Monthly Archives: September 2014

Till Next Time

There will be no more posts here until our next trip – wherever and whenever that might be.

If you would like to keep track of what I do between holidays you can check out my other blog, Organised Castle.  There will be a new post shortly.

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Crunching the Numbers

As promised in my last post, here are the financial details of the trip.

I will begin with the easiest figure – the grand total for 2 adults for 40 nights and 41 days was $18,157.76

This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     3,960.00
Accommodation $     5,461.00
Insurance $         490.00
Transport $     3,939.18
Food/Drink $     2,280.65
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     1,740.15
Souvenirs/Gifts $         137.26
Other spending $         149.52

It is interesting to see where the money went.  Accommodation was the biggest single cost.  We paid an average $140.00 AUD/night and most included breakfast or breakfast provisions.

Transport was trains, ferries, car hire, fuel and parking fees.

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, guided tours, cruises and two shows.

We made a conscious decision to spend very little on souvenirs as we did not need ‘stuff’ to remind ourselves of what a great time we had.  The Duke bought a pair of socks from Portmeirion.  I bought 2 teatowels and a postcard which I intend to get framed.  The remainder was something for each of our daughters and our two grand daughters.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a couple of things from the chemist, 2 birthday presents, some hooks for hanging clothes hangers on the clothesline, a shirt and shoes for me and a haircut for The Duke.  All of these would have been bought regardless of whether we were on holidays or not.

We began planning for this trip about 14 months ago.  The first thing we did was to book our flights which was about this time last year.  The majority of our accommodation was booked through AirBnB which requires up-front payment.  About 3 – 4 months before our departure we booked tickets to 2 shows, most of our train fares, ferries to and from Ireland and the hire cars.  All of this except the hire car in Ireland was paid for at the time of booking. This meant that we had pre-paid at total of $10,905.24 before we set out.

Our total budget was $20,000.00 for everything and although we kept very accurate records of what we spent we did not keep an exact running total.  It was not until today when I sat down and gathered up all of the information, converted our spending into AUD and completed the final spreadsheet that we knew exactly how much we spent.

It is gratifying to know that we came in almost $2,000.00 under our allowed budget.  This also gives me confidence in my calculations for planning future trips.

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Farewell to Old England Forever

On our last day in England we took a final look around London before catching our flight home that evening.  However, unlike some of our ancestors, I do not think it will be forever.  In fact I am sure we will be back again as there are many areas that we have not seen and others that we would love to explore more.

During our trip to Stratford-upon-Avon we had broadened our knowledge of Shakespeare and his life and times.  Now it was time to round out our experience with a visit to The Globe Theatre.  This is actually the 3rd Globe Theatre and has been built as far as possible to replicate the earlier versions.  We couldn’t get on the stage but here we are in front of it.

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One of the obvious concessions is the addition of a sprinkler system atop the thatched roof.  Hopefully, this will avoid it succumbing to the same fate as the original which burnt down due to the misfiring of a cannon during a performance of Henry VIII.

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The entertaining and informative tour helped us to imagine the reality of the theatre experience in Shakespeare’s time.

Our next stop was the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garrett located in the roof space St Thomas’ Church.  This seems a bizarre location, however, the wards of the old St Thomas’ Hospital were built adjacent to the church which provides the explanation.  This small and quirky museum is not for everyone but I found it particularly interesting due to my career in operating theatre nursing.

Here are a couple of views.

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We then moved on to something a bit more mainstream – the Tower of London.  Although we did not tour  the tower we were interested to see the current installation of ceramic poppies in the area surrounding the tower.  This being done to commemorate the British servicemen killed during World War I as 2014 is the centenary of the outbreak of that conflict.  This is a work in progress and the final one of the 888,246 poppies will be ‘planted’ on Armistice Day (November 11th) 2014.  Each poppy represents a British or Commonwealth soldier killed during World War I.  It is a sobering thought to consider when viewing this work.

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It is fitting that the final things we saw before leaving London were these two statues at St Pancras Station.  They are located just neat the platform for the Eurostar on the upper level.  This 9 metre statue titled ‘The Meeting Place’ stands on a plinth surrounded by images of travel and trains.

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It is certainly impressive but I actually prefer the one below.  This is of the former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman and commemorates his successful campaign to save the station from demolition during the 1960’s.  The words from his poem, ‘Cornish Cliffs’ are inscribed around the base.

And in the shadowless unclouded glare
Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where
A misty sea-line meets the wash of air.

 

 

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Time to say goodbye and catch the train to Heathrow Airport for the long flight home.  We had booked into the traveller lounge (at a cost) so were able to relax for a couple of hours before boarding our flight.  There was food, drink and internet access included in the entrance fee.  However, the most important thing was the shower facilities.  After a day of sightseeing in what turned out to be the warmest day of the entire trip we were very grateful for a refreshing shower before setting out on a flight of almost 24 hours.

