A Travellerspoint blog

Touring Britain - Week 1

South East to South West

sunny 20 °C

Start - 1 August

At no extra charge our car (Vauxhall Holden Astra 4 Door) for the next 5 weeks was delivered to NZ Avenue and arrived at around 11 am. Without delay we vacated the loungeroom floor and returned it to its original state, stocked up at sainsburys ready for the British touring trip of a lifetime. Heading out we made it all of 10 km (or approximately 6 miles) to our first stop at Ham House and gardens managed by the National Trust (NT). Liz and Ken / Mum and Dad bought the membership as a Christmas present prior to our trip which we already realise will be a great asset during the trip. Ham House was of interest as we watched a documentary on the NT and Ham House which certainly added to the experience in real life. Unfortunately the kitchens were closed due to flooding in the recent rains but we are told the damage was minor.


Next stop was Canterbury with its fabulous cathedral which we were all of 1 minute late for entry however the outside and grounds were worth the visit, not to mention some of the old town houses and a quick walk along the fortifications.


2 August

Our morning started with a 2 hour walk through the NT managed White Cliffs of Dover coastline. It was great to be up before the rest of the daily visitors to this section of coast as we could enjoy the morning sea breeze alone together.


We continued through Dover, Flokstone and stopped in Rye watching the tide advancing over lunchtime, a quick poke around the antique shops and until we could not restrain ourselves any longer and bought lots of little items (chocolate covered sultanas from the lolly shop next door). Touring through the old fishing village of Hastings we turned right towards Battle to visit the site of the infamous clash of 1066 AD.

The theatrical audioguide and light sunshower left us with a real impression of the battle which shaped British history when William the Conqueror (formerly William the Bastard, truly) fought King Harold and won. At the cost of almost 7000 men in one day, including King Harold, the battle ground below our feet held more anguish than we will ever know. We valued the history lesson and our visit so much that we joined English Heritage on the spot to compliment our NT membership, now England is our oyster to discover all her treasures FREE.


Camping at Castle View Campground we could see Peversby Castle (funnily enough) and planned our visit for the morning.

3 August

Before the crowds associated with opening times wallked in we walked the grounds of Peversby Castle (admiring our campsite from the previous night) where William the Bastard (he hasn't won the battle at this point) and his army landed and prepared for the fight.

Our next stop was sunny Eastbournewith the beautiful early 19th century pier. We quickly became the source of amusement for the passing parade of locals as we had set up for a full buffet breakfast on the wall of the promenade. Muesli, fruit, tea, spreads and fresh bread was the order of the day and we are sure to have made those in the expensive restaurant behind us very jelous as we had the better view. Having reviewed the Lonely Planet commentary on Eastbourne we certainly agree that octogenarians choose this delightful town for thier holidays as evidenced by the embroided floral cardigans for sale and more park benches per mile of promenade than anywhere else on earth, we LOVED it.


Touring the coast with a stop at Birling Gap (NT) and the 7 sisters peaks we would argue that the white cliff views and beach access outshine Dover.


A short shopping stop in Seaford for camping repair supplies before perching on the cliffs for a hot self catered curry lunch. After lunch something came over Camilla which compelled her to take the drivers seat. In retrospect cruising through busy holiday spot Brighton and Hove was not as relaxing as the country lanes to follow. We had planned on going to the Isle of White for a day however when we found out that the ferry alone would be twice our daily budget and most of the campsites were already full due to the Cowes regatta we had to change our plans.

Feeling a little disheartened we made excellent use of our time in Portsmouth historic wharves before driving to Winchester campground. After a tiring day the last thing we needed was 4 semi-retired camping managers (yes it takes 4) to work out if they had any space for us we had to remain calm regarding the near empty paddock we passed on our way to reception. In the end they carefully guided us to our pitch with a smile.

