, DH a lamb kebab, again both oh so nice. We followed up with home made creme caramel, just perfect.

    The hotel boasts a delightful old rose garden so we wandered around there for a while, would be a lovely setting for a wedding. All too soon we headed back to the bus for the shuttle to the station. One bus filled up and took off to meet the train - the rest of us were just left standing there. No explanation - nothing. Time went by and then we all realised we had missed the train. Next one wasn't for another 2 hours. If we went back into Giverny and came back for another bus - would the same thing happen? We all decided to wait and finally another bus came - again no explanation or apology. We boarded the bus and were dropped at the station with nearly a 2 hour wait. Total waste of time - we could have been seeing the Luxembourg Gardens in back in Paris. We went for a walk but the rain came again so we went back to the station to wait. Only loo was one of the silver space ship things outside – a girl went in and came out dry retching. She said it was “the worst experience of my life”. Right then, only one solution for me, engage those pelvic floor muscles and clamp them for the next 3 hours or so.

    Finally got back into the city and raced back to our flat. Made for a long but truly memorable day, so glad we did it.

    A visit to our bakery for a baguette which we will have much later with cheese and tomatoes. If we have the willpower we may head up to see the sunset at the Sacre Coeur.

    Energy returns so we walk up the hill of Montmartre behind our flat. Up Rue Lepic up and up until we find the lively area full of bistros, bars and restaurants. Lots of people out walking enjoying the warm evening. We made it to Sacre Coeur – this is a huge church sitting up on the hill with a view over all of Paris. Lots and lots of young people enjoying the atmosphere, music playing and cameras going off everywhere. The church itself is huge and pretty speccy but plays 2nd fiddle to the view. The steps are lined with people, you can hardly move but we did the photo op then moved on around a corner and had an awesome view of the Eifel all lit up. It looked like it was floating above the skyline. We missed the twinkle mode that goes on at 9.55 each night as we were in the Diwali scarf shop doing some Euro damage - yes DD I got you one too! Some things in life are just more important than others. We made our way down, so many people sitting out in cafes, we can't believe how they all make money as there is a cafe nearly every 2 or 3 shops. Home for a good night’s sleep - no alarms in the morning. Though we were woken in the middle of the night by my phone going off - no message left, unknown number!!!

    PARIS TUESDAY - TICKING THE FINAL THINGS OFF THE LIST 01/06/2011

    Much cooler today with a pretty cold wind blowing - see I really did need that new scarf! We head up around the corner to visit our boulangerie, I just can't go past those almond pastries while DH has a sultana one - over the road to grab a Pistachio Macaroon and we head for the bus. Macaroons are sort of like a thin round pavlova all gooey in the middle with a filling sandwiched by another macaroon - they come in the most amazing flavours but pistachio is THE best.

    We enjoy catching the bus as people speak to us and when they see the blank look they laugh, some speak to us in English, It’s just sort of like being accepted. We jumped off at Pont Neuf and walked around Ile de la Cite which is the bigger of the two islands in the middle of the Seine - this was the first place in Paris to be settled. I had printed off a self guided walking tour so off we went. We enjoyed all the little narrow streets and plaques with lots of history - the house were Madame Curie lived - lots of famous names. The forecourt of the Notre Dame was bathed in sunshine when we arrived - must have been a sign - so we sat and ate our pastries. The line to go in was huge and growing so we just walked around and enjoyed it from the outside. Many of the old buildings in Paris are dirty with years and years of grime, they would look so much better with a clean up and the Notre Dame is no exception. We have been into churches that are almost crumbled down but are still in constant use - they could be so beautiful with some care and money spent on them. One wonders how much longer they can exist before they fall apart. The builders must have been pretty good in their day!

    Next we crossed over to the smaller island Ile St Louis and did the same. The main street that runs through the centre is a very fashionable shopping street, we only window shopped! Lots and lots of interesting buildings to see, more old signs to read - some of these places date back to 1600's. We decided to walk over to the Jardin du Luxembourg), it was a good stretch out for the legs. We grabbed a baguette with gammon and cheese - there is something about the bread here its so nice and very crusty which we love. Again the white dusty sand was used in all the walking areas. The lawn areas are not for using at all which we find very strange, they are just for show. All the parks have plenty of metal chairs that you can grab and move around - now that IS a good idea. We wandered around and watched some of the gardeners planting out a border of purple petunias; we then found the Fountain of the Medici's which was very pretty.

    We walked back to the river and did another self guided walk of the Marais, another of the oldest parts in Paris that is fairly well preserved. Again we walked around and followed our notes from a guide book and just soaked it all up. Afternoon tea today was a Gelato, just had to have one before we left and it was worth it. We grabbed our bus and headed home - rested our feet as well as doing some packing before heading out to find a light meal. Walked around for a while and settled on a little place that had a nice menu - all the menu's are displayed outside so you can see what they offer. We both had onion soup, then I had beef burgundy and DH a cassolet of duck, white beans and something else I can't remember. We were sitting towards the back of the cafe (it was only very small) and thought it odd that I couldn't hear or smell any cooking going on - thought to myself "bet its all done in the microwave" and next thing I hear DING - sure enough out comes our soup - piping hot from the microwave!! The meal was nice enough but disappointing to know it was all pre-cooked.

    We wandered around and enjoyed the lively atmosphere of the village before heading home for our final sleep in our little Paris flat. Did I tell you about the loo's here? Well they have these unisex toilette "boxes" (silver space ships) on the streets - from what I understand you shove your money in the coin slot, usually around 30 euro cents, go in and do your thing, then as you leave it cleans itself by showering water everywhere! Needless to say we both have excellent bladder control, no way was I using one of those things (ah la Vernon). Very few public toilets here apart from those so one has to be very selective. On our walk today I really really needed to go so we decided we would just have to go to Starbucks and buy a drink so we could use the loo. We went up to the loo, which you need a key to use, but it just happened to be open. So I dived in, DH followed and we sailed out the door - well almost ran out the door before anyone noticed us. Sneaky but you have to do these things!


    PARIS TO YORK WEDNESDAY - A DAY ON RAILS 02/06/2011

    We ate the remains of our yoghurt and muesli, did the final packing and made sure the flat was in order. Luckily we were able to securely store our luggage downstairs and went off for a walk around the village again to see it come alive in the morning. Everyone was out doing their shopping, butchers, fish, flowers, cheese, fruit & veg, it was interesting to see. We followed another walk that I had downloaded before we left, passing some of the most expensive houses in Monmartre. It was warm and sunny, a perfect way to end our Paris adventure - we even braved sitting at a cafe for coffee, mainly because no one was sitting outside which meant no cigarette smoke. Everyone here smokes like chimneys - they must all have a short life expectancy. It’s pretty gross and we held our breath a lot of times walking behind people. We even managed to get a latte which was fairly good and not too strong.

    We made our way back to our boulangerie (notice a pattern here) and purchased some nice filled rolls to take on the train, brie and salad, chicken and salad. Oh and did I mention the pastry? - No? Well you can't leave without getting a final one - DH went for the Almond and I had a chocolate. Also picked up some cherries and raspberries. We sat on the seat in front of the Moulin Rouge again, ate our morning tea and people watched until it was time to collect our luggage. We jumped on the number 54 in the direction of Gare du Nord, again it was packed but everyone made room for us and our cases. When got off we were a bit bamboozled as we didn't recognise anything but noticed some people walking with cases so we just followed them, rounded a corner and there was the station!

    Check in went easily and we sat and waited for boarding. We had seats with a table in the middle and then seats facing us, luckily no one got on until Lille so we could stretch out for a while. We ate our yummy bagettes and shared a bottle of Orangina (DD told us we HAD to try it), it’s sort of like a fizzy orange juice drink - not like Fanta though. My Kindle has been just brilliant, I have read 2 books so far and still have a couple on it before I need to buy new ones. As yet I haven't had to charge it. DH has his Sudoku and crosswords so we happily pass the time with a bit of dozing as well.

    We changed over from St Pancras to Kings Cross - just an underground walk (read long walk). Cashed in our Oyster cards this time, who knows when we might get back – there is still so much to see in Europe. We got back the 3 pound deposit plus any remaining funds - about 10 pound all up. Next we had to get our tickets to York, we had pre-booked them but had to get printed tickets. A grumpy dude at one of the ticket desks told us to use the machine and pointed to a bank of machines but when we put in the credit card it wouldn't read it. We then had to walk to another desk and wait in a long queue but luckily a guy was wandering up and down, we stuck our piece of paper under his nose and he very nicely took us to another bank of machines, wiped the card on his sleeve and voila, out came our tickets! PHEW, as time was marching on we went into the departure hall and only waited a few minutes until our train number showed track 4. We boarded and found our reserved seats and settled back for the ride, roughly 2 1/2 hour trip. Again the iPods and kindle had a workout while we watched the green fields whiz by.

    Arriving in York we easily followed the map to our B&B Abbeyfields by using the old Roman walls as our guide. Our delightful host, Les met us and filled us in on the workings, took our order for breakfast and showed us to your lovely room, luckily only up one flight of stairs. The house smells so nice and it’s squeaky clean. Our room overlooks a leafy park, we have a beautiful old iron bed with really good quality linens, soft fluffy towels, a kettle with a choice of teas/coffees etc including Horlicks!! Oh and even a perfect white rose on the dressing table. At 78 pound a night, we are more than happy.

    Our first impressions of York are good as we walk through the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum, a shortcut from the B&B. Green everywhere we look, delightful planted borders of roses and pansies, huge trees, squirrels and the ruins of St Marys Abbey - almost ghost like in the fading light. And above all else is the huge York Minster - much bigger than I thought - it just dominates the skyline. Les had given us a recommendation for a cafe that served good food with plenty of veg so after a walk around the old streets we dived in for much needed food.

    Concerto Cafe was a great find and suited us down to the ground. The tables were made from old Singer sewing machines so I just knew I was going to like this place. DH had slow cooked pork belly with apricot stuffing and potato rosti and lots of mixed fresh veg while I had an Angus beef cottage pie and the same veggies. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal, washing it down with a Yorkshire Terrier beer for DH and a glass of rose for me. DH spotted a bread and butter pudding in the dessert cabinet (own son would have been smacking too). I had the creamiest Creme Brulee I have ever eaten with fresh raspberries in the bottom - the tartness setting off the Brulee to perfection! I could have eaten two! We rolled out and walked the long way home as the shortcut is closed at 8pm each night. We fell into bed - it had been a long day.


    http://www.abbeyfields.co.uk/index.html
    Lovely hosts, very clean, good breakfast and a short walk into the main shopping area.

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    What a lovely report! Can I offer a suggestion for those sore, walking feet? I try to soak mine each day in ICED water. Usually hotel housekeeping can provide it or if we are renting an apartment or flat we pop a jug of water in the fridge before heading out for the day. It hurts like the devil but it's worth it. I also try to change shoes at some point in the day so that the pressure points are changed. They still hurt but it helps a little.

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    cathies, thanks for the suggestion. I never thought of doing that. I did have a change of shoes and yes it sure did help, well worth taking a second lighter pair.

    Thanks, scotlib. Glad you are there with me, I'm enjoying reliving it, its so easy to forget everything you have seen and done. I just hope I'm not rambling on too much but then I guess you can just stop reading.

    As for the bread and butter dessert - that should read, our son would have been smacking his lips too!

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    YORK THURSDAY - WALLS, WALKS AND SHAMBLES 03/06/2011

    After dinner last night I didn't think I would be able to eat again for a week but we followed the scent of baking bread downstairs just after 8am to a pretty dining room set with about 10 tables. In an ante room was a huge big old table filled with 6 different kinds of cereals and muesli, milk, yoghurt (I had Canadian Blueberry), fruit salad and 3 different kinds of hot bread.

    We met Les' husband Al who does the cooking, while she served us up plunger coffee (YES!!!) and got us settled. The hot dishes came out, bacon, a poached egg, mushrooms, a Yorkshire sausage and tomatoes. DH even managed a piece of Malthouse toast with the mother in law’s marmalade on it. What a feast, I told him to enjoy it as when we get to our house in Ampleforth it will be back to basics.

    We walked down to the river and watched some narrow boats (and boy, are they narrow). Les had recommended that we do a free 2 hour walk run by local guides so we met them at the Arts Centre. Up walks a lady in the exact same top as me - we had a good laugh, they were from NZ but she was originally from the next suburb to us and her sister lived in quite near us a few years ago. And she purchased her top from the same shop as me!! How's that for a coincidence? There were 2 guides working so we split into two groups of 10 which was great and off we went.

    We learnt the history of the Abbey ruins - Henry VIII wrecked it along with almost every other decent abbey we saw and had all the heads knocked off the statues. There is so much Roman history here it’s just fascinating but then of course first were the Danish Vikings. We walked along two corners of the original wall, managed to peer into some incredible gardens in the process. Our guide took us all over the place mixing history with some funny anecdotes. We went into an old Norman church as old as the hills, walked down the Shambles which is a shopping street with all the original buildings but now of course filled with Pandora shops etc etc. It’s very narrow and used to be the butchers’ street. Google it if you are interested. The walk was thoroughly entertaining and gave us a good background of York. One of its names used to be Eboracum which was the name of the Yew tree, then the Danes called it something in Danish that meant Yew tree which then developed in York.

    We then wandered by ourselves checking out all sorts of places, walking the rest of the walls, visiting the Minster, did I mention how big it is???? At one point we sat in the gardens and ate our cherries and raspberries that came with us from Paris - that was our lunch. The York Train Museum was interesting as well as the Yorkshire Museum. We looked at lots of places for dinner but went back to Concerto, this time we shared a tasting plate of olives, hummus, pita bread and roasted tomatoes. DH had the slow cooked lamb shank and I had an entree serving of leek and gruyere tart with fresh salad, again washed down with the nice house rose. We had a good coffee latte to finish. We wandered back by the river and sat in the park to watch the squirrels and listen to the church bells going crazy. We think it was in celebration of the Queen’s birthday and York is one of only a handful of places that really recognise it. The churches seemed to be taking it in turns to ring the bells as they were peeling from all different directions - it was something that we don't hear at home. Sitting with our feet up resting in the B&B we can still hear the bells going in the distance.

    AMPLEFORTH IN THE YORKSHIRE MOORS FRIDAY - OUR HOME FOR A WEEK AND SOMEONE HAS MADE THEMSELVES AT HOME 04/06/2011

    This morning’s breakfast was fruit salad, full of things that are now out of season at home, local yoghurt - plum for DH, raspberry for me. However when we read the label it was yoghurt mixed with whipped Yorkshire cream - no wonder it tasted so nice! Les served us up a thick round of barley toast topped with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, a nice change from the Full Yorkshire we had yesterday and much lighter. We packed our gear up - we are getting good at doing this and it’s much easier to travel light than heavy! We both still have a few things we haven't worn yet. Using the packing cubes makes things so simple, they are certainly worth using and ours have had plenty of use.

    DH went off to pick up our hire car from the station while I chatted with our hosts. Al told me the trees have only had their leaves on for about 3 weeks, previous to that you could see the Minster from the breakfast room and I am guessing some snow in the winter too. DH pulls up with a nice blue Ford Focus that still smells new. We load up our bags and say farewell to Les and Al, hugs and kisses. Now the fun begins - we turn on our SatNav and plug in Castle Howard which will be our stop on the way to Ampleforth. Nifty Nev the Navigator (the woman’s voice was painful to listen to) gets us going out of York then somehow I touched the screen and off it went - yikes! We were on a busy-ish road so just turned down the next street we came to and pulled over. Having got Nifty Nev back on track we found we had actually taken a short cut. DH got used to the fact that the indicators and wipers are on opposite sides to our car at home and off we sailed. I chatted with Nev but he doesn't answer - typical man.

