A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Friday 6 April 2012

Leaving Australia

semi-overcast

Friday 6 April 2012
Friday night - got through check in at melbourne and timed it nicely to get onto the plane. The first leg of the trip to Singapore went by with me sleeping a good deal of the way. The seats were roomy, with enogh room for my big bum to fit comfortably and not to feel I was encroaching on the space of the next person. Plenty of leg room, but remember that I have duck's disease and ergo do not need much space.
I changed seat bookings when I checked in online and had the very back seat of the plane on the middle row of seats, on an aisle seat. There was room to move in the back galley area and I got up four or more times to walk and exercise my legs. Had no problem with swelling, or stiffening or anything else with my knees or feet. Amazing as I fully expected issues. I was very with how easily I was getting around, thanks to good shoes.
The cabin crew were plentiful and very nice. Food was good, although it never seemed to arrive when I considered it meal times, mostly because I became unaware of what time it was.
This is just sitting on the street outside Earls Court subway station

This is just sitting on the street outside Earls Court subway station


PHOTO - DIDN'T TAKE LONG TO NOTICE THIS ON THE STREET IN EARLS COURT

My only small criticism was that there wasn't a great deal of selection in movies and television shows to watch on such a long haul flight. There were plenty of video games though which kept me amused for a while. I found there was more of a need to keep the mind busy as the body was too inactive.

Would I recommend Singapore airlines. You bet. I spoke with a couple that I met on the tube coming in from the airport. They flew Etihad and said it was good, but room was limited. I felt that Singapore offered a good deal of space, given that it's a plane and space is a premium concern. However, after about hour ten in the air, no amount of room was going to be enough, particular for me as I like and need plenty of personal space. My thanks to Marian Tobin in particular for her information on her experiences that helped me choose a good airline.
I arrived at Singapore airport at 5.00 am and walked off the plane into humid weather. With a four hour stop over I didn't have the opportunity to get out of the airport terminal. However there was a lovely impression left from my short visit, mostly by the tidy and neat airport with it's lush treed surrounds.

I headed for the loo, as you do when you get off the plane. I was struck by the opulance afforded to the facilities, marble look sink tops, plants, some with lounge seats in the waiting area. I walked into the last cubicle and was stopped short in my tracks. Behold, in front of me was a traditional sink pit toilet (porcelin hole in the ground). I looked at it, then at the conveniently placed shower hose beside it, possibly for cleaning the toilet and yourself, or both? I thought to myself, 'not going to happen, Kez', and moved to the next cubicle. Yes, it was a western toilet, to my relief..... literally.

I was on my way out when I saw a video screen with pink smiley faces, asking for input into what I thought of the airport toilets. I touched the 'Excellent' smiley, all the while thinking, 'you wouldn't find one of these screens in Australia'. Maybe we should take a leaf out of Singapore's book when it comes to public facilities

I walked the twenty minutes from my landing gate to the departure area for my London flight. The airport is huge, very airy and full of shops and businesses. The airport staff run passengers up and down the terminal via big golf carts, which gave me the giggles everytime I saw one. The first one I saw sat six people and had a flashing light on a pole. The people sitting on it had bright orange jackets as they sped past. I know I watch too many movies because it was just like a scene out of Austin Powers, with the electronic cart being the same type. Made me chuckle for ages.

I sat and read for a while and then went off for a walk to explore. I found the butterfly house, a two storey arberitum type environment, filled with butterflies. It was a little like the forest walk at the Melbourne Museum. It's free, as a lot of the children's entertainment areas are, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

I thought the 7.5 hours to Singapore was long, but oh my goodness, the human body is not designed to sit for 23 hours. The 15 hour flight to London seemed to take forever. It wasn't bad, just tedious because of the lack of inactivity. I sat with a young couple from Brisbane (Kenmore) and we got on well. It was her first visit to London but her boyfriend had lived there for 18 months. We spent most of the time watching videos, documentaries and using the computer consule for amusement. I slept on and off, and the flight went on and on and on.
When the stewardesses brought around the heated towels early in the flight I thought it was polite, but unnecessary. However, the heated towels were refreshing and quite welcome as the flight went on.

Arriving in London, finally, on a overcast and cool day. 16 degrees, although not that cold. Retrieved my case and was not surprised to find it slightly dented. Could have been worse as it was one of the last out and I was becoming concerned that it had gone on holiday somewhere else.
Getting through customs was pretty quick. When you enter the room there are about forty consules to service passengers, with the rest of the huge room full of nothing but barriers for the lines of people to use. I thought it a bit of overkill until with only about 100 people in front of us, but within ten minutes of our flight lining up, the room was almost half full of people. The wait to get through could have taken an hour or so if the line filled up.

Singapore was a big airport that makes Melbourne look small in comparison. Heathrow is enormous, with trains to get from one terminal to the others. I asked which line would take me to Earls Court and then went down to wait on the platform. I met a family from Sydney who asked if I knew which train went to Earls Court, I gave them the advice I was given and then was asked by a gentleman who didn't speak much English, how to get to Earls Court. I decided that I must have that look of 'I know where I'm going' about me, despite the case and backpack I was carting around.
Typical building in London

Typical building in London


PHOTO - TYPICAL OLD BUILDING IN LONDON

I kept saying to myself that I'm in another country, but it didn't sink in as the train was travelling. The scenery could have been anywhere in Melbourne, However, as we moved closer to Earls Court, it was the chimney tops that gave me that certain feeling that I was somewhere new. The chimneys are very different here, with that Mary Poppins look about the skyline. The chimneys have multiple ceramic pipes atop them, giving the tops of buildings a very unique look. I then saw the most lovely streets and classic old houses all alike. Neat and wonderful to look at as I travelled.
Some buildings have spectacular architecture and carvings

Some buildings have spectacular architecture and carvings


PHOTO - LOVELY OLD ARCHITECTURE

The other thing that finally convinced me that I was indeed in London - the accents. The rhythmic sound of a few different areas around London came though in the snippets of conversation drifting through the carriage. I would not have been surprised to see the cameras as it felt like a scene from Eastenders. Quite a few Jamacian accents too.

It was an easy trip to Earls Court, which is jam packed with closely built shops and houses, and very popular with ex-pat Aussies. I heard the Australian accent every few minutes which was noteworthy given that there was a lot of tourist in and around Earl's Court speaking a myriad of languages.
Church on Gloucester Road

Church on Gloucester Road


PHOTO - ANCIENT CHURCH ON GLOUCESTER ROAD

The hotel was easy to find. All the houses in the street are the same. The West Cromwell has a blue awning and the others don't. Simple to find. The Romanian desk clerk was very nice and helped me with the bags up the stairs. There is a lift, but so far I've coped with the steep stairs.
I was prepared for a small room, as these houses are old and rooms were never big. However, I have shoes that live in bigger boxes than my room. I'm not complaining, just saying it's so very tiny. For some weird reason you open the door to a small antechamber and then have to open another door into the room itself. You can't open both together as there isn't enough space. On the plus side is the big bathroom, which is clean and has a good shower.

