Our first big OS trip and straight into the experience that is ASIA, but Singapore to the unseasoned traveller is not like the rest of ASIA but to us greenhorns it was chaotic, exciting and Hot, really hot. It was straight to bed and when we awake in the morning we had a great view from the window of the Westin Stanford Hotel to the city, harbour and buildings in every direction.
Our first day and after breakfast and a swim in the roof top pool we headed off to the world trade centre and then a cable car to Sentosa island. Not impressed and went back to the city and lunched around Clarkes Quay on the river before walking back to the Hotel past some very grand but run down Colonial Government buildings.
Next day was shopping day but first it was a silver service breakfast at raffles. It was truly an amazing experience and the food was sensational…no need for lunch today. We went exploring up to Arab street and little India, very dirty and smelly everywhere. We escaped to Bugis plaza and saw Sense & sensibility in the theatre to escape the humidity. Back to the hotel and cruised around waiting to get to the airport and off to London.
First long haul flight and not much sleep with Ann probably the one suffering the most when we landed. Nice drive into London in a taxi and seeing all the sights and the history was something i had longed for. Of course nothing is as you imagine it but we arrived at the Hotel around 6.30am tired and hungry on a Sunday morning and nothing open and no room until around lunchtime.
It’s off to a wandering for The Cunnos and of course Maccas is open and it was thickshakes for breakfast. We caught a bus to Trafalgar Square via Soho and caught the filming of 1,001 dalmatians caught another bus up to St. Paul’s an at this stage Ann was not feeling too well so back to the Hotel and a well deserved rest. While An & Beth rested a while longer John & Amy wandered around Mayfair and past all the fancy Town Mansions before picking up the girls for a trip to Madame Toussards , it was pretty amazing and we then walked back down Baker Street to the hotel for dinner. John even feel asleep at the dinner table so the nights sleep was very satisfying
Getting used to the London bus system was a breeze and the 15 bus was our preferred mode of transport so we headed off down. To and headed towards The Tower of London and Tower bridge. We visited the Tower complex and were entertained by the actors playing their roles as medieval characters from servants to kings and queens in the black and white towers and the girls discovered a slice of history outside books and stories where so many things began to make sense. This was especially true in relation to our use of so many old phrases that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Crossing the bridge and then Wandering along the banks of this ancient river city along queens walk really put so many things from history in context and as we made our way up to the replica Globe Theatre and past old wooden ships and War ships in dock the whole maritime history of this wet green land became clearer. The rough Southbank was getting hipper and gentrified and so many old industrial building were being turned inside out into new residential and commercial uses.
Our exploring took us by tube and bus further back into the really old part of the city to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey where we caught up with Melinda and had some lunch in a shocking cafe then We wandered down to StJames Park and through to Buckingham Palace to do all the tourist stuff as you do past the Wellington monument and the grand mall.
Back on the bus to Piccadilly Circus and Lieschter square and had our first good meal at a chain French restaurant before saying our farewells to melinda.
Our adventure was really beginning and after a bit more shopping and wandering around Soho down Carnabey street we finally picked up our car and headed off into the London Traffic towards Oxford. It was not as daunting as we thought and as it was the middle of the morning the traffic was manageable. With no wrong turns as yet we were in the villages and countryside relatively quickly but for all we knew we may have still been in London. Within an hour we were circling around Oxford but without any experience we gave up on trying to find our way in the the centre and drove around the edges before stopping for a nice fish lunch before deciding to head to the Cotswolds and our overnight destination to be, Moreton on marsh. This was where the fun really began and cruising around the villages of Stow on wold, bourbon on water, upper and lower slaughter to name but a few was a great laugh, as was looking for somewhere to stay.
There were some very average B&Bs but we found a great guest house called Moreton House and rugged ourselves up for the brisk early spring weather. We checked in and had a rest after a busy day and went for a wander around the village before finding a Pub called the White Heart Royal Hotel where Charles 1 stayed and had an Irish Ale and a few snacks. Our first English Pub and it was snug and cosy and we all had a great laugh with each other absolutely all the funny little Englishisms that were all around us. We headed back to the cosy B&B for dinner.
Our room was spacious and served us well for a good nights sleep once we got the chatter under control .