4 August

A short stop at Northington Grange was all that was required to see the parklands and acropolis style columns at the front of the 18th century house, then onto Winchester town. We visited the city mill which is in full working order after NT took over management. Greeted at the door by the flour grinding manager complete with a spot of flour on his nose we learnt more in the subsequent 10 minutes about where bread comes from than we thought possible. It was great to see how they used to harness the rivers energy and a little sad to note that of the 90+ mills in the district only a few remain standing, and only this one still works. A beautiful walk along the river took us to Wovesley Castle (EH) ruins then past Jane Austen's final home opposite the spectacular Winchester Cathedral.

Leaving Winchester we made our way for lunch in the gardens of Mottisfont Abbey founded in 1201. In such a stately home there is no more fitting meal than baked bean sandwiches and tea, although a pan fried trout such as those in the river would have also sufficed.


As if today had not been busy enough it seemed logical to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine at Stonehenge. Fasttracked through long queues is one of the great benefits provided by NT or EH membership and once through the door we giggled at the audioguide speculations as "we really can't be certain", or our favourite "we don't know but...". Moments after we had left our speculations seem far more likely anyway. It is unfortunate the site has been overrun by tourists (shame we fall into the same category) as it would be far more fulfilling to have peace during a wander between the stones in reflection of the ancient past.


5 August

Our morning commenced at Kingston Lacy (NT) in the superb grounds before entering this impressive house. In particular the story of Corfe Castle siege and subsequent destruction made the viewing of the castle keys over the fireplace even more symbolic of the courage of one lady. Notable aspects of the house include the collection of Egyptian artefacts, working 16th century grandfather clock complete with original cat gut weight strings, and an extensive art collection including Rubens and Titian.


So, today is Sunday therefore nothing would be more fitting than a full roast lunch complete with trimmings in a dinky pub. Phelips Arms Hotel offered the perfect selection of yorkshire pudding, beef, pork, leek and whitesauce, home made apple sauce and super hot horse radish cream. After lunch we went into the Phelips family home (next door) called Montacute House. Built in 1588 and modified over the coming 300 years the key points of interest included a National Portrait Gallery collection on loan showing the royal lineage through the ages, Steves first attempt to write with a feather quill (no improvement noted) and THE RACE.

Camilla stood with the crowd eagerly watching as she clasped her lance and steadied her stead. Lauren dug her sparkling pink heels into the soft lawn and looked at her opponent with all the savagery and determination a 5 year old can muster. As the course fell behind in their wake, their trusty stallions pressed on as fast as their wooden rollers allowed, and their lances now burdened with the weight of straw rings glinted in the sun, it was Lauren by a nose in the end. Camilla commented in the stables after that her achilles was a lack of sparkling pink stilletos.


Our evening was spent at an adventure camp on the river Dart, where we swung through the trees on a big kids jungle gym complete with flying fox.

6 August

Camilla took the wheel with gusto thismorning as Steve navigated the way through the back lanes of Devon, past the steam railway to Berry Pommeroy Castle (EH). Although the castle is in partial ruins the audio tour was of great interest with detailed descriptions of life in the 15th and 16th century, and tales of the lingering ghosts from the family.


Munching on carrot sticks we delayed the hunger pains until after the Dartmouth car ferry to Dartmouth Castle (EH). After 2 minute noodles (please assume tea follows all main meals) we explored the cannon battery and now realise how much time is consumed in preparation for firing a cannon. Back in Dartmouth we wandered town, admired the harbour, watched the steam train depart across the estuary and realised how big the tides in this area really are as we saw yachts moored standing on thier keels in the mud.


Dartmouth is beautiful of course you already know that from the photo above.

7 August

No trip to the south of England is complete without a stop in Modbury (???). Camilla was drawn in to the local butcher by his broad smile and good looking rump. After receiving advice from Mr Butcher who has probably lived here for the last 70 years, and all the locals in the store, we were finally set on our way in search of the best Devonshire cream tea in town. Finding a spot in the sun we researched the matter of scone-jam-cream vs. scone-cream-jam fully and can report with little hesitation that we are equally happy with either option.