I had brought ear plugs with me as the road outside was six lanes wide. To my utter astonishment, the quiet was almost absolute, with only the odd siren noticeable. I woke at 3.00 am as my body clock was running on some other time zone. At about 4.30 am the blackbirds were loud and persistent, singing their beautiful melody outside the window. Such an English sound but one I didn't expect to hear in the city.
One of the first notable noises in London is the almost constant srens. Police, ambulance, fire, all going off regularly as they speed through impossible gaps in the traffic. The roads are very narrow. It's a marvel how all the buses, and there are hundreds, not just a few, make their way around without collecting a taxi or a car. The on and off bus came so close to the cars in the next lane that you could almost see what the driver had for lunch if he yawned.
Flower bed

Flower bed


PHOTO - SOME OF THE SMALL BUT PRETTY FLOWER BEDS

I was struct by how clean such a big city could be. I am in a nice area so this may not be the same for the rest of London. There are rubbish bins in homes, but most of them put their rubbish on the pavements in plastic bin bags for council retrieval.
I took a walk to Tesco's, a supermarket not more than a hundred metres from the hotel. It's a huge double story building with supermarket lines, computers, and electronics and upstairs is a bookshop, dvd and giftware shop and a coffee shop. I was pleasantly surprised at the large range of fruit and vegetables and the deli lines went on and on over more than four counters. I had fresh blueberries and raspberries with cream for supper, which was delicious.

Posted by kerry needs 08:46 Comments (0)

Saturday 7 April 2012 - London

London on and off bus tour

Saturday 7 April 2012

Up early, the body not really sure whether my body is going to be in sync with the time zone. Hey! come on, this is a bit early, even for me, but my body won't listen and I get up, knowing it's probably going to be a long tiring day.

I set up the little netbook I bought from Tesco's at a bargain price. Now I can upload photos and get the blog working. Even as I start writing, that sense of surrealism hasn't quite left me. I know I am in Engand, but it's really hard to fully comprehend this fact.
Breakfast starts at 7.30 am and I enjoy the small, but warm breakfast room as I have toast and very strong coffee (just how I like it). The coffee beans aren't the best, but I expected worse. I sought out the Romanian desk clerk, who has a lovely accent and sounds just like Dracula. He was very helpful and organised tickets for me to go on the on and off bus, ticket for the Millenium Eye and Tower of London. He also gave me maps and a number of options for getting to the pick up point.

I chose to walk, which took about twenty minutes but gave me a chance to have a nice look around. I stopped at a small electronics store to pick up an international sim card for the phone. The man was very pleasant, I think he was polish or something close to that. He got a bit fresh too, saying that he was looking for a nice woman. Don't look at me mate. I laughed it off and we parted company both having got something from the encounter, me with a new phone and sim, him with my money.
Cromwell Road - Earls Court

Cromwell Road - Earls Court


PHOTO- EARLS COURT, WEST CROMWELL ROAD WHERE I'M STAYING

I got onto the bus and sat up top in the open air. Tnis posed a monumental task as the step up to the top were winding and very steep. I had to pull myself up by the arms more than step up. I was very pleased my knees held up well but I pulled up a little stiff the next day. The headphones they give you provide a very informative narrative all along the way. You jump on and off at stops and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.
I found it fascinating and couldn't think of any other way that you could see the sights and learn about the city at the same time. For instance, the bolards and hand rails in the city are all painted black. This started when Queen Victoria lost her husband Albert to typhoid at the age of 42. She went into mourning, which lasted until her death forty years later. As a mark of respect for the loss of her consort, the city painted the railings black and it has been a tradition ever since.

All over the city there are buildings with green plaques, which signifies that it was, or the site was, a significant building or event at one time. The Council give out the plaques sparingly, but it's a good idea for the tourists.
The on and off buses run thick and fast with a number of companies running them all over the city. There is a map of the routes and you can change routes at any time. The buses were jammed packed, being a weekend, but it didn't matter. I got some good video which I'll upload when I get back to Australia.
Harrods

Harrods


PHOTO - HARRODS WITH THE ICONIC CABS OUT IN FRONT

As we travelled around it was almost too much to take in. I expected little pockets of historic buildings, but it's the whole city. There are modern buildings all over the place but they fade into insignificance against the sheer number of historic and imposing buildings and monuments.
The traffic is heavy and the streets impossibly narrow. No wonder there is a problem with gridlock. in inner London business area most of the place was closed but would normally have 30,000 people working there. I can imagine the traffic would be chaotic. The buses almost look like one big red snake, moving around the city. They were all pretty full too and business is booming for these companies.

I found the crowds quite daunting, which is something I just don't deal with normally, but it's a fact of life here. There are millions of people in London and still thousands more doing the tourist thing just like me. Cameras everywhere and always a hodge podge of languages amongst the babbe of voices.
Millenium Eye

Millenium Eye


The trip on the Millenium Eye was very good. The line was long, but moved quickly and I met a very nice man from Brighton and one from the United States. We exchanged heaps of stories while waiting and were all excited about getting on the wheel. What a view. It's slow enough not to give the impression of moving but you notice the vista more and more as you move, displaying the new and old buildings in a wonderful pattern before your eyes.
Big Ben and the houses of parliament

Big Ben and the houses of parliament


PHOTO- BIG BEN AND THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT AT WESTMINSTER

I was so engrossed in the journey that I forgot to eat or drink since breakfast and it wasn't until 4.30 pm that I had a chance to catch a coffee and sandwich. I stopped at Earl's Court shops and found a coffee house. I ordered a medium coffee. My jaw dropped when I saw the size of the mug. It was a soup bowl size and the large looked like a mixing bowl with a handle. I did enjoy it.
I went out later that night hoping to taste the wares of the local pub but couldn't get a seat for love nor money. Earl's Court is busy with tourists at night, all looking for a good feed.

I went to bed tired but very satisfied. I off to Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow, going into the circle at dusk. I taking my big coat as although it's cold, I't's not too bad but it will be freezing on Salisbury Plain. More to come tomorrow.

