Mauritius – Making Plans

We plan to visit Mauritius next year and have spent quite a bit of time researching the options of how to get there.  There are direct flights from Perth but we have decided to go via Singapore with an overnight stopover each way.

This is where it is.  Mauritius lies to the east of Africa in the Indian Ocean and is a similar latitude to Broome.

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Although it is just under 11 months until our travel dates we will be booking our flights this week as we have found flights with Singapore Airlines/Air Mauritius for acceptable prices on our preferred dates at reasonable times.

Since the route is not high demand or particularly competitive there is very little likelihood of getting cheaper prices so we have decided that it is best to get them while we can.

 

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Tassie Trip

As I mentioned in my last post, we headed off to Tasmania for 6 nights as part of my 60th birthday celebrations.  The holiday has been all I could have hoped for and more.  Although this is my fifth trip to the island state this has been a sheer delight.

We restricted ourselves to a relatively small area and did not rush around madly sightseeing.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the areas we did visit.

Here are some photos and I would highly recommend Tasmania as a place to visit if you have not yet been here.  But don’t be fooled by its relatively compact size.  There is such a lot to see and you will not enjoy racing around and trying to see everything in a week.

The lighthouse at Low Head.

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Mt Roland

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View from our accommodation above Lilydale

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Lilydale Falls

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Historic building in Evandale

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Bridge at Campbell Town

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Autumn foliage at Richmond

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There really is something for everyone.

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Closer to Home

For the first time in 5 years we do not have an overseas trip planned for 2018.  This was a conscious decision but does not mean that we will not be holidaying.

We began early in the year with a long weekend getaway with friends in February.  We went to Ballandean near Stanthorpe and enjoyed a quiet and relaxing country weekend which included swimming in the river, a bushwalk and dining on local produce.

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The next of our short trips within Australia will be to Tasmania and is coming up soon.  This 6 day trip is my part of my ‘milestone’ birthday celebrations.  We will be spending 5 nights at a luxury Air BnB in the north-east of the island before heading south to spend a night in historic Richmond before flying out of Hobart.  We do not have any specific plans apart from having made a booking for dinner at a restaurant in Launceston on the night of my birthday.

Other plans include a week in Melbourne in August (visiting our daughter and an opportunity to see our football team playing) and a week at Mudjimba Beach for the Christmas/New Year break.

All of these domestic trips require very little planning but have plenty to plan for next year.  In April 2019 we are heading to Mauritius and I am currently researching travel options from Brisbane to Mauritius.  Our 2 choices seem to be via Perth or Singapore so we are thinking that we will probably go to Perth on the way there and home via Singapore with a couple of nights stopover in each direction.  The next question is how long to spend in Mauritius?  I am thinking about 10-12 days will be enough.

The trip to Mauritius will be a significant milestone as it will be the last holiday that we plan with consideration given to work commitments and annual leave as we both plan to retire from full-time work in July 2019.  This will leave us with an unlimited window for future travel.  Even though it is 15 months away, we are considering the possibilities of an extended trip to the UK and Europe in the second half of 2019.  As I know from planning our previous 6 week trips, you really need at least 12 months to research and plan a major trip.  So, I have begun reading and learning about some of the places we dream of visiting. The rough itinerary looks something like this – Scotland, England, Wales, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy in about 4 months.

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What Did it Cost?

As with each of our previous trips, the final job is to tally up the cost.  This time I kept a running total but this did not necessarily influence our spending.

The grand total for 28 days and nights was $13,613.54 which was proportionally slightly more expensive than our previous trip UK trip 3 years ago.  However, I am still very happy with the outcome as the airfares were  a greater percentage of the total since the trip was for 4 weeks rather than 6 weeks and I am sure that prices have increased in the intervening time.

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This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     3,655.32
Accommodation $     5,307.80
Insurance $         226.97
Transport $     1,099.37
Food/Drink $     1,451.42
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     1,461.13
Souvenirs/Gifts $         60.87
Other spending $         350.66

It is interesting to see where the money went.  Once again, accommodation was the biggest single cost.