The next morning I went for a very chilly but sunny walk to explore the village more before a hearty English breakfast and packing up to depart. We drove around more of the funnily names villages, Chipping Campden was one and headed towards Stratford upon Avon. Amy and Beth were determined to find wooly Jackets and Beth particulary wanted a red duffel coat but of course it was Amy who found her coat first in a second hand shop in Stratford. It was a massive long heavy Polish wooden coat that was as toasty as can be but boy did it take up some room. We had a ball exploring the town, the river parks and the old medieval thatched roof Tudor buildings from Shakespeare’s day. The highlight was his wife’s (Anne Hathaway) cottage where we learnt so much about the lives of people at the time and the expressions from the time we use today, threshold, may brides, pot luck etc. we then went to Mary Andres house who was Shakespeare’s mother and finally Williams big grand townhouse in town.
It was time to move on and find somewhere to stay as we had not as yet learnt to book everything in advance. We had planned to stay in Warwick but due to a trade show in Birmingham everything was booked out that we called in the AAA guide so we were struggling and eventually we found a room in a town called Southam. And that was where the laughs really began when we entered the guest house and walked straight into Fawlty Towers. It was a throw back to a past era and when we entered into our family suite the Pinkness was overwhelming. Add to that the lolly red shag pile carpet and we were in Barbie Heaven with a slopping floor. But it got better when we went down to the dining room and entered an empty room! This was clearly a place people avoided and we found out why. Our waitress arrived and without sounding horrible the Fawlty Towers analogy played out as she dragged her club foot behind her to take our order. It would have been far less of a matter of consequence if she had been a nice person but her demeanour was of the ultimate disatisfaction with life and nothing was going to make her smile despite our combined efforts to play on our Aussie humour. But then the food arrived and I believe there was more gravy than meat and veg…it was simply awful and verified the tradition that English food is the worst in the world. I think the kitchen imagined it was ration time during WWII. But the night was but young when we witnesses the arrival of what appeared to be the local Freemasons group for their monthly meeting. Watching around 20 Englishmen businessmen arrive in mostly Jaguars dressed in Tweed jackets and suits was like a scene from a 1970’s Monty Python skit as they all looked like nothing had changed in the past 20 odd years . But the best bit was that there was a woman with them, and what her role was eluded us at first. During the night listening to the group get more and more drunk from our upstairs room due to paper thin walls and Floors combined with the whooping and female giggling made us wonder what was going on down there. Well at around 1 am they all stumbled out into the car park with dishevelled woman in tow and all got into their cars and drove off drunk as skunks into the night and left us still wondering.
We headed to a lovely little town called Skipton in Yorkshire where we stopped for lunch in the local Pub. With its main feature being Skipton Castle, a fantastic 14th century country manor and fortified Castle Skipton was an out of the way location but with a fascinating history especially around the war of the roses time. This history was full of sieges (one lasted 3 years) and alliances that paid off and those that didn’t for the inhabitants the Earl of Skipton and his Aires. We explored every nook and cranny and had lots of fun and laughs and really felt like we were getting into this discovery mode despite the frenetic pace of how we were approaching our first big international trip.
Breakfast was passable and off on the road we went heading towards York up the M1 with the ever abundant Lorry to fill the roads with their erratic driving style that they all seemed to learn from the same driving school.
Arriving in York was easy and we found parking on the edge of the old town. Getting around was a breeze and it was exactly what we wee looking for and visiting the shambles, an old medieval set of streets neat the York Minter Cathedral and the old Guild Halls was a great experience. The Ye old York replica village life was a really interesting experience but visiting the Minster just blew us away. We had our first serious old church experience at Westminster Abbey but this was truly amazing and between the chapels the cloisters, the massive light filled stained glass windows and the massive expanse of the Cathedral, the biggest in Europe they say!!! And built between 1291 and 1472 we were entranced by the detail of the sculptures and faces of everyday humans all over the building. The grounds were extensive and along with the ruins of the Abbeys and nunneries destroyed during the Tudor era it had a late winter chill and eeriness.
The lakes district was very beautiful despite the overcast conditions and the location near the lake of our guesthouse, the Fairfield Hotel was perfect. It was very well presented and very comfortable. We walked to town and had a really nice meal ad a very nice South African wine.