    We made our way easily to the Castle, parked under a shady tree, took a good look at the car so we would remember it and went in to see the gardens. Now this place is some "pile", the "house" is huge and the grounds enormous. The upkeep must be staggering but I guess by letting the gawking public like us in is how they pay for it. We spent some time in the walled rose garden - some were flowering and some in full bud. Today the temp got to 26C so I guess they might be all flowering soon. The weather is much warmer than we expected, the week before we left it was around 18. There appears to be no reticulation system and some of the plants were wilting, they haven't had much rain here either but at least its greener than home.

    We wandered the rest of the grounds, huge lakes, a wilderness garden, ponds, statues etc then sat in the shade to rest and rehydrate.

    Our next mission was to get to Ampleforth which was about a 15-20 minute drive, we only went around the roundabout outside the Castle twice - Nev kept insisting - turn right, turn right, luckily no one was around. We both told Nev to cool it, got on the right road and with Nev behaving himself we arrived safe and sound at Hillside Cottage. DH insists that his blood pressure is ok and his underwear clean. Sue, our host, was out in her garden and what a garden it is! She belongs to the local garden society and it shows. A lovely lady about our age, they retired here about 4 years ago, purchased an old run down stone cottage, did it up and re-planted the garden. Our part of the cottage is at right angles to theirs and completely separate though we can use her laundry through a door in our kitchen. The house is super spotless and has everything we could want, including our own patio and use of the garden, a bargain at 70 pounds a night.

    We have a small entry hall, up stairs to the main room and a spare room, down to the bathroom, through to the sitting room then down a few steps to the kitchen and table area. This in turn has French doors to a small patio area which then looks out into the back garden, through the back fence to a sheep paddock then onto the woods. The front has sweeping views across undulating farm land in a patchwork of green and bordered by hedgerows.

    DH, Nifty Nev and I took off to Helmsley to do some food shopping and have a quick look around. We just missed the produce market being a Friday which is a shame. This is the nearest bigger village but still not huge. The whole area is so quaint - stone houses are so pretty. Back at home we unload then go and sit outside in the late afternoon sun. Sue's husband John comes home so we all have a good chat while wandering the garden. He is very proud of the vegie garden and tells us to help ourselves, great! We got two loads to washing done, nice to have almost all clean clothes. Had a nice dinner of a steak pie from the local bakery with carrots, broccoli and salad.

    One of the great things in the house is a warm towel rack - man would I love one of them! Switch it on and it stays hot for 2 hours - its doing a nice job of drying the socks and underwear! Hate to think of how much electricity it uses though.

    I had a feeling Sue was a cat person from some of the little knick knacks around the house and before we knew it we had a little visitor come by. Maisey the black cat came right inside, meowed and let me have a good pat then disappeared. DH found her fast asleep on the spare bed on his polar fleece vest - the same one our cat loves! Now we feel right at home. DH is a happy man as he found a whole shelf of books.


    AMPLEFORTH SATURDAY - THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING 05/06/2011

    What a joy to have a king-size bed! No alarms today, we can sleep in and take our time. Over night Maisey had left us a gift on the door step - a pretty little bullfinch, what a shame. Sue and I buried it in her garden and gave the little black puss a stern talking to. After breakfast on the patio we made plans to follow a walk around Ampleforth from a book John had lent us. The earlier sun had disappeared and it looked like rain so we grabbed our jackets, some water and the brollies, and off we went.

    We had to find the public footpath between the White Horse Inn and the phone box, first mission accomplished. The first mile (yes, we have to think in miles again) was very steep so we huffed and puffed until we came to our first stile. Over we went, then had a chance to stop and look at the views. We were looking towards the Howardian Hills, it was very pretty and filled with fields of wheat waving in the breeze as well as the golden yellow of rapeseed. The public footpaths are like a spiders web criss-crossing the country - one minute you are going right through a farmer’s field, skirting a pile of cow dung or walking up beside someone’s house. They are pretty well sign posted too. We were partly following the public paths and the North Yorkshire walking routes. Anyway we didn't get lost and saw some very pretty scenery up behind the village. All in all it took us about 2 1/2 hours - I thought of it as walking off the pastries we had in Paris.

    It’s great having our own space and we quickly made up salad sandwiches with John's rocket from the garden and sat outside again but the wind was fairly biting so we hightailed it back inside. We sat and pored over more maps and books then decided to walk around the village and see what we could find. It’s very small and sleepy, full of stone cottages with roses climbing the walls; all the houses have cute names too. We found a general store, 2 pubs and a fish and chip shop - that's it! However there is a massive school here called the Ampleforth College (DUH!) - Its famous all over the UK and was founded years and years ago. There are acres of rugby fields - we lost count of them, cricket pitches, tennis courts - some serious money here. As school is out we wandered all over having a good look. Very impressive stone buildings and some ugly modern things too which we think is the accommodation.

    We walked and walked for nearly 3 hours and most of it was on their land which included a nature reserve, lake, wheat farms and a wood mill - we are guessing it all helps the coffers. We dragged ourselves into the White Horse pub for a pick me up, they had the heaters on and we nearly died from heat stroke. We peeled off some layers and enjoyed a drink while we watched the Epsom Derby. The Queen’s horse got 3rd - she was not amused, beaten by a young French jockey who waved the French flag - you could almost hear her saying "orff with his head"!

    We staggered up the hill (it isn't called Hillside Cottage for nothing) to home. We have some salmon to cook for dinner and will see what we can find in the veggie garden to go with it. Our hot day yesterday has now turned into an overcast chilly evening - may have to crack the heater on or go stand in the bathroom and drape myself over the heated towel rail. Maybe I will still get to use that thermal top I have been carrying around. Can someone please send my ugg boots - I miss them.

    Sue and John have gone to spend the night in York with their son and I have just seen Maisey fly down the side of the house with something in her mouth. She dived in through the catflap and there was a loud crash! Goodness knows what she is playing with - either a bird or mouse, I couldn't see. Hope Sue doesn't come home to a mess!


    AMPLEFORTH SUNDAY - FOUNTAINS ABBEY & STUDLEY ROYAL 06/06/2011

    Sky is looking overcast but no sign of rain, though we do get some patches of blue. We enjoy breakfast out on the patio - no sign of Maisey!

    We decide to head to Ripon and check out the cathedral, wake Nev up and tell him where we want to go. After heading up a one way lane the wrong way we realised he expected us to come out of the driveway forwards and not backward - getting and our lefts and right mixed. Back up the hill and we are on track. DH is getting used to the narrow lanes and driving around cars that seem to just park everywhere and clog the streets so you have to wait until it’s clear or someone gives way to us. Not far down the road we came across a wheelbarrow day in a small village. All the houses had decorated wheelbarrows out the front of their houses - some had flowers, some had scarecrows - all manner of things, guess that's what they do on the first weekend of summer around these parts but it was very pretty to see.

    Next up we came across a line up of tractors that looked like they were going on a rally, thank goodness we passed them before they took off. Nifty Nev was behaving himself and we made progress. Then along came a line of vintage cars, some really old ones and the people in the open ones must have been rather chilly. We found Ripon which, in parts, looked similar to York only on a smaller scale - very pretty. We found a free carpark and headed off towards the spire of the cathedral, lo and behold we walked right to a Sainsbury's (supermarket). We had a few things we needed to pick up so took advantage of the situation. In the cupboard at home we have a box of muesli, a jar of coffee and a jar of jam that we purchased on the first day. Other than that we have salt and pepper. We picked up salad dressing, some chutney, tissues, liquid soap, more fruit & veg and some packet pasta meals. You take for granted that you can just grab anything out of your cupboards at home - makes for some interesting creativity at meal times.

    Shopping done we wandered to check out the cathedral, it’s fairly large and important in the area. Some of the memorial stones are interesting reading and the dates are daunting. Back to the car and we headed onto Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal - another UNESCO site to tick off our list. In a nutshell, while in York we would walk through a park containing the ruins of a church, St. Marys. The monks in York were a happy well fed lot but a small section of them thought they weren't being as loyal to the church as they should so they left to set up camp in the beautiful valley of the River Skell. They had a hard life but stuck with it and built the abbey in 1132. Good old Henry VIII ruined it in 1539 and it’s now the largest monastic ruins in the country. The then owners of the estate designed a spectacular Georgian water garden in the 1700's and it is little changed today. They used the deserted Abbey as an added attraction, its now been tidied up and looked after gaining World Heritage status in 1986 - end of history lesson.

    We joined the Australian National Trust before we left and this gave us free entry to the site. The water gardens are formal geometric ponds and canals, lined with ancient trees and hedges, the sweeping views are stunning as is the size of the grounds. There is a circular path that you follow starting from up in the carpark that leads you down into the valley past the Abbey and onto the breathtaking sight of the water gardens. We walked to the garden first, it was so peaceful with the sound of running water, swans and waterlilies, secluded paths leading onto grand vistas that left us wondering what was around the next bend. We returned along a high path set half way up the valley floor and spent hours walking around the Abbey ruins. We thought St Mary’s in York was big but this is incredible - how did they have the vision to make this in the 1100's? We lost ourselves in passages, staircases and towers, trying to put it all into perspective. Fountains Mill was an engineering feat by the monks so they could mill corn and barley to make bread and which they could also trade. There was a short history timeline that you could follow and a model of how the site used to look. It was very well done. We spent a lot more time there than we had anticipated - we shared half a sandwich around 4pm - goes to show how immersed we were. On the way out we found all the vintage cars lined up - Fountains Abbey was the end of their rally.

    We have had a very light shower of rain and a lovely tinge of pink in the clouds behind our cottage. Its 9.30 and still light, it’s hard to get used to! Some nights we read late into the night and forget the time, getting a shock when we look at the clock. Still no sign of Maisey today, she must know she is in the bad books.

    AMPLEFORTH MONDAY - ROBIN HOOD'S BAY AND WHITBY 07/06/2011

    Today’s plan was to head to the coast, we plugged Whitby into Nifty Nev and set off. Slowly getting used to the roads but this time he took us a different route - trust him! Onto the A170 then the scenic route through the Moors to Whitby on the A169. At first we went through some small villages and towns then hit the rugged landscape of the Moors, the heather is only just starting to flower - it must be an amazing sight when it’s all covered in purple, wish I could see it that way. The roads are good and we have no trouble, there are plenty of things to look at on the way.

    Heading down into Whitby we could see the ruins of Whitby Abbey standing tall on the headland. This is the setting that Bram Stoker used in Dracula - and you can see why! We decide to head to Robin Hood's Bay first, some 6 miles further on. Nev is having kittens to we turn him off and rely on the human navigator (me), who got us there and parked at the top of the village. It’s a very steep downwards walk, no cars but the view along the coast is wonderful and the smell of the sea air refreshing. The tide is out and I mean OUT, leaving a delightful stretch of rocks and brown sand. Oh so different from our white sand beaches at home. But there are plenty of people out and about, its funny to see the little kids playing in the "sand" - we think to ourselves "if only you knew" but I guess for a lot of them its the only sand they ever see. The village is well reinforced from the sea - it must have a huge tide when it comes in.

    We chatted with an elderly couple who had just come over from Keswick - our next destination - they have given up international travel and are now just concentrating on seeing the UK. He was in the RAF and has had enough of moving around and plus they don't like leaving their dear little dog anymore as he is old too. We walked along the beach to the next headland, the weather somewhat brisk and not much sun. RHB was a smugglers haven and the village is full of tiny streets and lanes, I could touch the walls with my arms out they are that small. This was done so the smugglers had lots of places to hide. We found a nice looking tearoom in a tiny lane and had tea, scones, jam and cream, warmed us right up. We spent some time exploring all the nooks and crannies, we could have stayed longer but had to move on.

    The human navigator got us to the Abbey but we decided not to the pay the 7 pound each entrance fee as we could see it well enough from the carpark and didn't think it would live up to what we saw yesterday. We walked around the entire site and looked across the river to the main part of Whitby, the sun was trying to come out by this time and the wind dropped which was nice. Our parking ticket was up so I got us into Whitby and found the car park - again we fed the meter. That's three times today, a couple of pound each time. We walked along the river to the main part of town - it was very busy with family groups and tourists like us. All of a sudden DH stops and says "I don't have my wallet" - so I sat and waited while he hightailed it back to the car, luckily it was still there. This is the second time he has had a senior’s moment with his wallet, last time he left it on a seat in a railway station, a lady pointed it out to him when he got up to walk away. Sheesh!!!!!

    We enjoyed watching the boats come and go, the seagulls here are huge, much bigger than home but still make the same squeal. We walked along the quay and decided to have fish and chips, every 2nd place sells them so we looked for a busy place and made our order. We had the choice of cod or haddock, the haddock was just coming out of the fryer so we chose that. We found a place along the pier and sat and enjoyed the fish, which was a generous portion to say the least. It was thick and juicy. The gulls were circling but we protected our lunch just hoping not to get pooped on. The morons next to us were feeding them so of course we were almost fighting them off. We live near Fremantle and do not feed seagulls as they are real pests. One thing we have noticed here, both times we have had fish and chips - is that the chips are not crisp. They seem to like them soggy - guess it goes with the mushy gooey peas!!!!

    We continued our walk but the overall theme near the pier was of an amusement park, there were fun parlours etc just like side show valley at the Royal Show. It was pretty crappy but the people were flocking into the shops and rides. I think it is a place that a lot of people go to for holidays so has that holiday theme park atmosphere by the sea. We said hello to Captain Cook and slowly walked back to the car. It was time to head home which was going to take about an hour. The best thing about the long days is you can stay out and still drive home in daylight. By now the sun was shining and we had much more blue sky so got a whole different picture of the Moors. We turned off, much to Nev's dismay –“ u-turn, u-turn”, into Goathland which is Aidensfield of Heartbeat fame. We however didn't go into the town but tried to find a Roman Road that was supposed to be nearby however we couldn't find it. We hope to return to Goathland later in the week and will have a better look around then.

    Back on the road we again headed for home and enjoyed the rolling hills and dales, dry stone walls, black faced sheep, found some heather about to burst into flower. Stopped in Helmsley for milk - we can even turn Nev off here now as we know the way to Ampleforth. We caught up with John who suggested a hike for us tomorrow but not sure of the weather at this stage. He said its cooler than normal for this time of year, its supposed to be summer but the weather is almost the same as our winter back home.

    We sat in the fading sun in Sue's summer arbour and enjoyed some cheese and biscuits with a glass of red, Maisey decides to show her face for a pat leaving most of her malting fur on our pants. We are still full from lunch so some fruit salad will be dinner tonight. Ah life is good!


    AMPLEFORTH TUESDAY - A VERY LONG WALK AND SOME RAIN 08/06/2011

    We sat outside in the sun this morning as the wind was calm and had our breakfast listening to the birds chirping. DH has been studying the Pathfinder book that we found in the bookcase and decided to take John's advice and do the walk he suggested yesterday. Little did I know that it was in the "challenging" section of the book, 8 miles or 12.9 km's!

    We parked and paid the appropriate fee, then set off following the directions, unbeknown to us we had parked in a different carpark than the guy who wrote the book - great 2 minutes in and we can't find the first sign. We followed a road and came across a marker for the Cleveland Way (a long distance walking path) near a gliding club, knew part of the walk skirted a gliding club and found our way to the correct path. Whew! We were standing on the summit of Sutton Bank with a panoramic view across the flat farming lands of the Vale of York with the Pennines in the distance. The land was all shades of green, like some one had thrown a patchwork quilt over the land. All the fields were irregular shapes with either hedgerows or dry stone walls marking them, hard to explain but a wonderful sight.

