Bridge over the River Cam

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Mar 312009
 

The sun came out and we headed into Cambridge where we discovered that we were an hour behind as daylight saving had started!  Spring had definitely started in Cambridge with the bulbs and fruit trees blooming and the willows allowing their new green leaves to weep into the river.  After a walk through the town and the Sunday craft markets, we headed for King’s College.  The Chapel at the college (15-16th C) leaves all the other cathedrals and chapels seeming insignificant.  It is a long building with a high Gothic ceiling that is a remarkable feat of engineering and art.

Inside King's College Chapel

Inside King's College Chapel

We viewed the Chapel from inside and out, most notably on our punting tour of the River Cam.  (There is a bridge over the river named Cam, in case you are wondering).  Our guide (a college student) punted us up and down the river for 45 minutes with commentary on the university history and an unbelievable but true story about a climbing student, the highest spire of the Chapel and a witch’s hat…

Cam Bridge

Cam Bridge

For lunch, we dined and drank Greene King ale at The Eagle, hoping to acquire whatever it was that Watson and Crick did in this pub at the time of their  DNA discovery.    Sadly, no such luck…

Mar 292009
 

The Bay Horse is a traditional English pub complete with a larger than life publican.  It’s located in the small town of Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby.  We read about this place in the Michelin guide (again), however it changed ownership in December so it’s difficult to say if it would still be listed next year. However, the food was wonderful, and the atmosphere was great.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips

Julian had traditional fish and chips, with the biggest chips I’ve ever seen in my life! I had a fish pie, which was very decadent and delicious. Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete meal without dessert! I had another sticky toffee pud and Julian had a chocolate tart

Before this trip we both read Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island”. One of the things he remarks on is finding the wry British sense of humour in the smallest of places. Our publican (and the new owner) was a classic example of this. He was bantering with some elderly ladies who were having dinner with their children at an adjoining table and we were blatantly eavesdropping!

One of the things we learned was that he is a big foodie himself (having formerly been a chef) and all the produce, with the exception of the fish, is sourced from within 3 miles of the pub (the fish is brought in from Scotland daily from a sustainable fish farm). I thought the foodies among you would appreciate that!

The Bay Horse

The Bay Horse

Mar 132009
 

Brakes are handy devices. I didn’t realise how bad ours actually were until they were replaced this morning. After which, we headed for Avebury to see the henge there. It is a large circle of stones surrounding the original Avebury village. Not quite as impressive as Stonehenge to me, especially considering the highway runs through the circle nowadays.

From here, we headed to the Cotswolds. First stop, Stow-on-the-Wold. A quaint little village with elegant yellow limestone buildings. There are no actual attractions here, just many little shops to wander amidst. It is pleasing to see the new developments in the area are doing their best to maintain the aesthetics by continuing to build in the original style.

From here we headed to Moreton-in-Marsh to camp, then to Bourton -on-the-Water and Chipping Campden tomorrow. Tonight we dined

Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold

at Eagle & Child pub (another Michelin moment), the oldest (947AD) inn in England. They have a fine Cotswold Lager. For dinner, I had the confit duck leg (was a big duck) with garlic potatoes, green beans and apricots. All the size of a pub meal but with that extra gastro-pub flair and flavour.

Mar 122009
 
Newton Mill Campground, Bath

Newton Mill Campground, Bath

So we have had our campervan for 3 days now.  It is  a Toyota Lucida (Tarago) that has been converted.  It is diesel and has 150,000 on the clock (miles, that is!)  I think we’ll get about 400 miles to a tank, and at ₤50 a tank, that’s not too bad.  The bad is it uses a pint of water a day for the radiator :/ and we’re currently in Bath waiting for a mechanic to change the brake pads and discs.  They had been making some noise since we picked the car up.  We didn’t expect  too much from the vehicle, as it  was fairly cheap to hire, but I think it should be mechanically sound and safe before being hired out.  Probably bad news for Wicked that they hired this campervan, the Monty Python, to a lawyer…

Bath

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Mar 122009
 
Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Well we made it to Bath and had a full day there yesterday.  We headed into town where we visited the Abbey and the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths were only rediscovered in the 19th Century, below a leaking basement in a house!  They are about 6 metres below street level and it’s actually quite amazing how much was recovered.  One of the cool things about the baths is that part of the audio tour is narrated by Bill Bryson!  The Baths are incredible.  I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the Romans, it is difficult to reconcile their barbarity (gladitorial games) and dominating culture with their incredible advances in engineering and ability to develop innovative solutions to problems.

Roman baths in Bath

Roman baths in Bath

For instance, rooms are heated by a furnace and the steam is then conducted under the raised floor and up through vents in the walls.   You can get some idea of what the floor looked like in this photo.

