Up, Up and Away!

Departure and Arrival

And it was so!! All the anticipation and we made it to Heathrow a long journey - some sleep and some movies and some reading and a very welcome friend at the airport. Once the luggage logistics were sorted - thank you Bill - we headed for Camberley. Here we were welcomed into the home of friends, Bill and Lyn, who proceeded to care for us giving us 5 star care. Big english breakfast / check the local High street and surrounds - there seems to be High street everywhere - return to a luscious lunch and then a brief tour of Windsor Castle and surrounds. Most excellent all round and it has only just begun.

Finding friends again

Wandering the moors of New Forest with friends. A delightful time of reconnecting with Dany and Gregor and their three fun children. A wrinkle in time meant that our time with them was just like yesterday and that stories, old and new were easily shared. A warm and generous gathering around a table of food, much from the garden tended by Henry, the eldest child, was a noisy and happy event. 

A walk through the heather covered moor with the misty rain adding to the atmosphere was the much welcome post lunch action. Blackberries were picked and eaten, children running and hiding, horses and donkeys roaming and rocks being skipped across the water. 
Returning to the thatched roof cottage of some 300 years of being lived in to a cup of tea and more entertainment from the three young performers made me feel both welcome and privileged to be included.
Just to add that I am so very indulged by being in this beautiful English garden as I write this entry. WOW!!!

Shops and Kitchens

A morning for some retail time. I needed a second pair of shoes after the walk in the rain yesterday. Managed to find just the right pair and still had time to wander through some retail outlets. Discovered that school must soon return and consequently many parents were school shopping.

So onwards and upwards to Hampton Court. An immediately impressive building which has been a small city unto itself with the sole purpose of serving the monarchs. But for all of its grandeur it was also a place the seemed to offer access for all people including the monarchs - although there were a lot of doors and rooms to enter and exit. 

I was impressed with the kitchens and the logistics of feeding so many would have been a task of hugh proportions. So many pies, so much meat and the fires kept burning!!

Henry VIII did challenge Ian to a wrestle using Cornish rules but he requested Australian Rules and so the matter was settled.

So much work by so many unnamed by skilled artists and craftsmen surrounded every space. 

To finish the outing we had a visit with Bill and Lyn's son Benji and his family. It has been great to be welcomed and have a sense of where people are who have been part of both family stories.

The arrival of both Dylan and Emlyn tomorrow is now awaited. All five of use in one place for a moment will be fun!! 

Feasts, family, friends and full steam ahead

The gathering of the five of us, Ian, Tracy, Dylan, Emlyn and Lucy was so excellent. We were again looked after by our hosts with the most exceptional feast. Left overs even went to lunch with Emlyn!! Lots of messing about in the GARDEN (not Yard) and lots of humorous card games were included in between feasting. Yum!!

An early start to Putney to drop off Lucy and excess luggage so Ian and I could head for Dresden. Altenburg Airport was our first point of arrival - just a little larger than Narrabri but they did stamp our passport at least!!

The next challenge was to drive from there to Wilsdruff. Tracy using the navigator gizzmo and Ian on right hand side drive on the motorway of speed!! YeeHaa we made it!! 

Arrival at the little hotel or Pension, as it seems to be called here, was very interesting. We with English and they with German - communication via iphone translation proved successful - travel with technology adds all sorts of possibilities to an adventure. Ordering a meal in the dining room had the added fun of translating - eventually we asked via Ian's high school German and the translator babel phone for the recommendations of the house - a great idea and the meals we had were soooo delicious. Meat so tender, red cabbage, garden salad -  I think it was from the back vegie garden - check the picture.

Tomorrow we will meet up with our couch surfing connection in Dresden for his perspective on the city. As they say six billion people - six billion stories - I look forward to hearing a new one tomorrow.

Dresden and some
 First there was breakfast well fruestuck really and that meat platter is only the beginning!! So off we set - Tracy in the driver's seat and I think I only once got confused and used the wrong side of the road, not bad really. Hooked up a ride on the tram Ian having found a much needed transport map!!

The plan was to meet Andreas at Burger King at Main Station - Hauptbahnhof - and we made it.

Andreas and his wife Kirsten were wonderful guides and most interesting people. Their two children live in London and Berlin and they enjoy the new city life of Dresden. Travel is a recent possibility for them and with their English speaking they look forward to experiencing and seeing more of the world. The stories of old and new Dresden abounded and evidence of the past and recent rebuilding was a plenty. My favorite spot was the market square. This image doesn't do it justice but I loved the focus of the square and that it has been a place of gathering for at least 300 years.

Much walking and talking brought us to the Patio of Europe (rough translation) because so many have and still gather to appreciate the River Elbe and play. 

We rounded off the day with a tour of Zwingers (strange name I haven't worked it out yet) - an area purpose built for a wedding celebration - I've forgotten which king it was for - and it was to have been pulled down after - just as well it wasn't wasted!!

