Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
One of the things on our "must do" list was a trip to Coventry Cathedral, and Margaret and Trevor accompanied us there. The stone walls remaining from the war time bombing raid in 1940 stand proud and solemn, it is certainly a very spiritual place. Surprisingly the tower and spire of the Cathedral escaped unharmed. The morning after the raid, a charred cross was made by tying together two partially burnt oak beams from the roof, this became the symbol that Coventry Cathedral would once again rise from the ashes.
The new Cathedral was consecrated in 1962 and the modern design complements the poignant remains of the old. The striking stained glass windows are best viewed by looking back through the building. Local needle workers crafted over 2000 tapestry cushions of various designs, surely a labour of love. We had looked forward to viewing Coventry Cathedral and were moved by the beauty of the new set against the tranquility of the old.
Nearby was the Coventry Transport Museum which houses a huge collection of cars, truck and bicycles which have been produced in Coventry over the years. If you are like Jenny, you may have been worried that the double decker bus you are riding in may topple over going around a corner. Worry no more. We discovered that all such buses undergo a "Tilt Test" and must be able to achieve a tilt of 28 degrees without mishap.
Robin was surprised at the number of different vehicles manufactured in Coventry including Peugeot's. He even saw a representation of the motor scooter he once owned, Triumph Tigress 250. A very extensive museum, a must for all to see if in Coventry, and it is free!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Canal boat holiday had come to an end. Very special thanks to Dot and Derek for inviting us to spend this last week with them. We had a great time and really appreciate their hospitality.
Our rental car was due to collect us at 12.00pm, and we waited, and waited, and waited. Several phone calls later, a car finally arrived at 2.00pm to take us to Wrexham to complete the formalities. Our car was upgraded to a Mercedes Benz - just as well as we thought their service was woefully inadequate. The price of diesel is some what of a revelation for us Kiwi's. We thought is was dear at home but it is not as expensive as here in the UK.
We got a bit lost getting out of Wrexham, but the navigator did a sterling job and we were soon heading in the right direction. By the time we reached Birmingham it was peak hour traffic. Wonder where our hotel was? By a stroke of luck we entered Birmingham on the right road.
We drove to an interesting looking pub called "One and Two Halves" for our evening meal. This establishment offers a large variety of "2 for £10.00" meals. The scampi was delicious.
Then we headed back to the Quality Hotel Birmingham and our king size bed.
To further enhance our Ponty experience, Derek took us back over the aqueduct. The furious wind made the trip a little scary, and the pedestrians on the aqueduct were walking across rather aphrensivley. Turning around at the winding hole, we did the return trip with Robin at the controls. Luckily the wind had dropped so that made the crossing much easier.
Robin at the controls on the aqueduct
Taking an after dinner walk in the early evening, we wandered down to the basin again. A bright light pierced the darkness as a boat slowly started it's crossing over the aqueduct. Slowly but surely he made his way towards us. No wonder he did it so easily in the dark, he was a local.
Pontycysllte Aqueduct became a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1958, and is also a Grade 1 Listed Structure. The aqueduct and the surrounding canal is the UK's 2008 nomination of a Worlds Heritage Site. The proposal will be examined and a final decision made in 2009. Surely it must be successful.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Llangollen from the town bridge
After purchasing a few necessary groceries we came to the Hand Hotel. A black board menu offered a Sunday Roast. Shall we, shan't we? Why not, we decided. We climbed some stairs to the elegantly old fashioned dining room. Heavy burgundy curtains framed the windows and chandeliers hung from the ceiling . The choice of roasts were beef, pork and turkey, Yorkshire puddings and a nice selection of vegetables. The meal was delicious and reasonably priced. We won't need a big evening meal after this.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The canal goes through the hauntingly beautiful Vale of Llangollen. The hilly countryside is dotted with little white washed Welsh cottages glistening in the sunshine.
Parts of the canal narrows considerably and is one way traffic only. Derek was sent on ahead with the two way radio to give us the "all clear". With Robin at the tiller we slowly navigated the narrows, with a Canaltime boat skippered by a couple of Kiwis following us. Navigating past a slate rockfall which had encroached into the channel we got stuck fast, as the current kept pushing us up against the cliff face. Out came the pole and Dot pushed valiently trying to free us. Seeing that we were in difficulties, the skipper of the following boat rushed up the tow path, grabbed our bow rope and pulled. A few nudges, and we were on our way again.
Dot poling us free
We collected Derek up ahead from the tow path and continued on our way up to Lllangollen Basin. These moorings are purpose built and have power and water facilities at the end of each floating pontoon.