Posted by kerry needs 08:51 Comments (0)

Sunday 8 April - Stonehenge, Bath and Lacock

I go inside the stone circle

Sunday 8 April 2012

Forgive my comprehension and spelling mistakes. I'm tired when I write and the little notebook I bought is small and leaves me open to make typo's.
The circle of stone - stonehenge

The circle of stone - stonehenge


I didn't have to get up too early today as the bus didn't pick me up until eleven o'clock. I packed the camera and video and my big jacket and took the tube into Victoria station. This is a huge transit station and is very busy. I had no trouble identifying my tour bus. I was a brand new luxury coach and was painted a delightful purple.

The tour guide was David and the drive Malcolm. They were funny, helpful and very informative. The bus was full with most of them Americans then Aussies, with the rest being from Asia and one couple from Peru.
David entertained us with lots of interesting facts and spent a lot of time poking fun at the Aussies. He was careful with the Americans and at lunch I had a drink with him and he said that they often complain about him as they just don't get his humour. I know where he is coming from. They are a strange bunch and I just don't get the humour the like.

Anyway, I sat with a woman from Salt Lake City and she was okay. The three people I had lunch with were quite nice. The mother was a fan of Diana Gabaldon and her son was a Dr Who fan, so we had lots of fun talking over lunch.
We headed off to Bath, David pointing out Maggie Thatcher's house, which is easily recongised amongst all the other buildings the same as she has a permanent police officer guarding her door.

We passed by Andrew Lloyd Weber's house around the corner and as you probably guessed, the area was the richest in London. So expensive that most people can't afford to live there so most of the foreign embassies have their consulates there. The Syrian consulate had a big police presence out the front as there has been some issues lately.
Roman baths

Roman baths


PHOTO - LOOKING DOWN AT THE ROMAN BATH

We headed out through Hammersmith and quickly into the countryside, which was surprising to me. There was so much of it. Open commons in the housing areas and farming paddocks all along the way. London outer areas have been in drought for nine years and have introduced water restrictions. David went on about it a bit, particularly when we got close to Stonehenge as he said the effects had been devastating. Good god, the paddocks were so lush, with thick green grass. It was obvious that the crops were not thriving, with Australian wheat less and a few centimetres high and not likely to produce. However, London's idea of drought and that of the drough effects in Australia are vastly different.

The farms began to have hedgerows, which look lovely but serve a purpose. Where hedgerows are grown you can only get a permit to have a wire fence for two years. This allows the hedge to grow and then the fence comes down. The hedge encourages birds to roost and they stay around, eating the bugs in the paddocks and thus reducing the need to spray. Simple and ingenious.

There are pockets of canola growing, although it is not thriving. The farmers are trying to diversify due to the failure of their normal crops of barley and wheat.

We came into Bath and I got a huge shock. I had imagined the place to be a small to medium sized village. It's a big town with row upon row of stone built houses, all exactly the same. It's how the builder John Wood built all his houses. The town is divided into sections, with the rich, middle class and poor areas, The rich sector has three story houses, with cooks and other servants living below ground, the family living on three floors and the upstairs servants and maids living in attic rooms in the roof.
Bath

Bath


PHOTO - HOUSES IN THE POOR QUARTER, WITH ONE NOT HAVING BEEN STEAM CLEANED AND SHOWING HOW DIRTY THE TOWN WOULD HAVE LOOKED

The middle class sector has no upstairs servants and the houses are smaller. The poor houses only have a couple of levels as these people were mostly workers and had no servants.

The roman baths are in very good order and the display is comprehensive. I loved the roman statues around the top level of the baths, but it was Bath abbey that caught and held my attention. For a pagan wiccan like me it's interesting how fascinating I find the structure or the churches and cathedrals. For all intense purposes this is a cathedral now, but it was erected as an abbey, which means it was for the sole use of the church, not the public.

Anyone who has read Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth will be interested to know that this is it. This building is an exact replica of the pictured sketch in the book and therefore I fell in love with it. The flying buttresses stood out high on the walls, which are no longer used in church buildings, The inside roof had fanned designs and the impossibly high stain glass window dominated the interior.
Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey


PHOTO - BATH ABBEY

I looked at it from all angles and just drank in the marvel of how something so beautiful, so huge and so elaborate could be built in a time when only rudimentary tools were used. Breathtaking. I took a lovely picture of the roman statue in the foreground of the church, signifying the creativity of both races despite one predating the other by hundreds of years.

Looking at the abbey I couldn't help but think of the cost, and how the church could have spent that on the people, rather than an ostentatious appeasement to their god.

Bath is on a fairly steep hill but you don't notice the incline as you are so busy looking around. There were thousands of people wandering the streets and buskers in all the open areas around the church.

Our guide took us past Jane Ausen's aunt's place, which is where she stayed for a short time. We then headed out to Lacock for a late lunch.
Lacock was built around 1215. Yes, it's the time the Magna Carta was signed. The Earl of Salisbury was involved in the events around the signing of the Magna Carta, which our own constitution sprang from in Australia.

Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey


PHOTO - LACOCK ABBEY

The Lady of Salisbury commissioned the building of an abbey at Lacock in 1215 and it is still in wonderful condition and used today. The scenes in the Harry Potter movie that involved the dining room were all filmed in Lacock abbey. it was unfortunate that we couldn't go in, but I got some good photos of the abbey itself.

Also saw the house used to film the scenes at Harry's parents house. The entire, very small village is in the same condition it was when built, The houses are all stone and the rooves have stone shingles which are still very serviceable. Every now and then you see an s shaped bit of iron on the side of a house. These have a huge nut and bolt in the middle and the s shape is usually imbedded into the stone. The s shape has a rod running from the middle of it, through the house to a shape the same on the other side of the house.

The purpose? I had seen them before, but didn't know why they were there. Houses don't collapse inwards as the roof and interior walls prevent it, but it can collapse outwards. The rods stop the building crumbling out. At the change of the season from hot to cold a man used to come around with a big wrench and tighten the bolt one quarter turn so the building stayed intact.

There was a tythe barn, which was huge, owned by the abbey. Tythe means one tenth and that is the tax that the people had to pay the church eg you have ten bags of cabbages,one bag needs to go to the abbey and you had to deliver it to the tythe barn.
Lacock Tythe Barn

Lacock Tythe Barn


PHOTO - TYTHE BARN AT LACOCK WITH EXPOSED OAK BEAMS

The building itself has a huge roof area and is held up by enormous oak beams. I could almost hear the horses and smell the produce.
If you removed the cars and roads, the village would look like it did in 1215. Unbelievable.
George Inn

George Inn


PHOTO - THE GEORGE INN

We had lunch at a low roofed inn called the Old George Inn, named after George Wadworth. There is a huge fire pit in the pub with a spit rod over
the fire. Beside the fire is a wooden wheel. The publican used to put a small dog in the wheel and place hot coals behind it to urge the dog to run. The dog would turn the wheel and make the spit turn. Cruel, my oath, but it was a cruel time.
George Inn fireplace

George Inn fireplace


PHOTO - GEORGE INN FIREPLACE

I got some good shots of the textures of the stone and the wooden doors around the village. I loved Lacock more than Bath, as the village is simplistic, quaint and very much as it was all those years ago. Bath has a very commercial area, which is needed, but I found it intrusive on the historic look of the place.