I hope you have enjoyed following our adventures through the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and in the words of the friendly flight attendants, “We look forward to seeing you when next we travel”.

There will be one more short post regarding the budget and costings for the trip.  I need to finalise the figures before I write that one.

 

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Opulent and Over-the-Top

We started our trip in London and had allowed for 2 days at the end of the adventure to see a few more things in the capital.  One of the things that I wanted to see was the Royal Albert Hall and take a tour of this magnificent venue.

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Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance so I had to be content with seeing it from the outside.  I am sure it is stunning inside but I will have to save that experience for another time.

Directly opposite the hall, in Kensington Gardens, is The Albert Memorial.  It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert and is an over-the-top Victorian extravaganza.

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From here we made our way to nearby Knightsbridge and that most famous department store, Harrods.  I had heard of the Egyptian escalator and here it is.

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We wandered through the food hall and just shook our heads in amazement.  Then there were the Christmas goodies.

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This was too much for me and I had to get out and back into the ‘real’ world for a while.

In the midst of all the high-end retailers we stumbled upon a Peruvian food street stall in Jermyn Street.  We bought a very modestly priced lunch of spiced chicken, rice, quinoa and salad.  Once we were re-fuelled our next stop was Fortnum & Mason’s where we were greeted by the doorman.

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The staircase was more like the entrance to a grand home than a department store.  It was replete with red carpet, red velvet-covered handrails and chandeliers on every level.

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The Christmas decorations were amazing – not a single paper chain in sight!

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This was one of the window displays.

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Our final stop was Liberty of London.  I do not have any photos as I was in a state of sensory overload by this time.  You will just have to believe me when I say that chandeliers, decorations, the stock and prices were all just over-the-top.  These are just 3 examples, albeit fairly extreme ones, of the consumerist mindset.  I also saw shop after shop selling clothes, homewares and jewellery in unbelievable quantities at ridiculous prices.

Everything we saw today had to be seen to be believed but there is clearly no understanding of the concept of ‘enough’.  It is really difficult to reconcile the extravagance that I witnessed with the reality of so many in this country who are struggling to keep a roof over their head and feed the family 3 meals a day.

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The Other Blue – Cambridge

Our time in Cornwall signalled the end of the driving part of our trip.  We  returned our rental car to the depot in Plymouth and caught the train at midday from there to Cambridge.  We had to change trains in London and arrived at our accommodation late in the afternoon.  It was a relaxing day as we could sit back and let someone else do the driving.

Cambridge is flat and easy to get around.  Our accommodation overlooked the river and was about 15 minutes walk to the centre of town.  The walkway along the river makes for a scenic stroll.

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It was a short but most enjoyable visit.  We caught the Hop-on/Hop-off sightseeing bus which gave us a great overview of the city.  However, the highlight was definitely the punt cruise on the River Cam.

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This is the way to see many of the historic colleges which line the river,

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including the famous King’s College chapel.

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There are many footbridges which are part of the colleges lining the river.  Several colleges have buildings on both sides of the river.

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After having been to both Oxford and Cambridge, there seem to be some real differences and Cambridge is definitely my preference.  Oxford seems like a city with a university but Cambridge is clearly about the university and colleges and the city plays second fiddle.

 

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Detour to Devon

Although we were staying in Cornwall, we drove north into Devon to see two areas that had been particularly recommended.

The first was Clovelly, a small village on the Devon coast.  I really thought that it would not be that much different from others we had seen, such as Boscastle and Port Isaac.  How wrong I was!

I was surprised to find that it is a tourist attraction with an admission applicable and the whole village is privately owned and has been since the 13th century.  The main street is cobbled and so steep that there is no vehicular traffic.  Apparently, any goods are moved on sledges pulled by donkeys.

Here are a couple of views of the main street – I would call it a pathway – which descends 120 metres to the harbour.

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31 b blogYou can see how steep it is when you look back up from the harbour.

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The village was also the home of Charles Kingsley for a time during his childhood and he returned several times as an adult.  It provided the inspiration for his novel, “The Water Babies”.

For a complete change of scenery we headed south-east towards Dartmoor National Park.  It is quite different to National Parks that we are familiar with in Australia as there are villages and farms within the park boundaries and grazing even on the most remote parts of the moor.  There are also military training areas within the park.  Nevertheless, the top of the moors offered some amazing views and I would love to be able to spend more time in the area.

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Most of the grazing animals were sheep but we did see these very docile Highland cattle.

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What a contrast between the quaint fishing village of Clovelly and the wild, windswept moorland of Dartmoor – and we saw both in one day.

 

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Edge of Reality

When we booked our accommodation on the coast in north Cornwall I was unsure as to whether or not it would be feasible to drive down to Land’s End.  Although it is the other end of Cornwall it seemed like a reasonable plan so off we went.

We made to the most south-westerly tip of mainland Britain and have the photos to prove it!

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It was a pleasant day – about 20C but rather windy so it was definitely a ‘bad hair’ day for me.

