The time has come for us to leave England after about 4 weeks here. To all accounts, this has been a very cold month, even the locals are complaining. But we have been assured that next week the weather will be better!
So what else have we been up to since the previous post? Well...
We did have a little rent a car for 2 weeks and managed to clock up almost 1700 miles (it is miles here, not k's). Our first stop was a village called Thetford which is on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk and was very central for our plans to explore an area that neither of us had really visited before. First stop we did afternoon tea with an aunt of Mike's whom he had not seen for 50 years!! Over the next few days we visited Southwold, one of those peculiar seaside places where a stony beach is the norm and bathing sheds are in proliferation. Gaily painted, these places perch above the beach and the owners are allowed to visit only during the day. There appears to be not enough room to swing a cat inside and in most cases no power or water. And the price people will pay for one of these dog boxes? Up to 100,000 pounds! Which really begs the question, WHY?
Cromer is another example of the above. We did pay a visit to Sandringham, another of the Queens magnificent properties, we did not do an inside tour but did spend several hours in the magnificent gardens. That must have been one of the rare days that it did not rain!
We moved on up the coast to Durham, a beautiful town complete with castle and cathedral. Thanks to Marg and David Stanton for the advice to stay in Durham, we loved the place. On our way to Durham we stopped off briefly in Lincoln with the sole purpose of visiting their magnificent cathedral. It is a great cathedral, the facade was in fact used in the Da Vinci Code as Westminster Abbey, as they are both similar. Lincoln is one of those hilly towns where you really need to be something of a mountain goat. The street leading up to the cathedral is called Steep Street - and they are not kidding - it is steep.
While based in Durham we caught the train one day into Newcastle, a city that is trying to throw off its industrial cloak and reinvent itself as an arty farty place. Their concert hall is a futuristic building, that some say looks like a slug, others say a condom and still others say a half inflated hot air balloon. Whatever, it is delightful inside with 2 concert halls.
After leaving Durham, we took time out to visit Whitby, a small fishing village, jammed with tourists. Whitby is the birthplace of none other than Captain James Cook. We moved on up to Scotland to visit my old mate Lindy. We spent a beautiful day with her, and her daughter Tam and her 2 energetic boys. Along with the family we visited Rosslyn Chapel, just west of Edinburgh. Now for anyone going to Scotland (Chris and Al) check the place out. It is only small but filled with the most unusual architecture, plaster mouldings that seem to grow out of the walls and ceilings, not seen anywhere else and something like 102 green men hidden in the mouldings of the chapel itself. About 20 years ago the chapel was in an almost state of ruin, but thanks to the Earl and his family, and a lot of money, the chapel has been almost restored to its former splendor. It helped a lot that the chapel was the site of the final scenes in the Da Vinci Code, a movie that really helped to bring in the tourist dollars.
Leaving Scotland we turned south, our next stop being Warrington. Not the best city in England by a long shot, but very central to our planned visits to Liverpool and Chester. We hopped the train to Liverpool and did an open top bus trip which was terrific fun till it rained. We visited their magnificent cathedral, it is absolutely huge and was only built in the 1900's. It is like a monolith from the outside, just a big blob, but inside it is filled with light and just cavernous. We also spent some time down on Albert Dock. Again this was once the shipping port area of Liverpool, but is now a trendy restaurant and shopping area.
Chester was our other stop. We had both been there before yet neither of us had walked the whole way around the city walls, which we can now say we have done. It is quite a long walk too.
After leaving Warrington we managed a whistle stop in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but the rain and cold got the better of us so we moved on to Milton Keynes, a place best forgotten, but the cheapest place for accommodation that we could find near to Oxford. The sun shone for us at Oxford and we happily wandered the city. Later in the day we did a 2 hour walking tour which included a visit to Queens College. The tour was interesting as things were pointed out to us that we would never have noticed otherwise. For instance, all the characters in Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' were based on real characters in Oxford at that time. We even discovered that the white rabbit saying 'I'm late, I'm late for a very important date', is because Oxford was always 5 minutes behind London time. Ha, the important things you learn.
Heading back to Epsom we stopped off at the wonderful Blenheim Palace, home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, where we spent almost a whole day, dodging the rain, touring the palace and walking the grounds.
So now we are in 'packing up' mode, It is Mikes birthday today and then tomorrow we head over to Italy. Rome. Sunshine. Shorts. T-shirts. Yippee.
We have enjoyed our time here, the things we have seen, the friends and family we have caught up with, but not the weather.
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.