A Travellerspoint blog

From the north to the south of England

during the wettest summer on record.

rain 15 °C

Windermere in the Lake District

We headed here from Edinburgh for a final meet up with Grandma and Grandad. We took the scenic route and it was fun, particularly stopping for the swans and their babies as they strolled up the road. Windermere was lovely but crowded (darn all those tourists) and we managed a walk and some footy during a brief dry spell. I got knocked out by a suspect smoked salmon roll in the evening and had to depart the pub midst drink, and then it was off to visit all things Shakespeare the next day.

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Shakespeare's Stratford upon Avon

Stratford upon Avon is totally geared around it being the birthplace and home for many years of William Shakespeare, his mother, his wife and his daughter and the tour circuit involves visiting these four historic houses.  

The first couple of houses were really interesting but by the third we were all getting bored. However the most interesting house by far was Cherry Blossom House; our B&B accommodation run by a horror called Christine. According to Trip Advisor, Christine is pleasant and accommodating and her B&B is modern and clean. This certainly wasn't the case in our room which resembled a bordello complete with toilet and shower underneath the stairs. She turned up her nose the second that she realised we had a "little one" with us as she only allows children over twelve - apparently because she targets her establishment at business men (who one might argue would be more concerned about her yapping dog). We have since added our own review to the Trip Advisor site.

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Bath

Bath was a wash out, literally.  By now we had the shits with the crap weather and crap food that Great Britain was offering us. (Dave: and the crap coffee.) Dave and I had high hopes of having a spa experience and massage in the roof top spa opposite the Roman Baths with the promised beautiful vista but didn't. It was booked out.  We couldn't even have a bath in our own hotel room because a smoker had set off the smoke alarms the first night and the power was out for 24 hours. And it rained, oh it rained. 

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Stonehenge and Portsmouth

Yep, visited Stonehenge :)  Then rolled along to Portsmouth to visit HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. I am not sure who was more excited out of Dave and Bodhi. It was the closest thing you get to a pirate ship and the cannons and sheer size of the ship was awesome. There was even a plaque on the exact point on deck where Admiral Nelson was shot. Satisfaction!

Dave: You couldn't do Britain without going to Stonehenge. Pull up, walk over the road, snap, zoom, snap... Back to the car and gone in 30 minutes. Couldn't help but feel for the poor buggers, hundreds of them, who endure the coach ordeal - wait at your hotel to be picked up, get herded onto and off the bus, line up in the monster queue to get in, walk around, bus again back to the hotel... Reckon it couldn't take more than 6 hours. My idea of hell!

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Brighton

Loved it. Loved the pebbles on the beach. Loved the pier. Loved gambling five pounds worth of 2 pence coins to try to win a $1 toy kombi van. Loved Kemptown, the gay district. Loved the Essex girls' hens parties. Loved our luxury accommodation. Hated the rain so much that Dave went close to having a mini melt down about his constantly wet socks and sneakers. Glad to head to the continent :)

Dave: Perth GMT+7, Sydney GMT+9, the Tenni-lane family GMT-2. Well that's certainly what it's felt like as we've all been living in this odd 'twilight' time zone. In large part this seems to have occurred due to it getting dark so late in Britain (approx 10pm) and our inability to explain in terms that a 5 year old will accept, that it IS in fact night time and way past bed time. Perhaps our little man is choosing to not understand? That being said it's been 10-11pm average bedtime for all three of us with wake ups somewhere around 8-9am - or when bubble starts whispering to see if we're awake (after which of course we are). This is all not necessarily a bad thing but by the time we've pulled our fingers out and got moving (aka. checked email and Facebook, showered, teeth...), breakfast quickly turns a bit lunch'ish and the afternoon soon turns back into the evening... "Do-do-do-do-do, Do-do-do-do-do" (Hummed to the Twilight Zone theme).

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Posted by TenniLanefamily 00:40 Archived in England Comments (2)

Bad Parenting 101 in the UK

By Toni & Dave

all seasons in one day

1a) Ignoring the age 8 recommendation for the Dungeon Experience and being forced to remove a scared child via the back staircase between acts;
1b) Feeling guilty and worried about the effects of the experience and giving up bed to child for next two nights - becoming tired and short of temper as result;
2) Trying to force pubs to ignore child restriction laws in UK pubs in order to watch 'local' Scotsman in Wimbledon final, only to be turned away and compelled to buy even larger amounts of alcohol to drink in apartment;
3) Calling B&B manager of B&B dive a "slug" in front of child and having to explain the reason why; and
4) Telling child that he needs to pretend to be 4 years old in order to not pay for entry and practicing this charade in the car, before confusing child by being unable to lie to attendant at venue. 

These scenarios were undertaken by poorly trained parent travelers. Please do not attempt to recreate these situations at home or abroad!