We headed out of lacock and into the Salisbury Plain. At one point we looked down into a lush valley full of farms and hedgerows. In the distance were the mountains of Wales, with the Atlantic sea further over. Wonderfully breathtaking view of true English country.

We started spotting thatched cottages, which were lovely. I was surprised to see Stonehenge, not on a huge level plain as I envisaged, but on some rolling hills. Sheep grazing in the paddock that held the stones (Wiltipoles, just like mine, which is no surprise as we were in Wiltshire). There were quite a few burial mounds around the area with a few campers camped out on the side roads around the circle.

The cirlce had closed for the day and only a security guard was within the enclosed area around the circle. However there were lots of people still walking around the fenceline, taking pictures and obviously waiting for dusk to see the circle at night.

We went into the walkway under the road and entered into the path that the public take. Our tour guide walked us around the circle first so we could get good shots of the stones from a distance. Malcolm, our driver, told us a very interesting story about a new discovery of a village of the dead, just over the road from the stones. The story is fascinating and one I'll type up later. It hasn't been made widely public yet, but will be. It only adds to the mystery of the stones.

We walked into the circle and although we couldn't touch the stones, we got as close as we liked and we allowed to wander at will through and around the circle. I did touch the stones, inadvertently a couple of times as I was paying homage to the ancients. The stones made my hands hum and tingle and they gave off a lovely warmth. We only had about an hour of sunshine for the whole day and the wind was freezing, as it always is, around the henge. Still the stones remain warm.
stonehenge

stonehenge


PHOTO - WALKING THROUGH THE STONE CIRCLE

Not sure what to do, I played it by ear and ended up paying homage to the ancients who erected the stones, and those that came after who utilised the circle for their own purposes.

There were more than a couple of us who stood in between the stones and wished to fall through to Scotland. This is a reference to Diana Gabaldon for those of you who wonder what the hell I'm on about. An Australian woman was just standing still between the big outer stones. I looked at her and just knew what she was doing.

She said, 'Don't worry about me, I'm just seeing if I can go through the stones.'

'I'd like to do that, if Jamie Fraser was on the other side,' I replied and she laughed, knowing I'd read the books too. I did notice that she tried all the stones. I only tried a couple.

After fifty photos, I was satisfied and then just wandered around and drink in the atmosphere. There were a couple of people who jumped the fence, hoping not to be noticed by the guards as they took photos. The guards sent them packing and apparently this is a normal occurence.
I got talking to the guards, who were very nice blokes. They told me that the heritage trust care for the stones during the day and the security company watch over them from 5pm - 9.30 am. They keep warm by standing near the stones. They also said that the stones are always warm, which is interesting.

There are many different types of lychen on the rocks and the people have rubbed it all off over the years. They are trying to encourage the lychen to grow back, hence the taboo on touching.

Sated, and with a brim full of history for the day, we headed back to London. What a lovely day. I highly recommend Premium Tours, this one in particular, as it was fantastic. I'm on another of their tours on Tuesday, having lunch in the Cotswold. I was apprehensive about booking with the same company just in case they were not good, but now I'm thinking that I would have been happy travelling for all the tours with them. I'm trying out Anderson Tours later this week when I do the King Arthur tour. It will be interesting to compare the two.

Monday 9th April 2012

Raining today, just light, but steady. I have a free day and was planning to go to the Tower of London, but it's a bank holiday and the crowds will be wicked. Instead, I'm catching up on my blog of yesterday's events and doing some laundry. At the moment I'm in the Earls Court Tavern, having had a double shot of Glenfiddich whiskey and some very Engish fish and chips with mushy peas.

My knees are very sore today. Only muscularly sore, nothing with the actual joint. They are fine when I start to walk and I prefer to walk to see the sights. Got a little wet walking to the Earls Court shops, but nothing serious. I have a thin shirt on and just a simple rain coat to wear. I'm happier being a little chilly than putting up with the stifling heat every building. No wonder the English don't like the cold. They average temperature inside is about 25 degrees celcius, way too hot. I'm constantly sweating and hot when I go inside and have to peel off all the layers to stay cool. i have the window open all the time in my hotel room to stop the heat suffocating me.

i have taken hundreds of photos and lots of video footage, from which I will take some good still shots. I'm writing notes on most of the photos, which I recommend doing as you will see so much that you simply forget what you have seen.

The sheer scale of the history in Britain is astounding and nothing prepares you for the vast amount of well preserved buildings and historic sites you can see.

The British museum for example is huge. When Tony Blair came into power the museums were charging the public all sorts of prices for admission. Tony Blair's party made the museums free to the public, with visitors asked for a donation upon their visit. Even if half of them donate, they would make a lot of money. When first constructed, the British museum was only open to the public for a couple of hours per day and visitors had to apply in writing for entry to be granted. Now it's open for all to see.

While travelling around on the on and off bus we drove past Green Park. This was another site I found interesting. It's a verdant park of trees with not a flower bed in sight. The original site was a mass burial place for lepers, with over 60,000 people buried there. It was deemed to be in poor form to dig the earth and plant flowers where the dead were buried and so the park only holds trees.

Also on my trip around the city we passed the royal Horsguards barracks. What is interesting about this building is that the horses ridden by the soldiers are all stabled on the second floor and not the ground floor. No-one seemed to know why.

I saw the globe theatre, which is not the original, nor the second, but the third replica of shakespeares theatre to stand on that site. It is close to London bridge and easily spotted as it is a white gabled building.

St Pauls Cathedral has a tall dome tower, with over 500 steps to the lookout at the top of the tower. Not for me, but there were quite a few little ant like people up there looking down on the city. It's a massive building, even compared to some of the other huge buildings in the city. Nothing could make this building seem insignificant as it has a look and majestic feel all its own.

I'm enjoying London and it's surrounds, but my excitement is all focussed on Scotland and I can't wait to drink in everything this country has to offer. I thought about everything I've seen so far and felt a distinct lack of that 'oh my god' effect I expected. I know why too. There is just so much to take in, so much to experience and see that it's hard to absorb. I think it may take some time before I think, 'Wow, I really saw that.'

