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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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Where Next?

At the end of my last post I alluded to the fact that our next major holiday might be within Australia.  I was considering a houseboat trip on the Hawkesbury River but when I began researching the idea it became less appealing.

The lure of overseas travel was just too great so we have opted to go back to the UK in November.  This trip will be somewhat different from our previous trips to the northern hemisphere for several reasons.  We are going in late autumn rather than the height of summer and relying entirely on public transport instead of hiring a car during any part of the trip.  This is because the focus of the trip is quite different – we are not taking a touring holiday and sightseeing along the way but are planning on staying in just a handful of major centres with the majority (3 weeks) of our time in London.

This also means much less time will be spent researching, planning and booking the trip.  In fact, we could pretty well leave tomorrow as we have current passports and have booked our flights, accommodation except for one night in Cardiff and have a list of things we hope to see and do in London.  Hopefully, the queues will not be as long at the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

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Perhaps we will be able to take the tour of the Royal Albert Hall, too.  It was closed for cleaning last time so I only managed a photo of the exterior.

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I have also given brief consideration to what we might need to pack.  As always we have chosen accommodation which includes laundry facilities which allows us to keep the clothes we take to a minimum.  Due to cooler weather, we will need some warmer clothes but I still expect to be able to just have one small suitcase each.  I am looking at buying a lightweight down jacket for each of us.  I think these would be a useful addition and take up minimal space.

 

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The Final Numbers

I apologise for the hiatus, but as promised, here are the final figures for our 6 week trip to USA and Canada.

I will begin with the easiest figure – the grand total for 2 adults for 42 days and nights was $18,764.36 which is remarkably similar to our UK trip 2 years ago.  You can see the details for that trip here.

This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     4,563.99
Accommodation $     6,335.44
Insurance $         559.94
Transport $     2,799.08
Food/Drink $     2,757.53
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     1,258.61
Souvenirs/Gifts $         229.37
Other spending $         260.40

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

Airfares includes 2 internal flights as well as our return flights from Brisbane to Chicago.  I included the cost of our visas and also car parking in Brisbane as it was all part of getting there.

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 bought limited souvenirs with a couple of items for our granddaughters as well as some maple syrup and a boxed set of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ DVDs.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a couple of things from the chemist, a dental visit, a top and trousers for me as well as hats to replace the ones we left on the train early in the trip and phone recharge and some internet access.

As with our UK trip we pre-paid as much as we could with a total of $11,580.21 spent 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.

This will be the last post on the blog until we start planning our next trip which will probably be within Australia.  In the meantime, I can be found on my other blog, Organised Castle.

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Adversity to Adventure

It is a few days since my last post about our day trip to Niagara Falls.  We had one full day after that in Toronto during which we caught up on some domestic chores, explored a little of the city and most importantly, spent our last night at a Cirque du Soleil performance.  It was magnificent and certainly worth seeing.

The title of this post comes a comment from a friend, “Great way to turn adversity into an adventure” and I will explain why.

We were up bright and early the morning after Cirque du Soleil as we were heading for home starting with a flight from Toronto to Chicago followed by another to Los Angeles and finally the long-haul flight across the Pacific Ocean to Brisbane.

However, things did not go according to plan and we arrived in Los Angeles too late to connect with the 11.20pm departure of the Brisbane flight so ended up being accommodated at the Sheraton Hotel near Los Angeles airport.  We were rebooked on the same flight the following evening so would have the whole day in Los Angeles.  We had never spent time here previously and so decided to make the most of the time we had and opted for the Hop On, Hop Off bus which does a route up the coast to Venice and Santa Monica.

After going to the end of the circuit at Santa Monica pier we hopped off and walked the majority of the way back to Fisherman’s Village near Marina del Rey.  It was a warm, sunny day and here is some of what we saw.

The lighthouse at Fisherman’s Village.

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Santa Monica beach.

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Santa Monica pier which also happens to be the end of the legendary Route 66.

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Some interesting merchandise at one of the beachfront stalls in Venice Beach.

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And artwork.

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Venice is so named for the canals which were designed in the early 1900’s but many were filled in and turned into roads in the 1920’s but a few canals remain.