Many thanks to our local guides and we headed back to prepare for the opera - a shower at least. Back into the city - remember we still had to drive to and from the tram - no wrong side of the road this time but keeping to the right feels soooo wrong!!

The opera was fabulous - a rebuilt baroque building with lots of atmosphere and music, colour, and confusing plots - The Barber of Seville (AKA Figaro) and love trysts and twists kept me well awake and only an occasional nudge to Ian.

Return to Wilsdruff from the city at 10 pm proved an adventure. We did make it though after a few tram changes and wandering some streets - always felt safe and saw some interesting night wanderers. Looking forward to sitting in a car tomorrow and heading for Prague.

From Dresden to Prague

On the road to Prague and as we enter the Czech Republic the hills are green and the sky is blue - a sensational day!! We managed to drive the 2 hour trip without any wrong turns - not because we could read any signs but because of direction talking technology. We booked into the hotel - found on Wotif - and with the help of the people at the front desk who speak at least two languages booked a tour for tonight and tomorrow then headed towards the city.

Yes I do need to mention that for all Ian's direction finding he did in fact take us on a tram that went in the opposite direction to that which we should have been going - I know he has confessed but I am usually the one who gets it sooooo wrong!! So once in the city we saw this, Emlyn........................

Yep the Quickie store in Prague!! 

Once we had checked out the city centre and shopping we returned for a much needed rest - yes nana naps on holidays are part of the plan!! Then off on a river night tour of the city. It is certainly a city of fairy tale images. Dinner, music and the setting sun on Prague it doesn't get much better.

Chatted with an American couple from Long Island enjoying a holiday and also chatted to a young Malaysian man traveling with his parents. An interesting man who teaches Jazz music at the university in Kuala Lumper. Another wonderful night and still more to come.

If this is Tuesday we must be in Prague
In fact we are in Wenceslas Square where we begin our day tour of the city. I needed a hat, which I purchased at the appropriate tourist shop and with a guide speaking Italian, Czech and English we were set to see the wondrous city. Surrounding the square were the most colourful buildings reminding me of a fancy cake shop. 

We headed for Prague Castle which had dominated the landscape last night but it was not alone in being a stunning old building that meshed with the daily life of the city.

This is only the first courtyard and entrance and it is the smallest - The building dates back to 870, and that is on my hat!! Apparently it has celtic beginnings and part of the castle includes a cathedral - a must for everyones back yard!!

So on we venture to what seemed to be tourist central - and yes we were there too! The square in New Town - and new means 13th century!! 
Yep it was the clock that got everyone's interest. So the tour ended and we were back in Wenceslas Square where we indulged in some local sausage for lunch - Yummy!!

Once we had refueled we went to find Kafka's place in Lesser Town. Finding this meant a train ride which we successfully made. From the grandeur of the castles and buildings to the internal world of Kafka I gleaned a story of a city with so much to see and tell.

As Kafka has said of Prague "This mother gets under your skin" (rough translation) but he certainly had something.

Ahhh Prague
Through the cobbled roads the tram wove its way to take us to one more place that we serendipitously happened upon when a traveller on the night cruise suggested that Mozart's museum was a place worth visiting.

Stepping through the entrance meant stepping into a quiet and peaceful garden with Mozart's music floating in the air. Magical! Bertramka belonged to the Dušeks and they were  friends with Mozart hence he spent a lot of time in Prague where his music was received with great success.

The gardens were peaceful but it is worth noting that the geraniums were in flower all over the city - so take note Chris - geraniums have class!!!!

We meandered back through cobbled streets and paths in amongst many buildings that had weathered many years without care. 

I meant to mention Ian's ongoing quest to hook into a wireless network wherever we go - well Mozart was the goods!! No where else in the city did he have success but it is fitting the the genius of Mozart offered him the network he so sought - music to his fingers!!

Back to our car and onto the road to head for Germany again as we aimed to be at Altenburg for our return to London to the have a few days in the city before our next exciting trip - the very fast train to Paris!! I think it's all real and every day I check by pinching Ian - it's works every time.

In Between
So much about this traveling is about what happens in between. The stuff that we do and what happens around us as we go from place to place. So I thought I would scribble some of these moments down.

A song on the radio as we get on the transit bus in Prague to go to a river cruise - Perhaps Love sung by John Denver and Placido Domingo reminding me of our friend Pam.

Buying a piece of fruit from the asian green grocers in the town of Altenburg

A hat stand in the waiting area at Altenburg Airport - so useful???

Arriving back in London on a Ryanair flight and the recorded announcement preceded by a trumpet fanfare announces that this was another on time flight and passengers clapped!!!

A woman shouting at her partner in the rain at Stanstead Airport at 11 o'clock at night because it's raining and her new luggage will get wet.

A bus breaking down on the way back from Stanstead and waiting for another one to collect us and transferring our stuff from one to the other in the rain.

Arriving at Baker Street station and going up, going down, going around to find the right platform to get to Kings Cross.

