PS. The holiday that keeps on giving ! 

Day 49 October 19 and onwards

It’s a small world after all. 

Sophie and Sebastian had come all the way from Mellendorf, Germany to welcome us home. How’s that for service!! Sebastian had even cooked us lunch; Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake!). This is the second time in less than 2 months that he has cooked this for us. And I still don’t have the recipe! 

The Plinke’s had come to visit Jens, and were house sitting for us. They had left Germany not long after we visited them at their place. Kind of like a “Country Swap” 

Georgia and Jens have been showing them around the Hunter while we were away. They have had some great experiences, like climbing in the Blue Mountains and Swimming with Dolphins in Port Stephens. 

It was great having them “house sit” for us; it meant my plants survived!!!

So, since arriving home we have continued our “holiday” by visiting Morpeth, an historic village not far from Maitland. We thought we were showing Sophie some of our heritage but what we really showed her was water dragons. Heaps of them!! By the time we had explored the town and Grahame had handed out his judgement from the Bench of the old Court House, 

we had already encountered several water dragons sunning themselves on the roof of one of the old sheds. But when we settled for coffee at a cafe on the banks of the river, we came across a family all out for their morning walk. There was Momma, Poppa and the two kids waiting for a feed (which was supplemented by the chef) . 

We had to explain to Sophie that this was unusual sighting for us too, despite the rumours she had heard of Australia being full of weird and wonderful animals. 

In order to escape a wet weekend on the coast, and allay all fears of weird and wonderful animals, we headed inland to Dubbo Zoo.  

Instead of being dry, brown and bare, the countryside was incredibly green and lush. Once again we had to explain that this was unusual. But I think Sophie was beginning to doubt our credibility! 

We had booked in to the Billabong Camp within Toronga Western Plains Zoo. A kind of Glamping experience surrounded by lions and tigers and bears! (Without the bears!) 

On arrival, we hired bikes and set off exploring! 

Over the two days we saw the usual zoo animals,

but it was the “behind the scenes” activities, after the zoo had closed that were the most interesting. 

There were reptiles to meet and marsupials to greet before enjoying a good old Aussie BBQ. After the sun went down, a bit of spotlighting found us watching dingoes, wallabies, koalas and possums doing their thing. 

It was weird, if not a little off-putting hearing the roar of lions and tigers and the bellowing of apes throughout the night! 

Pretty sure, a good time was had by all. 

A few days later and Sebastian, Sophie and I boarded the train to Sydney for a whirlwind tour of the major sites. 

A ferry ride to Manly, a walk across the Harbour Bridge, around the Opera House and through the Botanical Gardens ensured that we were exhausted by the end of the day. 

John and Jude will be pleased to know I have continued with tradition and took our guests to the”Aussie” for lunch although they couldn’t be persuaded to have “The Coat of Arms” pizza!  

Our friends, Dave and Adam, had invited us to a dinner at a local Warners Bay restaurant. Looked like a perfect event for our international guests too! 

The food was delicious and contained ingredients such as wattle seed, Davidson plum, saltbush, bunya pine nuts, native apples, warrigal greens, finger  limes , macadamia and muntries. There was also cod, kangaroo, pork and lamb..

So, they may not have eaten crocodile or emu, but there was a little bit of kangaroo to digest and I think Sophie is still finding that hard. 

Another day was spent visiting the Memorial Walk

And the Newcastle Museum. 

LOL!! ⬇️

Now, you may, or not remember that we had been given a bottle of red wine to deliver to a lady living on the canals in England. I made contact with the potential recipient via email but unfortunately for her (and fortunately for us), we were unable to meet up. The bottle actually made it all the way back to Australia in one piece. Marie and Gary invited us to dinner on return, so as promised, we shared it with good friends and toasted our good fortune. 

Charlie from Sommieres also provided us with some very special red wine. It was also shared with good friends, but surprisingly(!!) it didn’t make it back to Australia .

Sunday 30th October was significant for several reasons:

  • It was Georgia’s birthday, (and she got Fruit Loops)

  • It was the day Sophie and Sebastian were leaving us.