    We followed the escarpment for about 1 1/2 miles before heading down into the valley below. The next 5 miles were like being on the Wild Mouse ride only we were walking it. We went up steep inclines and what goes up has to come down, we were gasping and panting getting up some of the hills only to find we had to go down again and see another steep path ahead. We followed roads, public footpaths, public bridleways - you name it. I guess it’s sort of like orienteering as there are so many public footpaths you have to make sure you take the right turn or pathway. We went along dark tracks were the trees and ferns were brushing our legs, exposed paths where the wind froze you but we had a great time with only a little minor complaining.

    At one point we came down off yet another path and descended into a farmer’s field, the public footpath went right through the middle of his wheat field, then across in front of his house following a stream. Through a stile and into the cow paddock - watching out for all those fresh cow pats - out another stile, up the back of his property, over another stile to the road. The smell was yuck and we had to check our boots and rubbed them on the grass. I lost count of the number of stiles we walked through or went up and over. We only saw a handful of people the whole time.

    We were close to finishing the worst part, which was getting back up to the escarpment when it started to sprinkle so we sheltered under some trees till it cleared. Finally at the top we had about 2 miles of following the path back along the escarpment to the starting point. Again the view was beautiful but there were big grey clouds rolling in and the wind was freezing - we were in view of the carpark when the heavens opened but ducked under a big tree. When it died down we high tailed it to the National Park complex. The rain came down steadily but soon cleared up. They haven't had rain here for about 8 weeks so it was very welcome. We were pretty cold so headed in the cafe for hot pumpkin soup and DH enjoyed a ploughman’s lunch. The Parks have great facilities here, good clean toilets, a great info centre with lots of pamphlets and local craft items as well as cafe's that sell really good meals for a reasonable price.

    The rain cleared so we headed back to Helmsley for some bread and fruit. We had another shorter walk we wanted to do but the rain looked threatening again so we went home for a hot coffee and rest for an hour. It was dry as a bone here only 4 miles from Helmsley, but it soon thundered overhead and rained here too. Sue will be happy for her garden. The sun came out and we decided to do the 3 miles walk to Rievaulx Abbey ruins that we tried to do earlier. We walked for about 45 mins but again the black clouds rolled in and it was getting to be 7pm so we returned to the car just as the drops started.

    We fired up Nifty Nev and drove to the ruins just so we could see them. The evening light was perfect - it lit up the beautiful stone work, we managed to see it easily from the fence even though the site was closed for the night. It really was a good time to view it. Similar ruins to the ones at Fountains Abbey and just as impressive looking. We may get back for a wander if time permits. Back home to scrub the boots and the end of another perfect day in the Moors.


    AMPLEFORTH WEDNESDAY - MORE WALKING, SOME RAIN AND A HEDGEHOG 09/06/2011

    We took off today for another walk from our trusty Pathfinder book, we could spent all day in the car but we prefer to walk and see things close up. The sky was blue, white, grey and black. Our destination was Hutton-le-Hole - don't know where they get some of these names from but there are some pearlers around. There were 3 couples all taking off for the walk at roughly the same time - some people come here for their holidays to walk or bring the dog to walk - its quite interesting talking to various people.

    Today’s walk was 6 1/2 miles or 10.5 km's. Not as strenuous as yesterday but still a couple of steep uphills’ - we had no lasting effects from yesterday’s adventure! Important thing we found out was that sheep poo doesn't smell any where near as bad as cow poo. The sheep around these parts just seen to roam freely - they are everywhere and you have to be careful driving though they bolt when you get too close. We enjoyed the scenery as we had barren moors on one side and lush green farming land on the other.

    We wandered into the town of Lastingham which had a really old Norman church in it, we even went down into the crypt - kind of spooky as we were the only people in the place! We walked by an older couple sitting taking Tiffin at the local pub, he had the blue blazer on and she had the twin set with pearls - their Landrover was parked nearby, we had a chuckle! This town was very pretty with some beautiful stone houses and gardens - a few for sale too especially a lovely one on the green. . . . . . .hmmmm.

    We finished the walk dry even though the heavens seemed like they were going to open at any minute. We sat at The Crown pub, DH is continuing his assessment of the local beers while I enjoyed a gin and tonic - the tonic was served in a cute little bottle, just the correct portion. We headed back to the car and just hopped in when the drops started - talk about timing. Well it bucketed down, again huge big drops so we just sat it out. It cleared up into bright sunlight and blue skies within about 10 minutes so we headed off to find Yorkshire Lavender. Half way there the rain came again but our little blue Focus handled it well and so did the driver even during the thunder and lightening. The outside temp dropped to 13 then down to 10, but it was nice and cosy in the car. Nev wasn't any help and we knew it was near Castle Howard so we headed there and looked out for the brown tourist signs. We eventually found it and went inside the cafe for some homemade tomato soup with a roll. It was very good too. Out came the blue sky yet again so we walked around the lavender farm, some were out and some not but the smell was lovely.

    Next stop was the Scampston Walled Garden, again we had trouble finding it. A lot of places say near Malton or near Pickering but don't give an actual street address which is annoying and useless for the satnav. We had a pleasant walk around the walled garden but probably a little too early for a lot of the plants. Blue is certainly the dominant colour here at present and in all shades. We then walked the grounds of the owners "pile", lake, white swans and all but the house was ugly as.

    It was nice just driving around seeing what we could see but knowing that when it was time to head homewards Nifty Nev would get us back on track.

    Back to Helmsley for a wander and window shop, we stubbled on The Oak pub in the Market Place so in we went for a quick sample. We grabbed some veggies and chicken breasts at the little corner market and headed home to rustle up some dinner. So far its stayed fine but there is dark clouds scudding past, hope they keep scudding so we have a fine day tomorrow.

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    Wonderful report! I am following your journeys in my old Collins road atlas of Britain. It is nearly thirty years old, but I look for the town names and follow. I remember being in this part of the country and how much I loved it.

    I looked at your link to the B&B in York. It looks lovely. I wonder if it is the same one I stayed in 25 years ago. It is on the same street. I was traveling on my own finding places as I went. I arrived in York, saw the sign and inquired. I paid 15 pounds a night, the most expensive place of the trip. I had my own bathroom which was rare on that trip. the room was sarkling clean and decorated with flowery curtains and bed cover--a la Laura Ashley.

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    Wonderful report! I am following your journeys in my old Collins road atlas of Britain. It is nearly thirty years old, but I look for the town names and follow. I remember being in this part of the country and how much I loved it.

    I looked at your link to the B&B in York. It looks lovely. I wonder if it is the same one I stayed in 25 years ago. It is on the same street. I was traveling on my own finding places as I went. I arrived in York, saw the sign and inquired. I paid 15 pounds a night, the most expensive place of the trip. I had my own bathroom which was rare on that trip. the room was sarkling clean and decorated with flowery curtains and bed cover--a la Laura Ashley.

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    Great report. I know what you mean about those Parisian pastries! Can't pass them up. (And sorry about your rude Americans on your electric bike trip...I hate people who are late, and know it alls, so you got the double whammy...my apologies for my thoughtless countrymen).

    I hope to make it to L'Orangerie this trip (November) and also Giverny, although I am not sure if November is a good time for Giverny. Your T/R and the Midnight in Paris make me want to finally get to both!

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    I'm sorry you didn't have good mushy peas. My first taste was good, so I always get them when I order the fish & chips. I've had cups of mushy peas that were very good and a few that weren't, but mostly they've been good ones. To me, they are very like a split pea soup with mashed potato consistency.

    It will be a matter of personal taste, I know (anticipating negations from some others :-) ).

    Cheers.

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    Hi texas, Merci. Plenty more to come.

    MissPrism, we have beautiful white sand at our local beach that's why the brown sand seems so unusual to us, it almost seems like people are playing in mud. But yes the kids and adults (including us) were very much enjoying the rock pools.
    http://www.politzer.com.au/images/2007/large/K.jpg

    irishface, thanks for your kind comments. So glad you can following along with us in your atlas. We didn't go with many plans just wanted to see what took our fancy on the day.

    That particular road has several B&B's in it. All the rooms had ensuites and not a speck of flowery chintz anywhere which is why I chose it!

    denisea, Those pastries will be hard to forget, its almost worth another trip back just to taste test! Hey those rude people could just as well have been any nationality, just got up our noses and spoilt a lovely afternoon. They were just so unaware of anything other than themselves. Please try and get to see the Monet's they will take your breath away, I just sat and stared. Check out the website for the garden - who knows you might be in luck.

    scotlib, I think we are "mushy pea'd for life! But our version was nothing like you describe, maybe no day we might try again.

    sandybrit, thank you - I hope its not too detailed!

    More to come after I go earn a living today - saving for next trip.

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    AMPLEFORTH THURSDAY - NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS RAILWAY 10/06/2011

    Sadly our last day in the Moors, but the weather has put on a good show even though we have had the blue, white and grey skies again we haven't had a drop of rain. When the dark clouds come over though the temp drops somewhat and we reach for the coats, discarding them as soon as the sun appears so we don’t cook ourselves.

    We loaded up our little lunch pack with bits and pieces from the fridge, called into Helmsley and grabbed a bread stick and hit the road heading for Pickering and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR). Pickering is about 20 mins drive and we made it there for the 10am train but it was a diesel so we decided to wait for the steam engine at 11am. We had a little walk around - nearly every town has a main street called Market Street and we walked past a bakery that had some yummy things in the window including Bakewell Tarts. Well it was morning tea time! But oh yum these were so good, we used to have these as kids but I hadn’t seen them in years. We tried a few others but none matched up to the ones at Pickering. It was the pastry that made all the difference.

    The NYMR runs from Pickering to Whitby with stops in between, lots of people get off and go walking. It's a tourist railway with lots of engines and carriages; they do a really good job. The stations even look like they would have in years gone by, all painted up and pretty plants. We settled ourselves on the train and off we went with lots of tooting, smoke and coal bits. It certainly didn't get up to any great speed but was pleasant looking at the scenery and gave DH a chance to see something instead of driving all the time.

    We got off at Goathland, pronounced as spelt, which was the town used as Aidensfield in the TV series Heartbeat. The pub has a sign saying Aidensfield Arms and the Garage is there all painted up - I guess the village is making the most of it as the series has now finished. I even saw the old Anglia’s that they used as police cars later in the series, what a blast from the past! - that was the same as my first ever car. Our plan was to walk the Rail Trail from Goathland to Grosmont (silent S) which was George Stevenson's original track that he used all those years ago when he invented the steam locomotive. Then pick up the train back to Pickering. But all well laid plans are made to be broken!

    We knew there was a waterfall around here so we decided to try and find it which we eventually did, right by the Mallyan Spout Hotel - seeing as that is the name of the falls that made sense! We went down and down and down, steps that made our knees complain and we dreaded the thought of having to go back up. However seeing falls made it worth the effort, dappled shade from all the trees, running water, it was very peaceful. We found a bench and had our little picnic - ah the serenity of it all! And those Bakewell Tarts were delicious.

    One the way out we saw a sign for Beck Hole (that really is the name of a village!), this was the place we were to pass through on our original walk. Rather than retracing our steps we carried on using the new pathway by the side of the stream. It was very tranquil; along the way we heard a funny noise and spotted a woodpecker doing his thing at a tree trunk. Later we saw a deer having some grass, we looked at him and he looked at us, we said hello and he carried on eating so I could get a photo.

    At Beck Hole we were both busting for a loo break so we headed to the tiny little pub, DH reckons the bar was 12 feet square and he had to duck under the door though they had a lovely beer garden by the side of the stream, full of flowers and birds. A cooling ale for DH and a G&T for me and we were ready to hit the trail once more. We walked along the railway track and noticed all the old bits and pieces of bridges and pilings etc from the railway. This section of the walk was flat which made a nice change from some of the others we have done. I think we walked about 4 miles today before we made it into Grosmont to catch the 3.30pm train back to Pickering. The station was again very pretty and from the top of the hill looking down could have been stuck in the 50's or 60's. We had an Agatha Christie type of compartment on the way back, we could only wonder at its past. The 4.50 from Paddington, that’s the one.

    Back home to do some packing before we walked to The White Horse pub for a meal. There is not much left in the cupboard at home!!! We sat in the small dining room with one other older couple from Scotland. They were good company and asked us lots of questions about Perth/Australia, then we both nearly choked when the man said he used to be a minister but he was very funny and very broad minded. His wife said they drive a red car and the number plate was SC 071 EVL, (get it - evil) and his nickname was the red devil. We had steak and veggies which made a nice change and of course it was served with chips - everything is served here with chips and most of them soggy chips. We huffed and puffed up the big hill to home - our last night in our dear little cottage in the Moors.

    http://www.cottageguide.co.uk/hillsidecottage/
    Cute roomy cottage, very clean, use of laundry, patio & garden area, nice hosts, perfect little quiet village


    AMPLEFORTH TO KESWICK FRIDAY - FINE MORNING, SOGGY MIDDLE AND A BEAUTIFUL SUN GOING DOWN (AS THE SUN NEVER SEEMS TO SET HERE) 11/06/2011

    We tidied up Hillside cottage in Ampleforth said our farewells to Sue and Jon but sadly missed a last cuddle with Maisey who was no where to be seen. We set Nifty Nev for Jervaulx Abbey which is another wonderful Abbey that Henry destroyed, what a pity. We had a walk around and even found the old kitchen area still with a huge fireplace and chimney. We had a nice hot coffee and loo stop in the cafe before punching in the next destination. Aysgarth Cascades were set in a national park in the Yorkshire Dales. This area is again quite different scenery to the Moors. There was even a resident black and white cat who was rolling in the recently cut grass. We walked to the Lower, Middle and High areas of the cascades, watched the water falling and spent some time laughing at a mother duck and her 8 little babies swimming. One duckling was a bit of a devil and always seemed to get into mischief. The drizzle started falling as we made our way back to the car. Nev didn't recognise the road we were on so it was back to some manual mapless navigating. But turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we did see some lovely little places and great scenery along some very narrow roads but luckily we had a big motor home in front of us so we knew if he could fit so could we. Also when ever he pulled over we did to as there was something coming the other way. All the drivers here are very polite and just about always give way to us – do they recognise it’s a hire care maybe?

    The drive to our next destination was very pretty, lots of dry stone walls and not as many hedgerows and the buildings seemed older. We found the Wendsleydale Cheese Factory and decided it was lunch time plus the fact that the rain was coming down heavier. We dived into the cheese tasting room and did the rounds, purchasing a couple of small pieces to take with us - it was all very tasty and hard to make a decision. In the cafe we again decided on soup of the day, it’s not let us down yet and today’s certainly didn't. Now this might sound weird but we had courgette and ham blended with one of their Leicester red cheeses that has a touch of chilli in it – very, very good in deed and served with a nice warm wholemeal roll. Just hit the spot as the rain tumbled down outside. By the time we finished the rain had almost stopped. The loos here are all very clean with plenty of soap etc. We have even found a couple that have a thing called Watergate. It’s sort of like a hole in the wall that you stick your hands in, first the soap is dispensed, then a measured quantity of water then the blow dryer comes on - what a great idea. Some places have fancy hand washes and lotion - I like those ones!

    We really wanted to see the Ribbleshead Viaduct on the Carlisle to Settle Railway but the time was getting on and the drizzle started up again so we thought we had better cut to the chase and get to Keswick - we didn't want to be in the Friday afternoon peak traffic as we had a motorway to go on. Nev got us through the 2 big roundabouts near Penrith and we sailed on into the Lake District towards Keswick and the Lookout B&B. The mountains just rose up in front of us, huge big green monsters - don't think we will be climbing any of those!!

