A Travellerspoint blog

England

The Difference a Day Makes

semi-overcast 7 °C

Here's a phrase you probably thought you would never hear us utter. “While we were quad biking along the beach and through the sugar cane fields of Zanzibar...”
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”Yes – dear blog reader, here we are on a quad bike preparing for a thrilling 3 hour drive through the plantations and villages of northern Zanzibar. But this wasn't our idea. We were goaded into it by this group of retired nurses from British Columbia's Sunshine Coast who were staying at the Villa Kiva in Matemwe...
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Mary, Deidre, Dee and friends have quad-biked all over the place and convinced us that age was no barrier when it came to racing through the countryside on a quad - and we had a great time. Here's Sheila taking a break under a mango tree...
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Our East African experience has ended and we are briefly back in England having time-travelled from rural Zanzibar to London via Dubai. Overnight, the skies darkened; the temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees and we jumped forward a century or more.. While we enjoyed a luxurious, even decadent, lifestyle in Tanzania, we were always conscious of the extreme poverty and Dickensian lifestyle of many of the locals. Despite the enormous amount of income from tourism and the spice trade, most Zanzibarians live in tin-roofed shacks, many without electricity or plumbing, and they shop at roadside stalls like this...
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Ox-carts and old bicycles are still major means of transport for goods...
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...while most locals travel in incredibly overloaded mini-buses called dala-dala. These ancient buses, packed to the gunwales, can be seen broken down by the roadsides all over Zanzibar.

Zanzibar is as exotic as its name suggests but its crumbling roads and decayed infrastructure mean that, while it is a fascinating place to visit, life is not necessarily comfortable or convenient for the inhabitants. The contrast between Zanzibar's decrepit airport and Dubai's palatial terminals could not be more extreme. However, we will miss the genuine warmth of the Tanzanians and the many incredible sights we witnessed in their country. We are now headed to the Canary islands, but first a quick stop in the English Midlands to visit Waddesdon Manor...
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This flambouyant mansion was built by Baron Rothschild in the 1880s and was just one of many country houses owned by the wealthy aristocrat. However, we were not on the guest list for dinner at the manor – we only came for the popular Christmas Fair.
Now we fly south again – this time to the islands off the west coast of Africa.

Posted by Hawkson 10:40 Archived in England Comments (7)

London: Next Stop - Africa

semi-overcast 15 °C

As another sun-filled summer slips gently into a soggy autumn we are once again getting ready to leave our paradise island. We, like all voyageurs, travel to exotic places so that we can marvel at all the wonderful things we simply ignore at home: wonderful things like the spectacular vistas of ocean, mountains and forests that we see daily from our cliff top home...
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In a few days time we will be roaming the Serengeti plains and Great Rift Valley of Tanzania in search of lions, zebras, giraffes and a host of other wild creatures. But we too have a wild side in British Columbia and this summer we explored a number of neighbouring islands. British Columbia is four times the size of the United Kingdom but it has a total population of less than 5 million - more than half of whom live in the Vancouver area. It is not surprising therefore that most of our province looks like this...
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Cougars, elk, moose and bears of many kind rove freely through the numerous thickly forested mountain ranges and islands of Canada’s west coast, while the surrounding Pacific ocean is home to whales, sea lions, seals and fish of many species. The sea lions have returned from their summer fishing grounds and, while we frequently spy the sea life from our home, we rarely spot other wildlife - apart from the many doe-eyed deer that thrive on everything in our garden, and the raccoons and squirrels that raid our birdfeeders,

We’ve had a busy year starting in Sri Lanka, Thailand and China. We then spent a few weeks in the spring visiting the stately homes of southeast England where we spotted this magnificent wild pheasant...
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There is nothing wild about the manicured gardens of England’s aristocrats. Lush landscapes surround many of the great mansions that are now administered by the National Trust, like these at Wakehurst Place...
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We also visited Winston Churchill’s home at Chartwell; the boyhood home of General Wolfe (the man who trounced the French on the Plains of Abraham to secure Canada for the Brits); the famous gardens of Sissinghurst; and the splendid rhododendron groves of the 600 year old Scotney Castle...
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The endless blue skies and warm ocean winds of summer drew us back to Canada’s west coast and we wiled away the days with visits to Victoria and Vancouver. Here we are on the ferry to Vancouver..
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Every year we attend Shakespearean performances and the International firework festival in English Bay, Vancouver...
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Now we are back in London en route to our next adventure, but anyone visiting London at present will be disappointed to see its most recognizable icon swathed in scaffolding...
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Internet connection is not great on the Serengeti Plain but we hope you will be able to join us shortly as we take a walk on the wild side of Tanzania. .

Posted by Hawkson 05:22 Archived in England Comments (8)

All Roads Lead to London

overcast 6 °C

We often rave about the food in foreign climes, but nowhere in the world can you find such quality, variety and perfection as in the great British food emporiums of Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. This is Harrods…
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While London’s iconic restaurants and celebrity chefs top the world rankings, dining out is not cheap here. Therefore, anyone planning to save a little a might want to pick up some surf and turf at Harrods to cook at home. Four nicely aged Japanese Kobe steaks, each topped with a spoonful of Beluga caviar, will cost you just seven thousand dollars (Yes - $7,000.00 …and if you’re lucky Harrods might even throw in a packet of frozen chips). However, you can cheap out on the ready-made desserts. These cheeky little lemon mousses are only sixty four dollars for all four…
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Now - If you can afford to shop at Harrods you can probably run to one of these…
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The streets of London really are lined with gold. Rolls-Royces, Aston-Martins, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bugattis are ten a penny in the ritzier areas of the metropolis while BMWs, Audis and Mercs are just runabouts for the staff. However, potential visitors should not be discouraged; sightseeing in London need cost no more than the price of a good pair of walking shoes, and most of the roughly 275 museums and galleries have free admission at all times. If you did one a day with weekends off you could get to most in a year. But, be warned, this is just one – The Natural History Museum – and it’s a monster…
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And this one, The Victoria & Albert, has eleven kilometres of galleries housing a permanent exhibition of some four and half million objects…
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Good luck getting through that lot in a day.