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There was plenty to see and we made the most of our enforced stopover.

We are now safely at home so that is almost the end of posts on this blog for the time being apart from one final summation of the the costs.  I still have some calculations to do for that so it will probably not be until next weekend.

In the meantime, I will be back blogging at Organised Castle in the next day or so – once I have caught up on some sleep.

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Next Stop – Niagara Falls

Today we took a full day tour from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  I am struggling to remember the last time we did a group tour but I am really glad that we chose this option to visit Niagara Falls. Judy was an entertaining and informative guide who made sure that everyone had the best experience possible.  There were a couple of stops along the way, including almost an hour at the picture perfect historic town of Niagara-on-the Lake.

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There were flowers everywhere.

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Then it was on to Niagara Falls.

The buffet lunch at the Sheraton Hotel gave us our first real view.  This photo is taken from the table where we we sitting for lunch.  The falls in the foreground are described as the ‘American’ falls while the ‘Canadian’ falls which are regarded as the more spectacular ones are in the distance and partially obscured from this angle.

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Although the falls are a natural phenomenon there is plenty of man-made tackiness around them.  Some of the streets look like sideshow alley.

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However, the attraction of the falls drew us here and it did not disappoint.  We boarded the boat for a short cruise up to the base of the thundering waterfalls (‘Canadian’).  Even complimentary disposable ponchos did not keep us completely dry.  Being so close was an amazing experience but photographs were difficult to capture.

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Finally, the bus took us to where we could walk along the promenade which overlooks the falls on the Canadian side.  This was the highlight for me and I was able to take many photos from different angles.  Here are a couple of views.

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Amazing scenery and we are so glad to have had the opportunity to witness the power of the water first-hand.

 

 

 

 

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Ottawa in One Day

Like Montreal, we had just one full day in Ottawa.  Our run of luck with almost perfect weather ran out as the rain began on the evening we arrived and continued well into the next day.

After a slow start we braved the showery conditions and walked from our accommodation to Parliament Hill.

On our way we walked through the old market area of Bytown (the original name for Ottawa) and across the Rideau Canal.  The series of locks at the junction of the canal and Ottawa River proved irresistible as we watched a vessel make its way through.  It is all manually operated.  It took almost an hour for the boat to navigate all of the locks.

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Looking the other way along the canal.  In winter, the canal becomes a giant ice-skating rink as the entire waterway freezes.

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The Parliament Building has commanding position atop the hill on the southern bank of the Ottawa River and overlooks the city.

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As you can see from the sky in the photographs, it was not a great day for sightseeing but we persevered and took in as much of the city sights as we could.

The weather fined up late in the afternoon and we were able to go back to the Parliament Buildings to see the “Northern Lights:Sound and Light Show” set against the backdrop of the building.  It was well done with amazing technology and we really enjoyed it.

The next day was fine and sunny for our train trip to Toronto which is the final stop in our trip.  We have a couple of big events planned during our 3 nights there but more on that in the next post.

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Night Moves

After 3 days of traversing the steps and cobblestoned laneways  of Old Quebec, we had a rest day – at least it was a rest until after 3pm.  This was quite a smart idea since today was a bit warmer and walking during the middle of the day would have been a bit much.  Although the temperature only reached 26C the humidity made it feel like 32C.

Our walk this afternoon was in the opposite direction to the city and away from the hordes of tourists and sightseers.  We wandered along  leafy streets where residents were going about their daily business – picking up kids from daycare, putting out the garbage, skateboarding and arriving home from work.  I enjoyed the normality of it all.

This evening we went back to the walled town as I was hoping to get some more photos as dusk fell.  The Upper Town was still very busy with people packed into the many cafes and restaurants which line the narrow streets.  However, the atmosphere had a much softer feel as the old stone buildings were bathed in the glow of external lighting.

Here are a few of the photos I took.

Some restaurants

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The full moon

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Chateau Frontenac

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The Old Post Office

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Archway and garden

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Stained glass window in Jesuit Chapel

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Tower at the Kent Gate on the city wall

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And one last restaurant on Rue Sainte Jean

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We are off to Montreal tomorrow afternoon on the train so it will be a new city to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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