Posted by kerry needs 09:13 Comments (1)

Tuesday 10 April The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds

As I've said before, forgive my poor comprehension in this blog. I'm writing as I'm thinking and not worrying too much about proofing because of time constaints.

Tuesday 10 April 2012
The Cotswolds - meaning the sheep hills
Lush green forest walk

Lush green forest walk

The tour bus left Victoria Station bus transit, which holds dozens of buses. Our bus was four days old and had that new car smell.
I timed it beautifully and got the front seat to myself. This gave me great views from the side and front.

It amused me that people pay money to go on a tour and then spend most of the time reading or sleeping until they get to their destination. What's the point in that. They miss out on the wonderful countryside as they travel.

This area of England has 38 million visitos a year. The population of the area is 30,000. Most of the towns have a population of around 500. Predominantly farmland, with rolling hills, sheep and horses with the odd dairy farm. The pig farms were noticeable for their open farming of the pigs.

The entire area is the cover of a biscuit tin or chocolate box, with ivy covered farm houses and thatched cottages dotting the countryside. Hedgerows and dry stone walls everywhere pocketed between vast areas of forests. The forest trees vary with mixtures of birch, pine and other English trees I diidn't readily identify.

Today we took a leisurely coach ride through many small villages, each one quaint and sleepy, although tourists were everywhere. I can't, really can't put into words how beautiful the countryside is as you drive through it. Everything you see on the tv regarding these beautiful villages is quite true.
Stone cottages

Stone cottages

As I've said I have hundreds of photos but will not post most of them until I get home. The ones I post now will be just an idea of what I have seen.

We travelled through Oxford, famous for the beautiful Oxford College, on to our first stop at Burford on the Windrush river. The church in Burford dates back to the 1400's and still shows the bullet holes where Henry VIII soldiers executed the churchmen.

Lime stone is used in most of the buildings which have stood steady throughout time and are still habitable. The dry stone walls have no mortar, just stones that were too small to use for building, all fit together in a snug, solid wall. Amazing people the stonemasons.
Burford Church

Burford Church

Burford has boutique shops in the little houses and street fronts. It was here that I found an RM Williams and Akubra shop. No real surpirse when you know just how many Aussies are in England. I have been visiting the local pubs, as most of these are quintissentially old English in every way. I love the feel of these pubs and could settle in for the duration if allowed. The Cotswold Arms in Burford was bright inside despite the low ceilings.
The church in Burford has a square tower, with a spire having been added almost as an afterthought. This is because churches built before France invaded had square spires and after the French arrived, they made all the churches have tall pointy spires.

This church had separate altars, one for the general congregation and private altars for others. One such person was Henry Harmon, King Henry's barber surgeon. A barber surgeon would shave, cut hair, bleed with leeches and provide dental services. They reused the bloodied bandages and hung them on a pole outside, hence the birth of the red and white barber pole. They became plain barbers with the move toward surgery as a profession.
Burford stone house

Burford stone house

The Burford area is said to be very old, with a document mentioning a meeting of the Synod in the area in the year 685. The churches in England are numerous and very ostentatious, but they serve a vital service. Monestaries were almost the only written record keepers from the dark ages up until the year 1000.

The Romans invaded England and occupied it for approx 400 years, leaving in the year 410 AD. During their occupation they had a lot of buildings built, but just as many demolished, and with them a lot of history.

King Charles I lived for some time in the Cotswolds. As anyone who has studied English history knows, King Charles was the monarch when the Enghlish revolution began between the king's cavaliers and Oliver Cromwell's round heads. King Charles is the only monarch to be executed. After his death, parliament, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, ruled the people. Cromwell was a puritan and banned all music, parties, festivities of any sort and even tried to ban Christmas. Upon his death, the people reinstated the exiled prince, giving England back to the monarchy, but under changed powers to rule the people.

Whilst travelling through the Cotswolds I saw a number of wild pheasants, a pair of birds which looked like a golden pheasant. There were a couple of giant red pheasants that were magnificent. Also saw wild deer, which were lovely and plentiful in the country.
Bibery cottage

Bibery cottage

We left Burford and travelled tioo Bibury, where we were having lunch. Plenty of tourists here and I found it hard to take photos without people in them. Sigh.. I just had to be patient.. sigh.
Tulips in a cottage garden

Tulips in a cottage garden

Bibury was built in the 1300's and has a row of houses -Arlington Row -that are the most photographed in the Cotswolds.
Plenty of photo opportunities here. The village has their own trout farm and the local inn offered trout for lunch, which I enjoyed very much. The inn was a large coach in with tartan carpet and comfy chairs. The dining room was very large for such a place, with white linen and very posh service. Lunch was wondeful.
Arlington Row, the most photographed buildings in the Cotswolds

Arlington Row, the most photographed buildings in the Cotswolds

We took the bus on to Stratford on Avon (Avon is an old word for River). I was pretty disappointed with Straford. Terribly overcommercialised and very busy. There were some areas that looked like I'd ennvisaged, but overall it has been corrupted by commerce and I did not enjoy the walk through town,
Gabled houses in Stratford upon Avon

Gabled houses in Stratford upon Avon

However, having said I was disappointed, I did enjoy some aspects of the town. We saw the BBC tv series Time Team doing an archealogical dig on the site of Shakespeares original house. They are searching for Shakespeare and the theory now is that the three pictures known to be those of Shakespeare, may in fact, not be him at all.
Shakespeares house

Shakespeares house

There is a book that claims Shakespeare was bisexual, with proof to be found in his sonnets. How that can be proven or disproven is yet to be seen I suppose. What is interesting is that his daughter Suzanna inherited everything on Shakespeare's death, which was unusual for that era.
Stratford has a lot of gabled houses, built from oak and pitch (anything suitable to fill the gaps between the wood). These houses show their age as they tend to lean in a number of directions.

It wasn't until I got to the church where Shakespeare was buried that I became very excited. Shakespeare is not buried in Poets Corner in London as it did not exist when he died and he had requested to be buried with other family members in the local church.
The Church yard was lovely, full of old headstones in amongst trees and bushes. It sat facing the Avon and the footpath along the river held the small headstones of children. The only disappointing thing was the the headstones older than 1800 were too hard to read. I loved walking around through the stones and wondered how it would feel at night.
Cemetery head stones

Cemetery head stones

After a lovely day soaking up the picturesque contryside, we headed back to London, about 1.5 hours away. We travelled back through Warwickshire, passing the huge Warwick Castle in the distance. We also drove through Notting Hill, with some lovely garden squares, before being dropped off at Victoria station. I booked my ticket for Inverness, my stomach flip flopping with true excitement at the thought that I would be in Scotland in two days.