A fabulous breakfast in the sunny conservatory was a great way to start the day and it was off again. We drove out along lake windmere and then through the village and up to the hills. The scenery was spectacular with rolling and rocky hills and valleys, still water lakes, quaint villages and rustic old farm houses. There were walkers everywhere ad we stopped on top of the mountain and played in the snow drifts before heading to the M6 for a while to get some Km’s done.
We turned off at Moffat to head through the Boarder ranges and the high country for The picturesque route to Edinburgh as we passed through forests, fields, rocky bald hills and lots of sheep.
We arrived in Edinburgh after more terrible traffic jams and booked into our hotel, The Royal and grabbed lunch at a shopping mall across the road. Ann & Beth decided on a rest as Beth was not well while John & Amy took a walk up through the old town to the spectacular castle.
An amazing and formidable sight on top of the rocky Crag and with its dark stone it looked like it was formed out of the rock itself. Such an incredible history and all still intact just like going back 400 years. The views across the Forth or Firth waterways and through to the snow covered Highlands was a sight to be seen.We had a lovely meal at the fancy hotel Balmoral across the road and then prepared for our trip to Ireland the next day.
Arriving into Dublin the taxi driver warned us to be very careful of leaving things in our car and we felt a bit wary as we wandered around Dublin after checking into Stauntons on the Green Hotel at St Stephens Green. A very fancy part of town and a lovely old Georgian guest house with a huge room facing the park. Dublin is not a big city but it felt like a scaled down London with just as much history in its grey stone walls. We walked to Temple Bar and then down the famous Grafton street and did a bit of tourist shopping which was a lot of fun. We visited Dublina an historical exhibition that took you back to medieavil days in the Christchurch Cathedral, a real insight. we went for a walk and made a wrong turn to realise that there are still mean streets in Dublin and quickly backtracked to the main drag…no short cuts in Dublin thanks John.
We had lovely dinner at a great fun restaurant Kitty’s Kaboodle where we did drawings and put them on the wall, i still wonder if Amy’s one might still be up there.
We picked up our car after a lovely breakfast and headed off downtime south coast through some nice villages and found a beach at Arklow for lunch . we had bought a few CD’s in dublin and they kept us sane driving around the countryside as the Irish radio was a bit average. We kept going and got lost on the back roads around Wexford and crossed on the ferry at East Passage to Cheekpoint where we had booked our guesthouse , The Three Rivers for the night. The guest house was really nice and looked out over the valley and river to Waterford where we enjoyed a great mexican meal that night. The girls had their own room next to ours for the first time so it worked out really well.
We had a nice sleep and after breakfast off we went through Waterford and onto Lismore to check out the castle…but it was not open to the public so travelled on through some lovely country to Blarney castle…and yes we kissed the Blarney stone after the climb up 5 floors through the old castle with its little rooms , narrow halls and even narrower staircases to the top.
We visited Dumbroddy Abbey which was a very spooky old ruin where there was an abandoned camp site that freaked us out a bit…the vibe in this place was eerie. it was then off to Dingle and there was a bit of driving ahead but it was slow progress and very beautiful and about 17deg which was nice for a change so a good consolation.
The drive to Dingle took us through the spectacular Kerry region and onto the Dingle Peninsular where we hit the coast at a place called “Inch” where there was a beach and SURF, 4-5 ft and clean with a bunch of hardy surfers braving the cold. we followed the cliffs along the coast and then found Dingle Harbour and the Milltown House Guesthouse on the bay before dark. had a great meal in town at the Forge restuarant and the vibe was good with lots of good cheer..craic. Seperate rooms again and we all slept in again and then off again we went to travel through the Dingle region and boy oh boy that was a treat. a fabulous day out there and we went to the old beehive buildings along the rugged coastline and through the Ryan Daughter’s country which was amazing. Huge beaches and headlands as far as the eyes can see. we had a sandwich at lunch at a funny pub in the Tralee Gaellic region and crossed the very hairy Connor pass on our way to Ballyseede for the night.
Castle Ballyseede in Tralee was a classic 14th century castle with an 18th centre manor house attached. the room was lovely and we ate in the fine dinning room with a very fancy meal so it was a real treat. we felt like we were living in a Jane Austin book…Lots of driving the next day and slept at a dingy hotel near the airport for our flight to Switzerland the next day. we loved Ireland and will be back.