  • We have no more excuses. Our “holiday” is most definitely over! 

It’s been one heck of a ride! Thanks for tagging along. 


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🎼La la la laaa

Day  48  October 18

This was the shortest day of our trip. Somewhere high in the sky,  we lost almost a day. 

We were fortunate to have a spare seat between us. Grahame ensured that no one joined us by dressing up the cushion and holding it up to look like a person. Seat taken ! 

It worked and we got to take turns in spreading out a little to catch some shut eye on our Thai airways flight to Bangkok. 

We landed in the sticky heat of Bangkok, which came as a shock after the 14 degrees in London when we left. 


It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were here looking forward to our great European adventure! Little did we know then what was ahead of us and how wonderful it would be! 

The flight from Bangkok to Sydney was a little less comfortable and not much sleeping took place. 

But I guess it was a good time to reflect in our holiday! 

David  welcomed us to London and acted as tour guide;



Sophie, Hans-Heinrich and Sebastian  made us feel at home in Mellendorf;



Françoise, Manuel, Anna and Charlie spoilt us in Sommieres ;



Mithyl, Héloïse, Kélèti and Mme. and M. Dumont treated us like royalty in Toulouse;

And John and Jude worked us hard on the Warwickshire Ring.! 

Our sincere thanks to all the above for making our “once in a lifetime” holiday truly magnificent. 

How lucky are we! 

Australia, home, here we come! 


 

The fat lady sings!

Day 47 October 17

How should we spend our last day in England? 

We have a car. We are very close to The New Forest. We have time! 

The New Forest Pony search is on. And we didn’t have to go far. 

This guy was parked in a the middle of the road and wasn’t moving. I had to get out of the car and shoo him off . 

We criss-crossed the New Forest and were rewarded with plenty of horse poo in both our car tyre and shoe tread. (Australian Customs will be pleased)

It rained….. constantly for a couple of hours. Can you believe it?? On our last day, the weather gods determined that we had been spoiled for too long and it was, at last, time to send her down! 

I’ve neglected to mention that almost everywhere we’ve been lately, we’ve been confronted with all things “Halloween”. Nearly every pub, shop and cafe has had fake cobwebs and spider cutouts or carved pumpkins on display. I am quite amazed that the UK has embraced this custom so vigorously. 

Not to be outdone, our  tea shop today  had it’s spooky theme on display too. 

This was the venue for our first, and last, tea and scones of the holiday. Why hadn’t we done this sooner? It really was quite a treat. (Especially considering the coffee was sooo bad). 

Yummm! 

It was time to reluctantly head back towards Heathrow. Our flight was late in the evening but word on the radio was there had been a few delays on the Motorway. Better to be safe! 

As we approached Winchester, a quick calculation revealed we had time for one more Cathedral. 


Another stain glass pic was added to my vast collection. 

I particularly liked this one because it had been destroyed many years ago and instead of repairing it with the original pictures, they just chucked all the bits and pieces anywhere, making for a mishmash of colour. 

It was here, at Winchester, that I also discovered I had a “thing” for more than just stained glass. I am now into Medieval Floor tiles! And these were beauties! 

Jane Austen’s burial place  was marked with a lovely bunch of flowers and a shiny brass plate. I paid my respects to one of my favourite authors and moved on. 

The crypt of the cathedral demonstrates a fairly major design fault of the building. It floods!! (Mostly in winter but also after very heavy rain periods! )

Picture from Cathedral Website

So this statue acts like a bit of a depth gauge. We saw him with dry feet, but he has been known to be thigh deep in icy cold water. 
Back upstairs they even have a memorial of sorts to the “deep sea diver” who clunked around the footings, packing the foundations in concrete and saving the cathedral from collapse! 

Further research tells me that Winchester Cathedral even has its own ice skating rink!! Now, there’s a money spinner!!

Our last stop before the Europcar station at Heathrow was the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. It had it all! 

Stain glass,

Prince Charles and Lady Di’s Wedding gates (???),

King Arthur’s Round Table,

And a medieval garden.