Taking the underground, which is safe and easy to use, I took the train back to Earls Court. I found a chinese restaurant and had a nice meal. The service was exceedingly quick, but the food tasty and all for under £10. Can't say that anything is dear here. It's on a par with Australia. I have some problems with the coins, as there are a lot of them, and it's strange to handle paper money.

It's also a custom to tip people here, from restaurants to tour operators. I've been pretty good at remembering this and don't mind as most of the service has been good and everyone is very friendly.

The Cotswold tour was done through Premium Tours, which was the same company as the one I used to Bath and Stonehenge. I'd recommend the tours. They give a lot of information and provide a good service.

Posted by kerry needs 13:46 Comments (1)

Wednesday 11 April - Glastonbury, Avebury, Stonehenge

Glastonbury, Avebury, Stonehenge

Wednesday 11 April 2012
Anderson Tours - Avebury, Glastonbury and Stonehenge (yes again)

What a day. I emailed the company two days prior to the tour to advise that I had changed the hotel I had originally advised when booking the
tour. I asked if they could pick me up or to let me know where to go for pick up.

Instead of emailing me back, the rang me, on my home number. They woke mum up at 3.00 am in the morning to advise that the pick up would be at my hotel. What were they thinking? I had time travel to get to London in time for the tour? I checked my email for a response. Mum had posted on my facebook about the call, which I'm really impressed that she did that without help. She did very well.

I checked the email and I'd had three responses from them, two advising a pick up time and the third confirming the time, a half hour later. Needless to say I was a little apprehensive about the tour after this. I was picked up at the later time stated and off we went.

The guide and driver were lovely, as they all are on these tours. The bus was small, a sixteen seater with only five booked passengers so we had seats to ourselves. It was going well until I noticed the driver looking at a British equivalent of the 'Melways' maps, while he was driving on the three lane freeway.

We were in Warwick near Warwick Castle and the driver had to stop and look at the maps, realising that he should have turned off at Oxford. We were miles out of our way and ended up travelling all over the place before getting back on track. It was a nice drive through the country, but it two four hours instead of two as planned.

At first I was annoyed, then worried as the driver just didn't seem to be watching the road. Finally, I resigned myself to the fact that we would get there, however late, so no use in fretting.

Pigs and chicken farms are free range with pigs having their own little shelters and chickens with huge sheds to roost in. Nice to see.
We also saw ten parachuter's one on top of the other in a vertical line as they descended. Not sure where they were from.

There was a mother and daughter from the US on board. They were nice and we shared a drink in the Red Lion pub in Avebury. The others on the tour were three girls from Slovenia. We had heaps in common as they were new agers and had been to all the sites before.
They were full of questions about the creepy crawlies of Australia, having heard some horror stories about our native creatures.
They made me laugh with some of the stories. One of the girls asked me if I had seen the poisonous blue earth worm. I assured her that if it existed, it was rare.

They were very worried about our snakes, but again I told them that in the cities you have little chance of seeing one.
Getting close to Avebury, we drove past Silbury hill and the site of a wooden henge, marked only by markers as the wood has long gone.
Avebury

Avebury

Finally, we arrived at Avebury, and the wait was worth it. I thought Stonehenge was special. Avebury is so very much more. The village is small and built in and around the stone circle. The circle has saracen stones, the big upright ones, and an altar stone, with concrete markers making the spot where stones had been taken from the circle.
Avebury village

Avebury village

This is what I expected, totally, in all respects. The lovely little village, still with the old world look, despite the cars. The stones, giving off energy that was palpable.

Stone circle at Avebury

Stone circle at Avebury


We had an hour. Not enough, never enough time for me. I decided in the first ten minutes that on my second trip to England, I would come and stay in his village. It felt wonderfully unspoilt and not at all overcommercialised.
Avebury stone circle

Avebury stone circle


The village is exactly five miles from every other village nearby. When Henry VIII broke away from the church and announced himself as the divine ruler, those not wishing to acknowledge this were called non-conformists. Henry declared that they could still worship at their own churches, but that they must do so outside their villages, by a minimum of five miles. Avebury has a church built five miles from the nearest villages, which was erected by non-conformists.
Avebury stone circle

Avebury stone circle

I wandered around the stone circle, which takes about twenty minutes to walk around. I approached the first stone and put my hand out to touch it, as this is allowed. I had the most distinct impression that I was about to put my hand through the stone and when I closed my eyes, it felt as if the stone had wrapped itself around me. Sounds too far fetched to believe? After we got back onto the coach, the three slovenian girls were talking and we exchanged stories. They too felt the same experience.
Avebury stone circle

Avebury stone circle

I walked around the altar stone three times, saying a prayer for the dead. There are two bodies under the flat stone. One of a twelve year old boy and another child, buried approx 1000 years later. No-one, of course, know why for sure, but there is speculation that there may have been a famine or disaster to warrant another human sacrifice. We'll never know for sure.
The Red Lion Inn - Avebury

The Red Lion Inn - Avebury

There were all types of people walking around the stones, many were druidic, wiccan or just plain interested in the circle. Most of them were feeling each stone, which gave of tingling energy.

I left the stones as the village was drawing me to explore. There are thatched rooves, stone cottages, beautiful gardens and quaint chocolate box looking cottages here. 'The Shop' is the local shop supplying the bare grocery lines and fresh produce. Every villager is expected to work in the store for an hour a week. They all supply their own produce to the store, giving everyone a chance to have fresh food as the nearest supermarket is miles away.
The Red Lion Inn

The Red Lion Inn

The shop nexty door, and next to the last shop in the village of two or three shops, is 'The Henge Shop'. The man who owns this shop is the world's leading authority on crop circles, for we are right in the heart of crop circle land.

The four poster bed came about, so the tour guide assured me, because mice and rats were prolific in the thatched rooves. When you woke in the morning your bed was covered in mice and rat droppings, so they built canopied beds to catch the droppings. Not very romantic, but practical for the times.

Avebury is also in the very near vicinity of one of the biggest army bases in England. The Department of defence bought 9600 acres of land for their war games, leasing the land back to the farmers. There are numerous tank and army transport crossing areas as you drive through the Salisbury area, even around Stonehenge. The army have confessed to making many crop circles, but there are still some that are not explained.
The crop circles are not as prevalent these days as many wheat crops have been replaced by canola, which now makes up 20% of Britains cropping land.