    Liz and Dave purchased an old house built in 1922 and spent 5 years renovating it and opened it last July as a B&B, they live downstairs now but lived in the garage until the house was all but done. Dave has done almost all the building work himself and it’s a credit to him. It’s now modern and simple no fussy stuff, huge ensuites and we have a fridge, nice sitting area and a tiny balcony looking to the mountains at the back.

    Liz has a sister in Adelaide and one in Sydney and they visit often so we were able to have a good chat with them. Oh and the garden here is very pretty too. Dave suggested a walk for us so we donned the waterproofs, grabbed the brollies and off we went. He sent us up one of the smaller hills near the house with a superb view over Derwentwater, we got a bit wet but it was worth the effort. The drizzle stopped, clouds scudded away and the sun came out as we walked down to the lakeside and on into town. We found a pub that was serving a special of roast pork and veggies for 8 pound - that suited us and was a reasonable price. The meat was a bit though but we had a good serving of veg. We walked the 15 minutes back to the B&B and here we sit with a glass of red in the leather sofa in the corner of the breakfast room. We are the only guests until tomorrow so have the place to ourselves. The view from the balcony is just stunning, the mountains turning shades of blue/green as the sun starts its descent and we thought the Moors were beautiful but this is a whole new experience.

    Dave said the sun sets around 10.30 so I hope our room is dark! As kids we had tins of Derwent Lakeland coloured pencils at school with a drawing of the lake on the lid, who would have thought we would ever see it in real life all those years on.


    KESWICK SATURDAY - A LONG WALK, NO RAIN AND A DODGY KNEE 12/06/2011

    After a good night’s sleep on a very comfy bed we headed down to breakfast, Liz had set up our table right in front of the huge window that overlooks the garden and the view. Breakfast - choice of about 5 cereals and muesli, yummy local yoghurt and fruit salad. We then had the "Full Yorkshire" as it is called here but Dave grills everything so it’s not floating in fat - tomato, mushrooms, bacon, a poached egg and really nice Cumbrian sausage. DH then managed to stuff down a couple of bits of toast with jam - I refrained!

    The forecast was a bit of everything, sunny periods in the morning, clouds increasing in the afternoon with a chance of a thunderstorm then clearing for a fine night. We decided to do the walk around the entire Derwentwater which is about 8-9 miles. Walk off all that brekkie! The walk into town takes around 15 minutes, we walked through the pretty gardens just before the lakefront. I went through the gate and caught my knee on the iron latch - the bit that makes your eyes water, head spin and tummy lurch. Must have got the nerve and it knocked the wind out of my sails for a bit. Best thing to do is walk it off otherwise it would have gone stiff so we carried on.

    Somewhere along the way we lost the path, the public footpaths here are not a well signed as they were in the Moors. We knew the Lake was on our left but just couldn't get down to it, did a few dead end streets in a village called Portinscale. Came across a whole bus load of walkers from Scotland who took up the entire track which slowed us down somewhat but we followed them thinking they knew where they were going. Turns out they were going on a different route to us so we kept going and came across a couple of guys with a map. They said they were going up Catbells (a mountain) we could go with them or if we followed a different path it would take us down to the lake walk - we thanked them and took the low road round the lake! A bit further on we heard shouting and they called and waved to us from high up in a clearing - nice of them and glad we took the lake path!

    It was very pretty walking beside the water surrounded by mountains with the sun peeping in and out of the clouds. We walked most of the way just in t-shirts but had weatherproof jackets just in case. A couple of times we got off the main path - there were so many it was hard to tell at times which one we should be on, but we just kept the lake on the left. About half way through it got very boggy but the National Trust who maintains the area had laid board walks which kept our boots clean for a change. So glad we invested in good Gortex waterproof boots - worth their weight in gold. It was time for drink stop when we came to a pretty hotel; all by itself but it was doing a roaring trade with walkers. There is boat and bus services so you can walk then get easily back if you get tired or the weather closes in. I think a lot of people do half the walk and stop at the pub for lunch and boat it back.

    Every now and then we stopped to look up at the mountains - you could see tiny figures like ants in a line walking the summits. There are quite a few outdoor clothing places here - they must do a good trade as everyone is dressed in hiking boots, walking pants, waterproof jackets etc etc oh and poles - you have to have your walking poles. Ours are home in the storeroom as they were too long for our little cases, would have been handy at times. Mind you we have come across the odd person just not dressed for the weather or terrain. In Goathland when we walked down to Mallyan Spout there was a woman in a dress and high healed shoes - very weird.

    The path at one stage was just walking along the errr "beach" well stones to be precise, that was hard going. The sun slipped away behind the clouds and the wind became chilly but the rain stayed away thank goodness. There were people kayaking which would have been great to do but we didn't have the right clothing, pity. With the end in sight we made it back to the promenade in Keswick, footsore and a bit weary but happy with our accomplishment. We walked slowly up the hill to our B&B; well you have to walk up the hill to get the best view! Made ourselves a cup of tea and rested our feet. The new guests have arrived so we don't have the place to ourselves but that's ok, we might make some new friends.

    Energy returns along with hunger so we headed back into town along with a list of Liz and Dave's suggests of good eats. We decided to eat at the first one we came to which happened to be Casa Bella Italian, sounded good to us. It was full but the manager said he would have a table in 5 minutes, found us a seat and we read the menu. Minutes later he had us seated and we ordered. I had spaghetti with pesto and sundried tomatoes and DH had chicken marinated in pepper and lemon, both were very good and we enjoyed our evening.

    KESWICK SUNDAY - DRIVING THE LAKES 13/06/2011

    We met the new guests this morning at breakfast, 2 couples travelling together. One couple from Essex showing their friends from South Australia around. We all had a good chat over breakfast and plenty of laughs. Liz lent us a map and suggested a drive so we left as soon as we could as the weather wasn't looking good for the afternoon.

    We drove down past the lake where we had walked yesterday and partly up the other side then continued onto Honnister Pass and the Slate mine. This is the pass that does up through a section of the mountains. DH had the car in 1st most of the time, it was that steep and only room for one car so you had to pull right over or back down to a pull off area. Luckily we didn't have too much trouble but you always had to be on the lookout at the blind curves to on-coming traffic. At the Honnister Slate mine there was a walk that went straight up the side of Grey Knott (nothing to do with DH’s hairstyle), we thought we would give it a go. Well I only got up a short distance and gave up it was way to steep and I was worried about the scramble down more than anything, DH continued up. I wandered around the mine and into the gift shop and found a couple of locally made pottery cats for myself. The slate cheese boards and table mats were lovely but way too heavy for the case so I had to leave them behind.

    The wind had come up something fierce and the chill factor was freezing so I waited in the car. DH took ages to come down cause the track kept going up much more than we could see from the car park. He finally came down nearly 2 hours later - I was just about getting ready to ring Mountain Search and Rescue!!! He thoroughly enjoyed himself of course. Warmed up in the car we continued on up the pass, the scenery rivalled Switzerland with rolling green soaring hills only thing missing was the snow caps. Once over the top the pass just opened up - it looked like a beautiful green mohair blanket folded over the mountains with a stream running along the valley and huge grey boulders scattered around. At one stage we stopped near a massive river of slate snaking down the mountain side, some people were collecting pieces. We also saw a cyclist who had taken a tumble and was in a bad way. We just couldn't imagine anyone riding up the pass let alone down it again.

    We got to Buttermere but we couldn't get a park so headed onto the next pass which was pretty deserted and found a pretty waterfall we could clamber over. We continued on as the road got even narrower but again we were lucky as most people was came across where going the same way as us. We got back into Keswick and continued onto the next lake, Thirlmere which didn't have any village on it. It was much more wild than Derwentwater though just as pretty, lots of groves of ferns and moss. The drizzle started so we didn't get a chance to go for a walk so headed back home for a hot drink.

    There was a bit of a break in the drizzle so we headed down to into town, through the gardens and along the Lake but the weather had just set in so we walked with the brollies up. Half of the population was doing the same thing - rain doesn't keep people indoors around here. By about 5.30 we were getting hungry since we did without lunch so went into a small place that Dave told us to try, I had a nice warm Goulash and DH had a Lamb Casserole. Just the thing for a cold rainy night, perfect. We walked back in the rain and were glad to get inside at last. Dave was getting the tables set for breakfast and stopped for a good chat. He is a very personable guy, we enjoy taking with him.

    We decided to just have a quiet night - DH has found a sports show to watch while I am doing this! But we are warm and dry.

    http://www.thelookoutkeswick.co.uk/
    If I was going to own a B&B this would be it! Spotlessly clean, neutral contemporary décor, loved the guests’ sitting area and breakfast room, huge ensuites, good linens, great little silent fridges and a super breakfast. Liz & Dave are very good at what they do and delightful people as well.

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    The soggy chips take me back.
    A friend of mine was warden in a student hall of residence and she had a mini food riot about soggy chips.
    She had the presence of mind to get the proprietor of the local "chippy" to show her cooks how to do good chips. The secret is to cook them at a lower heat to get them cooked through. They then go into very hot fat to crisp them For good fish and chips you need to go to proper chippy. You can tell a good one by the steamed up windows, the battery of deep fat fryers and the queue outside.

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    Maudie, can you link online to the boots you wore? It'd be nice to see.

    Your knee story reminded me of something: one time my father said my brother was idly standing by, hammer dangling in hand, sort of bouncing the hammer until it was called for .. yep, a bounce must have hit that "sweet" spot because my father turned around and brother was not standing, he was flat on the ground!

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    Maudie, still loving this.

    The Yorkshire part of your trip persuades me that I really need to take a 'staycation' and spend my next holiday exploring Yorkshire. I've not been further north than Sheffield/Doncaster (although I think I once went to a Northern Jump Jockeys Ball at Scotch Corner but I can't really remember much about it so that doesn't count!)

    The Keswick part brings back memories of a brief stay there sometime in the mid-1980s, and reminds me that I really liked it there.

    Re chips - forget the mushy peas, you have to eat them with curry sauce! Chip Shop Curry Sauce is nothing to do with Indian food, it is something entirely different but happens to be surprisingly good! Even soggy chips perk up when dipped in a plastic cup of curry sauce.

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    We did try chips from a chippy but they were still soggy. In the pub at Ampleforth I asked if I could get my chips crispy and crunchy, the lady said all their chips come served that way but of course when I got them they were limp. We don't eat chips often so when we do we like to enjoy them.

    These are the boots, my DH ended up buying the mens version by chance. I got the low cut ones as I found the full boot was just too bulky and big.
    http://www.globetrekker.com.au/products.php?product=Merrell-Chameleon-Arc-GTX-Waterproof-Shoe%2C-Women%27s

    I still have a mark on my knee from that gate, I can't believe how much that hurt - brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I've hit my elbow a few times but that was the first on the knee - ouch.

    Hi Julia, thank you - glad there are a few of you still with me. I think we all forget to "staycation" at home, always looking for greener pastures elsewhere. We could quite happily go back and spend another week in Yorkshire and we didn't even get to spend any time in the Dales either.

    Ok that sounds totally gross as my kids say but if we are ever back that way then its soggy chips with curry sauce and the mushy peas stay buried.

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    KESWICK TO BETWS-Y-COED - WHIZZING ALONG ON THE M6 TO TRANQUILITY IN WALES 14/06/2011

    Another yummy breakfast and good company, our fellow B&B companions are leaving today as well, driving back to Essex to continue their holiday. It’s still drizzling and sitting at our table in the window we only had fleeting views of the mountains this morning. Liz told us that the weather is very unseasonable and kept apologising but that's life. We chatted with our hosts for some time before going up to pack. We have it down to a fine art now and can be ready in about 10 minutes. The secret is not to unpack, we just live out of our packing cubes, fold any clothes into them, zip up, plop it into the case and we are ready to go. The less stuff you have the less there is to worry about. By putting it all back into our cases the exact same way each time, we know it fits!

    We had a break in the drizzle so managed a quick walk around the garden, the centre point is a beautiful pond that Dave dug, complete with flowering Irises and ducks. It’s hard to believe it’s only about 2 years old as it looks like it’s been there forever - just goes to show what good soil and plenty of water does. We said a sad farewell to Liz and Dave and once more hit the road. Next stop Wales!

    Nifty Nev fired himself up and with Dave's suggestion of a more scenic route out of town we started the 3 hour journey south. Our final 1/2 hour in the Lakes was a very pretty drive along a road bordered by moss covered dry stone walls , so much better than our grey fences, the trees joined overhead to form a tunnel of green. Every now and then we went through small villages sitting on the shores of the lakes. Some towns were large with lots of people, others just sleepy little places with only a couple of buildings but always sheep! The drizzle finally let up and we made it easily onto the M6, 3 lanes in each direction. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour but most of the cars in the right hand lane just flew by us. Drivers are very good leaving the left for trucks, slow cars or when you just want to sit on the limit, the middle is for zipping out and passing and zipping in left again while the right hand one was for faster passing or just plain driving FAST! We did get into the fast line quite a few times with Nev binging at us to say we were going too fast. The whole time we only saw one police car though.

    We whizzed by Manchester and all manner of places with weird names and finally saw the turn off to Northern Wales. There were a couple of amazing castles on the road in, must have been something to see in their day. We were going to stop in Conwy on the coast but once we got there we thought we would just continue on to Betws-y-Coed. We found parking and the tourist info office to gather maps and pamphlets. Parts of the town reminded us of Whistler with the stone buildings, very pretty. Seems to be one of those towns that the bus tours come to, disgorge their passengers - give them an hour then their off to the next place. I'm sure it’s peaceful and quiet in the mornings and evenings.

    We wandered away from the main area and found a little place that was quiet and ordered a Welsh Cream Afternoon Tea. Well that will be lunch and dinner! I had tea and DH coffee then the waiter came with two BIG trays of food – goodness this was supposed to be afternoon tea not an entire meal. We had a round of sandwiches, I had ham and Welsh cheese while DH had egg mayo. Then there was a huge fruit scone, a Welsh Tea cake and a slice of buttered fruit bread called Bara Brith (very yummy) but carbs, carbs, carbs. Oh and the jam & cream. We always get asked if we want brown or white bread which is great. Sandwiches were both nice though the driver ate some of mine too. The fruit bread was the best I have ever had, just chock full of fruit. The Tea cake was sort of like a cross between a biscuit, a pancake and a scone with fruit in the middle and a nice cinnamon/spice flavour. I couldn't do justice to the scone, jam & cream as it was about 3 inches high. We waddled out and watched the waterfall in the middle of the town from the old stone bridge. Twice I saw salmon jump, DH didn't believe me first time then when it jumped again the lady next to us saw it too! If only we had a fishing line.

    We found a small supermarket and picked up milk, yoghurt, ham, bread, fruit & veggies etc and stayed away from the bakery section. Loaded up our shopping and following my printed instructions and some of Nev's we luckily found our way UP to our little cottage high above Betws-y-Coed. Wendy and Geoffrey met us and showed us around our home for the next 4 nights. We have a self contained section off to the side of their house with yet again an amazing huge garden filled to bursting with flowers. From our lounge room we have a picture window that looks right out to the Snowdonia National Park. There are actually 2 bedrooms (one with 2 singles and a Murphy bed in the lounge area) and 2 bathrooms, a lounge, kitchen and meals area plus all the garden that we have to share with two black and white cats - Girl Cat and Boy Cat.

    The house has been here for 40 years and is set into the side of the hill high above the valley. The entire garden has been terraced with rock and slate walls and every crevice has a plant in it, paths leading every which way and at every turn there is a seat, bench or chair to admire either the view or the garden. I am sitting in the lounge looking out the window, its about 8pm and still very light, the mountains on the other side of the valley are turning a bluey grey, the sky is blue with a few white clouds scudding by, the leaves of the trees sparkling in the late sunlight and in the foreground is a low wall bordered by masses of purple irises. Every now and then one of the cats prowls along the wall.

