A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: brighting

Over and out

semi-overcast 30 °C

Well, as we said, our last week in the UK was expected to be a winding down time, but didn't turn out that way. Something happening on 8 days of the last 9, but all good stuff, mostly with meals and family involved.

We left UK on Monday, and one of us found the goodbyes harder than other did. Our flight left at 1.45 pm and took 12.5 hours, plus we gained 7 hours on the way, so arrived in Singapore at about 9.15 am. In spite of having an empty seat next to us, so more room to spread out, we didn't get much sleep, and were pretty tired by the end of the first day in Singapore - slept for about 11 hours! It was wet when we arrived, but cleared up later in the day to be very hot (30 degrees) and humid. Next day the weather was much the same, but today (Thursday) has rained all day - so unfortunately we had to shelter in a couple of shopping centres! It was tough, but we managed it. (2 umbrellas, Graham 2 shirts, Lesley a top.) We were planning to visit Sentosa Island, but hopefully the weather will be kinder tomorrow (though not looking promising) so we can go then. Talking to a taxi driver between shopping centres, he told us that it is the rainy reason so I guess we just have to accept that it might just rain a little from time to time!

We arrive back in NZ on Sunday 31st. However, we gave the tenant in our house the option of an extra month after the original 5 months was up, and she has chosen to take it, so we will be persons of no fixed abode for September, and then will have the fun of unpacking and getting our house in order. We look forward to catching up with everyone back home at some stage.

So to sum up - the 5 months has flown by, and the beginning of our trip almost seems like a dream. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to do this, to see some wonderful places, catch up with Lesley's family, meet old friends and make some new ones, and have a lot of fun along the way - so many memories when we sort through and weed out some of the 3000 photos we've taken. So those of you who wanted to see photos - how long have you got?? Would we do it again? Probably not for that long, but who knows - we'll see how we feel in a few years when we've settled down from this one.

So we'll sign off for this time, and thanks for reading.

Posted by brighting 03:33 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Paris and back

Well, here's a quick update of the last couple of weeks:

Went to Dorking and had lunch with an uncle of Lesley's at a lovely winery; had a walk around the town, then drove up Box Hill, with a good view from the top of the South Downs. Last weekend Graham and Graham (Lesley's brother-in-law) visited Duxford Air Museum to drool over old aeroplanes, marvel at engines, and watch some of the planes flying. The 2 ladies, however, managed to forego that excitement and instead checked out one of the local shopping centres. Well, someone had to do it!

During the week we took another train trip to London and enjoyed wandering round one of the local markets at Camden Lock - very interesting assortment of stalls and people, and a large variety of food options. Then went on to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was interesting but not enthralling. Walked around the History of Britain sections! and the fashion exhibition, but all seemed to concentrate very much on upper class living! with hardly anything of the everyday folk; that, at least, was our impression.

Mid-week all 4 of us headed off on the Eurostar to Paris, whizzing through the countryside at approx 180 miles per hour (about 290 kms per hour). Seemed we'd only just left London and we were at the coast heading into the tunnel. It's a magnificent way to travel and you get to see the countryside as it flies by. Arrived at Paris in just over 2 hours - same length of time it took us to drive round the M25 from Chesham to Maidstone, Kent, a few weeks ago!

Stayed in a hotel near the Gard du Nord, and spent a couple of hours after we arrived wandering round Bassin de la Villete - very interesting area, with lots happening on the banks of the canal - sand pits for children, pétanque games, table tennis, flying fox, and even a dance 'floor' with couples dancing (and very good they were too). Next day we boarded the hop on/hop off bus for a quick overview of the city, getting off at various points of interest such as Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe (and enjoyed a coffee and eclair in a Champs Élysées cafe), Le Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. The latter obviously a great feat of its time, and a Paris landmark, but didn't really do much for us otherwise. Didn't have time to go to the top - queues were huge! Day 3 we had the morning to explore, so caught the Metro and visited Montmartre and Sacre-coeur Basilica. Enjoyed seeing a different perspective of Paris, with the cobbled streets, a few hawkers (though not as many as we'd been led to expect), and artists sitting around the square selling their wares and painting. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great that morning - grey and drizzly - but cleared up later in the day for our walk back to the station and return trip on the train. So, whistle stop trip, and saw lots of things briefly rather than a few in depth.

This weekend has been spent visiting various of Lesley's relations - 2 shorter visits to aunts, and meals on 2 occasions with some cousins, so great family times. Temperatures somewhat cooler now, due to tail end of Hurricane Bertha from the Caribbean, but hopefully picking up again next week.

Counting down now - 1 week left in UK, which we thought would be winding down and fairly quiet, but it's not looking that way!