But the writing was on the wall, 

……. it was time to go! 

La la la laaaaaa! 

Old Stomping Ground

    Day 46 October 16

    In a previous life, I lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire UK for 3/4 of the year. I worked in the the Salisbury Youth Hostel and spent much of my free time on my bike (La Belle Bleu) exploring the region. I’d regularly ride to Stonehenge along a gorgeous back road, or sit in the Cathedral Close writing letters home or reading books. 

    So here we are 34 years later, in my old stomping ground. I was really excited to show Grahame where I’d lived, worked and played. 

    I didn’t live work or play near the “Wallops” but we couldn’t resist a quick side trip  to get these photos. Google maps indicated that there is also a Middle Wallop but we couldn’t find it. We passed through Nether and arrived at Over. We did a u-turn , back through Over only to discover we were back in Nether. Another change of direction at the crossroads , took us back to Over even though we were in the middle!  There is even an airfield at Middle Wallop. We found the airfield but still no sign of “Middle Wallop” anywhere!! So disappointing !  



    Our first stop was Stonehenge. I know a lot of people are disappointed when they visit this “monument”.  It’s close to a major road, it’s all roped off and there are so many people. All that is true, but I still love this place. It fills me full of wonder! How did they do it? And why??

    So I took some photos- 79 in fact. 


    That’s 9…… only 70 to go! 

    A lot has changed here over the last 34 years! Not those stones, though. They still look pretty much the same. Now, visitors are guided to a parking area about 5 km away where an interpretive centre introduces you to the story of the stones and life way back then. Of course there is the ticket sales offices and the obligatory shop you must pass through on exit! 

    From here, you board a shuttle bus service along a quiet country road which is closed to general traffic. And yes, the area is still roped off (for good reason) and visitors walk the circumference taking umpteen photos (79?). You can listen to an audio guide explaining step by step what you are viewing, or like us, you can wing it and just wander and wonder! 

    One midsummers night, 34 years ago, I actually slept beneath these stones, so please allow me to be indulgent when I say I really love this place. It will always hold special memories! 

    We drove along the road I used to cycle several times a week.


    I loved this route through a little valley, away from traffic, through little thatched hamlets, past a couple of quaint country pubs and over quiet country lanes. Ahhhhh! 

    On to Salisbury.


     

    Milford Hill Youth Hostel (I now live in Milford St- coincidence?) was my home away from home and I loved working there and meeting travellers from  all over the world. Including Murwillumbah, my home town. Peter Budd and I looked as surprised as each other, meeting over the registration desk that day 34 years ago. 

    Well Pete, I have some sad news. The Youth Hostel has sold the property and it is now boarded up and quickly becoming derelict!

    It had the most wonderful, wonderful circular driveway and a huge Cedar of Lebanon stuck bang in the middle! It also had a sunken garden full of daffodils and bluebells in the spring and Lily of the Valley (if I remember correctly) in the winter. 

    I showed Grahame around, but sadly, the gardens were overgrown , the Cedar had lost some massive branches and the windows were boarded up. 

    I found La Belle Bleu’s original home ,  and am pleased to say that she is still going strong back home in Newcastle.

    I lamented the passing of a wonderful building in a magnificent setting and hope that one day she’ll be returned to her former glory. 

    My spirits needed a lift so we headed through Salisbury to the best Cathedral in the world. (Maybe I’m a little biased!)


     First stop was the cloisters,

    and the beautiful Chapter House filled with tapestries, embroidered cushions and, ….. stained glass windows.

    We viewed the Salisbury copy of the Magna Carta before heading into the Cathedral proper. A lovely old gentleman volunteer took great delight in explaining the Magna Cartas importance way back then and its relevance still today. 

     

    Once again Lady Luck smiled on us. As we wandered around, the Cathedral choir began rehearsing. We sat and listened to the sweet music for quite a while, mesmerised by our surroundings and pinching ourselves. ​​

    No words!!

    Later, we wandered across the Market Square to find a fair taking place. Merry-go-rounds, vomitrons, fairy floss, knockem-downs, candy canes etc etc. 