Arriving at Kings Cross/ St Pancreas and finding our hotel - going up, going down to find the dolls room we had booked.

Lying in bed listening to the pulsating rhythm of the underground trains.

Eating at a local pub - The Boot - only one block back from Euston Road and so very local and not tourist filled - except for us at least and it was one of at least three within a block of the hotel we are staying in.

Being a tourist in London
A woman with attitude!! Boudica -  Britain's  Warrior Queen. She stands in her chariot on Westminster Bridge her daughters behind her ready to fight the invading Romans - I think now it would be the invading tourists of which I am one. But she is unquestionably an impressive sight and a woman to take note of.

London is such a mixture of the old with the new. I love the way the old is part of the new - St Pancras Station - an international train station. Built in the 1850s it survived the blitz and near demolition to remain this amazing meeting and departure place. Troops during the war left from here and children evacuated from the city to the country left from here too.

Onwards and upwards - well steps usually to catch trains. Oxford Street and the Marble Arch - designed for Buckingham Palace but too big to fit so it ended up in Oxford Street - with Ian loitering around the small arch.

From there we went off and found, not that it was lost,  The Thames, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Cathedral, The London Eye, Old Bill and lots of tourists!!

A late  and delicious mexican lunch in Covent Garden with Emlyn and Jade rounded off another excellent day. Lucy to arrive a little later and all that activity and those steps meant that a nana nap or at least a feet up rest was called for!!

An afternoon in Paris
Sleek, fast and smooth was our trip from London to Paris. So much easier than the last crossing 27 years ago.  We successfully negotiated the metro and weaved our way to the hotel. An excellent room of Parisian city proportions and we three fitted comfortably in. But first the connection to the world - check father and daughter!! Then a wander around the corner and we find Moulin Rouge - location+++.

From here we jump on the open bus tour of the city. I took lots of photos and some are even in focus!! Here are just some images of the city - hope you enjoy

So back to base - walking the streets on Saturday evening with crowds of locals and tourists - finding food and watching the action of the night was an end to another fun day.

Paris in the Sunshine

A slow start to the day which, as it turns out for Sunday in Paris this is exactly what everyone does. Breakfast of croissants, bread and coffee was most sufficient. Yes that is me in the sunny window having breakfast and the other one is the view I had.

We wandered back through the quiet streets - and it is 10 o'clock in the morning - but as we approached the tourist centre the crowds had started to gather. Jumping on a bus to the Louvre we find what seems to be the population of a small town lining up to enter. Our plan is to visit during the week - hopefully a small queue!! (We later discovered that the first Sunday of the month is free entry - hence the crowd). None of this detracted from an awe inspiring wander around the grounds and gardens.

One of the fun things we came across during our street walking was this wonderful jumble of clocks at the Gare St Lazare. If you don't like one time just choose another.

Lunch on the banks of the river and a walk through the street markets meant I collected lots of post cards. In spite of being in electronic communication I can't give up the old ways completely.

We finished the walk at Notre-Dame and jumped on another bus tour which covered some of the newer buildings of the city and then back for the mandatory rest - well collapse really - but we came good so we could have dinner and complete the day.

Groceries, pick pockets and the Champs Elysees

Yep that's me outside the Quicksilver shop along the Champs Elysees. The whole strip leading to the L'arche de Triomphe is an intense commercial strip. I guess that is part of the old and new. But I get ahead of myself. The day started with finding a supermarket and acquiring the requisite goodies for a picnic lunch.

So all was fine until we entered the train and some very efficient pick pocketers succeeded in taking Ian's wallet. The swiftness was astonishing and although he realised it almost immediately they had jumped off the train before it left the station!! So we hiked back to the hotel to do the necessary canceling of cards and then to try and find the police to report the event!!

As it turned out the very helpful english speaking young police officer was based at Champs Elysees so although the day was seriously interrupted we still had our picnic and walk.

By the time we returned to our abode we had had a very eventful day - not the way it was planned. Thankfully we should be on an early train out of the city and off to Monet's garden for a more peaceful day - with the rest of the tourists!! C'est la vie, that's Paris.

A day in a Garden
Monet's garden!!! A bright and sunny day was ahead of us but as we set out at 6.30 am it wasn't exactly beaming. The train - not metro - got us to Vernon early enough for Lucy to need a cardi and Ian to have goosebumps - I was in heaven - but it warmed up quickly and without the almost helpful information and staff at Vernon station we eventually caught a bus to Giverny having worked out the pick up point ourselves.

So be warned there are lots of images of the house and garden but I won't put too many here. Suffice to say that although it was busy with tourists this was a most restful and peaceful day. In spite of the commodification of the images of Claude Monet I feel that the integrity of those images holds true. Still an original painting can be breathtaking for me. So to be in one of the spaces where these images were created was something special.

Lunch was a picnic next to the water near a Claude Monet bust. Then we wandered around the town, had a very welcome beer at the local hotel and finished off some yummy ice cream.

