The Plan

Starting off in Sydney we head over to the US for a few days in Los Angeles, then Las Vegas and finally over to the Big Apple. Then off again, down to Cuba for about 18 days for some old cars, cigars and Baccardi. After that we head north, this time to Toronto in Canada for a whistle stop before crossing the Atlantic to the UK. One of the highlights there will be a week down on the Isle of Wight. Jetting off again we will then spend approximately the next two months driving around Italy and France. After all that hard work we journey over to Greece where we will island hop using the local ferry systems, with 3 nights on Santorini, 3 nights of Mykonos and 3 nights on Paros. Yep, we love doing the tourist stuff! Finally we begin the long haul home stopping off on the way in Honkers for a little retail therapy.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Isle of Wight

There were two reasons for our visit to the Isle of Wight.  When he was a child Mike and his family came here every year for their holidays, so for him this was a nostalgic trip.  For me, I just wanted to see Osborne House. Simples.
Along with Mikes sister and brother in law, we came across from Portsmouth on the car ferry, about a 45 minute trip.  Before heading to our accommodation for the week we made a detour to Quarr Abbey and spent some time wandering around not just the abbey but the attached farmlands and orchards.
A wing of Clatterford House at Carisbrooke has been our home for the last week - a large 5 bedroom place which has suited our needs perfectly and is situated very close to Carisbrooke Castle and a good walk to Newport, one of the major towns on the IoW. Clatterford House was, back in the 1700's, a farm, then a pub and a hotel before assuming it's current persona.
We spent many hours one day up at Carisbrooke Castle, initially to get out of the rain, then because we were fascinated with the castle and it's history.  Built in the 1100's it has a rich history and was for some time a major fortification against a threatened Spanish invasion.  Charles 1 when he was deposed from his kingship lived at the castle for some time as the guest of the Governor, then he became a prisoner and was subsequently shipped back to London for execution.
The castle is in a good state of repair, thanks to Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, who was Governor of the IoW and made the castle her sometime home.
Osborne House was just glorious.  We spent almost a whole day there.  The house itself is open inside to visit (no photos allowed).  As is expected it is very ornate as befits a queen and the times but at the same time it was the family home.  Albert's study was as he left it as was Victoria's bedroom. Interesting!!  The grounds though are magnificent,  Pathways leading through beautiful treed avenues, wildflowers growing in gay abandon.  At the bottom of the estate on the Solent there is a great cafe where we sat looking out towards Portsmouth and enjoyed watching the passing yachts. There is also a great walled garden where all sorts of fruit, vegetables and flowers are grown for use in the house.  All in all a top spot.
We have managed to get in a couple of good walks on the island in particular yesterdays long walk from Sandown to Bembridge, a walk which took us along the coast for about 5 miles.  It was a beautiful day for walking, in parts a little uphill - then of course we had to walk back.
Today it has been bucketing down so we headed over to Yarmouth the only part of the island we had not visited.  There we visited the castle, which was designed in the 1500's as one of Henry V111's defensive fortresses along England's shores and is the only remaining example of it's type.  It is a tiny castle, by castle standards, so the visit did not take long!!
We have sampled many of the great pubs on this island not just for the beer of course but also for the grub, needless to say we have had a great time.
Tomorrow we hop the car ferry back to Portsmouth and head back up to Epsom but not before stopping off near Chichester to catch up with our trivia team mate Annie.
On Monday we pick up our rental car and begin our 2 week discovery tour of the north of England, popping over into Scotland to visit my old mate Lindy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Oh to be in England now that Aprils here - NOT.  It is cold, especially after the heat of Cuba, we even had to go and buy ourselves an extra jumper.  But apart from that grumble we have been having a terrific time.
We went up to London and wandered about through all sorts of back alleys and lane ways that Dave has discovered over the years. We caught up for lunch with Andrew, one of our fellow travellers in Cuba, and had a delightful lunch in one of London's quaint pubs.
On another day we walked Headley Heath which is quite near to Pat and Dave's here in Epsom.  The bluebells are out in force at the moment and it was like walking through a blue wonderland, just beautiful.
The last few days have been spent up in Birmingham where Pat and Dave's daughter has been for the last few years at university.  Mike and I both expected a very industrial city, instead we found a city that has reinvented itself as a lively, trendy place with some amazing architecture and lots of great foody places.  We walked along side one of the canals from the university into the city, a fair hike, but incredibly peaceful when we were in fact in the heart of the city.
We visited the library which is an amazing structure, it looks like a couple of cubes decorated with lazy daises from the outside but inside it is round.  You can stand on the ground floor, look up to the 9th floor, each floor has floor to ceiling books (of course) and lots of reading and research areas. Through the middle and connecting each floor are escalators with bright lights which make the whole place seem quite futuristic.
The Birmingham Museum was another shelter from the rain, which like many city museums was a great source of info for the surrounding area. A few years ago a local person discovered what has become known as the Staffordshire Hoard - which is a collection of gold, silver and other artifacts from the Saxon days,  The intricate work of some of the jewellery has to be seen to be believed.  It is an incredible collection that is still being researched today as no one knows why the 'hoard' was there and exactly who put it there.
Today we will be heading out for lunch with some friends and relatives of Mikes, then on Friday we choof off to the Isle of Wight for a week.  Fingers crossed the weather will improve as we plan to do quite a few walks on the island.
Annie, I will let you know which ferry we will be coming back on so that we can do lunch somewhere around Portsmouth.
Till then.....