On the scenic tourist drive to Kingsbridge we saw nothing as the 8-10 foot high hedges are far taller than our car. Our destination was Lanhydrock House (NT), one of the finest examples we have come across depicting the sheer decadence and wealth of some families during the Victorian era. Before entering the house we walked alongside the vintage car shuttle taking visitors down the drive and set ourselves up in the cow paddock for rump steak sandwiches and unfortunately didn't make friends with Daisy.

National Trust has preserved and presented every room of Lanhydrock House with attention to the finest details, in particular the childrens wing complete with toys and bear skin rugs, fabulous 8 room kitchen taking up the majority of the downstairs, and the son's bedroom as he left it before going to war.


Near the end of the day we arrived at Cornwall's greatest fortress, Pendennis Castle (EH), developed by Henry VIII in the 16th century. Playing soldier saving damsel in distress (Steve doesn't make a very good damsel) we explored the keep, gun battery and war shelters on this sunny windswept peninsular until closing time.


Posted by snchall 08:18 Archived in England Tagged automotive Comments (0)

British Touring

Roadtrip Disclaimer and Apology

sunny -17 °C

There are 4 factors that will limit our level of detail in blogging over the coming weeks which we had not foreseen. Firstly, there is at least 10 times as many places of interest and things to do and see than we could have possibly imagined scattered throughout the English countryside. Secondly, the number of available internet computers is next to none in most small towns. Thirdly, in the past week (drafting this entry on 12 August) we have visited some of the most exquisite castles, estates and historic sites yet seen on our adventures abroad not to mention all the towns and villages in between. It has taken us each evening to plan the following day whilst leaving time to live life, eat, find a campsite and enjoy reflecting on the day that blogging is harder to get to than ever. Finally, and most surprisingly we have enjoyed almost perfect weather and therefore cannot bear to be indoors at a computer, moreso it seems foolish not to count our blessings and get sun burnt instead.

Given the above disclaimer which should be read as an apology to frequent readers our subsequent blogging efforts, we hope, you will enjoy with less words and more photos than ever before. Depicting our journey through Britain, Wales and Scotland should be even easier to relay in person as we will be home in under a month (which is really unbelievable).

Please also note the following for all subsequent entries.

Based on our recent experience over the last week we would like to make the following general statement regarding visits to houses, gardens, historic sites, castles and natural environments. If we add no commentary or specific descriptions to our notes for the photos please assume the following applies;

"Location 'X' presented us with a glorious/unsurpassed/exceptional/exquisite/enjoyable insight and/or educational experience during our visit to the beautiful/extensive/astounding/lush/fascinating etc. architectural/furnishings/artworks/gardens/prehistoric monoliths/collections from 2000BC to 2007AD. Location 'X' is well worth the visit and/or a must see if you are touring Britain. We would like to thank/compliment/offer our best to the English Heritage/National Trust for all their hard work/dedication/enthusiasm/fanaticism to maintain/conserve this site. "

We will endeavour to find an internet location soon, currently we are in Bath and about to have a BBQ with a couple of friendly Australians we met yesterday, best wishes.

Posted by snchall 08:07 Archived in England Tagged automotive Comments (0)


Sunny all year round, truly!

sunny 24 °C
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Arriving - 26 July 2007

While we were excited about our first flight in months we were even more thrilled to be arriving in London, and by London we mean the sheep paddock called Stansted Airport. The bus ride rocked us to sleep for almost 2 hours before we emerged at Baker Street in the pooring rain. Totally unphased we put on full mountain wet weather gear and strode off in search of the Queen.

Baker, Oxford, New Bond, Piccadilly, Pall Mall and The Mall are all far easier street names to navigate than the last 4 months. Ladden with our heavy burdens and convict pride we arrived at the gates of the 'Mother Ship', Buckingham Palace. The sun came out in time for us to enjoy the Queen Victoria memorial, a stroll through St James Park and visit the horse guard courtyard before synchronising our watches with Ben (the big one that is), and finally stopping to marvel at the London Eye.