Louvre, laundry and lights
We started the day by heading for the Louvre - turns out so did lots of others but it is such a massive place that apart from the crowds at the entry and the obligatory Mona and Milo it is easy to get around. That's me standing next a Rubens painting of Hercules - I like the way Omphale is pulling him by the ear!! The other one is in the Egyptian antiquities hall and some days I'm feeling a little ancient myself. 
The middle of the day required some basic necessities i.e. washing. Ian and I successfully found the laundromat and worked out how to utilise the equipment - we even managed to find a place to have coffee while the washing was happening.

So to the lights - The tower of Gustave Eiffel. Lucy was headed for the top and once we arrived I decided that I wouldn't be left waiting. The three of us made it without too long a queue and the lights of Paris were stunning.

Houses without hallways are hardly houses at all
Venturing to Versailles was today's adventure. Grandeur on a grand scale - how much can we take in I ask - certainly not all of the space that this place inhabits. Before the French Revolution Versailles covered 7800 hectares which is the present size of Paris and it was surrounded by a 43 km wall but when we visited today it is only 800 hectares!!!! Easy as .... NOT. But having a go was fun!

And then there were the gardens. There were so many places to go and thank goodness for the little train that bounced us along the cobbled stones and saved our tired footsies.

Marie Antoniette featured in the place we covered and this girl had some space. A home entertainment centre, a thatched village with gardens and farm all apart from the main Chateau de Versallies. And don't forget the Temple of Love - that's the one with Ian in front of it.

I'm left in awe of the people who created the place - those thousands of skilled workers and poor labourers who carved stone and wood, wove and stitched fabrics, designed and implemented plans of houses, gardens and lakes and left us with lots of hallways both inside and out to wander along.

Bonsoir Paris
More geraniums - these ones were plastic but I just had to add them as they greeted me as we boarded the boat we were about to cruise up and down the Seine. A most leisurely way to spend the morning and I learnt more stuff about those Paris icons - like

  1. The Louvre is 16 Kilometres of corridors and if spent you spent 3 seconds in front of each painting or sculpture you would be there for three months and that's day and night.
  2. Marie Antoinette spent the last two months of her life in a prison that had been a castle and she was taken to the Place de la Concorde to have her head chopped off along with more than a 1000 other souls.
  3. Monuments and bridges are usually because a war or battle was won or that one of those Louis dudes built a bridge across the river to apologise for spending so much money on the Chateau de Versailles.
  4. Notre Dame took about two centuries to be built.
  5. The Eiffel Tower was saved from deconstruction because it was a high point to locate a radio tower.

But enough of such matters. We ended the evening with Lucy walking the 284 steps up the L'Arche de Triomphe. Ian and I waited at the base - we were not up for the steps!! Lucy is at the top of this...

I forgot the shopping and lunch on the Boulevarde Saint Michel. Lucy took us to this cool bookshop. Ian found us a neat little restaurant where we had an excellent 3 course meal.

It has been an eventful week and so much fun and action - looking forward to a slightly slower pace for the next few days at least!.

And now a quiet garden
This was a day for travelling and successfully leaving Paris at 8.30 in the morning and arriving in Crystal Palace by 2.30 in the afternoon to our most lovely abode for the next three weeks was quite a mission.

It is a lovely place to have arrived and although our adventures continue I look forward to enjoying these tranquil surrounds - with the visiting foxes and squirrels.

It's the little things 
Crystal Palace, so named after the great exhibition hall of glass and iron that was built in 1851 was a popular site for visitors until it burnt down in 1936. I have childhood memories of my father saying, "turn the lights off! What do you think this is Crystal bloody Palace!"

Having had a rest day - well that's all relative really - we shopped, washed, picked up the extra luggage we had left with Emlyn and generally caught up with the ordinary stuff while still managing to explore the local town centre of Norwood - and you can see Ian standing in the local park on the picture above.

I have been keen for an afternoon tea experience in London so we headed towards the Flemings Mayfair Hotel in Half Moon Street just of Piccadilly Road and right near Buckingham Palace.

It was lots of fun and very yummy - clotted cream with the scones too!! Once we had our fill of sumptuous goodies we wandered towards the palace - via the park where you could hire deck chairs - only in England!!

g What does one say about Buckingham Palace - except that it is surprisingly accessible. By which I mean that given many of the attacks over the years one can stand very close to the building.

Just as I like it
For tonight's performance you will see William Shakespeare's As You Like It at the reconstructed Globe Theatre. Regardless of the weather the show goes on!!

It was a wet and windy night by the Thames and happily we had chosen bench seats in the middle gallery on the east tower. We remained drier than those who braved the floor in front of the stage. The stage itself was, in part, also in the rain and more than once did one of the thespians slip and fall - but only once did they get the giggles and have to hang onto their lines.

Much laughter and fun was the order of the night and as Jaques reflects that "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players" we too played our part and enjoyed the romp.