    Earlier Geoffrey gave us a wad of papers with lots of walks and suggested we walk up behind the house to Picnic Point, mind you it was straight UP a pretty steep road way but then off onto a Public Footpath, through the woods and out onto a stone ledge that had a view right up the valley and across to the National Park. Down below us Betws looked like a toy village. We might go back one evening and take our picnic if we have the energy to do it all again!

    Oh and the name of our house is Golygfa'r Llywelyn. I have mastered Betws-y-Coed easily enough but I am not even going to try saying that one.


    BETWS-Y-COED TUESDAY - BEING ONE WITH NATURE 15/06/2011

    Let me tell you about this house, built high on the hill above Betws-y-Coed, a steep one lane exactly 1/2 mile up from a secondary road. There appears to be only one other house around, we are surrounded by the walled garden - outside there is bush - well Welsh woods really but to us its bush. Wendy and Geoffrey are a tad eccentric but bend over backwards to help you. Wendy works in the garden with the cats for company - Geoffrey is hypo and always busy busy busy and wants to chat all the time. Today he had on a pair of shorts with patches and then bits of duct tape over the bits that Wendy can't patch anymore. I guess they must be in their early 70's, they used to own the SPA which is a supermarket in town. Geoffrey has been propagating red geraniums up on the deck in his sun house and today he has carried down I reckon at least 30 large pots, every window ledge in our little bit of the house is now lined with them, Wendy said they will be creeping into the house soon and strangling her in her sleep - she said it not me! Though it does look very pretty.

    I didn't sleep all that well, thoughts of shower curtains and knives and if I screamed no one would hear me. Will anyone ever hear from us again? Of course DH went out like a light as usual, also we now have single beds, bit of a change from the king in the B&B. Still alive in the morning, we woke to a stunning blue sky, what a site out of the front window. After showers and breakfast we decided to visit Bodnant Gardens which is only about 15 minutes down the road. This is a National Trust property so free for us - YAY! This is one of THE most important gardens in the UK, so the blurb said. The owners still live in the house - er huge pile but the gardens were left to the Trust by one of the family years ago.

    We enjoyed Castle Howard in Yorkshire but this place is 20 times better. There are beautiful lawns with ponds, rose gardens, croquet lawn etc etc etc in the formal part around the family pile then as you walk down the hillside it turns into what they call "The Wild". Must be wonderful in spring when all the daff's pop up out of the wild grass, big swathes are mown for paths as well as some that are paved, it all leads down to a lovely stream with bridges and waterfalls. As the sun warmed the roses they released their perfume which just floated over the garden. It was very serene and peaceful but we heard more Aussie accents here than we have anywhere else. I think we spent roughly 2 1/2 hours wandering around - even DH didn't get bored. There are plants from all over the word including some massive Sequoias’ and Atlantic Cedars (one was planted in 1876). The owner was an avid collector of seeds and introduced a lot of new plant varieties into the UK all those years ago. Unfortunately the one thing we sort of missed was the huge Laburnum Arch, each year it flowers in the last week in May and you walk through a tunnel of golden flowers all dripping down like rain. The gardeners were almost at the end of cutting off the flowers but we managed to see about 2 metres of it on one end - would have been a stunning sight.

    We had a sandwich and drink then plugged Caernarfon Castle into Nev and enjoyed the drive along the coast. The Castle was very interesting the way the town has been built into & surrounding it. We walked (read that as crawled) up the spiral stairs to the ramparts, guys in those days must of had very small feet! It was a bit scary and one slip of the foot could have sent you skidding on your bum to the bottom. The museum for the Welsh Fusilier Guards was in the castle as well and was worth a look. Also a small history of the castle and another showing Prince Charles getting invested - he even looked like a ponce in those days when he was so young.

    We walked around the outside then back to the car, parking is much cheaper here than in other parts of the UK. Our next destination is Portmeirion, which is a sort of Mediterranean village on the coast - one man's folly many years ago apparently. When we arrived there was a 9 pound entrance fee each - we thought that was a bit rich and it was getting late so we did a quick reversal and headed across the Snowdonians to Betws as us locals call it. We picked up some mince and bits and pieces for spaghetti, a bottle of red and headed up the hill to home.

    Ripped the top off the bottle, got the bolognaise cooking, played with the cats, made a salad then sat out on the deck to enjoy the evening. Geoffrey came over and suggested an evening walk up the hill at the back of the house. We cleaned up and following his directions bush bashed up the so-called path until we lost our way and came back to the house. Geoff promptly got out the Landrover and said he would take us up the track to the back gate and we could walk the rest of the way to see the view then wander back. Off we went bouncing over the track while he talked ten to the dozen, dropped us at the gate, gave us the instructions to get home, waved and turned for home.

    We found the viewing spot after walking UP a steep road, climbing a gate, slipping and sliding on the mud, chatting with two cows that were not happy that we disturbed them before we reversed our route and headed home - mind you it was 9.15pm by this time. We found the shortcut that Geoffrey had shown us on the way up and kept our fingers crossed we could find the path we had missed earlier. Luckily it was easier to follow from the other direction and we made it back safe and sound. Just now Geoffrey and Wendy knocked on our door to make sure we were back. They were all dressed up in warm gear with torches ready to come looking for us. Ain't that sweet!

    BETWS-Y-COED WEDNESDAY - CONWY FOR THE DAY & JUMPING SALMON 16/06/2011

    After our late night and me staying up reading to find out "who done it" we had a bit of a sleep in (well we are on holidays). There had been some rain overnight and they sky was grey after the sunshine of yesterday. We had a lazy breakfast and did a load of washing, slowly the sky cleared to a lighter colour so we decided to drive in Conwy on the coast which I guess is the nearest large town. Wendy told us how to get to a free parking spot so we headed off without the help of Nev for a change. Not sure if we found the place Wendy was talking about but we did find free parking right under the bridge to town. The town is full of roundabouts and is not a good place to drive in so we were happy to walk a little way extra.

    The sight of the Conwy Castle sitting on the rivers edge was worth the extra 1/2 a mile. This is another of Edward I's castles - being similar but smaller to Carnarvon that we saw yesterday. Linked to the castle is a suspension bridge that was used by George Stevenson and was used right up until the 1958 and was the main road to Holyhead (jumping off point to Irish ferries), also linked into the bridge is the original train tunnel still in use today. From the bridge we could easily see the town walls and see how far the town has spread today. The tide was out leaving all the fishing boats high and dry, leaning on their kneels they looked abandoned by all but the seagulls.

    We paid the entrance fee and spend some time going up and down the towers on those awful narrow spiral stairs again and just generally looking around for an hour or so. It wasn't hard to imagine what the town looked like in those days - the occupants must have felt very safe living in a place like that. Looking down on the town now it’s funny to see how the roads wind around - usually only room for one car at a time. There is only one break still in the wall that they had to do for the sake of the traffic. One of the archways in we saw a large truck squeeze through - they have to do this everyday!!

    We walked around town and tried to find something for lunch, lots of pubs and lots of chippies but that doesn't appeal - most of the pub meals we have had are mediocre as with the few fish and chips we have had. We walked by a little place, Amelie’s, with a nice sounding menu that was on the first floor of a lovely old building. It was a delightful little cafe - just like the sort of thing we have at home and they even had nice coffees on the menu. DH had a marinated chicken with pesto ciabatta and salad while I had a leek (Welsh national flower) and cheese tart with salad. We both enjoyed our meals and the coffee to follow. Nice to see a place with a simple and lighter menu than most of the places around. Have I mentioned EVERYTHING is served here with chips - oh and the other day I saw frozen mushy peas in the supermarket - YUK!!

    We walked to the harbour and sat watching life in Conwy for a while, before finding the entrance to the town walls. We walked all along them back to the castle then over the suspension bridge (National Trust - FREE) then onto the car. DH had a wish to drive through the narrow arch in the wall so off we went again without Nev and found ourselves on the scenic route back to Betws - easy as! Basically we are in the Conwy Valley here with a river running up the middle, the main road into Conwy is the A5 on our side of the river which is the road we use the most as our lane runs off it. The scenic road is on the other side of the river and a much smaller road - ie a skinny road as against an actual road with a white line down the middle. We enjoyed the road through the pretty green tree tunnels and stoped along the way to look at the river (yes - I actually got DH to slow down and stop!!!). We came across a sign that sort of looked like a National park so did a quick lefty and took the road up (most of the roads here go UP) and we parked at the end and found a walking trail for 1.5 hours so we thought that would be a nice stretch of the legs. The first bit nearly killed me - it was virtually straight up but we huffed and puffed and found ourselves at a viewing point looking right up the valley - it was worth the effort! The rest of the walk was pretty much flat which was a nice change.

    We came into Betws from a different direction but easily found our secret free parking spot that we found a couple of days ago - thanks Geoffrey! The weather doesn't sound that good for tomorrow so we thought we would have a wander around town now just in case we don't get another chance. We walked back over the old stone bridge where the water cascades are and thought we would watch for more jumping salmon. Sure enough there were some people waiting with cameras at the ready so we knew there must be some action. DH did get to see some this time and I struck up a conversation with the lady next to me. She said straight away - oh you're an Aussie - which state are you from? Turns out her daughter is working in Fremantle so we had a good chat while waiting with cameras poised for the little suckers to take a flying leap up the water fall. She was born in this area but lived in Sydney where her daughter was born. She is on holidays here in Betws with her hubby too as they love the town and love to come back every so often. There were plenty of cheers and yells when we spotted the fish - I got one blurry photo but at least I have the evidence. She told her hubby she wasn't leaving until she go a photo - but we were walking too much and she kept missing them. We left her alone to get her photo and walked on up the river for a bit and she was still there when we got back. Neither of us had pen and paper so we couldn't exchange emails which was a pity - though I bet she is still there waiting for those salmon and that photo!

    We headed home after an enjoyable day out, toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with salad and fruit to finish. We can't get any Wifi reception here today so have no idea what the weather is going to be or check emails so we really are cut off from the outside world - oh wait DH has found the TV!!! It’s a bit chilly tonight; think we might have to crack the central heating on.

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    Woh,you are putting me to shame. A great read, I've only browsed up to the Paris portion so far.

    As for your London portion I think we were there for a couple of days at the same time, so silly, would've been great to catch up.

    We also ‘stumbled’ upon the Twinings tea shop and the Royal courts of Justice. Do you mean Antonio Carluccio's restaurant? I would’ve loved that. I think I was the one to spoil your ‘cheese sandwich experience’ they really are good.So glad you enjoyed Jersey Boys, its one of my favourites and OMG Frankie Vallie how cool is that? I think I took 100 photos of the roses in Regents Park.

    Keep going this is great.

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    Hi aussie, if I don't get this done asap it will never get done.

    I had the Twinings shop on my "hit list" but the day we did that area of London I left my notes behind so it was a bonus to be standing outside the door then realising it was right behind me. We were totally amazed by the size of the Royal Courts - incredible building.

    Yes indeedy, that's the restaurant, it was brilliant. KayF from right here on the Forum told me about it I think. I'm still dreaming about that brulee.

    I shall forgive you for not being able to sample the cheese sandwich and so will my hips, at least I went knowing it wasn't there. Otherwise I would have been so frustrated by not being able to find it.

    I know, Frankie Valli, why the hell didn't I whip out my camera? So glad I'm not the only one to go overboard in a rose garden - wasn't it just superb? And the smell!

    And thank you for reading.

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    We were totally amazed by the size of the Royal Courts - incredible building.>>

    did you go in? it's vast inside too. in one corner to the right as you have the doors behind you, there is an exhibition of court dress through the ages - very interesting. and if you cross the road [Fleet Street] and go into the Temple, at week-day lunch times you can go into Inner Temple gardens, which are very beautiful.

    Maudie - thanks for the description of Bodnant. it's definitely on my wish list of places to visit - hopefully whilst DS is at uni in wales. [2 more years to go].

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    annhig - No I didn't even know we could go in there. Oh I wish I knew about the Temple gardens too - oh well that's something for next time!

    You will love Bodnant and please try to go when that Laburnum Arch is flowering - its spectacular. I wish I could have hidden in there at closing time and just had it all to myself, I still remember the smell of the roses. And the gift shop there is one of the nicer ones I came across.

    Thank you irishface, it makes it all worthwhile to get some feed back. Its a super way of reliving the memories too.

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    BETWS-Y-COED THURSDAY - A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE WITH LUNCH AS A BONUS 17/06/2011

    Another good night's sleep, it’s so quiet here all you can hear are the birds. Rained again overnight and everything is pretty damp and the clouds are covering the mountains. Our plan of going on the train up to Snowdon won't come off, it’s not worth the 40min drive to Llanberris then get the train nor the well over 20 pound each if we can't see anything. Plan B it is then. We decided to walk the entire route we did part of the other night and leave the car home today, a 4 mile circuit.

    We took water, trail mix, rain coats, Geoffrey’s map and off we went out of the back garden gate. Within minutes the bottoms of our pants were wet as we were pushing through bracken ferns that were as high as our armpits and of course all the grass/weeds were soaked from the overnight rain. The path was easier to see as we had trodden it down on our last foray up and down the hill, we had a few bits of drizzle but luckily all the weather seemed to go around us, at times we had brilliant sunshine so were peeling off our coats. Up through the woods, dark and spooky but the trail was lined with lovely ferns just growing everywhere, spongy wet moss that just needed to be touched, puddles of mud, sheep poo, cow poo, bright purple heather, big boulders, amazing vista's of Snowdonia right down the valley behind the house. Part of the track was a "green way” down to Penrhyddion - have no idea know to pronounce this!

    Our pant legs were starting to dry out but our boots were so wet we could feel our socks slowly getting squishy - I guess Gortex can only handle so much wet though I think the air vents let some moisture in. Some of the walk was straight up, some straight down and some wonderfully flat. At one point we had to pass through a cow paddock, one of them took a liking to DH and had a good sniff while I bolted through the gate. We thought she was going to follow him but the green grass seemed much tastier than him. We listened for a while to the cows eating grass, it’s a very loud noise and one we have never heard before - interesting!

    We popped out of the "bush" at Conwy Falls Hotel, paid our pound and went DOWN to see the falls. There sure was plenty of water rushing down and the roar of the water was music to our ears - if only we could see that much at home. Couldn't see any salmon jumping so we crawled back up the hill and continued following the directions to walk along a relatively flat path (for a nice change) high up above the river. Next diversion was a visit to Fairy Glen, 50p each to climb down some very steep slippery steps to reach a magical little grotto at the bottom. Here the river barrelled down and made a sharp bend so you could see in both directions. It was all mossy, ferny, fairy like with overhanging trees, the sun was shining so we had some pretty dappled sunlight with blue skies. We slipped and skidded our way over the rocks until we found a nice dry rock to sit on and enjoy the serenity. And of course catch our breath to make the climb back up.

    We followed the path to a fork in the river and found a nice grassy bank to sit for a drink and some trail mix, soaking up the sun rays, wishing we could take off our wet shoes and sodden socks. We left the Glen and had a bit of a walk along a busy but narrow road, we don't like walking on the road but the drivers are so courteous to walkers - even great big trucks will stop and let you walk by. Up ahead we saw the Ty Gwyn Hotel which is down the road from our driveway so knew we were close to home. The hotel is very old and used to be a Coaching Inn on the original road to London, we were both starving by this time which was about 1.15 so decided to give it a go as our next instructions were to go UP the public footpath right next to the pub.