London is itself a museum with amazing architecture, historical monuments and ancient parks – it even has a genuine two thousand year old Roman amphitheatre buried in the foundations of the 800 year old Guildhall – but London is also a thoroughly modern and vibrant city glistening with lofty glass spires…
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Christmas is coming and once again we are here to see the spectacular lights of the West End. Here’s 60s favourite, Carnaby Street…
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And this is Oxford Street, where, despite a sunny start to the day, it started to snow…
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So now, with Christmas and winter at hand, we must head home. As always, a big thank you to all the wonderful people who made our journey both possible and thoroughly enjoyable and, dear blog reader wherever you are, thank you for trailing along with us. Knowing that you enjoy sharing our experiences really does make a difference to how we view the world, and we hope that we have inspired you to pack a bag and discover Europe for yourself – it is a fascinating continent with riches to spare.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Ciao for now… and we look forward to you joining us on our next Blissful Adventure .

Posted by Hawkson 13:05 Archived in England Comments (4)

A Yorkshire Heartbeat

sunny 17 °C

Lovers of the BBC television series ‘Heartbeat’ will immediately recognise this façade of Vernon Scripps' garage and funeral home in the fictional village of Aidensfield, North Yorkshire…
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The series, featuring a cast of rural bobbies and a motley bunch of Yorkshire yokels and petty villains, was filmed in the miniscule moorland hamlet of Goathland for 18 years until 2009. Scripps' garage, along with Aidensfield Arms pub and the Post Office Stores where ex-Sergeant Blaketon once stood behind the counter, attract droves of visitors every day. This 1960s police car outside the Post Office is very similar to the one that James drove in his days as a country copper…
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Savvy visitors to this tiny village time their arrival carefully to avoid the crush of fans arriving by car, coach and by vintage steam trains from nearby Whitby and Pickering, and get to see the sheep grazing peacefully on the village common...
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Earlybirds also get to walk the deserted moorland paths to the pretty beck (stream) at Beck Hole…
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The ancient city of York is also a magnate for tourists, (with good reason), and most come to see the iconic Rose window in the Medieval cathedral…
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The soaring Gothic arches of York Minster are 800 years old (built in 1220 AD) but the Romans had established a Christian community in the city more than a thousand years before that. The Minster has the largest expanse of the coloured Medieval glass in the world, but there is no shortage of ancient leaded lights throughout the city…
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Also – there is no shortage of Yorkshire pudding…
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Crisp, light Yorkshire puddings, filled with a wide variety of meats and sauces, are on the menu at most restaurants in the city and we wonder if the Romans would have enjoyed such a treat when they were here nearly two thousand years ago…
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Posted by Hawkson 02:02 Archived in England Comments (6)

A Wet Day in Whitby

sunny 16 °C

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It is the 8th of October and it is National Poetry Day in the U.K. The British poetic lexicon abounds with stormy visions of the sea and needs no supplementation from us amateurs. However, as we stare out over the tempestuous North Sea from Whitby harbour today we feel compelled to add a few words to our pictures:
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White horses galloping madly along the shore
Leap over the sturdy sea wall
Sending the lifeboat to the rescue.
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So – what to do on a wet, windy day in Whitby,
When the weather cock shelters in the hen house
And weathered fishermen put their feet to the fire?

We eat fish and chips of course.
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The fleet may be tied up in port, but the numerous fish restaurants are stocked to the gills with the freshest lobster, cod and haddock – and we indulge.

The North Yorkshire seaport of Whitby was a setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and as we wander its narrow backstreets, darkened by fog and rain, we feel the chill that must have inspired him to write his scary story of vampires and ghouls. But then we come to quaint shops with original Victorian facades and it brightens our day.
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Another bright spot in Whitby is this harbourside house (built in 1688)…
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This is where Captain James Cook lived from 1746 -1749, when he was an apprentice seaman before he set out to survey the whole world.

And then the sun comes out; the murk clears and the lofty ruins of Whitby Abbey soar into the clear blue sky on the headland overlooking the stormy sea and the ancient port...
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This Benedictine Abbey began with modest buildings in 657 AD. It was here that Caedmon wrote poetry in the 8th. Century, (His poems have survived 1,400 years while ours will probably be forgotten tomorrow). The abbey was regularly sacked by the Vikings in the 9th century but successive abbots and abbesses rebuilt until the place had gone completely over the top by the mid 1400s...

These majestic arches withstood the worst that the North Sea could throw at them until 1540 when Henry V111 dissolved the monasteries and took a battering ram to them.
Despite nearly 5oo years of assault by notoriously vicious easterly gales, and the malignant efforts of a couple of German battleships during the First World War, the ruins of Whitby Abbey are still an inspiring sight. It is easy to see why Stoker felt them to be a suitable backdrop for his gruesome tale.

Posted by Hawkson 12:54 Archived in England Comments (4)

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