Transport was trains to Wales, Paris, Brighton and Cambridge as well as our Oyster card credit in London.  This category was proportionally much less than or previous UK trip as there were no hire car costs.

Food and drinks included everything that we ate or drank from restaurant meals, drinks at the pub, groceries to an occasional ice-cream or cup of coffee.

Sightseeing etc was made up of admission costs as well as various movies and shows.

We do not need souvenirs to remind us of our trip so this category was very modest.  I bought a jigsaw puzzle which I will enjoy sharing with other family members, a CD from a concert we attended and small gifts for our granddaughters.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a birthday gift as well as a couple of scarves for myself and a new lens for my camera.

The trip was several months in the planning and we had pre-paid a total of $10,130.74 (about 75% of the total) before we set out.

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Cambridge – Colleges and Cold

The last two nights of our trip were spent in Cambridge.  We had visited Cambridge during our last trip in the northern summer of 2014 and took a punt tour on the River Cam on a glorious sunny day (you can see the photos here) so the focus was slightly different this time.

It was about an hour and a half trip  from London on the train.  We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and had time to arrive at our accommodation, change and freshen up before setting out again.

Our destination was King’s College Chapel as we wanted to attend Choral Evensong.  The service was scheduled to begin at 5.30pm, by which time it is dark at the end of November.  We had a brief wait in  short queue in the quadrangle before we were ushered into the chapel.  This was most welcome as the weather was cold and drizzling with rain as well as being dark.

King’s College Chapel is the venue for the annual BBC program “A Festival of  Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College” which is also broadcast in Australia so I was familiar with the view and layout of the interior of the chapel, however, nothing prepares you for the reality of actually being there.  Naturally, there are no photos permitted, however, here are a few that I took of the exterior during daylight hours.

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We also managed to squeeze in a couple of meals at beautiful historic pubs.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos.  The first one was The Free Press which is tucked away in a quieter corner of Cambridge.  It was the perfect spot for dinner after Evensong at the chapel.  Since it was well after dark I could not take a photo of the exterior of this historic pub so here is one with compliments of the internet.

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Grantchester is a tiny village outside Cambridge which we visited the next day.  We caught a bus to the urban fringe of Cambridge and then walked a couple of kilometres to Grantchester where we had a late lunch at the Red Lion.  Once again, I had to resort to the internet for an image as I had chosen to take a break from photos.  The thatched roof was of particular interest.

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On our final day we had a real taste of winter as the temperature struggled to 3C.  We rugged up and took a stroll around a few streets in the heart of Cambridge.

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There was even an historic windmill in the backyard adjacent to the rear of the property where we were staying.  Apparently it is over 300 years old and had fallen into disrepair but is being restored by the current owners.

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It is also worth noting that the temperatures dropped significantly during our 4 week trip with the second half of the month barely reaching double digits and the last few days were particularly cold.  It was time to go home!  In fact there were very light snowfalls in London within 12 hours of our departure.

The short days and cool weather were part of the reason that we chose November to visit London.  It was a completely new experience for us as each of our previous trips to the northern hemisphere have been during the summer.  As with everything, research and planning are the keys to success.  We were not bothered by the shorter days because most of our plans for for indoor activities such as galleries, museums and shows. The few outdoor activities were easily accommodated in daylight hours on a number of bright, sunny days with which we were blessed.

This is the penultimate blog entry for the trip with a final one tomorrow with the all important financial wrap-up.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and I hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences.

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Meet the Mews

Since we were going to be staying in London for 3 weeks we gave considerable thought to our choice of accommodation.

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After plenty of research we decided on this Air BnB located in a mews between Paddington and Hyde Park.  The central location has been very convenient for our various adventures which have mostly been in and around central London.

The definition of a mews house as described in Wikipedia:

Mews is a primarily British term formerly describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those of London, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings.”

At the end of the mews where we are staying is the only remaining working stables in central London.