    Well what a delightful surprise it turned out to be. The inside was clean and didn't smell of cigarettes at all. We really dislike the “pub” smell of stale smoke and beer. It was low beamed with white painted old stone walls, a pretty mish mash of old tables and chairs which all had nice comfy patchwork cushions on them, candles, old bits of pieces from its hey day. Very nice and homely, we could have sat there all afternoon gazing out the windows that were lined the red geraniums. Hhmm maybe Geoffrey had been down here as well distributing his flowers. We ordered a drink and looked at the menu - another very pleasant surprise - no bangers and mash, no mushy peas, no stodgy pies. My choice was a loin of fresh halibut with a creamed leek and salmon sauce, this was piled onto potato gratin, DH had a sirloin steak with stilton coriander sauce with the same spuds AND we had a decent serving of VEGGIES!, We thanked the chef and told him it was a nice change from most of the pub meals we had had, he said "yeah I cook real food".

    By now the feet were feeling water logged and cold but we scrambled up the last 1/2 mile to home, they haven't heard about zig zagging a path here to make it easier - it’s straight up or nothing. The pants and socks went straight into the washing machine and the boots are outside in the sun hopefully drying, if not their into the boiler room downstairs. The wind has picked up and is pretty chilly but so far no more rain, though it is forecast for tomorrow when we drive to Bisley in the Cotswolds.

    While we were dropping off to sleep for our last night in Wales we heard huge bang which we though was a gunshot but turned out to be fireworks echoing up the valley. We couldn't see them but saw a few flashes; we're the locals celebrating the Aussies going?

    http://www.snowdonia.uk.net/index.html
    Very large apartment (not really a cottage) attached to the main house. Everything you could want, no surprises, very clean, nice linens, stunning outlook. Hosts extremely helpful and kind.


    BETWS-Y-COED TO BISLEY FRIDAY - OUR OWN LITTLE CHOCOLATE BOX COTTAGE WITH A TOUCH OF AGATHA CHRISTIE 18/06/2011

    After breakfast and cleaning up we checked out our map, checked in with Nev and decided to take the more scenic route heading south, rather than on the M5. We said farewell to Wendy and Geoffrey remembering to get our boots from the boiler room and hit the road. We had a bit of drizzle which continued most of the drive.

    We enjoyed our final views of Wales, rolling green hills, sheep and trees in all shades of green fluttering in the breeze. Our first stop was at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen, built between 1795 and 1808. It takes the narrow boats over the River Dee, they call it a stream in the sky. I'm sure it was used to cart goods all those years ago. A couple of boats went over while we were walking across, one of the ladies got off and walked as she couldn't bear to be on the narrow boat when it went over, she said it was too scary, like floating above the earth. It was certainly very high up, not for the faint hearted at all. There were lots of boats moored in the basin too.

    We set Nifty Nev for Hereford which took us about 2 hours, stopped for a loo break and some fruit for lunch. Onto Bisley after braving the Friday afternoon traffic on a short bit of the M5. We arrived about 3.30 and found our way through the narrow streets lined with beautiful old stone houses - roses climbing the walls and cottage gardens everywhere. Coopers Cottage is a tiny little house in the garden of Wells Cottage on Back Lane. Liz & Michael welcomed us and showed us around the house. There is a small living room, all decorated in green and white chintz, floral curtains, a beautiful old original stone fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs our room is soft red and cream with a feather doona & pillows. Even has the old roof beams (DH watch your head!!) All very pretty and cottagey. Many many years ago our cottage was the Coopers (hence the name), the barrels were made up stairs in our bedroom and loaded onto the dray wagon - the door is now one of the windows. Outside you can see how high it is, perfect height for loading. Liz has an amazing garden and we have our own section of garden, once the old tennis court. On Sunday Liz has the garden open as part of the Open Garden Scheme for charity. It was also open 2 weeks ago for the Red Cross as were many others in the area. Every garden just seems to get better and better, its just like the plants grow wild, chuck anything in and it grows like mad and looks beautiful. It’s still drizzling with rain unfortunately so my walk around the garden will have to wait.

    Liz had set out a nice little afternoon tea tray for us, complete with ginger shortbread and a milk jug with a crochet cover, beads and all. We walked up the street to the tiny little store to get milk and a few things to keep us going. Just up the road from our cottage is The Wells (I guess for watering the horses many years ago), last weekend they "dressed the Well" where they decorate it in flowers, most of them were dead or dying but it must have looked very pretty. Bisley has 2 pubs, The Bear Inn and The Stirrup Cup and the little general store, its a maze of tiny little lanes, small cottages all stuck together as well as some beautiful houses set in pretty gardens and larger estates. DH put the central heating on when we got back as it was chilly. We looked at some maps and pamphlets planning things to do for our stay. Pity there is no Wifi here; we will have to find an internet cafe somewhere.

    We have a short cut up to The Bear Inn which is the local pub, built in 1670. We walk about 20 paces, up 51 steps (built in 1870) next to the Wells, past the church, through the school and we are there. The pub was buzzing with locals on a Friday evening, dogs and all. We ordered our meals, chicken and leek pasty for me and goulash for DH- just the thing for a cold wintry night. Two couples came in and sat near us, definite Aussie accents, turns out they come from Perth, we all had a good laugh as 6 of us from WA outnumbered the few people in the small area we were sitting in. We all chatted with a table of locals and had some good laughs. Our meal arrived along with a huge big bowl of yummy veggies.

    We said goodbye and walked outside to hear the church bells ringing. It must have been about 8.30 by then, we stopped and listen, we could see the bell pulls going up and down then moved so we could see the campanologists (always wanted to use that one in a sentence and if you don't know what it is - look it up!!). As we walked back through the church yard with the bells ringing, day fading into night and the drizzle we thought we had stepped right into one of Miss Marples murder scenes. Nice and warm back in the cottage, we are watching Hercule Poriot!


    BISLEY SATURDAY - MARKETS, WALKING IN THE TOADSMOOR VALLEY 19/06/2011

    We have settled comfortably into life in the Cotswolds, one could get quite used to this life . Looking out through our window this morning, a bright red poppy has opened up - what a nice way to start the day. Weather is looking again like a bit of everything. Today we are off to the Stroud Farmers Market for breakfast/morning tea. Stroud is about 10 minutes away and a much bigger town than Bisley. We followed Michaels directions to a car park then walked on into town. The markets won the "Market of the Year" award last year as the best in the UK, it sort of winds it way along some lanes in the main shopping area of town. As it’s a farmers market, everything HAS to be produced locally, all the fruit and veggies were organic as well as the meat. We had been told by JuliaT to try the sausages which we did, served in a small grain bun with a selection of chutneys and dressings. That went down pretty well as it was still drizzling and cold. Everyone was complaining about the weather, they had a really hot spring which messed up the gardens and veggies with no rain and now its supposed to be summer its not stopped raining. We heard on the radio that Wimbledon starts next week and it always rains then!!!

    We did a couple of laps looking at all the nice things -most of which we can't bring home so we stuck to the fresh stuff. Into our bag went: A small loaf of handmade spelt bread, a large olive & sundried tomato muffin, an almond croissant to remind us of Paris, a tub of basil and pinenut olives, a small bunch of vine cocktail tomatoes, a punnet of raspberries, a punnet of strawberries, some smelly cheese that DH took a fancy too and a Lamb & Mint Pie for dinner tomorrow night. Wished I could have purchased a large bunch of flowers for the cottage but there is so many growing outside it seemed a waste. Everyone was walking around munching on sausages or bacon rolls, that guy must have made a fortune. We had a good chat with the lady from the cheese stall, who had been to Perth for holidays. A couple of young lads were running a small cafe area, they did a great job and probably earned a good sum - they will go far those boys, Richard Branson had better watch out. We sat down for a hot coffee and shared our croissant then DH decided to go get one of his own - good all the more for me! Two old dears walked up and asked if they could share the table then promptly lit cigarettes and blew smoke all over us - how rude! We just gave them a filthy look, coughed and spluttered and went and found another table - sheesh! One of the most useful things we took with us is one of those tiny little bags made out of recycled something or other that you pull out and open into a shopping bag – it hangs off my shoulder bag. We used it so many times for shopping, picnics etc really worthwhile.

    There is no parking for us at the cottage so we just have to find parking along the streets, which is fun when most of the roads are single lane bordered by high stone walls or cottages. There are not usually footpaths either, if a car comes you have to back up or dive into another street. Luckily we found parking at The Wells so that was a bonus. We unloaded our goodies and decided to brave the weather on a walk to work off that croissant. We changed into our boots and grabbed the map, coats, water and headed off down the Toadsmoor Valley (another brilliant Julia
    T idea) which is at the end of the street that runs by Wells Cottage.

    We had a bit of trouble staying on the footpaths as they are not as well signed as in other parts, some times you are walking through some ones property, some times on the lanes and when the signs are missing its pretty confusing. Luckily we found a man in a garden and asked for directions, he called his friend who was more than happy to tell us her grandfather was born on Lord Howe Island and that he went down with the Titanic - go figure! Anyway the old boy had also been to Perth and knew it was on the Swan River so they were happy to get us on our way and were pointing down the street when there was an almighty gunshot followed by about 10 more - I thought we were dead. The old boy told us not to worry "its only old Dickie over the road shooting Jackdaws". I was ready to turn and run home but they promised us he doesn't shoot down in the valley. Well thank god for that!

    We found our way and had a very pleasant 4 mile loop through the woods following a stream. Little cottages popped up here and there along with some big "piles". Some are as old as the hills with some new ones getting building to look as old as the hills - plenty of money around this area. What a pleasure to live around here, lovely stone cottages with lawns or fields filled with wildflowers running down to the stream. Luckily for us the rain held off until we got home, then we had a brief shower. But it soon clears to either drizzle or sunshine. We had some of our yummy bits and pieces for lunch and did a load of washing. We have the central heating on just to warm the place up and dry the washing.

    I found the channel on the TV that has the Agatha Christie's on so sat and enjoyed another Poirot that I hadn't seen while DH read. We then went for a walk around “our” village. The southern Cotswolds don’t seem to be on the tourist radar much and I hope it stays that way. Later we visited some of the very well known villages and although they were pretty enough we were always glad to get back to sleepy Bisley. It’s a “real” village with “real” people and not a t-shirt shop in sight. JuliaT very kindly checked out Coopers Cottage for us before I booked and for that I thank her sincerely. It was just perfect for us.

    We were to meet Julia that evening at the pub for dinner but she didn't arrive and we can't check our emails so I'm hoping everything is ok. I'm disappointed not to have met her as she helped us find Coopers Cottage and gave me lots of good advice during the planning stages of this holiday. We waited for about 45 minutes then decided to order dinner. DH had a slow cooked lamb shank and veg, I had seafood chowder. Both really nice again. We walked quickly back through the school, through the church - no bells tonight, down the steps to home and the heating. It’s pretty chilly again tonight. I do hope Julia is alright. (We have since been in contact and learnt Julia had a family emergency – these things happen, life is full of “surprises”.) One day we will meet up, somewhere.

    BISLEY SUNDAY - A DAY OF GARDENS 20/06/2011

    The weather is finally looking good - well as good as can be. Still overcast but the grey clouds don't look as threatening today. It’s also Father's Day here so we are hoping things aren't too busy. We decided to visit a couple of the "chocolate box" villages of the more Northern Cotswolds and a couple of National Trust Gardens. We set Nifty Nev to take us straight to Upper Slaughter - now it's not what it sounds like - slaughter meant "muddy" which it isn't any more. We have learnt the lesson of parking the car just outside of towns and walking in. DH found a perfect layby right near the village which was a good choice as there was no parking in the tiny narrow streets anywhere. We had a wander around the village - do these people get sick of tourists like ourselves walking around their houses? I guess they know it when they buy a house in some of these villages. It was very pretty with many old cottages and some new ones that were trying to look old.

    We then walked the mile to Lower Slaughter which was even prettier with a stream running through it to a watermill. There were a couple of very expensive looking hotels mixed into the cottages, though a street or two back from the stream many of the cottages were very new and rather ugly looking. We joined The Wardens Way public footh path and headed back to the car.

    Heading up to Hidcote Garden we drove into Bourton-on-the-water, along with about 6 coach buses full of people. The place was heaving (learnt that word from Michael our host - great word oh and I taught him perving which he thought was a very good word) anyhow we did a lap and saw how pretty it is but just way too many people for our liking and the parking was horrible. It’s quite a big town certainly not a village.

    Hidcote was also fairly busy being Father's Day but not "heaving". We had our little picnic in the car before heading into the garden. We had watched a TV program in Amplesforth about Lawrence Johnston, the gardens creator and owner - wonderful to see it in real life. It was designed as a garden of rooms, everywhere you walked there was something new to look at and the vista's overlooking the valley added to the entire scene. As we walked around we came across marmalade and white cat that was entirely at home with all the people - was very happy to let cat lovers pat him, which of course I did. The smell of roses and flowers just hung in the air drawing you onwards to the next "room". Such a huge variety of plants, clipped yew hedges, massive old trees, a kitchen garden, ponds and even a croquet lawn - so much to look at and enjoy. Luckily we didn't get any rain even though at times it seemed like it was going to at any moment. It was a real pleasure to enjoy this amazing garden and worth the drive to get there. We were dying for a coffee but the queue was fairly long so we moved on hoping to have one at the next stop. I picked myself up a beautiful scarf with roses on it at the gift shop to remind me of the garden. As we walked out we noticed a couple of thatched cottages that the staff must live in, one with a sign BEWARE OF THE CATS, but we didn't see any. What pretty cottages they were too with their "top hats" on and I'm glad we saw them, most of the houses around here have slate roofs as it’s easy to get.

    Next up we headed to Snowshill Manor and Garden, on the way we came across Snowshill Lavender - paddocks full of beautiful purple lavender waving to us in the breeze. We went straight to the cafe for a cream tea but with coffee that went down pretty well. We decided to just see the garden here and not the Manor which is filled with over 22,000 quirky items the owner collected over the years. It's only a small garden but very enjoyable to explore and walk around again with the heady smell of roses floating in the air. We were aware of the time as we wanted to get back to see "our" open gardens so set Nev for home.

    Luckily we found a park at The Wells again, dropped our gear in our cottage, made our donation and joined Liz in the garden. She knows all the plants by their botanical name and gave us the royal tour. The garden is built up a hillside with dry stone retaining walls going up to the old tennis court, where the view is pretty spectacular over the village. It is a true cottage garden. There are two big trellis's running parallel to each other but on two different levels of the garden with the most amazing vigorous climbing rose, small soft cream flowers with a pale yellow centre and the smell just invades the garden. The clouds have finally disappeared to a pretty blue sky and sunshine. Liz and Michael told us they stood up on the tennis court 40 years ago and said "it’s too expensive but we're buying it" and have slowly turned the house and garden into a real showpiece.

    We then went onto Philip Howard's garden, called Paul Mead, just down the lane. This is a formal garden using many of the same plants but the style is so different. Both gardens have been made by very talented people with a passion for gardening and a bank balance to accommodate it. Philip's garden has a natural stream running through it and he has made the most of it with a little summerhouse overlooking a pond. His son designed a wonderful tree house in an old oak tree that was dying, re-using all the wood, it sure is eye catching. This garden too has its rooms and a delightful vista from the stone paved tea terrace through the garden out onto the wilderness of the Toadsmoor Valley. Flanked on one side by massive trees that line the Valley, it makes a dramatic backdrop to this peaceful secluded formal garden. And I could have just as easily moved into the house with its fragrant roses climbing up the soft cream stone to the square leaded windows in the attic. These houses are just so different to ours, so old and full of character. The green countryside and gardens, well it almost makes your eyes hurt - how easy to create a stunning garden in this climate and rich soil.

    What a perfect ending to a perfect day, as the evening was ever so slowly turning to dusk, and roses were wafting, we were enjoying chatting to Philip in his garden, the church bells started then we could faintly hear the choir - Bisley truly is a genuine Cotswolds village. Very few tourists make it here and I hope it stays that way.