Posted by brighting 13:47 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Home Base

sunny 23 °C

It struck me that we have not made much mention of our 'place of abode' or base while we have been here in the UK. So I (Graham) went out today and took some photos of the bustling town of Chesham, Buckinghamshire, our base. This is the town that Lesley grew up in before being dragged off to the far reaches of the earth in New Zealand all those years ago. Her sister still lives in Chesham and it is here in the house of Sally and Graham (see photo) that we are staying whenever we are not travelling about. Chesham is a commuter town right on the end of a tube line, arguably the farthest you can travel out of London on the tube. (About an hour by tube from here gets you into the city centre.) The area here is known as the Chilterns from the Chiltern Hills which are near here. Many towns are scattered about this area and to us kiwis used to space, the towns seems remarkably close to each other with loads of pubs also dotted around in the towns and countryside. A lot of pubs have been closed down over recent years but there are still a huge number, each with its own character. The other notable feature is the roads. Narrow and winding, they weave their way all over the place with hedges and trees hanging over the road making for great scenery and somewhat hazardous driving, especially when road signs are obscured by greenery! And in town of course where the roads might be wider there are cars parked on each side so that you have to squeeze through anyway. This is a great location from which to explore with major motorways handy that can start you off to all parts.

Posted by brighting 08:32 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Segways and celebrations

sunny 28 °C

Headed off to Maidstone, Kent, last week to meet up with another old college friend of Lesley's, enjoying visiting their house for the first time, and catching up on what's happened since we last met. The next day we spent mostly at Leeds castle, a 12th century castle just down the road from Maidstone. Enjoyed looking round the castle, and seeing a falconry display, but the highlight was a 35 minute segway ride round the grounds. The most challenging part was the 1 on 1 training with the rest of the group (about 10 in the group altogether) watching, plus trying to understand the instructor. We think he was speaking English, but enunciation wasn't his strong point, so we struggled to hear some bits! However, once in charge of our machines on our own, it was surprisingly easy, and great fun - the highlight of the day! We're now planning to go to another park near Chesham where we can segway again. On the way back from Kent we wound our way round the M25 again, watching with interest as traffic going the opposite way crawled along, almost at a standstill. The queue was for miles - looked as though all the cars in NZ were queued up there! We will certainly appreciate the lack of traffic when we get home. Called in on the way to more friends in Enfield, where Lesley used to work, drove past the library, only to find it's been demolished.

Today (27th) is our 40th wedding anniversary, and we were surprised with a cake organised by Lesley's sister. Where has that time gone? Hardly seems possible really. And we have both survived living together, how amazing is that? A wedding anniversary we won't forget in a hurry.

Also attended a large family gathering, organised and hosted by one of Lesley's cousins. About 22 of us - aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins' children, some of whom we hadn't met before, enjoyed lunch together, so was a lovely opportunity to put faces to some names, and catch up with others, reminiscing, and creating another memorable day for us to look back on.

Posted by brighting 11:11 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

London Central

sunny 31 °C

Time for another update.  On our way back from Dorset to Chesham we visited Salisbury cathedral - took the chance while there to view one of the 4 remaining original copies of Magna Carta, which we hadn't realised was there.  Another piece of old history, which we'd learnt about in school history lessons - wish it had been that interesting to us way back then!  Spent the rest of the journey trying to navigate our way home to avoid major hold ups on the motorways, which we're pleased to say we managed quite successfully. A couple of days after arriving back 'home', we celebrated Lesley's sister's 60th birthday - quite quietly, but it was great to be there for a change to celebrate with her.

After a few quiet rest days, we headed in to the bustle of London again, and spent 2 nights there.  We met up with another old college friend of Lesley's - more years to fill in and catch up on!   Also visited Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which is as nearly as possible a true replica of what the original would have looked like, and the only building in London now allowed to have a thatched roof.  We were fortunate enough to be there while actors were rehearsing - not a Shakespeare play, but one called Holy Warriors.  Great to be able to sit there and imagine being there in the 1600s - we would probably have been amongst the groundlings, standing for the whole performance!  Certainly enjoyed the Globe experience. 

Then visited Westminster Abbey - found it a bit overwhelming, and seemed to be more of a monument to all the famous people buried therein rather than a church.  In contrast, we visited St Paul's cathedral the next day, and were much more impressed.  Even though it was smaller, it somehow seemed quite spacious, and we were very impressed with the audio commentary (on iPads, so we could walk around at our own pace, as was the case with Westminster).   Whereas the Westminster Abbey commentary seemed to focus quite a bit on the famous people's memorials, of which there were lots, the St Paul's one, while mentioning some of the memorials and tombs, seemed to also focus more on explaining some of the theology relevant to the building, mosaics etc, and the relevance of the cathedral in society today.   We climbed up the spiral stairs to the Whispering Gallery, then on up to the Stone Gallery, and walked round the outside of the bottom of the dome.  Then more steps (about 560 in all) and to the Golden Gallery, outside around the bottom of the Lantern, on top of the dome.  The view is amazing from the top, but sadly it was quite hazy while we were there, so the view wasn't as good as it could have been - later in the day it cleared up, but oddly enough, we didn't fancy climbing the 560 or so steps again!  