The view from outside our front door.

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A close-up of one of the neighbours.

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Looking up the mews in the opposite direction.  There are many and varied plantings but virtually every property has a large potted olive tree which provides a unifying theme.  Judging from size of the trunks, some of these trees are quite old.  Many of them had good crops of olives on them.

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The autumn foliage adds a pretty contrast.

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We noticed this reminder of ‘home’ in a protected spot at the top of the mews.

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The presence of the olives and callistemon thriving in and inner London mews was certainly a view that we did not expect to see when we came here.

We are off to Cambridge today so more about that tomorrow.

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Cruise to Camden

 

As the end of our London visit approached we reviewed our ‘to do’ list.  It was a diverse collection of shows, museums and other experiences which we had discovered through a variety of sources.  One thing which we were yet to do was a trip on the narrowboat from Little Venice near Paddington Station to Camden via the Regent’s Canal.

We had intended to do the trip on our last visit but after catching the train to Camden and seeing the market we could not locate the departure point for the narrowboat so ended up making our return journey on the train.  I wrote about it in this post from 2014.

In order to avoid the problem of locating the departure point at Camden we decided to take the boat from Paddington and do a return trip as we were not particularly interested in spending time at Camden.

We walked alongside the canal from Paddington Station.

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Until we reached Browning’s Pool which is so named for the poet, Robert Browning who lived in the area.

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It was a clear, sunny day but quite cold.

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We had some free time until the next departure so we walked along the towpath and saw the many vessels moored along both sides of the canal.

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Gliding along the serene waters of Regent’s Canal en route to Camden.

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Arriving at Camden.

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Our plan to simply do a return trip was thwarted somewhat as we were advised that there would be a stopover of about 35 minutes.  By this time it was bitterly cold and all I wanted was to be warm.  As with our previous visit to Camden, it seemed to be a seething mass of people shuffling around dozens of food stalls which fill the area immediately surrounding the mooring.  A little further afield, the markets were equally as crowded with people and stall selling things that were of no real interest.

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The return trip completed our cruise to Camden which was picturesque despite the cold.

It was now after 3pm but we still had one more activity for the day.  Thankfully, it was indoors.  We made our way to Craven Street near Trafalgar Square.  36 Craven Street, known as ‘Benjamin Franklin House’ is the address of the only surviving residence of Benjamin Franklin.  We had booked to see the Historical Experience which is presented using a combination of costumed actors and video in various rooms of the house.  This focuses on the period of 16 years which Benjamin Franklin spent in London and was most interesting.

This brought our London sightseeing pretty much to an end apart from a return visit to the Imperial War Museum where we saw all of the exhibits relating to the Great War (1914 – 1918).

 

 

 

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A Suburban Stroll

Although Notting Hill and the famous Portobello Market are located relatively close to where we have stayed in both of our trips to London, we had not visited the area until a few days ago.

Thursday is a half day at the markets so many stalls were not trading and it is much quieter than in the summer months.  I was not particularly disappointed as I was not that keen on the idea of jostling hordes of people nor the actual stalls as shopping was not really high on my agenda.

We both enjoyed wandering the streets, observing the buildings and soaking up the atmosphere.

Here are some of the photos from our day out in Notting Hill.

Multi-coloured buildings.

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Market sellers in a laneway.

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Bright colours abounded.

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An entire bookshop of cookbooks.

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Remembering the film, ‘Notting Hill’.

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The bookshop.

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After all that sightseeing it was time for a late lunch. The exterior of the Churchill Arms is bedecked with greenery and flowers and inside is crammed with Churchill memorabilia.

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The excellent Thai restaurant located within the hotel is in a conservatory-style area which is also overflowing with indoor plants which lends a tropical feel.

Notting Hill is an interesting locality and seems to have something for everyone.

 

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By the Seaside

Ever since I was quite young, I have been fascinated by the description of English seaside resorts which I have gleaned from books.  I imagined that Brighton would encapsulate this fantasy and yesterday I had the opportunity to test my theory.