Having ascertained which of the dozens of platforms at Waterloo Station was ours we rode to Walton-on-Thames and walked onto New Zealand Avenue. Greeted by our New Zealand friends the jokes regarding their street name quickly subsided to a warm welcome into their home where we would be based for the coming days.

Day One - 27 July 2007

Fully stocked up (finally) with Australia's finest condiment (we had to regain the rose in every cheek), our start and end point would be Waterloo Station. For today it was a long walk in the first sunshine locals had seen in weeks. Walking along the South Bank we came to Englands largest collection of Modern Art at the Tate Museum. As with all visits ever made to modern art collections, Camilla swears to never return with Steven in tow as the constant criticism and mumbling disturbs the other visitors and embarasses to no end. Vegimite was clearly the only thing that would placate Steve.


Tower Bridge, to our surprise was baby blue rather than red as we had thought for some reason, yet no less impressive. We enjoyed watching the red double decker buses and London cabs cross the small gap in the middle of the bridge where the Thames is winking up from below. Unfortunately, due to long queues we would miss the last Yeoman tour of the Tower of London so we admired the stronghold from outside instead and are determined to visit next time round.

A short stop on the steps of St Paul's cathedral was necessary after a quick peak inside, then down Fleet Street we went to Temple Church ( in Da Vinci Code) and most importantly to the birthplace of tea consumption, Twinnings first retail store. It is nice to be back in a civilised country where tea is cheaper and more readily available than coffee. One of our favourite places in London is Covent Garden with its myriad of entertainers, tea houses, pubs and quaint specialist toy shops. As if our legs weren't tired enough we bypassed the Royal Opera House before dashing to Leichester Square to find out what was on the stage in the West End tonight.

Camilla took substantial convincing before finally agreeing to go to Cabaret, what with all that unnecessary dancing, singing and over the top theatrics... promise. With some time to spare before curtain up we walked a big triangle through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus both writhing with activity before stopping for take-away chinese outside the theatre. Whether it is our Aussie accents or broad smiles, we don't mind which, we were upgraded to our own private box, LUCKY!


Our boomerang tour for the day took us out of the theatre to Waterloo station via Big Ben where we checked we were still on time for the train. With the rain starting lightly there was a magic in the air as the lights of Westminster lit up the underneath of the clouds overhead. The buzz of the evening was drowned out only by Ben's chiming 11pm as we turned for the station.

Day 2 - 28 July - Back on a bike!

To be sure, the greatest consipiracy in history mandated by the Queen herself is that ALL BRITISH are to tell the rest of the world that England has miserable weather. For all the evidence we have on hand suggests that England is blessed with crisp sunny summer days (ignoring the recent devastating floods). To take full advantage of the day Sarah suggested a bike ride along the Thames river and received no opposition from us.

Past the Aston Martin dealership and through a small field we were gracefully bumping and jerking along the banks in no time. Our first stop was Hampton Court Palace to admire Henry VIII love pad and gardens then onto Bushy park to track deer to no avail. Onto Kingston for a picnic lunch next to the river using fresh local farmers produce.


On our return we stopped to eat wild blackberries, YUM! Sarah's second excellent suggestion for the day was to wash down the berries with a selection of England's finest beverages such as ales, ciders and wheat beer. It was a lazy afternoon affair with Prince Charles 'Dutchy's Original Organic Wheat Beer' and for Camilla a 'Hobgoblin Oak Matured Cider'. When Rob got home we left to Windsor Castle for dinner however unfortunately the Queen was not at home so instead we walked the streets of Windsor, visited Eton College and dined on fine Italian cuisine.

Day 3 - 29 July

Sunday morning in Walton on Thames reminded us of home with a full English breakfast. Thankfully we were full of beans as we assisted in stripping a one of Sarah's friends cars for spare parts. Sarah's Rover Metro now runs straighter with new tires and a shiny bonnet. We all headed to Hyde Park to start the afternoon in town and after a short stop at speakers corner we escaped the mad ranting of soapbox weilding shouters for Greenwich. With a pit stop at Canary Wharf for Tescos sandwiches we walked up the grassy hill and paid tribute to Captain Cook's statue before entering the observatory. In typical tourist fashion we stood on both sides of the world at once (0 to 360 degrees longditude) before marvelling at the original maritime time pieces such as the first timepieces and chronographs.