We also did a 3 hour river cruise (from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and back), and checked out the Tate Modern art gallery - not too impressed by the art we saw, we have to say!    Also took a meander through Hyde Park - hadn't realised how big it is.  You'd hardly know you were in the middle of a huge city.  The day turned out be really hot - 31 degrees, but felt hotter and very sticky. Not ideal to be walking round the city, but we're not complaining - glad they're turning on the good weather for us, and no more jokes (yet) about English summers!

In amongst all that we walked along the South Bank which is a very alive area with buskers and food places scattered along its length. Found a very good pub/eatery called  Doggetts, tucked in beside Blackfriars Bridge. Great food and a real mix of people; just great for 'people watching'.

Posted by brighting 10:41 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

'Ere d'be greetans vrom wold Darzet m'dears

sunny

We are, as you can see, in the depths of Dorset. Learning the language has been somewhat taxing but fortunately they do actually speak English which we can understand in most places. On the other hand the countryside around here is very beautiful with lovely villages dotted around all over the area. We are staying with a friend in the town of Wimbourne which is very near Poole. In our guided tours which Brian has taken us on we have seen Poole and the quayside, been to the beach at Sandbanks, crossed over the mouth of the Poole harbour on the 'chain ferry' to visit Lulwoth, an old fishing village, before walking over the headland to look at Durdle Door - a hole in the rock. We've also visited Kingston Lacey, an old family estate now belonging to the National Trust, and done some lovely countryside walks, on which we've seen some of the local flora and fauna. Thanks, Brian, for sharing your local knowledge and being a wonderful tour guide!

Posted by brighting 14:10 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Heading west, and lunch with a gull

Just over a week ago we took to the road again and headed for Stratford on Avon (or Stratford upon Avon, depending on which side of the river you are on). We had originally booked accommodation in Shipston on Stour, a small town just south of Stratford. However, on arriving, we found our room was small, very hot, with a window that wasn't lockable, and opened to a fire escape. The bed wasn't too comfortable, and to top it all off there was a live band playing in the evenings that weekend, and we could hear it very clearly, even with the window shut. All in all, not a happy experience, so moved on after 1 night, and found a better place in Stratford itself. We enjoyed Stratford - did a bus tour, a river cruise, went to Tudor World, and enjoyed just wandering about.

From there southwards, via Bourton on the Water, where we spent some time at the Bird Park, before going on to Yate (near Bristol) to spend a few nights with an old college friend of Lesley's. Visited the SS Great Britain, a ship designed by Brunel, which was the first ship to be built using steel instead of wood. At one stage it was used to carry passengers to Australia, and it was interesting to see the conditions in which they travelled, especially steerage class - must have seemed a very long journey.

Have spent the last few days in St Austell in Cornwall. First stop was the Eden Project, an ecological trust whose aim was to convert an old clay quarry into a global garden featuring 2 biomes, one tropical, and one Mediterranean. We enjoyed seeing not only plants we have at home, but also some that we wouldn't otherwise see, such as some from Africa etc. Yesterday we drove to St Ives, a coastal town about an hour away from St Austell. The narrow streets reminded us somewhat of those in the Greek Islands - even a few whitewashed houses to complete the illusion. We decided we should have a genuine Cornish pasty for lunch, so sat on a seat on the esplanade enjoying the pasties and view of the beach and harbour. We found that we weren't the only ones with a view - very large herring gulls were also on the lookout for a free lunch, and one swooped from behind and helped itself to Graham's pasty! Graham bought himself another, but was very careful to keep that one out of reach of any marauding birds! However, we must admit to being quite entertained watching other people being stalked and harassed! Today we met an old school friend of Lesley's - another chance for a chinwag and catch up on the last 50 years, then headed to Fowey (pronounced Foy), a nearby coastal town which exports china clay.

Tomorrow we head off to Dorset. Must admit that although we're enjoying the chance to visit all these places, we are having a few 'are we there yet' moments.

Posted by brighting 13:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Back ashore

sunny 24 °C

Oops - just realised that our last entry was still saved as a draft, hence the last update on our cruise was a bit late!

Since being back on terra firma, we had a few quiet days in Chesham, then headed off again, first to visit a distant relative of Lesley's (3rd cousin, we think) that she 'met' online a few years ago while researching the family tree. Had a good time with them, then headed off again, this time to Bungay, Suffolk, for more family 'digging', and in the churchyard found a gravestone of an Elijah Brighting - have yet told prove the connection, of course, but could be a brother of Graham's 3xgt grandfather, as he was born there.