The day promised to be sunny but quite cool.  In fact, it was cold yesterday morning – minus 1C at 7.30am as we walked to the station to catch the train to Brighton.  The overnight minimum had been minus 3C a few hours earlier and this was evident as we left the glass and concrete of central London.  At 9am the frost on some of the railway embankments and low-lying fields was still so heavy that it looked like a dusting of snow.

Once we arrived at Brighton, it was about 15 minutes walk to the beach.  This was the stunning view from the promenade.  I certainly was not disappointed.  It was a glorious day and the gravelly beach and the pier were exactly as I had expected.

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We walked along the pier and although there were not too many people I could imagine the throngs of day-trippers enjoying the warmth of a summer’s day.

Just a couple of the many fairground attractions.

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Not the White Cliffs of Dover but similar geography – looking east from the end of Brighton Pier.

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Holiday accommodation on the foreshore.

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Some of the architectural detail on the pier.  This is part of a central dividing ‘wall’ which extends along the majority of the length of the pier.  There are various open sections where you can cross over from one side to the other.  We discovered that it is functional as well as decorative because although there was virtually no wind the protected eastern side was significantly more pleasant than the western side.

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These hardy people didn’t seem to need any protection.  We caught sight of them just as they were entering the water.  By this stage it was just after 11am and the temperature had soared to a balmy 6C.

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However, there is much more to Brighton than the beach.  We headed for the area known as ‘The Lanes’ – some of the oldest area of Brighton.  It is a couple of blocks back from the beach and consists of numerous lanes and alleyways.  Some are barely wide enough for 2 people to pass comfortably.  By this time the crowds had increased considerably as more people took advantage of the clear and sunny Saturday to get out and about.

Here are a couple of photos I managed to capture before we retreated to a Spanish restaurant in one of the lanes.

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After lunch we made our way back towards the station.  It is an uphill walk but thankfully, not too steep.

Our final stop was at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum which is located in the arches under the station.  The ‘0’ gauge trains are run on limited days each year due to the number of volunteers required as well as consideration being given to the actual trains.  We were delighted that our visit happened to coincide with one of these days.

While we enjoyed all of the displays, it was the trains actually running that captured our imagination.

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It was not all about the trains.  There were amazing collections of toys dating back about 100 years.  Soft toys, Meccano, model cars, puppets, doll houses and more are lovingly displayed.

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We certainly did not see everything that Brighton has to offer but it was an enjoyable and fun day.

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Lights of London

Once we knew that we would be visiting London in November, one of the things that was definitely on the agenda was viewing some of the displays of Christmas lights.  A bit of reading revealed that most of the retail precincts would have full displays by the middle of November.

As you would have gathered from yesterday’s post, our evenings have been pretty well occupied for the past week so tonight was the night to see the lights.  I did have some reservations about the wisdom of my decision as not only is it Friday, but it is Black Friday as the retailers try to emulate the Black Friday sales that occur in the USA.  Thankfully, it does not seem to have gained an enormous following here and although there were lots of people, it was not totally frenetic.

We decided to catch the tube to Marble Arch and then stroll along Oxford, Bond, Regent and Carnaby Streets and Pall Mall returning to Green Park tube station for the trip home.

Here is a taste of what we saw.

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While I was well aware of the Christmas lights in the retail precincts, I did not know of  ‘Christmas at Kew’.  This is a Christmas lights extravaganza at Kew Gardens which I read about in a magazine on our first day in London.  It is clearly very popular as it runs for about 6 weeks and there are timed entries every 20 minutes from 5pm until about 7.20pm each night.  Since it only began Wednesday night we did not have many dates to choose from and I was fortunate to be able to order tickets for the very first entrance – 5pm on Wednesday evening.  The trail through the gardens is quite extensive and each display seemed more amazing than the previous one culminating in the light and laser show on the Palm House and lake.

These are some of the displays.

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The displays and settings were quite different but both were extraordinary and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to see them.

 

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