Didn't we have a lovely time the day we went to the Midlands
We hooked up with the hire car and loaded up for an English road trip. The plan - head for Hatfield (town) in Hertfordshire (county) and check the university then to North Luffenham (town) in Rutland (England's smallest county) to see Ian's cousin and thence to Ashbourne (town) in Derbyshire or is it Staffordshire (county) to see friends. Basically it's the middle of England - The Midlands.

The farm house in North Luffenham. They farm Christmas trees here and here we were welcomed by Helen (Ian's cousin) and her family. Much chatting into the night and looking at some photos brought back many memories.

Onwards towards Ashbourne where Phil and Darley reside. A very English welcome awaited us. 

We sat in the garden and enjoyed the sunny afternoon with scones, tea and homemade jam. Before the evening meal we strolled to the local pub, The Cock, via an old mill, still working it turns out, and the river Dove.
We also passed an old church that has a door that bears the musket holes of shots fired at locals who, the story goes, were chasing Bonny Prince Charles men who had killed the local publican in search of food. As reinforcements of the Prince's men arrived they shot at locals who had taken refuge in the church.

To the Peak - district that is
A picnic in the Peak District and a venture down into the Blue John cavern was the plan for the day. Blue John I hear you ask? I thought it was a person but no it is a mineral that has been mined in Castleton for centuries. Found in the veins in the limestone it is made into jewelry or bowls, eggs and tazzas (I'll let you look that one up - I had to). 

In the cave I was surprised by the youthfulness of the geology in relation to any of the caves I have been in at home. Small stalactites and stalagmites about 15000 years old according to the guide and these were babies compared to the large and old columns in caves like Jenolan and Wee Jasper.
Here is some of the early equipment used in the  mine. The small cart would have been pulled by a child.

A view from outside the cave. People walk all over these hills.

After a peaceful and scrumptious lunch overlooking a range of peaks we explored some local villages and drove through picturesque England lane ways - very narrow ways indeed. We stopped in Bakewell for afternoon tea and had to have some Bakewell Tart - a local treat.

Home again, home again, giggity gig
It was brief but wonderful to see such warm friends who shared their home (the yellow one) and the Midlands with us. A parting breakfast in the picturesque garden was scrumptious and as we headed to Hatfield to drop Lucy off to her new space. The breakfast became all the more welcome as we travelled on - be well fed if you plan a road trip is a good motto.

How inviting is this delightful room!!
Ian delivers the coffee for breakfast.

Stairs behind a door to take you to your bed.

A kitchen from which delicious food arrived.
It was quite a journey back to Crystal Palace - many thanks to the map (donated by John in North Luffenham), Mott (the sat nav), google maps on the iPhone, Ian navigating and Tracy behind the wheel because London traffic is busy. Although I need to say they are the most polite lot of drivers I have had to struggle for road space with.

This is one page of many. Making sense of this was Ian the wonder map reader.

Along the river Thames
Yep we are back in town and the south side beckoned us for a daylight tour of the Globe. London Bridge station delivered us up for a short walk to the Globe. Such interesting things we saw along the way.
But first my favourite sin on the underground. If you call the number does a helicopter arrive? I do hope so. 

A sneaky peak of Tower Bridge.

The oldest gothic church in London. Rebuilt in 1212 after a fire but it has been a place of worship for 1400 years. It is thought to have been a Saxon Convent in 606.

Winchester Palace. According to our guide from the Globe it was the Bishop of Winchester who presided over the Southwark area including 22 houses of "ill repute" which stood opposite the theatre, another sinful indulgence.

F Ian with Francis Drake's little run about - The Golden Hinde.

The Globe in all its old but new glory!

Handy household hints - let me know if you have tried it.

Costume / dressmaking in the 17th century.

And this was the result. 

Off with their heads
We decided that today would be a one activity day. Arriving at the Tower of London at 1.30 p.m. gave us lots of time to soak up the place and its history while joining all the other tourists along the way. 

The place is old but it was built on Roman ruins that are even older - about AD200 old. The first two images below are Roman walls inside the Tower but the other one is at Tower Hill Station.

In this court yard lived and died Lady Jane Grey. One of the blue doors behind me was the door to her residence before she had her head chopped off.

The memorial is where the beheading took place - including the death of Anne Boleyn.

Standing above Traitor's Gate. So many stories come to mind from my high school history studies.

The church in the Tower which still operates today. It is in here that many are buried including the above mentioned ladies.

In this imposing building the crown jewels are kept - and yes that is the back of Ian's head. Look Freda more blue sky!!
We finished off the afternoon with walk along Tower Bridge, with all the other tourists and locals, which I had thought of as really old but it was only about 100 years old.

It was a one activity day, sort of, but we finished by joining Emlyn and Sandra for dinner at The Green Man, a quintessential British Pub at Putney Heath.

Cats, Rats, and Pigeons

Getting around this complex city has proved one of the more interesting parts of the holiday. Today we tried yet another route to our place of abode and London and we had a bus ride,the 322, from Brixton during the after school hour. Lots of young teenage girls with lots to say about life, fashion and love. But back to the earlier part of the day.