From there to a couple of nights in Cambridgeshire - visited an old flour mill in Houghton; St Ives; and Ely, where after visiting the cathedral and Oliver Cromwell's house, we enjoyed a cold drink by the riverside watching boats come and go.The next day we spent in Cambridge - very impressed with the park and ride system, which makes access to the city centre very easy and stress free. Spent quite a bit of time riding the hop on/hop off bus in Cambridge (and hopping on and off where we felt like it) ; had lunch in a cafe opposite King's College - such wonderful architecture. We were disappointed that the round church was covered in scaffolding, but not really surprised - we have noted that often interesting things we want to photograph (such as town clock towers, one of Gaudi's houses in Barcelona etc) are hidden by scaffolding. In fact, a favourite phrase has become "scaffolding - what a surprise".

Now another few days 'at home' before a trip to the West Country.

Posted by brighting 10:03 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Last days of the Med

sunny 29 °C

After Athens, on to the Adriatic and Dubrovnik. What stunning views! We and our Canadian friends found a taxi driver who took us for an hour's drive, up the hill where the cable car goes, with various stops on the way "to make pictures", then dropped us at the old town. Was certainly good value, and cheaper than the ship's organised excursions. During our walk around the old town, we had lunch at a cafe in one of the alleyways, out of the heat (29C+). The owner was wearing the Croatian soccer strip, as they were playing Brazil in the World Cup that evening :). He was very friendly, and gave us all a complimentary starter of goat's cheese; not only that, but a free crepe for dessert. Not to mention the 2 free shots of ?? which some of the party were brave enough to try, others not!

Then on to Venice - docked at 1 p.m. so lots of people up on deck to watch the view as we made our way down the Grand Canal. One of the things that struck us as we watched was the number of towers that appear to be leaning! After docking we took a vaporetto into Piazza San Marco, and spent a few hours doing our usual thing of wandering round the streets, enjoying the new experiences and finding it hard to believe that here we were, actually in Venice. Were amazed (though probably should not have been) by the number of boats buzzing round on the canal - big ones and small ones. Looked to us as though there were a few close calls, but I guess the locals are used to that! The ship was docked there overnight, and on Saturday morning we took an excursion to Padua. An interesting town, but by that stage we were almost over walking round places in the heat. Maybe need to go back one day to do it justice! The tour finished at the airport about 1 pm, so as our flight didn't leave until 9.30, we took a local bus back into Venice and had some lunch in a cafe by a canal. Very slowly made our way back to the bus and the airport ready for our flight back to London.

To sum up the two weeks we have had away at sea .............fantastic. Best two weeks holiday ever.

Posted by brighting 10:02 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

From the Mediterranean

sunny 26 °C

Firstly from Greece - gorgeous weather (temperatures in the late 20s and mostly clear skies) and stunning scenery.  Yesterday we visited Santorini - took a boat round the coast then bus to Oia; spent some time wandering about there and marvelling at the way the villages perch on the hilltops.   Just as we imagined - white buildings everywhere, but fewer blue domes than we'd expected.  Then bus to Fira - looked at the queue for the cable car down and decided to walk down the steps - didn't count them, but quite a few!  Couldn't hurry, as the path was quite slippery in places, so took us about 20 minutes to get down, including the times we had to stop to let the people on donkeys pass.

Next stop Athens, where we did the tour to the Acropolis and Parthenon. Our tour guide, Constantine, was a fount of knowledge about it all - wish he had given us notes, as already we can't remember half of what he said.  It was a slow and very hot climb up, but totally worth it.  

Then Kusadasi (pronounced kooshadasa by our local guide), Turkey, and did a guided tour of Ephesus, plus the Basilica of St John, where the apostle John is supposed to be buried.   Ephesus was amazing - once again, seeing places we've previously only read about, and imagining people of Roman and early Christian times walking those very streets. We finished the tour by visiting a Turkish rug demonstration where they showed how they take the silk from the cocoons, plus a demonstration of rug weaving, and several carpets unrolled for us to see. It was very interesting, but not so good afterwards when several salesmen descended on us asking which one we liked! 

Today, back to the Greek island of Mykonos, famous for its windmills. Just did our own thing - wandered about the maze of narrow alleyways, poking around in some of the little shops, and enjoying not having the hard sell and pestering salesmen that we saw in Turkey.  Weren't always quite sure where we were, but just went where our feet took us, having every now and again to give way to the odd motorcycle or van - interesting, considering the streets are just wide enough for 2 people to walk side by side!  Went back to the ship for lunch, then back ashore for some more wandering and sitting in a cafe with a cold drink, admiring the view and clear, beautiful water of the Mediterranean.

We've met a lovely Canadian couple on the ship, and have become quite friendly with them, which is great - we've done a couple of shore trips with them when we haven't been on organised tours, and have had lots of laughs, which had added to the fun of cruising.

Posted by brighting 06:50 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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