Back to Avebury, I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere. I talked to the ladies in the shops and found them to be friendly and very patient with the tourists. They agreed that they would not want to live anywhere else in England, and I could see why.
Last in my little trip, I walked to the Red Lion Hotel. The Red Lion is a lovely pub with tabls out the front and a warm atmosphere inside. It's in the top ten for most haunted inns in England. Florrie is one of the ghosts said to haunt the pub. She was a friendly girl, Florrie. Her husband came home and found her being very friendly with her lover. He killed the lover and threw Florrie down the well, which is located in the middle of the pub. She is said to regularly haunt and scare the drinkers.

However, it's the ghosts of two little boys that have made even the bravest man flee in fear. The two little boys were seen in one particular room upstairs and for a long time there was a prize of £5 for anyone who could stay the night in the room. Apparently the two boys appear clear as a bell in the room and looked terrified and pleading for help. When you try to approach them or speak with them, they disappear. Until the room was permanently sealed some years ago, no-one had ever been able to stay the night in the room. Scary, but exciting. I found the pub friendly and not malevolent. I had a lovely chat to the two American ladies while we enjoyed the atmosphere.
The well - Red Lion Inn

The well - Red Lion Inn

Reluctantly, I boarded the coach and we left for Stonehenge, about twenty miles away. When we got there, the car park was full and there were people everywhere. I was excited as the farmer who owns the farmland had opened up the Carsus Barrows (across the road from Stonehenge) for the public, which doesn't happen very often.

The photos don't show it, but Stonehenge and the barrows are not on level ground. Salisbury Plain is rolling hills, not flat ground. I walked up the hill to the mounds and was disgusted to see families having a picnic on one of the mounds and plenty of people climbing all over the mounds. I really felt like asking how often they go to the cemetery to have picnics on people's graves, but didn't. They are just ignorant and very selfish, walking tracks into the burial mounds, with no consideration for preserving the mounds for future visitors.

Each mound holds the beaker people, so called because they are buried with beakers of food and drink. When they died, they were laid out on flesh racks so the animals and birds could strip the flesh from their bones. Once this was done, they were placed into the foetal positiion and buried together with the beakers and other essentials in the mounds. The mounds were covered with white chalk. It is interesting that when you look at Stonehenge from the mounds it appears on the horizon line and vice versa. Obviously significant to those who created the mounds and/or Stonehenge.
Carsus Barrows - opposite Stonehenge

Carsus Barrows - opposite Stonehenge

There are over 1500 burial mounds throughout Wiltshire.

I paid my respects to the ancients and walked down the hill, knees complaining a little, but not too much.
Back in the coach, we headed off to Glastonbury, which is where we were supposed to have lunch, but it was almost 5.00pm when we arrived. I have no objection to any religion, but lots of these people obviously have embraced the new age and pagan faiths just to be seen and noticed. I'd like to see the rule that says you must look like a lost flower child of the sixties to be pagan. I don't look anything like these people. Still, I suppose they are all looking for something and if Glastonbury is their Utopia, I don't object too much.

90% of the shops are wiccan, new age or spiritual in some way, with colourful shop fronts and magical names. If you want to experience an alternative lifestyle, then here is the place for you.
Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

I wandered from the street to the Abbey. Glastonbury Abbey is supposed to be the burial place of Arthur and Guinevere, but that's not so if the legend is correct. Nonetheless, the Abbey is impressive as all churches of the time are. Ruin or not, you can feel the history and almost see the nuns in the grounds. I did see a grey figure standing still as I walked toward the Abbey. Thinking it a statue, it gave me a start when it moved and darted off around the Abbey wall. I followed, but it was gone when I turned the corner.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey


That was my first grey squirrel, which are everywhere in England, but had so far managed to be elusive for me.

My next surprise was amazing. I was walking down to the Abbey when I spotted two familiar faces. No. That can't be right. I'd met a lot of people, but there would be no chance of bumping into any of them, right? Wrong. As I walked around the Abbey grounds I ran into them again. They were the young couple (their names escape me) who I had sat with on the plane from Singapore to London. What are the chances of that happening? Seriously, these coincidences happen to me all the time. I wish I knew why. It was pretty unbelieveable.

The lady's chapel on the grounds of the Abbey were intact and displayed how life was for the monks and nuns. It was a hard life, with much of the money made by the church being sent to the cathedrals and bishops of the day. Even worse for the people, who worked for the churches in the villages.
Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

For every beautifully constructed church, which are a marvel of engineering and a lasting tribute to the masons of the day, I can't help thinking of the people in the villages who suffered hardship whilst the church poured money into making these lovely churches. I suppose that the people may have wanted it as much as the church?

Hungry because I hadn't eaten since 7.30 am, I wandered around the streets and found a chippie. I had the English cod and chips with mushy peas. I'm finding it hard to get food suitable for me, but I'm only eating a couple of times a day as I'm too busy getting about. I figure the exercise will balance the higher carbs.

I had wanted to go to the Chalice Well, but it was a bit of a walk and although I headed that way twice, I turned back again. I figure that will be on the list for my return visit as it was nearly closing time when we got to Glastonbury.

Our trip home seemed to take forever, but finally I was dropped off at the hotel at 9.30 pm. Big day and I was pretty tired when I finally got up into my room. The trip took in Warwick, Banbury, Newbury and finally to Avebury on the original agenda.

So far I've taken some great pictures and been pretty happy with the trip. It's sad to see so much commercialization of some of the sites, but I suppose that's progress.

I've met a variety of people from all over the world and they have all been nice, even the Americans, although some of them are a bit snobby. They all seem to be fascinated with Australia and ask heaps of questions. Their level of ignorance about us is staggering. I think that it's so far away from other countries that there is no need to know. Although it's somewhat annoying when they are basing their knowledge on those trashy tv shows like Neighbours and Home and Away.

Thursday 12 April

I slept well last night, having had such a big day out touring, You get very weary, travelling about, so my suggestion for anyone else travelling is to have a couple of days out and then a quiet day to rest and revive.

I packed my bags, said goodbye to my shoebox of a room. It came to me that the bedroom part of the room is no bigger than the cells in the Old Melbourne Goal. I've confirmed my late arrival at the Moray Park House in Inverness as the train arrives at 8.10 pm.

Getting on the train I changed trains and got off at Kings Cross Station, which is also St Pancras station, if you walk in the wrong direction. I know this because that's what I did. I allowed an hour to find the train and get on. I made it with five minutes to spare, having walked the length of St Pancras, finding I was in the wrong station and then going to King's Cross, I got talking to a woman from London while waiting or the platform number to appear on the big screens. In my relaxed state, I forgot about validating my rail pass and had to go back as I tried to board the train.