    Imagine our delight when we found the Lord Mayor and the town councillors (we are assuming) smashing into each other on the dodgem cars. I wonder how much “smash” was intentional good fun, or intentional “warning shots”.


    Happy days! 

    We finished the day with a visit to Old Sarum, the original Salisbury. I can’t remember going here previously, but it was pretty impressive. If only it was open.  Oh well, next time!!

    Chipping Campden + Blenheim + Bath = Big Day Out

    Day 45 October 15

    Question: Does any one want to have a guess at what this is?? 

    Answer: See way down below!

    Our Airbnb hosts suggested we visit Chipping Campden and since we’ve always taken on board the advice of locals, we couldn’t not. 

    The town is a medieval Cotswolds market town which relied heavily on the wool trade back in the day.  

    The Market Hall standing in the town centre demanded a little extra attention. The cobbled floor (ankle breaking stuff) , the arches and the wonderful ceiling were pretty amazing. It is still in use now, on market day.

    Borrowed pic from the Internet because it’s better than mine!

    There was a church, of course, but it was closed, so a wander through the graveyard on a misty morning was a welcome change to naves, alters, fonts and cloisters.

    At the bottom of the cemetery, standing on tip toes, we spotted this beauty. 

    A Jacobean Banqueting hall is all that is left of Campden House. It was burnt down during the English Civil War. Unfortunately, this was as close as we could get. To get any closer, we had to rent it!! 

    On to Blenheim Palace, country home of the Duke of Marlborough and his wife and kids. (And birthplace of Winston Churchill).

    What is it with the English and their gravel? 

    It’s got one heck of a back yard. Grahame is happy he doesn’t have to mow it, but you could have a pretty good game of backyard cricket, so maybe the effort may be worth it! . Over the fence would definitely be out!!

    It was full of the usual: chandeliers, clocks, tapestries, gilt work, books, statues, busts and one whopping great organ. My mum, Mary, would have loved to have belted out a few tunes on it, I’m sure!! ( We thought her piano accordion was big!!)

    Photo from internet
     

    Now, I have already admitted that I am a philistine. So it will come as no surprise to you that I simply did not “get” the art installations throughout the palace. Short of calling it cr#p, I will say that what looked like junk ruined the beauty of each of the state rooms we visited. 

    I particularly disliked the pile of clothing dumped on the floor in the pic on the left, but at least it was sorted into coloureds and whites! 

    The artist didn’t even bother to sort this lot. Now, if I want to see “art” like this all I have to do is open my son’s bedroom door. ( Minus the nude lady, I hope!)

    “The emperor has no clothes”,  I hear myself shouting silently!! 

    The gardens were beautiful, of course, and once again the autumn leaves made for spectacular viewing. We actually got a bit lost wandering in the gardens and had to climb a dry “moat” or two, before returning to the car. I’m hoping there were no security cameras as I can’t so my movements were elegant.

    We drove on to Bath and spent at least 1/2  an hour stuck in a traffic jam, trying to get into town, and another trying to find somewhere to park. 

    I asked a local what was going on. So many cars, so many people? Her reply was simply “Christmas is coming!” Wow, and there’s still over 2 months to go. 

    Like Birmingham, last Saturday, the streets were choccas with shoppers, tourists, street artists  and stalls. Incredibly busy! 

    Now, it won’t come as much of a surprise, that Bath has a Cathedral. Its claim to fame is its fan like ceiling decoration and the fact that Captain Arthur Philip, of NSW fame is buried here.

    My stain glass addiction continues!

    Our main reason for visiting Bath though, was to see the Roman Baths situated right beside the Cathedral. 

    The queue to get in was a bit daunting and we were tempted to give it a miss but queue we did, and happily, it was worth it. 

    Good friends of ours tell the story of turning up here a few years ago with swimmers and towel in hand ready for a quick dip, only to be told by the guide that they were about 2000 years too late! 

    It was a fascinating visit with lots of interesting stuff going on beneath the hustle and bustle of Bath. Once again we were blown away by the history of the place. 