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The rocky headlands manage to support a variety of flowering plants despite being constantly buffeted by wind and salt.

30 c blogThe coastline is a succession of wild, rocky headlands and coves being relentlessly pounded by the ocean.

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It really is the edge……….next stop, America.

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Based in Boscastle

After 5 nights at Chitterne it was time to pack up and head further south.  Once again, we are spending a few days in one place.  This time we are based in Boscastle on the north-west coast of Cornwall.  This picturesque village straggles down the steep cliffs to a tiny harbour.

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We walked down to the harbour and then headed up the walkway towards the outer headland visible in the centre of the above photograph.

Here is the view from about halfway along the path.

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Once we reached the top there were amazing views in both directions.

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After lunch we drove a bit further down the coast to Port Isaac.  It is really just another charming Cornish fishing village but has achieved a degree of notoriety as the fictional village of Port Wenn, location for the television series, Doc Martin.

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No visit would be complete without a view of the Doc’s house.

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Some of the coastline could really convince you that the smugglers are just around the next headland.

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Oxford Blue

The final place we wanted to visit while we were based in Wiltshire was Oxford.  Once again, we were warned about the traffic but catching a train from Warminster was not an option as it would have been rather expensive, taken too long and involved a couple of changes.

After a bit of research we decided to drive to the Park’n’Ride on the outskirts of town and catch the bus.  This worked well and we were convinced of the wisdom of our decision as we sat on the top deck of the bus and watched the driver negotiate narrow streets and heavy traffic.

Once we alighted from the bus we headed directly to a shop which The Duke had located online.  We bought an Oxford University ‘hoodie’ for a friend at her request and I succumbed and bought a t-shirt each for Miss O and Izz.

There were no specific attractions to which we were headed so it was simply a matter of wandering and enjoying the sights.

28 a blogThere were many and varied styles of architecture throughout the university precinct.

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The Hertford Bridge across New College Lane is nicknamed ‘Bridge of Sighs’ due to its supposed similarity to the bridge of the same name in Venice.  Naturally, I had to take a photo of The Duke in front of it as there is a song of the same name by the Robin Trower band.  (If you were at the recent birthday celebrations this may be familiar!)

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No university would be complete without an (in)famous watering-hole.

When we were ready to sit and eat our packed lunch we found a green space with seats which happened to be in front of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  We had some entertainment as well by watching the 6 – 7 year olds on a school excursion who were also having their lunch.  Once the eating was finished, they proceeded to run back and forth across the lawn following the dinosaur ‘footprints’ which had been set into the grass.  I think the teachers were quite happy for them to run off some of their excess energy!

Oxford is not all about the university.  Here is a view of part of a street in the town.  The ‘Opium Den’ on the extreme right is a Chinese restaurant.

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We found and strolled through the Covered Market, home to over 50 independent retailers and in existence the 1770’s.

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The Duke also enjoyed seeing and recognising the names of streets which he has encountered in various novels set in Oxford.

We had a fun day soaking up the atmosphere of Oxford and all it has to offer.

 

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Beautiful Bath

We decided to catch the train to Bath for two reasons.  Everyone had told us how terrible the traffic could be getting into the town and The Duke had done quite a bit of driving the previous day when we made the trek to Stratford-upon-Avon.  It was an easy matter to park the car at the railway station at Warminster and take a 30 minute ride on the train.  We stepped out of the station and were a mere couple of blocks walk from the tourist information centre and the entrance to the Roman Baths.

The baths are definitely the star attraction here so this was where we headed.  You can purchase a combined ticket to the baths and the Fashion Museum, however, we decided against that as The Duke was not particularly keen and we had already seen quite an extensive display of historical fashion in the museum in Dublin.

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We were blessed with beautiful weather as you can see from the reflection in the Great Bath.  We followed the audio guide tour and we able to see and understand many of the ruins and artifacts which have been recovered and are sensitively displayed.

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This is a reconstruction of part of the pediment of the temple which was adjacent to the baths.

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A gilt-plated head of the Goddess Minerva to whom the temple was dedicated has also been recovered and is displayed.

After a couple of hours immersed in Roman history we walked a bit further until we reached ‘The Circus’ and ‘Royal Crescent’ which are two well-preserved streets of Georgian architecture.

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This is just one small section of the four quadrants of townhouses which surround the central park with its mature plane trees providing a shady haven.

A short distance away is Royal Crescent which includes No. 1 which  is restored to its 17th century splendour and open to the public.  There were no photographs allowed inside but this was the view from the 3rd storey window.  You can see the curve of the building as well as the private lawn which was designed for the exclusive use of the residents of the crescent and appears to remain the same way today.

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For a complete change of pace we took a cruise on the river from Pulteney Bridge to Bathampton.

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This is the pretty bridge and weir at Bathampton where we turned and headed back downstream.

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When I saw these small dinghies pulled up beside a tiny wooden jetty I fully expected to see Ratty and Toad pop out from under the bushes!

 

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