A Travellerspoint blog


The Pride of London

sunny 14 °C

We arrived in England nearly a week ago and discovered that we were not alone in thinking London is the best city in the world - the old gal was just heaving. But as we jostled our way through the gilded halls of Harrods, (with our wallets firmly in our pockets), and fought our way past the emporiums of Oxford Street, we realized that most of the shoppers were foreigners taking advantage of the bargain-basement pound.
But who needs money in London? New York may boast that the Staten Island Ferry offers the best free show in the world, but the sights of Manhattan pale in comparison to the delights of Greater London. Here’s a snapshot…
Big Ben’s iconic tower is just one of hundreds of instantly recognizable landmarks liberally scattered across this ancient city that turns any walk into a fascinating journey through history. Who would not recognize Buckingham Palace, the infamous Tower of London, the soaring span of Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Albert Hall, and Sir Christopher Wren’s gothic masterpiece of St.Paul’s Cathedral…
But there are thousands of lesser known architectural wonders lining the wide boulevards and riversides of London and you can stroll for days along its famously named thoroughfares staring in awe at the grandeur created in times past: see sections of the 2,000 year old Roman wall, the medieval castle that is the Tower, the Tudor palaces and houses, the great Georgian terraces and the magnificent Victorian railway stations, or gape in wonder at the myriad of modern wonders like London Eye…
London can be expensive whatever the state of sterling but beyond the cost of food and lodging it can be the cheapest place to visit on earth. London, with its wealth of public buildings and parks, is in itself a great free museum, but it is also home to some of the greatest museums, libraries and art galleries in the world - and they are all absolutely free to visitors. And then there are the parades…
There is always some ceremonial event taking place in London, even if it’s only the daily ritual of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and we struck gold. We arrived in time to see the Lord Mayor’s Show…
This is the new Lord Mayor’s gilded coach led by a procession of bands and floats totaling more than 6,000 people…
Sheila particularly liked the beautifully groomed horses…
The Lord Mayor’s Show is an annual event to celebrate the anointing of the new incumbent and it is followed by a magnificent firework display on the river – and it’s all free. The following day was Remembrance Sunday with another great parade at the Cenotaph – and that was free as well.
Enough of this free stuff – we’re off to the countryside to visit friends and relatives for a few weeks before we return to Canada. Cheerio for now, but look for a special blog entry when we get back to our island home in mid-December.

Posted by Hawkson 01:44 Archived in England Comments (6)

Butlins for Crumblies

sunny 14 °C

We’re now on our way to Delhi and spent our last night in England in this enormous Tudor mansion just west of London.
But we were not the only guests this time. You don’t need a gilt-edged invitation from the Lord of the Manor to get in here; just a pension and a fat wallet. This great house, where King Henry VIII wooed Jane Seymour in 1536, has been converted into an up-market holiday camp for crumblies, (Britspeak for seniors). It’s just like a Butlin’s holiday camp of the 1950s, without the redcoats, the camp beds and the crappy food. How things have changed! The grey-haired oldies staying here today are probably the same people who stayed at Butlin’s, but now they have four-poster beds, haute cuisine and ballroom dancing. We would have stayed longer but worried that we might get used to it. Anyway, India awaits – please meet us in Delhi in a few days.
In the meantime, here’s one of the great oaks in the grounds – quintessentially England.

If you would like to see some lovely photos of Britain, check out this web-site:

Posted by Hawkson 02:50 Archived in England Comments (3)

Ship Shape in Bristol

sunny 14 °C

Last week’s maiden voyage of the luxurious Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, marked a milestone in Britain’s naval heritage and follows in the wake of such historic vessels as: The Mayflower, Beagle, Victory, and Cutty Sark. Yet this is actually one of the world’s greatest maritime marvels and we bet you’ve never heard of her.
She’s the SS. Great Britain and was the largest ship in the world when she began regular service to Australia in 1845, but she wasn’t carrying shackled convicts - no gruel and hardtack here. The food was said to be as fine as any served in London’s greatest restaurants. Here’s the first class dining room…
The Great Britain was an incredible leap forward in maritime innovation at a time when wooden sailing ships had changed little for thousands of years. Not only was the Great Britain made entirely of iron plate, but she was powered by the biggest steam engine in the world. Here’s the propeller…
She had many incarnations in her lifetime and was finally abandoned in the Falklands in 1937. After many ignominious years as a coal hulk she was refloated in 1970 and returned to the dock in Bristol which had been built specifically for her construction. Now, restored to her former glory, she is a wondrous reminder of Britain’s maritime history.