    Back to our patch of garden we sat enjoying the last few rays of warmth, finally a blue sky but its not going to last according to the weather report. Michael came up to take his flag down, we stood and saluted while he made trumpet noises - he sure is a very likeable person. He was a lawyer before retiring and has the gift of the gab, often says to himself "and now I'm waffling" - reminds us of Rumpole.

    We enjoyed our Lamb & Mint pie with salad for dinner - definitely a good buy.

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    What a lovely description of Bisley and the Toadsmoor Valley! I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in this charming unspoilt village and were happy with Cooper's Cottage.

    Isn't the Farmers Market great? I was so sorry not to get to meet you after all, and more so that you had to sit waiting for me. At least you were able to have a good meal there.

    (For your readers, I do not make a habit of arranging to meet people and then fail to turn up! In this instance I had a telephone call the evening before, my daughter had been taken ill while staying with friends in Mallorca and was in hospital. I got a flight to Palma at 6am on Saturday morning, and stayed with her until she was well enough to leave the hospital the following Wednesday evening. I did email Maudie before I left, but unfortunately she didn't get it in time. Incidentally, there is supposedly WiFi at The Bear.)

    Thank you for your vivid descriptions of the open gardens. I had wanted to visit them too, now I will have to wait for next year. And you managed to walk the 'magic' Toadsmoor Valley too. Best time of year to do so, I think.

    Well, I'm glad it all worked out for you in the end.

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    Hi Julia, thanks for adding to this report. I didn't want to give out your personal information but I understand where you're coming from. The food at the market was fabulous, so much enjoyed wandering around it. Just wish the weather had been kinder that day. Please try and make the gardens next year, put it on your calendar now! Then tell me what you think, I'd love to know. The Toadsmoor Valley is very special, we just loved all of our walks. I think the walks and the gardens were the high points of our holiday. I am so glad we stayed in little villages and not the better known ones, they have left us with some very special memories and new friends.

    TDudette, thank you for reading and your kind words. I have your report from Perugia by bus & train printed off in my file - I'm hoping that's the next trip.

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    Hi there irishface, we had a very dry summer in Perth so therefore being in beautiful gardens was such a nice change for us. I missed my little moggy so it was nice to visit with other cats and get my fix.

    SandyBrit, yes we were very lucky with all our accommodations, wouldn't change a thing and would gladly book them all again.
    Thank you for reading and your kind comment.

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    BISLEY MONDAY - MORE EXPLORING 21/06/2011

    Another good night’s sleep, breakfast done, the days plan sorted and we hit the road. Weather not too bad at present, at least its fine. We stopped at the garage to fill up and bumped into Liz who had taken the dogs for a run and was heading home. She suggested a scenic route to take that she likes to send everyone on and handed over her street atlas, showed me the way so Nev was silenced in favour of a good old paper map. We stopped at Barrow Wake which is a look out point right up on the escarpment with a view over to Gloucester and beyond. The clouds were finally lifting to reveal a some blue sky, fingers crossed for today that it continues though the weather report was doubtful it would last.

    We drove on up to Winchcombe via a few wrong turns until we found the right road out of Andoversford. Liz was right it did get narrower and narrower until we were down to one very narrow lane with no layby's, luckily for us no one came the other way. We did enjoy the drive and the view down into the valleys below. Pretty amazing drive really, bit scary t times but well worth it. We went through what we like to call the green tunnels - where the trees overhead meet in the middle. We have come across many of these and just love going through them, especially one not too far from home as it’s a dark green tunnel.

    We found a park in Vineyard Street, lined with very pretty terraced houses which we later saw on a postcard, it also happened to be the road to Sudeley Castle and Gardens, bonus. Winchcombe is a very old town with plenty of interesting shop facades lining the main street, stone buildings mixed with Tudor. Plenty of tea shops, cafe and pubs. We enjoyed walking around St Peters church pointing out all the gargoyles staring back at us. The only place we could find with Wifi was a pub and pre midday a tad too early to go in for a beer! I am still worried about Julia and desperate to read the emails to see if there is any news from her.

    We then walked onto Sudeley and down the driveway to the entrance. We thought we might have been gardened & castled out but were pleasantly surprised by this place. After sharing a sandwich, a piece of fruit cake and enjoying a hot coffee we entered the Castle exhibition. It wasn't overloaded in history like some places we have been, the display was centred on clothing and textiles that one of the family, Emma Dent had collected for many years. I very much enjoyed seeing the hand sewn articles and some clothing that Anne Boleyn and Katharine Parr had worn - it was a pretty special collection for a sewer like me to see. How did they manage this intricate sewing by the light of a lantern?

    The garden was very enjoyable with its ruins and nice collection of plants. A wedding had been held there yesterday - what a perfect setting. There were a few object d'art scattered around which didn't quite seem to fit in our eyes - but what do we know! The Queens Rose garden was lovely and we could just imagine the ladies from yesteryear partaking in a quiet moment, wandering around in their finery.

    Onto Broadway for a look and walk, very touristy - yes we are tourists too but coming across an Australian Aboriginal shop in the mall was just plain weird! Very pretty buildings though, I can imagine people wanting to live here. We went to the local library to use the Wifi, we are now members of the library which is the only way we could get onto the network but we just couldn't get it to work - bit of a waste of time and our parking was running out so we put the computer away in the back pack and high tailed it back to the car.

    Our next stop was Chipping Campden, well not a stop, but a drive through as there were masses of people, school had come out, cars everywhere and not a parking spot to be seen. We did manage to see some thatched cottages, even if it was photos from the kerbside as DH crawled past. The main street was even nicer than Broadway - so old but we only saw it from the car.

    We did the same thing in Bourton-on-the-water, second time around it was still hard to find parking and it was swarming with people so we headed for home. Glad we had seen these places but our tiny little quiet village of Bisley is a delight! Quick stop at the store for more milk and yoghurt, no bread left but we'll manage. Now the heavens have opened and the threatened rain has started. Nice to be inside, cosy with the central heating on. A simple dinner tonight of scrambled eggs and toast - perfect!

    BISLEY TUESDAY - A BOOZY END TO BISLEY 22/06/2011

    Woke up to another grey day but so far no rain, fingers crossed. Off to Stroud this morning to try and find Wifi, the Tourist Info said Costas Coffee have it so we headed there, ordered coffee only to be told "no, we don't have it". Anyway we enjoyed a good coffee. DH found a good book to read on the plane at the second hand shop - he was happy for a pound fifty.

    We picked up a couple of walking pamphlets for the local area then spent about an hour and a half trying to find the starting points. Even with Liz's road atlas we were just driving around in circles, there are just so many little lanes and streets, many with no names and the atlas only has the name of big streets. We got a good look at the countryside though. But just too many tiny narrow streets for DH to drive in and when someone comes the other way its stressful trying to find a layby or to back up, poor hubby! He did well though and we saw some great little villages that don't crack a mention on the tourist routes.

    In the end we set Nev for home to save DH's blood pressure from rising further, he took us back on all the tiny lanes we had just been on!!! We had some soup and rolls for lunch and when DH's colour had returned to normal set off to nearby Painswick for a look around. DH had Nifty Nev set on "easiest route" and boy have we been on some back roads but this drive was um interesting to say the least. Down more tiny narrow dark lanes, some so steep we had to go up in 1st gear through dark green tunnels with blind curves, it was rather nerve wracking drive and I was only the passenger! We had an enjoyable walk following a map from the Tourist Info, the church has 99 very old Yew Trees all numbered. Again some really interesting buildings.

    On the way home we had to do a detour and met with a school bus on a narrow road, there were no laybys and the car behind us wasn't moving for some reason. DH backed up as far as he could off onto the shoulder, the bus driver was only inches from our car and just couldn't fit so he backed off, the car behind us decided he had to back up all the way to the last intersection then we had to as well. There were cars going in all directions, it was a silly road to use as a diversion road. Anyway we made it home yet again, this was the worst day of driving we had in nearly 3 1/2 weeks.

    The sun had finally decided to make an appearance so we had a chance to sit in the garden with a cuppa. Liz came up for a chat while she was doing some pruning and we asked her if they would join us at the pub for dinner. She said Michael was meeting some old friends there later so why don't we meet in their conservatory for a pre-dinner drink. It was a good excuse to get spruced up for a change. Michael has happy to ply us with his French wine that he pops over to France to get a couple of times a year. Liz produced some smoked salmon on crackers - yum what a treat. We had a good laugh and talk, they asked us to come back to stay with them but not to book the cottage as we could stay in the house with them. How nice - what great people they both are.

    Liz gave me a tour of their house, so very different to our modern home. In the attic you can see where the builder carved 1760 into one of the main beams; others had marks on them that the builders had put to fit the beams together. One stroke on the beam and one on the adjoining one. Two marks on the next and three on the last one. Some of the roof beams where all wonky, not many where straight but then they were tree trunks or big branches still with all the knots and sawn bits. Many of the top rooms had low door frames - not fun for a tall person! The house even has the remains of the narrow wooden circular stairs that at one time went down to the kitchen from the maids bedroom above. The house has had many alterations over the years to make it liveable. I was so glad to be given the chance to walk around and see it for myself. In one room it still has the original plaster work that has never been painted. Liz also unearthed a huge old stone fireplace that had been plastered over at some stage - what a shame to hide it, though it now has pride of place in the family room.

    Liz was staying home to feed the four dogs, yes four! So we set off with Michael, swinging his cane and singing Tally HO! Up the stairs, across the church yard, through the school, stopped for a quick hello to Philip from down the road then into the pub. We had nothing left to eat so it was the obvious choice. We were introduced to a rowdy table of locals, said a hello to some people we met the first night - we felt like we fitted right in and they made us very welcome. One of the old boys asked us if we knew someone called Buffy - it was his niece that moved to Perth 10 years ago!!!! Photos were passed around of the 1st grandchild, we looked at some others of a friend who had been made Archbishop on Sunday in Wales - all very local village day to day life. Plenty of jokes about coming from the colonies and being send to Tasmania. Another bottle of wine went round then slowly they all started drifting off and we ordered our meal. Everyone wished us well and told us to come back again. One of the ladies decided to walk Michael home – we were all getting a bit merry by then. All in all it was a fun and enjoyable end to our stay in Bisley and the UK, tomorrow our final night in Bath before heading to Heathrow. Sadly all good things must come to an end.

    http://www.fivevalleyscottages.co.uk/cottages/nwc0010.htm#pics
    Everything was just wonderful, kitchen was smaller than it looks in the photos but was fine, washing machine as well. Very clean, good linens and nice big towels and you get your own patch of garden with the most delightful view. Just loved staying in our own little stone cottage.

    BISLEY TO BATH WEDNESDAY - A SOGGY START BUT BLUE SKIES RETURN 23/06/2011

    Up early, yoghurt and an apple for breakfast - that's all we had left. Did our housework and with hugs and kisses from Liz & Michael (looking remarkably bright eyed) off we headed to Bath. Nifty Nev was on his final journey but unfortunately we ended up at road works with the road insight that we wanted to be on but couldn't get through. We were on a time limit to get the car back before 10am and we still had to fuel up before handing it over. We reset Nev and did a bit of a cook's tour to get onto the road we wanted, it was very frustrating as there was no diversion they just blocked the road. And it had been drizzling the whole time. We got stuck behind a big truck, then had to do another diversion - what fun!

    We finally made it into Bath and then had to find the petrol station, the first one Nev took us to had closed down, with the clock ticking down I quickly tried again and we went right by the Hertz place so we knew where to come back to. We handed the keys over at 10.20 in the end but luckily they gave us 1/2 hours grace so it didn't cost us an extra day. We had allowed nearly 2 hours for a 1 hour trip. While in the office the heavens opened and it bucketed down, the heaviest rain we have seen since we've been here.

    The Hertz people drove us to our B&B Athole House but we still got pretty wet. When I booked I asked if we could come early and drop our luggage, not only were they happy to have us arrive they sat us down and made coffee while we dried off then showed up to our room. They had it cleaned early ready for us - talk about good service. We were so happy to get into the room and check our emails etc. My friend that we were supposed to meet in Bisley sent an email to say she had to fly to Spain as her daughter had a stroke while there on holiday - I just knew there was going to be bad news. I hope all is ok with her and her daughter, what an awful thing to have happen.

    We walked down into town to find the Tourist Info, lots of lovely old houses made of local cream stone, quite a different colour to the ones we have seen. We picked up some pamphlets and decided on what we wanted to see then sat and had a sandwich. We went into Marks & Spencer for a look - could have spent longer but then I did have DH in tow. I picked up some Royal Jelly hand cream for mum and body cream for me and then found a special coffee mug for patchwork Thursdays.

    With the rain gone and plenty of blue sky we hooked up with the City of Bath free guided walking tour, very well organised and split into 3 groups so it wasn't too big. We walked around for over 2 hours seeing all the highlights, what a bargain! The Royal Crescent is a huge semi circular building - quite something to see. There is a lot of really interesting architecture around here, quite different from anything we had seen before. We went into the Guild Building which has 3 chandeliers insured for about 1 million each - they used to hold balls in there and it has been really well restored. The Pulteney Bridge is amazing, it looks like a bridge from the side but once on it, well it looks like a road lined with shops. Sort of like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

    After the tour we went back to the Avon and went on an hour boat trip up the river. It was a pretty basic tour but we enjoyed sitting up on deck relaxing in the sunshine and fresh air. We spent some time exploring the streets then headed to a restaurant that Wolfgang from the B&B suggested called Circus. DH had sea bass with sorrel and I had slow cooked lamb with lemon, mint and aubergine cous cous - very nice, goes in the top 10 of meals we have had. We topped it off with Elderflower and Gooseberry Brulee, yum! We walked home the long way up the hill!!!!

    http://www.atholehouse.co.uk/
    Could not fault the service, very large rooms, excellent breakfast, clean and well kept – yet another winner.


    BATH TO HEATHROW THURSDAY - THE HOMEWARD JOURNEY 24/06/2011

    We both had a good sleep in a kingsize bed in our kingsize room. Nice view out the window to trees, blue sky (yay) and a big window we could open to get fresh air.

    Very nice breakfast with a large choice, plenty of juice, cereals and amazing homemade blueberry yoghurt, DH had the full cooked one and chose a Croque Madame (ham & cheese toastie topped with a poached egg – oh yeah!). Wolfgang let us print out our boarding passes, we then left our luggage at the B&B and spent about 2 ½ hours at the Roman Baths and Museum. There was a very well done audio guide that you punched the corresponding numbers into depending on what you were looking at. It wasn't too long winded and very interesting to listen to. The entire museum was extremely well done with plenty to look at and rich in history. There is still a lot of area that hasn't been uncovered yet that is a work in progress, it must have been huge in its day - quite something to see. We didn't partake in drinking the spa water as some people did - we had good advice not to! I enjoyed seeing all the jewellery etc that they have unearthed in the drains and sluices. I guess the baths were THE place to be seen all those hundreds of years ago.

    We walked down to the river then tried to find a book that DH was reading at Coopers Cottage but didn't finish. We found a large bookshop in the markets, the lady had lots of Alister Macleans but not the one he wanted. The clouds came over and the wind came up cold then of course it started raining. Luckily we were under some shelter so we waited it out then went to Sally Lunns for something to eat. We both had a half bun with Scottish Salmon, cream cheese and chives, crisps (????) and a bit of greenery, coffee and tea for me. The bun was very light, a perfect snack. These buns have been made at the same premises since 1620 - amazing!