Posted by TenniLanefamily 12:14 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

Cambridge to Hadrians Wall

all seasons in one day

Toni: Cambridge, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge and untold number of one way streets and no through roads that our GPS, Penelope (Penny to her friends), failed to recognize. We were warned not to drive but didn't listen. Error! Never mind, we figure that the Brits just consider us to be idiot Frenchies with the left hand drive and red number plates.

Cambridge is a beautiful city and full of students, bicycles and op shops. There are many different colleges made up of majestic buildings and Wikipedia became our best friend to help us to understand the history of it all. It constantly drizzled but we were strong and braved the weather to drink outdoors by the riverside. We stayed at a lovely B&B owned by Francis, a retired teacher. She was friendly and wise and said she'd had enough of teaching when her head teacher gave the staff a massive manual to read over the holidays and then upon return, was advised to ignore the manual as there was a new directive and therefore a new manual to read. LOL, sound familiar?

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After Cambridge we headed to York, the medieval masterpiece of England. York is seriously cool surrounded by a castle wall with wonky Tudor houses and cobbled lane ways. There is also a strong alternative scene as there was loads of live music and we saw punks and lots of tattoos and the fashion was way more out there. Of course, Dave and I remain in fantasy mode about heading out for live music so instead we hunted ghosts in York. Lots of them! York is apparently the 'most haunted' city in Europe so we went on a ghost hunt tour which was entertaining and not really scary at all. The York Castle Museum was also pretty good for a visit with a reconstructed Victorian street and the actual castle dungeon cells. We even got to see a regimental parade complete with a Gurkha platoon in front of York Minster, the big cathedral. I felt sorry for the soldiers, lining up for hours in the rain while having directions yelled at them by their officers.

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Back in the car, the weather forecasters predicted a month's rainfall throughout the day and flooding along the motorway. So much for summer! Driving through Northumberland to Edinburgh we took the route along Hadrians Wall. The weather was bleak but luckily the rain stopped long enough for us to get outside and go for a muddy, cold climb. From here we crossed over the border into Scotland where the fog was so thick we couldn't actually see the border sign and had to simply take Penny's word for it. We're now here in Edinburgh washing our clothes as we literally have no clean undies left at all. :)

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Dave: What Toni has overlooked mentioning is that, while we have the mechanisms required to wash our undies (and jeans, t-shirts, socks and just about everything else we own), we are yet to work out how we're going to get everything dry. It's hard enough trying to dry our rain-soaked clothes each day. Did we mention that it's wet? It's seriously wet! Bodhi pretty much nailed it about two minutes after leaving our hotel this morning... "My socks are wet. Both."

I probably don't need to elaborate on the traffic in Cambridge, suffice to say that it is not a place for cars. The only saving grace was imagining Penny trying to keep the frustration out of her voice as she told is again and again to "please do a U-turn when possible", "please turn left in 100 yards - turn right now", "for heaven's sake not that way!" Okay, I made that last one up :-)

Oh, and Toni - they are called 'orders' and the officers were only yelling to be heard. xx

Posted by TenniLanefamily 13:57 Archived in England Comments (2)

White House Farm

in Biddenden, Kent.

rain

Toni: After leaving Beckenham it was a quick drive down the motorway and then a long windy drive through thin shady lane ways and quaint villages with crazy fast country drivers. It was actually pretty dangerous at times! We met back up with Grandma and Grandad and settled in to country life at the farm: drinking cups of tea around the kitchen table. Bodhi started chatting and never stopped throught out the entire visit. He loved seeing the cows being milked and dodging muddy cow pats. Gone are the days of 4.30am starts for White House Farm as the milking is now done electronically by two enormous machines that use lasers to locate the teats of the cows then pumps, measures and stores all information rearding the output of each cow. It really was amazing to see in action as the cows wander in themselves and orderly line up when full of milk and feeling hungry. A bit like the Brits themselves :)

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We were quite the farmers as we also went on an evening tour organised by the National Farmers Union of Appledore Turkey farm that provides free range turkeys for Christmas. Picture terribly British farmers dressed in their coveralls, jackets and tweed caps circa 'All Creatures Great and Small.' Then picture us in goretex and jeans. We did not fit the mould but found that the tour certainly made us appreciate the slim margins and big effort that farmers put in. Bodhi also liked the turkey chicks and farting on grandma's hand!

Throw in some geocache 'treasure hunting', fox spotting and sheep wrangling and that was our farm stay experience. Bodhi enjoyed it so much that there was genuine sadness at saying goodbye. However, we were ready to head north.

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Dave: We couldn't go too much further in this blog without briefly mentioning our new wheels. Yep, brand new and ever so shiny (prior to us taking it to the farm anyway) but completely and utterly unsuitable for undertaking such pursuits as..., driving! Our sweet little Peugeot 308 takes it upon itself to turn off whenever you stop moving (no, no, it get's worse), and for some reason known only to those on the continent it actually disengages the clutch when changing gears - despite the fact that it is an automatic!. "So what" I hear you ask? Well, maybe you should try pulling out into traffic, losing all power when it changes from 1st to 2nd (with a mega-lorry bearing down towards you), after which in panic you 'attempt' to accelerate and the force from the suddenly re-engaged clutch sends the wheels spinning across the flood plain that is British motorways. A very, very strange automobile. If you test drove this car before you bought it, well, you wouldn't buy it.