Platform 9 3/4 Kings Cross Station

Platform 9 3/4 Kings Cross Station


Of course I couldn't visit Kings Cross without seeing platform 9 3/4. I just caught this woman with her trolley halfway through the wall. It's unfortunate that I ran out of time to go through and get a good shot of the Hogwart's Express.
Kings Cross station

Kings Cross station

Panic stations for a few minutes but I was in and out oif the ticket counter quickly and made it on time. The trains are spacious and have tables like airline seats. There are bigger tables too which seat four people. Every seat has a power point to plug in the electical appliances, which is how

I'm writing the blog for the last couple of days whilst sitting on the train. The seats are wide and comfy and a food and drink trolley comes along regularly.

The train takes eight hours to Inverness through York, Castlemaine, Edinburgh and then Inverness. I'm enjoying the countryside and have even seen a border collie working sheep.

Just stopped at Berwick on Tweed, which is on the sea. The train is nowing filling up with the delightful sound of the Scot's, mainly from Edinburgh, although I can hear the odd Inverness accent in there too.

The next big stop was Edinburgh. Got a glimpse of it as we came into the city, but I was looking at my photos. I looked up and was amazed to see the highest sheer cliff right in front of me and atop that, Edinburgh castle. Wow! no, really, WOW! It was huge and very daunting, sitting watch over the city high on the cliff.

We left Edinburgh without seeing too much of anything else as the train went through a long tunnel. All along the train line from London there were farms and lush green fields. Lots of sheep, horses and a few cows, with an enormous pig farm somewhere between London and Edinburgh.

As we neared Edinburgh the forest areas became thicker, with huge spruce, pine and birch trees. The birch were in stark contrast to the beautiful blue and grey of the pines as they were only just beginning to bud.
Train vista through the coastal areas of England and Scotland

Train vista through the coastal areas of England and Scotland

We came into heavy rain at Falkirk and I was disappointed not to be afforded a clear picture of the town. I did see the Falkirk wheel from a distance and would like to visit there next time I'm in Scotland. The wheel is a mechanism used to lift boats and is an engineering masterpiece. It's also a lot bigger than I thought as I was quite a distance from it when I noticed it from the train.

The country was now becoming hillier and steeper with thick forest. Plenty of foords and streams, running shallow over white stone that looked like slate. The train trip was wonderful as the train was often very high above the valley's, giving wonderful views of the magnificent vista below.
I was beginning to fidget I was so excited and stopped snapping photos, reverting to video to try to capture the feel and look of the country. It is unfortunate that the reflection of the window often gets in the way, but I persisted.

Landscape from the train

Landscape from the train


We stopped at Stirling which was pretty with plenty of old buildings. There were many old farm buildings, large estates and small stone buildings along the way. It is interesting to note that England and Scotland seem to like building all the houses the same. Even the new areas have exactly the same houses, most all coloured the same and lined up in a row, even if they have big yards.

I'm still not sure I would like to live like that, but there is something asthetically pleasing about them.

From Stirling the terrain becomes rugged, with snow visible on the peaks of the munro's (high mountains) in the distance. The train carriage was hot as hades and I spent the first two hours fanning myself to stop melting into a pool of sweat. The sight of the snow was very welcome and I felt the temperature dropping a little as we started to climb into the lower mountains.
Berwick upon Tweed

Berwick upon Tweed


Around 6.00 pm we arrived at Perth, with quite a few people getting on and off. The train was the East Coast train. You can book a seat, which will guarantee one for you or you can just get on and sit where there is a space. Each seat has ticket on it that indicates if it has been booked and from what station to what station. The same seat may be booked three times with people getting on and off at various stations.

Basically the rule is, if no-one has their bum on it, then it's fair game. I found the train to be comfortable and the possibly the best way to see the countryside. The views were spectacular and the windows of the train very large to afford a great view.

At Pitlorchy the mountains were a lot closer and the snow very visible when you looked up at their tops. The streams were more frequent, with water seeming to be everywhere. Some had small rapids and they all had beds of stone.

The terrain was giving way to a treeless vista, with the rocky hills covered in what I assume is gorse or heather. It's brown and dry looking and not very hospitiable to walk through. The only things on these hills are highland sheep, with long fleece down almost to the ground, and deer.

It stole my breath away to see a huge group of red deer (I think they were red deer. They were Bambi deer) grazing right beside the train tracks on the hill. I couldn't get a good picture which was disappointing. Then I saw it. A huge stag with an impressive set of antlers. It was standing on top of a small rise, with the setting sun lighting him up from behind. It was stunning. Reminded me of the Stag at Bay picture my great grandfather had on his wall. I was so overawed by it that I forgot to take a picture.

Once we passed Kingussie we headed back into the thick woods. The snow covered mountains were on both sides of the train and the open areas contained the rocky bush covered hills and beautiful streams and rivers.

Stopping at Aviemore I noticed a Roos Leap restaurant as part of the station complex. It boasted an Australian dining experience, but I couldn't see anything else to hint at what they served. The restaurant was full to overflowing, so it must be popular.

Once you come into Scotland, the train stations are in English and Gaelic.

We arrived at Inverness almost at sunset. My oh my oh my! England was lovely, pretty and I enjoyed it a great deal. Inverness is the most beautiful city I have seen and I was overjoyed to feel the great vibe it gave off as I left the train station. I've taken over two hundred photos and videos on the train. I'll probably treble that here.

Inverness street

Inverness street

I was worried that I would be disappointed or not feel truly excited about visiting Inverness. I had felt some disappointment in London and it's surrounds at the commercial feel of the tourist spots, but not here. Three minutes in the place was enough to convince me that I am going to seriously love this place and I think I'll find it hard to leave.

It was too dark to take photos and I needed to check in at the hotel. I'm walking to my first tour, which goes past the castle, about three hundred metres away. I'm overjoyed at my first impression, happy in the knowledge that no amount of shops could possibly take away the history oozing out of all these beautiful buildings.

I'm posting photos tomorrow morning, my time, so check back to see what I have posted from the train trip and the last couple of day's tours.
I'm off to bed. The hotel is great. Very neat and clean. I have a wonderful ensuite with a shower that is lit up with a blue light, almost but not quite, looking like the TARDIS with smoky windows.

I can't wait until tomorrow. I'm off to Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan castle and Loch Ness. The following day I'm doing the Diana Gabaldon Tour and then joining the Clan Tara for a midnight memorial on the Culloden battlefield. Probably won't update the log until the day after that. I'm usually very tired after the tours. Too much exercise, fresh air and excitement.

I'm off to bed, with a promise to post photos before I go tomorrow morning.

Posted by kerry needs 14:03 Comments (0)

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