It was ale o'clock so back on the tube to Soho we went in search of a 'dinky' English pub with traditional cask ales and cider. What a great end to a super day with friends.

Day 4 - 30 July

Changing of the Guard would today be our first tourist adventure. We made it just in time as the procession wound around Queen Victoria Memorial and behind the fence of Buckingham Palace. Having now witnessed a couple of Guard Changing ceremonies throughout Europe we feel confident in saying that this ceremony is a real treat to enjoy. The sunshine was out and we could feel the buzz move through the crowd as the masses gathered to listen to the band play.


We set a brisk pace to escape the now dispersing crowd across to Green Park Station and like lightening flashed across town to the British Museum. There were numerous displays which our appreciation of the artefacts and exhibits was substantially enhanced due to having recently visited many of the historical sites in Italy and Greece. After spending over an hour marvelling at the Egyptian collection of mummies and tomb treasures a trip to Egypt should be on the cards in the future certainly. Some of the collections in the Museum are outstanding and for one we are pleased to say we have seen first hand finds such as the Rosetta Stone which unlocked so much history for us all.


Now that we were completely saturated with information we felt the excitement of another West End production was in order to calm the nerves. Unfortunately Les Miserables was sold out save a few 'Restricted View' seats so we opted for the hilarious new Monty Python production 'Spamalot'. Given that we had a couple of hours up our sleeves we headed out to Notting Hill in order to take our first ride on a double decker bus and visit the famous Portabello Road markets. What fun it was to watch the city pass underneath and once we had arrived we found the town of Notting Hill charming. Sainsbury sandwiches, with a much needed enhancement of smoked salmon, was enjoyed on the bus ride back to West End. Spamalot proved even funnier than could possibly have been expected, such a laugh our sides split.

Day 5 - 31 July

As of yesterday Camilla has read the first two lines of the new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, only making us more determined to find Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Thankfully we were able to avoid suspicion when taking photos of blank walls between the platforms (we suspect we are not the first). Now hungry we made our way to the Natural History Museum and soaked up the sun with the locals whilst having a picnic lunch of Sainsbury's finest sandwiches (AGAIN) and toffy cookies. You can imagine how busy a sunny patch of grass outside a museum full of dinosaurs can get during the first week of school holidays.

As has been repeated a number of times by Steve's Mum, we have in our minds the fact that when he was a young boy he declared his undying love for all dinosaurs and wished to marry one if possible. Things turned out rather differently (lucky Camilla, or more so lucky Steve). At the sight of all the skeletons our imaginations were ignited as we dashed between huge femurs and sharp claws. Saving time in the day for the Science Museum required us to leave the Natural History Museum a bit prematurely yet we weren't dissappointed.

Amidst the extensive collections of world firsts in engineering and science were 1000's of detailed explanations regarding the birth of steam engines, ships, rockets etc. Everything that moves or beeps from X-Ray machines to rocket ships, industrial steam engines for mining, a dissected boeing 747 fuselage and an original WWII spitfire all within our reach ('please do not touch'). Camilla found the first ever electrocardiograph (ECG) particularly interesting and noted the few similarities with todays MUCH more advanced systems.


To top off a great day we were indulged by Sarah and Rob with a traditional British / New Zealand / Australian BBQ in their courtyard before poor Rob had to retire from the festivities to complete a uni assignment, ouch. We really have immensely enjoyed London and thoroughly appreciate Rob and Sarah's generosity and friendship. We look forward to returning the favour in Sydney soon.