Here a pigeon flies past St Martin in the Fields.

Playing Chess in Trafalgar Square.

Me being a tourist at the fountain in said square.

Looking dazed and confused in the Circus.

Known as rats with furry tails here (the grey variety not the red) but cute none the less as they joined us for lunch in Hyde Park.

And yes we did indulge in Harrods food hall - two wild game pies, with a green bean salad and a beetroot salad - Oh my!!!

Water, water everywhere - it must be Venice
Not only water but streets - no cars - and lanes and people, people, people - so many tourists and we make three more. 

For the regular person getting around on a vaporetto (water bus) is essential  but for the more cashed up a there  is a multitude of gondolas.  We definitely used the vaporetto

We found our little apartment just near the Rialto Bridge - most central and comfortable.

Rialto bridge - always busy!!!

Food was next to be found and we feasted on pizza, pasta, beer and red wine while enjoying the chef sing along to an Italian tenors' recording playing in the background.

Food was next to be found and we feasted on pizza, pasta, beer and red wine while enjoying the chef sing along to an Italian tenors' recording playing in the background.

Waking up in Venice
This most unusual place has no motorised traffic and hardly any greenery, therefore bird life seems to be limited to pigeons (in extreme number) and some seagulls and because of the way buildings are - close and high - sunlight doesn't enter many parts of the city - including our abode. We woke late and it still felt like early morning!!
View from the window of our apartment. A sneaky peak of sunlight is just at the top of the picture.
One of the busy lane ways we walked.

Once awake we headed to the market - open six days a week form 8am to 1pm. Purchasing fruit, bread and rations for cooking dinner was a further challenge but Ian and Emlyn took on the language with gusto and we bought lots of great food.

Looking into part of the fish market.
Walking the narrow lane ways brings you out to lots of little squares (campos - translates as field - go figure) but the big one is San Marco and it is called a square. The church at the top of the page is San Marco and below is the view from that end. Lots of restaurants and three different musical groups playing Vivaldi (he was a local boy) and some.

Beautiful chandeliers are in abundance this is just one of them I sneaked a picture of hanging in a foyer of one of the buildings fronting onto San Marco.

With bread, cheese, meat and beer packed we headed for the islands of Morano - known for its glass making and then to Borano known for lace making and colourful houses.
On the vaporetto headed for the islands.
Lunch under a rare tree on Morano.
Lots of little shops selling the local glass and a glass sculpture in one of the lane ways. 

Back on the vaporetto and off to Burano. We passed this relic on the way - I wonder who thought it was a good idea to get all the building materials together and construct this building on hardly any land???

Those colours really are that bright. There is one story that says that the colours allowed the fishermen to return to the right house in the dark. Wonder if it worked?? 
Just a little lace for sale. The  women were actually making lace.

Borano has a patch of grass and flowers at the wharf. Emlyn headed straight for the sun!
Ending the day with dinner cooked by Emlyn was perfect. Pasta with fresh tomatoes pick of all the menus. The mandatory gelato was sought out after dinner and sleep was much needed.

Europe and the beach of Lido
Began the day with another market trip - again a success so dinner was planned and we headed for the beach on the island of Lido. This long skinny island protects the others because of its location but it also has the sandy beach.

The beach has so many little huts - as far as the eye can see - very European I believe. The water was warm and there were little waves. I wish I had brought swimming costumes - although there were women on the beach with very little on. I'm no even going there!!!!
Lido had a very different feel. It has greenery (and blue sheep), buses and cars and it has a beach holiday feel to it although it still has the Venetian look.

The facade of one of the hotels on Lido.
More pizza for lunch with gelato to follow - delicious.
Back on Venice we walked and walked looking for the Bridge of Sighs - no sign of it anywhere. Between map looking and logic it would seem to have fallen down (highly unlikely) or it is behind this cover under repair maybe?

More scrumptious food prepared by Emlyn the end of a most satisfactory day.

Addit: the introductory picture of the light fitting was just cool so I added it - tried to get a night picture but it wasn't light up - bulb blown it seems.

All you need is love and a little cricket
Today is going to be the day - for Lords that is. All things cricket will be revealed at the home of cricket. It was a surprisingly entertaining and I had a fun time.

View from the media "pod" of the hallowed ground and The Pavilion.
Above mentioned "Pod"
Some lads in white turned out for the day. Found them playing on the Nursery Ground.
Discussing the game in those stripes.

I guess I had to include this.

From Lords it was a short walk to a very familiar spot - guess where this was taken.

Back at the Globe
It's oh so fun and so we returned. This time to watch a matinee performance of Love's Labour's Lost. Lots of laughter and music with a Shakespearian twist on love. 

Before we headed for the performance we visited the Tate Modern. The place was buzzing with activity. We checked out the Cubists, some Andy Warhol and other stuff that sometimes looked like art and sometimes was just confusing.