Roman heating system

Roman heating system

After the tour we headed to Sally Lunn’s, in Bath’s oldest house, for the famous Sally Lunn bun!  It was delicious, and mine was slathered with butter, jam and clotted cream!

Mar 112009
 
Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

From Blackberry Wood, we drove to Salisbury and saw the Salisbury Cathedral. It was beautiful and we both thought Salisbury was a lovely city.  After a pasty, we headed to Stonehenge.  It was not as terribly presented as I had heard, they do have to contend with thousands of tourists every day.  Sure it was fenced off and relatively close to the freeway, but it is still impressive in it’s own right.

After a quick look at the White Horse, we continued our journey to Bath.  Here we are staying at another lovely camping ground, with excellent facilities.  (We booked ahead this time!)  The showers are great and free!

Read on for the other posts we couldn’t get to upload from earlier this week…

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

A White Horse

A White Horse

Mar 112009
 
Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

Actually nothing personal against Brighton, we  just had a terrible day trying to get there.  We left London at 10am on a short tube ride to Kilburn Park and then a short walk to pick up our Wicked Camper.  So far, so good!

Then our day only went downhill, some of the things that went wrong include:

  • Julian’s credit card rejected at the camper hire place.
  • Trying to find a petrol station, the famous Abbey Road crossing and getting the GPS to work all at the same time.  We finally found a petrol station (no thanks to the GPS)
  • Trying to get out of London.  The GPS helpfully told us to take a u-turn to get onto the right road.  Unfortunately, there were no u-turns permitted (London has every traffic offence monitored by Big Brother) for the next 3 km and we ended up almost (we think?) in the Congestion Zone.
  • Finally headed for Brighton, paid for parking at a shopping centre where we picked up some bedding.   Unfortunately no supermarket?!
  • After a quick tour of Brighton, headed for the camping ground we planned to stay at.  No space available!  The nearest camping ground was 8 miles away and it was already 6pm and dark.
  • Finally found a supermarket so at least we wouldn’t starve.
  • After much debate, headed to Blackberry Wood campsite with the trusted GPS.  Found Streat Lane, longest lane ever,  and followed it up and back for several miles without success (it was pitch black by this point).
  • Some keen spotting by Leah meant we finally found Blackberry Wood and we were welcomed by a lovely owner who directed us in.  After a few false starts, we finally found the right driveway.
  • We went to make dinner and discovered all the kitchen utensils were disgusting and needed a clean.  Had cheese on bread for dinner.
  • Leah went to have a shower,  was enjoying the warm water, all soaped up when the water ran out.  After some inspection, she realised it was actually 20p to have a shower and of course had no money.  I learned from Leah’s mistake.

Went to bed hoping for a better day tomorrow!

Mar 112009
 
Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

Well, after a jam-packed week, we are leaving London.  Next up, we pick up our “Wicked” campervan and head of to explore England, Ireland and Scotland.  The campervan doesn’t come with bed linen, so our first priority will be to get a warm doona!

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed London, and I can definitely see the appeal of living here.  However, we’ve been quite blessed with the weather – blue skies everyday except early yesterday afternoon (storm).  I imagine that if I stayed here for any length of time I’d miss the Queensland sunshine!

So, this is a quick list of what we did while in London (in no particular order):- Picadilly Circus, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Natural History Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, British Library, West End – saw We Will Rock You at the Dominion, Oxford Street, Tower of London and  Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, curry at Brick Lane, Portobello Rd Markets, Borough Markets, lunch at Benares, Buckingham Palace (although we missed the changing of the guards), Trafalgar Square.  Photos are here.

It feels like all we’ve done is walk, so the campervan will be a welcome chance to sit down.

Posting may be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks, it will just depend on where we can get wifi.

Before I go, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our little tour group, “found” at Paddington Station.

Found at Paddington Station

Found at Paddington Station

Mar 072009
 
Benares, London

Benares, London

Today we had lunch at  the Michelin starred restaurant, Benares.  We had the prix fixe menu and it was delicious.  One of the great things about fancy restaurants is that they give amuse bouche between courses – you know I love free food.

It was a great day and the food was out of this world.  Certainly not something we’re used to.  And we’ll just ignore how much it cost…

I’ve posted more photos here.  Please forgive the photography, it was quite dim in the restaurant and I’m still learning!

Mar 062009
 

An amazing clear morning meant we found ourselves touring the Tower of London under blue skies.  It also meant it was quite cold.  We continued our day walking over the Tower Bridge, then along the Thames via Tate Modern, back across the Millenium Bridge and finished  up at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Leah, an egg and Tower Bridge

Leah, an egg and Tower Bridge

One of the more unusual office buildings in London is The Gherkin, on St Mary Axe.  It also goes by the name Towering Innuendo.

The Tower of London from Tower Bridge.  The Gherkin building in the background.

The Tower of London from Tower Bridge. The Gherkin building in the background.

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