    I then managed to get DH back into M&S. It wasn’t worth changing what little money we had left so we both purchased some clothes. I found two nice summer tops and DH got a sports jacket that is machine washable and can be put in a dryer. He’s hoping we might go on another cruise! We managed to roll the jacket up and stuff it in the bottom of the backpack – many many hours later back in Perth out it came without a crease.

    Wolfgang met us around 3pm at the bus station with our luggage which saved us from going back to the B&B, such great service. We booked National Coach to Heathrow, which in hindsight was a brilliant idea. I didn’t want DH driving to the airport then having to get on a plane – it was the end of his holiday too and I wanted it to be stress free. The Coach was fine and the traffic horrendous as we neared Heathrow.

    Arrived at the airport, found the way to T3, checked in and patiently waited to get on our A380 (upper deck) to Singapore and then Perth. We waited and waited, the boarding time came and went, still no gate showing on the Departures board. We had a 45 minute change over in Singapore so every second counted (Singapore Airlines assured me when I booked we would be ok to make the flight – we have never had a late flight with them – until now). Finally we had a gate but were still unable to board as the plane was being cleaned. The A380 was late getting into Heathrow so of course it snowballed to us. We knew we were not going make our flight connection. Finally we were able to start boarding when the plane should have been taking off.
    Then of course we lost our place in the queue, I think in the end we were 2 hours late leaving. We did enjoy our flight in the A380 though. The upper deck has its own boarding gate too. Since there are fewer people it seems less crowded, the loos stay cleaner, meals were served quicker. Oh and we travel economy – one day we will try Business when we get enough points, I hope. We had plenty of water, juice and snacks served. The meals are always nice, nothing to complain about.

    In the end we missed our connection by only10 mins but the airline staff met us at the gate and issued us with new boarding passes for the next plane to Perth in 5 hours and 45 minutes time. We also received a voucher each for dinner to the value of $20. We spoke to one of the supervisors and in a nice way asked if we could go into one of the lounges for a shower. He told us we could pay for one at the Transit hotel then took pity on us and had a voucher written out for us to get it for free – sometimes it pays to be nice. A few other people were really making a fuss – bet they didn’t get something nice done for them.

    The shower really refreshed us, if we ever have time to spare in Changi Airport again we’ll certainly make use of the shower rooms. It’s such a good airport to spend time in and always clean. We found a quiet lounge area and sat and watched Wimbledon then had our meal, went for a long walk, a coffee, more tennis then it was time to board. We got home at 6am instead of midnight, very tired but glad to see our son and little kitty cat. But as luck would have it, Perth had a pretty bad storm with a colossal amount of rain that night; we would have flown right into it. But of course how the washing needs to be done!

    We have had an amazing holiday, seen and done so much, met some fantastic people. All of the accommodation has been excellent, no complaints at all. DH has done a great job of driving, it was a real bonus to have the car and go where we pleased. We couldn't have done it without Nifty Nev, some of those "roads" don't even show up on a map. And we wouldn't change a thing!!

    Thank you for reading and I hope this may help someone in the future.

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    Well, you have truly seen and explored the off-the-beaten-track Cotswolds, the Cotswolds I grew up in (and learnt to drive in - living down one of those lanes so narrow you have to watch the wing mirrors on the stone walls! But isn't it glorious countryside? And aren't we lucky that all those visitors go elsewhere!

    I spent a lovely evening in Painswick only a couple of weeks ago with Fodorite kodi - she was staying in a B&B there and we walked all around the town and churchyard before repairing to a pub in Sheepscombe for dinner. In fact, she ended up staying with me one night because everywhere she tried was booked up! I drove her all around Bisley and showed her your cottage, as well as The Bear and the Lock-Up - did you get to see that?

    I'm glad you had a good time here, in the Cotswolds as well as the other parts of England and Wales you visited. Sorry about the Wifi in and around Stroud and the difficulty you had in finding it. You can get it at the Stroud Library, and there are a couple of pubs who offer it. Of course, I would have offered you the use of my home computer had I been able to!

    (Just like to add here that although I was told my DD had suffered a suspected stroke, fortunately it turned out not to be - it was diagnosed as a severe hemiplegic migraine (or possibly a cluster of 3). She is having further neurological tests now she's back home, but hopefully it was a one-off. It was quite scary though, and has reinforced to all of us the necessity to have good travel insurance - we've already received payment for all MY expenses incurred in flying over there, including airport parking! I didn't expect that!)

    I'm happy to read you had a reasonable journey home despite missing connections. I was sad not to be able to meet up with you, and do hope to meet you one day - but even if it is not in England, I am always open to any excuse to fly somewhere in Europe! In fact, I am meeting two other Fodors Friends this year - schnauzer (from Sydney) next week in Paris, and Barb (from near Seattle) in Barcelona in October.

    Keep in touch, and see you soon! All the best until then...

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    Maudie

    Good to see you made it round Derwentwater and didn;t give up by using the launch. I like that walk.

    Sorry to read above your experiences in Buttermere. It is the first port of call for the nasty fronts that bash Engalnd. The area around those fells has the most rain the England.

    Please could you post in bold capitals the phrase "whizzing down the M6" many posters believe that the traffic jams of the SE of England apply to the whole of the UK. I have been bashing on for ages trying to sell the empty nature of northern motorways/A roads (generally).

    Good to read your very detailed report and to see that you enjoyed your trip so much.

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    hi Maudie,

    glad you made it home ok despite hold-ups. it sounds like you had a terrific trip, not least due to great planning.

    now you've got the hang of driving along little lanes, you'll have to come and visit us in cornwall - you've not seen nothing yet!

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    Hi Julia, thanks for offering to get the book but we can easily get it here. We might have been into that shop in Stroud! We knew there wasn't Wifi at the cottage but though it would be easy enough to get. We really only wanted it to check in with you. I want to know all about Barcelona when you get back too so I can pick your brain. Best wishes to you.

    humptynumpty, we had a lovely day around Derwentwater and yes, its a brilliant walk. We found the A roads/motorways were a breeze, they don't know what they are missing but let's keep it quiet - just between us! Thank you for your kind words.

    Hello again annhig, yes plenty of planning but some days we threw it all out the window and just went with what felt right. I'll have to wait until DH has a nice glass of red in his hand and suggest Cornwall to him!

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    Maudie, thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with us! I enjoyed every word and am sorry that it is over. I know the feeling of coming home to greetings from a kitty. Isn't it great?

    Are you going to be able to share any of your pictures with us?

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    Maudie, thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with us! I enjoyed every word and am sorry that it is over. I know the feeling of coming home to greetings from a kitty. Isn't it great?

    Are you going to be able to share any of your pictures with us?

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    Maudie

    I have had chance to read your report in detail. I can only thank you for giving "us" such a great advert. Many of the areas you visited get rough ride from foreign visitors. Many do not venture north of Stratford. I spend most of my life travelling around the countryside which you visited and your report re-iterates to me, why after 20 years of foreign travel (5 trips a year) we are slowing down and enjoying what is on our doorstep.

    Last winter we had Jervaulx to ourselves in 3 inches of snow. we had to leave after 2 hours due to the risk of being snowed in. After that day we began to wonder why we ever leave Scotland/England.

    It has rained pretty much since that day and we realise why do we travel.

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    " I have been bashing on for ages trying to sell the empty nature of northern motorways"

    Typical Scottish insularity.

    No-one who's tried getting from Birmingham to Liverpool or Manchester, or round Manchester on the M62 (even at 0530 on an ordinary weekday with excellent weather) could possibly use the words "empty" and "motorway" in the same sentence. May well be that in Britain's Arctic regions it's possible to drive 100 miles in the same day. But certainly not in those parts of the north where anyone actually lives.

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    Am loving this! Am "in" Paris now with you.

    So sorry you had Mrs. America to contend with. DH and I (Americans) took a day trip from our hotel in Nice, France with several other folks from all over the world. One couple, from Baltimore, were ALWAYS late. You could just see that the Mr. wasn't going to take orders from a tour guide.

    The tour guide started to refer to them as "the Americans". He thought we were Canadians. It's such a shame that such people make for the Ugly American stereotypes!

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    Hello again irishface, I am sad its over too as I enjoyed having another holiday just re-living all the memories again. Yes, kitty cat was well looked after but very glad to come home. I hadn't thought about posting photo's, I'm still sorting through 1172 of them. I will see how I go, you might get a surprise!

    humpty, how wonderful to see Jervaulx in snow, that would be so special. We could very very easily spend weeks in your beautiful corner of the world. We were very surprised at the beauty and "wildness" of it much more than we expected. We had a few things we really wanted to see but most of the time we just went with the flow and took each day as it came - also weather dependent.

    Its a fine balance between trying to see everything you want to see in the world but then taking the time to actually see and experience things. Having cottages for a week here and there gave us the chance to do that. We met a couple in Bath who were picking up a car to drive to Stratford for one night, we told them what they were missing. You sure do have a beautiful door step to enjoy!

    Tdudette, I hope you make it all the way through. Everytime I think of Paris I think of those Almond Pastries - wish I had one NOW! It was annoying that our American friends were late but their rudeness was what got up our noses - so uncalled for. They just really had no idea of their behaviour, I guess its the way they go through life. But that said, every nationality has rude people.

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    What a lovely report, I enjoyed every bit of it. We did partake of the spa water in Bath and trust me, you made the right decision!! You've given me some good ideas for a trip sometime in the future. So far we've spent five days in London and then a couple in Bath but that's all, so we have lots more to explore.

    I was in New York, Boston, Niagara Falls and Hawaii at the same time you were away, and have been procrastinating about writing a report for the last few weekends. I think you've shamed me into it so I'll make a start this weekend.

    Thanks again, Cathie

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    Really enjoyed reading about all your adventures. Thanks for taking the time to write your trip report. Yes it does take time but when you have finished it is a lovely momento of your travels to be enjoyed over and over again.

    Thanks again

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    Well done, I'm still working through it but now I'm feeling guilty that I'm a bit behind my own T/R. So I've told myself I can't finish reading yours till I finish mine..... ;-)

    But I will be back.

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    Hi Maudie -

    I thoroughly enjoyed your trip report. We barely missed that storm in Perth too - we flew home NZ on the 25th.

    Don't you just love Changi? My favorite airport of all time. If you have to be stuck, Changi is the place to do it.

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    Hi Everyone, I've just had a great girlie weekend away with my patchwork quilting group, what a nice surprise to find no many lovely comments here. I really appreciate the positive posts, its great to get feedback and makes me happy to see that other people are enjoying it.

    Cathie, I'm pleased it has "inspired" you. I'm going to print mine out and put it in the front of my photo album - yes I still do albums! I want something to look at when I'm in the old folks home.

    Hi aussiedreamer, now I can start reading yours.

    Tdudette, aussie_10, thanks for coming along on our journey.

    Hello there Mel, thanks for reading. Gives me a warm fuzzy knowing that my T/R has been read, makes the effort worthwhile. Yes, it wouldn't have been fun flying into that storm so in hindsight the delay wasn't all that bad. I will second you on voting for Changi, I think I could live in that place (almost). I just love the fact that no matter which toilet you go into they are always spotless, even if it is a loo way down the end of the hallway, its clean. Can't ask for more than that.

    Thanks again everyone - I hope we have given you some great ideas for your next adventure. Ours is in the pipeline. . . . .

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    Hi Maudie........how have I not read this before??
    Really enjoying it, we 'may' be off to the UK again in October!!
    Very last minute and it still may not come off but I will be ready :-)

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    Maybe not annhig...........where are you heading?
    May have a last minute trip to UK for dd's fiancé who has been selected to play in the World Cup, rugby league.
    (Cardiff, Workington, Halifax and points in between.)

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    aussie - we are heading for Cairns via HK, then Brisbane for the first test, NZ for 17 nights, and back to Sydney for 5 nights before we arrive home.

    When we had the idea of going to a Test match in Oz we were initally thinking just about a short, say 3 week, trip. but of course like topsy it grew, so now it's about 5 weeks, give or take, so that we get home just in time for Christmas. It's lucky that we arrive home when we do [Dec 19th]; we've been trying to work out how to get home from LHR and eventually decided on hiring a car each way. On Dec 19th it's costing us £100 for a day's car hire [I know, it's ridiculous but still cheaper than the train] but on 20 Dec it would have been £300!

    Good luck to your DD's fiance - I hadn't realised at the time we planned this trip we'd be missing some of the RL World Cup, but i think we may be getting the better of the deal.

    Brisbane in November v Workington in November? I wonder.......

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    Annhig that is so exciting......you do know I live in Brisbane, a two minute drive to the Gabba?!
    Either way with the RLWC we should be home for the cricket, dh asks how you managed to get tickets???

    I 'insist' ;-) we catch up for a drink sadcassidy1@bigond.com

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    Maudie

    I really loved this trip report.

    It made me decide I really need to do a proper trip of Wales and a bit more of England. I was just planning a 2-day fly in and terrorise Mucky trip to Cardiff in December. Now I think I'll postpone it and stay a bit longer with friends in Scotland, but the weather.....????

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    Annhig that is so exciting......you do know I live in Brisbane, a two minute drive to the Gabba?!
    Either way with the RLWC we should be home for the cricket, dh asks how you managed to get tickets???>>

    aussie, i think I did know that, somewhere at the back of my mind. A meet would be great - I will e-mail you.

    as for how we got the tickets, as soon as i had the idea I searched the internet to find out who was going to be selling them, then haunted the site to find out when they were going on sale, and then hit it as soon as we'd worked out our plans. Even so, we still missed out on Day 1, but got tickets for Days 2&3. Still not sure about Day 4 - two days sat in the midst of a load of aussies [whether happy or sad] might be enough!

    anyway here's the link:

    http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/cricket#qldAshesPage

    tickets still available for Days 2-4.

    see you there?

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    Hi annhig
    Yes we had a fantastic time. Did the Inside Passage cruise then had hire cars in Alaska and the Rockies. First time driving on the "other" side of the road, Alaska was a good introduction! Only way to do it, we felt sorry for the poor folks on bus tours. We stayed in B&B's and little apartments, usually for 4 nights at a time, so relaxing. Now trying to talk DH into driving in France.

    Where are you off too? How many trips can we use that excuse for ...........until the money runs out or we get too old!!

    Hope you have a wonderful trip.
    Maudie

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    Maudie that sounds great - nice idea about the B&Bs and apartments rather than bus tour. Alaska is not on my radar but....are you going to do a TR? I'd love to read it.

    We are off to Australia and NZ, for 5 weeks starting off with 3 nights in HK, then Cairns, Brisbane, NZ [driving from Auckland to Christchurch over a period of 17 nights,] then back to Sydney, and home for Christmas. Phew.

    I think it'll be a while before we do another trip like that, but you never know!

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    Yes, I will get round to do a TR shortly, I hope.

    Oh what a shame you aren't coming over here to the west coast! You're missing the best bit. I would have loved to meet you. Sounds like an awesome holiday and 5 weeks will give you a good taste.

    We won't be going far next year as our son is getting married in February so we need to replenish the bank account. Hoping to do a Baltic cruise in 2015, working on some ideas for what to do before/after. Might even head to your part of the world!

    Hope you have a wonderful trip, safe travels and I'll watch out for your TR.

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    hi Maudie - yes, it is a shame that we won't make it to Perth. Sadly it didn't fit in with the rest of the plan, and we were a bit put off by the tales of the heat on the West Coast in December. plus our gallant boys tend to struggle in Perth, as they are presently demonstrating. [we may have to eat our words after the Brisbane test of course, but we're flying to NZ the day after it finishes so you aussies won't have too much time to rub our noses in it!]

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    oops- posted too fast.

    a wedding sounds fun, but expensive. we're going to need to replenish the coffers too after this splurge, so it'll probably be europe for some time to come. The Baltics sound good; not an area I know at all. so much to see, how little time to see it.

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