Later in the afternoon we headed for Covent Garden to catch Emlyn again we had a Monopoly tour. Fleet Street, The Strand and Bow Street included.

"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag" - Steps of St Paul's

Clocks, statues and tudor buildings along the way.

Back to West Ham
It's been 26 years since the last visit and still 120 Caistor Park Road looks much the same. Although this time Emlyn is with us and last time Dylan was 11 months old. The gentleman behind the front door (you can just see him in the photo) did come to see what was going on and we chatted for a while. He has lived there for 43 years and now cares for his wife who has had a stroke. When we said this was the house where my father was born he said he remembered the Cummings.

We walked up to the end of the street and checked the park which I remember having a playground where Dylan played all those years ago.

Having successfully completed my mission back to the family home we headed for Camden Markets. The glamourous lady at the top of the page was reclining at the markets - oh she does glitter. The markets are full of interesting stalls and people but most of all the history of the space being stables has meant that there are lots of horse statues.

Country lanes and old stones

A little piece of country England. Today is Sunday and although the plan is to visit lots of gardens and grand homes - Sissinghurst being top of my list - we decided that during the week might be slightly less busy so today we explored the villages around us.

The picture above has three oust houses have been converted into homes and they are just outside our front door.
Laneway/road leading into the Granary (the back of which is in the photo) and Pippins - our little cottage - connected to the Granary.
Ian outside the front gate of the Granary.  

Pippins front door. I'm standing in front of the "other door". Not sure what the story is but it isn't used. 

An apple orchard next door. Not sure how well managed it is.

After lunch we went in search of the Neolithic remnants of a Long Barrow. A known burial ground dating back 5000 years. WOW!! 
Ian on the path to the Coldrum Long Barrow

If you can read this then hopefully it explains a little about the old stones below.

It is a popular place to visit at sunrise according to the locals. The outlook is beautiful.

A castle and a concert
Today will be our last chance to see Emlyn before we come back to Oz. He has come to the countryside of Kent and we have decided to visit Leeds Castle. An oh so elegant and glamourous place with quite an historical pedigree. You can just see it peaking through the trees above. The walk to the castle through the gardens on a drizzly grey day was delicious.

Wandering the path towards the castle - A Peacock on the left and a more colourful Emlyn on the right.

Impressive view as we passed the Barbican and fortified Mill - seen below.

In 1278 the castle became part of the Queen of England's dower. It's last owner Lady Olive Baillie, Daughter of an English Lord and an American heiress, spent large sums of money refurbishing and living in the castle. It seems to have had a very feminine touch.
The sitting room during Lady Baillie's time. Her portrait with two of her daughters hangs on the far wall. In 1978 Egypt - Israeli peace talks were held in this room.

The library - to have so much space for one's books - I wish. Lucy - this is a room where tea and reading would be a perfect way to spend a day or more. Meet you there any time.

Two likely lads in the cellar. Still used for wine storage today - we didn't get our hands on any though.

Just for Kelly - an English country garden in the grounds.

Just for Aaron - an English maze with grotto. A new addition to the grounds but a fun one. Emlyn was certainly king of the maze.
Inside the grotto with Ian.

We finished the day travelling to London with Emlyn - he was headed home and we were headed to the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre for the much waited for reunion gig of Mott the Hoople. Old dudes all round but fun, fun, fun and if we can rage against the dying light with such attitude then it's all good.

I took this dodgy picture but the head and shoulder of this gent is another story - he comes from the Pilbara and had travelled with his brother just for the concert.
Rustic England
It really, really does look like this!! After a blogless two days it is time to catch up. Tuesday was a quiet and sleepy day after the night of Mott the Hoople and Wednesday was a day of visiting Lucy
This looks like a Lucy type space. She is happily settled and we had a lovely day with her and Melody. Plus a dinner with Sam, Lucy and Melody. Lots of happy days await her I'm sure.

So today the sun was shining, it has been raining for the last two, very English and grey but most welcome. With such a stunning day we headed for Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill.
The colour is all real. Blue skies, green grass and a home of the 1930s with a bit of Tudor remnant.

The home is lovely - my favourite was the dining room - sorry no pictures inside but I would love to have a dinner party there some time! The garden is quite the show piece.
How perfect could the day be for such a garden?

Drinking in the heavenly scent of the rose garden.

Overlooking the kitchen garden - currently a work in progress.

Ian in the vegie patch.

In the garden again!!

The colours of Autumn. You can hardly see me.

An apple orchard - lots of apples!!

One perfect day at Sissinghurst
This has been a much anticipated day for me. As many of you know I have had an interest in Sissinghurst for some time. It began when I came across the unusual couple of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. The garden of Sissinghurst is their legacy. Vita wrote of Sissinghurst;
Buried in time and sleep,
So drowsy, overgrown
That here the moss is green upon the stone,
And lichen stains the keep

The towers at the back were the sanctuary of Vita where she did most of her writing. The long house in the foreground holds the library on the left.
Through the gate and on towards the garden. But first a walk to the top of the tower where Vita worked and a view of the Weald of Kent. 