    The interpretive centre was excellent ( I don’t remember it from my visit 34 years ago) and Grahame and I spent so long here that we were amongst the last to leave at the end of the day. 

    Of course a visit to Bath is incomplete without a visit to the Crescent and the Circus. Light was fading and we still had to travel a fair way south, so we made a mad dash to the Circus. (It was the closest) .

    Internet pic
    Jens Panorama pic


    Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the Crescent. Now we have another reason to return one day!!

    We left town much later than expected, and headed south to our accomodation for the next two nights, near Romsey. We have a big day planned tomorrow so it was good to find our bed for the night. 


    Answer:

    It’s a stone lined cart wash. It dates from the early 1800s and it used for the purpose of allowing a cart to wash its wheels and stand in water, so that wooden wheels could expand in dry weather and remove the mud in bad weather. If wheels were allowed to dry out the spokes loosened and the iron tyres on the wheels would fall off. Every town should have one! 

    Life after Maddog

    Day 44 October 14 (The rest of it!)

    We still have a few days before our flight h#*e. What to do?? 

    The answer, my friends, was blowing in the wind!!

    Step 1:Hire car – a sporty, red one  ✔️

    Step 2: Check wind direction.  ✔️

    It was blowing south west. 

    The Cotswolds it is!! 

    Step 3: Google towns in the Cotswolds and keep in mind recommendations from John and Jude. ✔️

    Step 4: Organise Airbnb accommodation.✔️

    Step 5: Hit the road.  ✔️

    How close is everything? We drove for, oooh, 40 minutes and we were already savouring the Cotswold experience. Quaint villages in golden coloured limestone, chocolate box thatch cottages, narrow country lanes, market squares , churches and stately homes. 

    The Cotswolds are officially declared as an Area of Natural Beauty. A title well deserved! 

    Stow on the Wold was our first stop. It’s an old Market town dating back to the 1100’s.

    Some of the buildings were so crooked that I’m amazed they still stand, let alone still function either as a home, shop or pub.

    Of course there was a church with a stain glass window, 

    but our favourite part of this church was the Tolkien-esque trees at the side entrance.

    Our next stop, Bourton-on-the-Water, the “Venice of the Cotswolds”. 

    We couldn’t resist stopping off at “The Slaughters”. What an unfortunate name for such a beautiful area. 

    Whilst I preferred Upper Slaughter, with its little ford across the brook, 


    it’s horse and cart, 

    it’s pretty houses,

       

    and it’s telephone booth  defibrillator (!!), 

    Grahame preferred Lower Slaughter with its water mill, church, pretty houses and pub (Go figure!).

     I think  the fact it was once the proud winner of a Bledisloe Cup (even it it was for best kept village) was the influencing factor though. Maybe the Australian Rugby team should enter this version of the cup. They might be more successful! (Ouch !!)

    Both Slaughters were full of colour and prettiness.

    Our accomodation for the night was in a stunning Airbnb in the Hamlet of Aston Magna. It was a beautiful farmhouse smack bang in the middle of the Cotswolds. Once again,we’d hit the jackpot. 

    Maddog???? 

    Who?????

    RIP Maddog

    Day 44 October 14

    Canal Trip Day 15 The final hour! 

    It was a somber mood on board Maddog today . We’d lost the spring in our step. The end was nigh!!  More “nigh” than we realised in fact. 

    Grahame took the steering wheel for one last turn before handing over to Admiral John to sail her into Port! 

    We took our final on board selfies, 

    And stepped ashore for that final time! 

    We were wobbly on our feet as our sea legs became accustomed to dry land and we were even more wobbly when we heard the crew at the Marina discuss Maddogs fate. 

    She was being de-commissioned!! We had sailed her on her final voyage. And she had already been replaced…… by Bella. What sort of name is that??? 

    Vale Maddog Morgan! May you find locks always set your way, tunnels free of cobwebs, bridges of picturesque quality, canals clear of slow pokes, aqueducts full and strong and a welcoming mooring outside all the best pubs. You served us well!!