Posted by snchall 05:40 Archived in England Tagged lodging Comments (0)

France, Luxembourg & Germany

2 more days and 3 countries!

sunny 25 °C
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We left the Chateau (very reluctantly) after Camilla got off the phone to her parents. With the Lonely Planet as our only guide it seemingly offers sufficent information to get oneself around Europe yet we feel that it is notably inadequate when travelling by car.

Destination 1 - Strasbourg (3+ u-turns later)

Strasbourg has two crowning features we were in search of, their gothic cathedral which rivals all others in sheer height (142m) and adornments on the facade, and Little France; which is a network of locks, cobblestone streets, 15th century 1/2 wood houses with bowing walls and cafes.


At the 6 o'clock chime of the church bells we left the sunny evening behind us as we had a long drive ahead to Luxembourg. A vital teastop in a wheat field to enjoy the sunset calmed us before searching for the campsite, location unknown.

Destination 2 - Luxembourg (u-turns unknown...)

We drove and drove and drove before finally pitching the tent 20 minutes before the next day. There was a benefit to staying so close to town as we packed up early and were able to explore town during sunrise. Feeling enthusiastic for the final visit of a European city we headed into Luxembourg at around 7am. Shrotly after leaving the car parked in a prime location we walked a short way before Steve realised the camera battery had died.

Seeing this cute little capital without photographic equipment was not an option so Camilla remained in the sun on a bench while Steve ran back to the car. On his return he found to his horror a damsel in distress. Poor Camilla was standing on the park bench surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. It was difficult to tell from her vantage point at such a height what exact breed of yapping chihuahua they were!

A cappucino and croisant was the only medicine for such a fright and pennance for Steve's dessertion in a time of need. Full of energy we explored the streets and walked to the palace, stocked up at the farmers market, admired the Spanish fortifications carved into the rock and viewed the village below from the city perimeter. Although it was only a short visit it we found Luxembourg to be a delightfully picturesque city to conclude our european site seeing adventure.


Our final objectives for this stage of the trip seemed simple. Find Frankfurt Hahn airport, confirm the car dropoff location, settle in accommodation nearby and use a washing machine. Clearly our fundemental assumption that Hahn airport is in Frankfurt led us astray as it is actually about 90km south west of the city. To add to our confusion the freeway detour for works took us past the correct turnoff, argh! Finally, to ease our concerns we found that Sohren, the only reasonable sized village near Hahn didn't have a laundromat.

Thankfully, our delightful family run hotel owner offered their sunny backyard to dry out the tent, helped with a load of washing and was perfectly positioned next to the quaint traditional German guesthaus and restaurant Camilla had her eye on for dinner. We feasted (understatement) sitting in the sunny courtyard eating and drinking as we reminisced with delight at the wonderfully friendly people, diverse culture, spectacular sights and fabulous food we have shared in Europe.

Posted by snchall 01:29 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged backpacking Comments (0)


French Chateau Indulgence

sunny 24 °C
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22 - 24 July

After a heavy night of rain our campsite now resembled an extension of lake Geneva. Undeterred we set about organising ourselves out of the mud with our sights firmly set on a chateau in the Burgundy region of France.

In the lovely town of Beaune we found the tourist office to be helpful yet the attendant staunchly refused to make a few calls on our behalf to secure accommodation. It was left to Steve to again practise his french and was warmly laughed at by our chosen receptionist. Although many of the local establishments were full (or exorbitantly pricey) thankfully our first choice from the brochure was free, well available at least...


Chateau Challanges is a resplendent 18th century manor house set on 15 acres of parkland and gardens. To our great delight our room was decked out in typical french period furniture, upholstery and wall paper. We felt more french than ever just standing in the room.

It was a very hot afternoon so our first priority was to have a swim, before a classic impoverished backpacker selfcatered meal of soup, bread and tea overlooking the vineyards at sunset. Over the coming 2 days we spent our time reading LOTR, exploring Beaune, indulging in regional wine and filling ourselves with buffet breakfasts.

This was a magical last fling to send off our time in continental Europe topped off by receiving phonecalls from Camilla's best friend and parents.

Posted by snchall 07:52 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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