Views from the top of the tower.

The top of the tower exit to view the grounds below. It was only about 70 steps.
Ian in the white garden.
So many pathways to chose from and all beautiful.
Tracy in the white garden. This is a corner I have a picture of on my computer at work so I could imagine sitting at this very spot. It was all I hoped.
We had lunch at the restaurant - Soooo goood!!! Check the menu!! I had tomato stuffed with oxtail. Ian had bunny pie. As well as starting with pumpkin soup and having apple and plum (from the garden) crumble with custard - feast!!!

Seaside, family and sunshine
East Wittering is a seaside town near Portsmouth, the place the First Fleet departed from in 1787. Today we have come to visit my cousin and catch up on some family stories. Here I stand in the water of the English Channel.

On our way to East Wittering we came through the village of Arundel. Quite a sight with a castle in the centre of town.
The village street in Arundel.
High tide means no sand only stones.
Three most unlikely surf types at a local East Wittering surf shop.

Those Romans keep on giving
Peek-a-boo from the city wall of York. A Roman wall which has seen lots of other use and change but still it keeps on - I think they knew a few things about building stuff that lasts!
Walking on the wall.
An ice house of Roman design.
Known as Clifford's Tower because one Roger de Clifford was hung there in 1322 this building stands impressive but with a bloody history.

Not only is the city surrounded by a wall but the Minster also pops up everywhere.

Chim, chim, chiree
From the walls of the city of York. Anyone pop up?? We spent the morning roaming the city and those fantastic walls but we also climbed Clifford's Tower.

As some may be aware I am not one for heights - sometimes the wall had a fence and sometimes not.

A neat little shop in Shambles Lane.

Not in Shambles Lane - but still what is holding this up???
Yep I am hanging on at the top of Clifford's Tower.

The tower today - still standing though!!!

We had a brief but sunny and fun time in York and then we headed back for Offham in Kent with two stops planned. We had lunch with Darley and Phil in Derbyshire and again we had a chance to sit in the sunny garden with them.  

Our second stop was to catch friends of Kelly and Don. Lots of laughing and chatting with Jackie, Simon and Dane including calling Kelly and Don on video skype - a great way to have a dinner party!!

A quiet English Village
Snippets of information about the village we have been staying in.

Two sides of the town sign - church and cricket.
So life is really all about sport and religion or so it appears in West Malling.
St Leonard's Tower from which the Bishop Gundulf (I kid you not!!) arranged and managed the business of the Parish.

An 18th Century Manor house built from a Tudor farmhouse and now luxury apartments for sale - anyone interested??
The old vicarage with gothic windows and geometric hedge - what lurks beneath?
Cool name. Wonder what happened in Swan Street?
Layer upon layer - behind this  19th Century cross banding there hides a medieval structure. Everything old is new again.
One of many village pubs. Behind these tiles and brick work of 1870 there is part of a farmhouse, c.1400.
Behind these walls lies an order of Benedictine Nuns.

The old tower (not me) of the nunnery dating back to c.1090. 
In the Manor Park. Autumn is upon us. Change is constant.

Fish and Chips and family
Broadstairs - a costal town in Kent and a place of memories. When last we were here we arrived as a young couple with a baby and were welcomed by my aunt Eleanor and her husband. Today we visit a very genteel old lady who has long ago moved into care but is still the aunt I remember.

The town has changed very little. Bleak House stands prominently on the headland still. Charles Dickens captured stories of England and in so many places there are reminders of these stories.

Even the bakery and sweet shop have a Dickensian look.

Autumn days
Today is our last full day in Kent. We will be back in Camberley later tomorrow and flying home on Saturday. So as the colours of autumn happen around us we will soon be back in a dry and windy - from recent local reports - spring.

We began the morning with a walk to and around Offham. Laneways, public pathways, footpaths and roads were all part of the fun.

Enjoying a refreshing ale awaiting lunch at the local Offham Kings Arms.
It has been a pub for at least 300 years.

Once we had refreshed ourselves with lunch we headed for Hever Castle. This "little" place has been the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the home of Anne of Cleves and it became the family home of the Astors.
Glowing autumn colours on the doorstep - well drawbridge really - of Hever Castle.
The recent (c.1900) gardens have an indulgent feel. The Astor money, which I guess could be referred to as "new" money certainly ensured the creation of languid environment. Is it ever likely that the Murdoch money may one day leave such a legacy that people will wander through?
The Italian garden.

Such attention to detail.

Those languorous days.

Oh the tranquility.

Autumn is so very pretty.

As so farewell for now
It seems almost just a moment ago that these adventures began and it is just right that we could return to our friends where we started to complete the journey. 

The garden has the hint of autumn and it is still just wonderful.
So it is goodbye autumn and here we come spring
Thank you to all who have come along on the blog with us. We have enjoyed the contributions just as much as posting each day's blogs.