Posted by Hawkson 02:48 Archived in England Comments (0)

Cast in Stone

sunny 13 °C

From the giant stone pillars at Stonehenge, the Roman baths in Bath, and the elegant Georgian squares of London, five thousand years of English history has been carved in English stone. However, on our travels across southern England we’ve come across some smaller, but equally significant, stone artifacts that have survived as reminders of life in a bygone age.
Do you know what these buildings and objects were for?

All small towns had one of these, usually in the middle of a river bridge.
Answer - It is a lock-up where prisoners and drunks were held till the magistrate arrived.
There were many of these roadside buildings – a few are still in use.
Answer - a tollgate.
This could be a tight squeeze in Jersey.
Answer - an apple press for cider making.
This is a “squint” but what was it for?
Answer - Squints were let into the wall high above the main rooms in medieval houses. The master, or a guard, could look down on the guests through the squint's mouth to make sure that no enemies were present. Hence the term, "Take a squint'"
Thirsty? Neigh!
Answer - a horse trough.
This week’s prize is tea in Tiverton with a Tiller Girl - airfare not included. (Sorry we can’t arrange lunch with a lord).
The winner is Roy with the highest score - get packing Roy... tea awaits.

Posted by Hawkson 01:16 Archived in England Comments (3)

Tea in Tiverton and Lunch with a Lord

sunny 15 °C

We've been to Devon - "God's wonderful country" according to the locals. And it is certainly beautiful. The warm Gulf Stream air sweeps in off the Atlantic and turns the fertile red soil into lush pastures for dairy cattle. Devon is famous for its cream and here is Sheila enjoying a real Devon tea of scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam in a Tiverton Tea Shoppe, circa 1678.
But we were not in Tiverton to enjoy ourselves. The ancient country town is the childhood home of actor/director Antony Holland, so we were meeting people from his past, including Dorothy, a delightful 92 year-old who played opposite Antony in a 1940 production of Emlyn Williams' "Night Must Fall." Such a meeting would have made our trip worthwhile in itself, but there was more - much more. In the annals of unforgettable moments it might not come close to having a baby or winning the lottery, but we had tea with a Tiller Girl and lunch with a lord.
This is Irene , together with Antony Holland’s youngest brother, Kaye, her husband of 58 years. Irene used to be a Tiller Girl … and she made us some very tasty cheese on toast. For our Canuck friends: The Tiller Girls were a glamorous troupe of dancing girls who dominated British variety shows in the 50s and 60s. Their home was the giant stage at the London Palladium but television regularly brought them into every living room in the country. They could have been the girls next door … only with much longer legs, figures of angels and looks to die for … and they set millions of pulses racing as they high-kicked their way across the nation’s TVs week after week.
So, we had tea with a Tiller Girl in Tiverton. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was followed the next day by lunch with a real English Lord. This is his splendid stately home…
This manorial mansion was built in 1420 and it is reputed that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn watched bowls being played on this lawn…
… while William Tyndale translated parts of the Latin bible into English here in the early 1500s.

Many of England’s great country estates are open to the public, but don’t expect a welcome if you turn up here without a gilt-edged invitation. However, Sir Victor, Baronet Killearn, son of the British Ambassador in Cairo during the war, rolled out the red carpet for us. He gave us the grand tour – here’s the splendid great hall…
…and showed us around the extensive grounds.
Then his staff served us a wonderful lunch of pork in mustard sauce with fresh garden vegetables, plum crumble and cream, and a decanter of vintage wine. What a day!!
Thank you Victor, (we’re on first name terms now we’ve been to lunch).

Posted by Hawkson 02:51 Archived in England Comments (3)

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