Now, I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, and frankly wild-riding in our f-f-frantic Peugeot still beats walking by a long shot. It's also nice to have the freedom to get off the beaten path such as going down to the farm - albeit I'm sure there's probably something in the French owners manual which suggests that you should not take brand new cars into agricultural areas. Never mind, I'm sure they have special machines that will eventually get the carpets clean.

Walking. Did I mention walking - OMG! This is one area of the trip so far that I had probably underestimated. I pride myself on being reasonably fit but after hours, days (sometimes feels like months) of trudging across cities until, as Renee so aptly put it when I spoke to her the other day, your feet bones feel like they're contacting the pavement directly, one finds oneself with a growing desire to curl up in a fetal position, sobbing and wishing we were in Bali for 10-dollar foot massages. Still there's a limit to where cars can efficiently travel through cities and villages that were designed without the foresight that every home would one day own a horseless carriage - or two. Kind of makes you think back to the IBM engineers who thought 640K of RAM (computer memory) would be more than enough - whoops!

Posted by TenniLanefamily 13:26 Archived in England Comments (1)

From Beckenham with love...

overcast

Bodhi: Hello Mrs Buckenara and everyone in ECE Blue,
I have been visiting London and I went to see Shrek the musical. Donkey fell from the sky and he hit his head on the floor and climbed up by one leg and one arm. He was funny and Shrek and Princess Fiona farted and burped at each other! At Kensington Gardens I climbed up the rope of the pirate ship to find which way to go and I also set the sail. I saw dinosaurs at the museum and a huge T-Rex. I told dad I wanted to live there. We rode a boat down the river Thames from Big Ben. The Tower Bridge lifted up for a big ship! We rode on double decker buses and saw guards on horses. I loved riding the lift at the flat we were living in and taking pictures of everything. I am having lots of fun! I hope the gruffalo crumble is yummy and I will send you a postcard soon! :)

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Toni: Here we are one week in and have moved on from London to Beckenham in Kent. Yesterday we arrived at our mate Andrew's house after picking up our left hand drive hire car. It was an interesting journey and thank god for GPS. Dave can elaborate on what he sees as the Peugeot 308's shortcomings in more detail at a later date! Anyway, once here we proceeded to spend the rest of our night 'sampling' vintage cider and beer whilst getting to know Ruth, Andrew's fiancé. For all our friends who know Andrew, Ruth gets the big thumbs up and is most definitely a keeper! Today we visited their wedding venue in Chistlehurst for a Sunday lunch and are now pleasantly stuffed and relaxing.

London was, quite simply, full on. The weather has been great and the days long. It gets dark at 10pm and is light again at 4am. The city is filled with student groups and other tourists. We have filled our days sightseeing, visiting museums, cruising the Thames, and travelling on the buses and underground. Plus walking - yes, lots of walking! So much walking that Dave and Bodhi put up a strong battle against walking. Dave by stating that he had damaged his knee while sleeping (hmm?) and Bodhi, after a long tiring walk, stating "But where is there?" when being told that "We would be there soon". The following day was far more low key with an 11.30am sleep in before a trip to Covent Garden and a night out to see Shrek the musical. London is the cleanest I can recall and seems alive with bunting strung everywhere and olympic fever setting in. Five days is just not long enough.

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The apartment we rented was located in South Kensington, one road away from Kings Road and a beautiful part of the world. Our local underground station being Sloane Square.The women were slim and attractive in that beige kind of way, the men dressed in pink loafers and rolled up white jeans, the cars were jags and the houses were as well manicured as the residents inside them. It was far removed from the reality of most Londoner's lives, including our own. In fact it was so out of reach that I didn't even get into my usual holiday practice of fantasy real estate. Well, maybe just a bit, but this time it involved winning lotto big time. In truth, for all the prettiness of the area, it seems to lack the vitality, color and diversity of other London districts.

With mum and dad, we hopped on the number 6 bus from Aldwych to Willesden to retrace our old haunts in Maida Vale and Little Venice, stopping off at the famous Hamleys toy store on the way. Our trip included the local pub where we used to spend many a session. Dave enjoyed this as he has heard about these places during 16 years of family stories. Bodhi, the happy little traveller, has taken everything in his stride and made gorgeous comments such as "London has a different alphabet than we do. It is the BBC, not ABC," and "The other day was amazing - museum, museum, pirate ship!"His biggest complaint so far, which will grow exponentially once we hit the continent, has been the level of smokers. He holds his breath for so long that we worry he may end up fainting by the time we hit Paris!

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Tomorrow it is back in the car and down to a family farm near Sissinghurst in the south of Kent. BTW - The 'travel safe' is yet to have an outing :)

Posted by TenniLanefamily 11:44 Archived in England Tagged london Comments (8)

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