After lunch we purchased our Senior tickets and boarded a first class compartment in one of the corridor connection carriages on the Llangollen Steam Railway. The River Dee tumbled by and several pheasants were spotted in the paddocks. "Shut the window, the tunnel's up ahead", the guard advised. With the steam engine puffing white smoke we passed through Berwyn, Deeside Halt and Glyndyfrdwy, with the trip concluding at Carrog.
On the return journey we exited the train at the very attractive Tudor style Berwyn Station and walked up to Horseshoe Falls. This large curved weir was constructed in the 1830's to provide a consistant water supply for the canal. We then reboarded the steam train and completed our journey back to Llangollan.
What an exciting day we had!!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Taking the tiller on the Chirk Aqueduct
His most spectacular achievement was the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This is 1000 feet long structure was finished in 1805, passes 127 feet above the River Dee and is supported by 18 stone pillars. We glided gently across the canal, appearing to float in the sky.
We moored up at Trevor Basin an after lunch joined the throngs on gongoozlers and walked back across the aqueduct. The wind blew quite strongly as we bravely walked so high up, trying to rip Robin's cap from his head. We marvelled that this 200 year old structure is still rock steady after all this time.
We took Dot and Derek out for a "thank you for the holiday" dinner at the local pub, the Telford Inn. Salmon, scampi, and the pub's special, home made steak pie and assorted desserts graced our table. Sure beats cooking!!
The Telford Inn
Friday, August 22, 2008
Robin took the tiller for a while and pulled in to the side to let another boat through - oops sorry, he scraped the side. It's all part of the boating experience.
The sunshine gave way to heavy rain and thunderclaps. By the time we arrived at New Morton Locks it was Murphy's Law - more rain. Dot commented that it always rained when they went through locks, the rain clouds must have their name on it. Rain followed us all the way to our mooring for the night at Poacher's Pocket.
After the rain cleared we wandered up the very muddy towpath to catch a glimpse of the Chirk Aqueduct. This is more than 200 years old and 70 feet high. We walked over the path looking down at the vista below. The aqueduct leads straight into Chirk Tunnel. Tomorrow morning we will be experiencing these two delights on the narrow boat.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
We moored up reasonably early at Blake Mere for the day. The "No Fishing" signs on the lakefront means that Derek won't be getting his fishing rod out. We enjoyed 4zees outside at a very convenient picnic table on the towpath right outside the boat until the rain sent us back inside. A cheeky little squirrel appeared as soon as we had gone, looking for crumbs from our chippies.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
We travelled a couple of hours on Monday, under bridges and getting our first taste of locks. Waking to a drizzle on Tuesday, the rain kept up all morning as we went through the three Grindley Brook Locks, closely followed by the Grindley Brook Staircase. We passed several canal side shops and cafes, one even offering internet access for travellers. Just past the turnoff to Whitbridge we came to three lift bridges, a new experience.
The weather finally cleared and we went for a walk along the towpath, following a sign to a farmhouse selling ice creams. Young calves were resting in the paddock with their mothers, and the farm was guarded by a couple of geese who kept their beady eyes on us.
Other wildlife glimpsed was a frog who gave Dot quite a fright when he hopped out in front of her. Baby ducks cuddled up to mother duck on the grassy bank. And we saw some mole hills dotted around a garden, the owner was not happy at all about their visit she told us.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Side View of St Paul's
Next to see on our list for the morning was the Monument. to this we also walked. The Monument was designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666, which started in nearby Pudding Lane. Another disappointment, as it was under repair and covered in scaffolding.A walk back along the Thames and over the Millennium Bridge, built just for pedestrians, led us to the Globe Theatre. Plays were in progress, but having no tickets we contented ourselves with a quick look around. Wandering back along the riverside we came across an outdoor market where we stopped for lunch. Pancakes filled with apples, raisins and cinnamon eaten al fresco in the warm London sunshine, what a pleasant lunch. Then it was a walk to Waterloo Station to catch the Tube back to our hotel.
As tonight is our last evening in London, we are going to the local, The Albert, for a farewell London dinner. It has division bells in the upstairs dining room so that parliamentarians eating there while the House is sitting can rush back to vote.Tomorrow morning we travel by train to meet up with our friends Dot and Derek and travel over the Lllangollen Canal during the next week in their narrow boat Gypsy Rover.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Victoria & Albert Museum
London Canal Museum - Battlebridge Basin
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Hampton Court Palace
As Jenny is an avid "Tudorphile" this visit was on the must-see list. Here was the place that Cardinal Wolsey lived in and expanded, until it was taken over by Henry VIII. Here was the great clock, a marvel in it's time 500 years ago and still going strong. And here Henry lived, his son Edward was christened in the Chapel Royal, he divorced Anne of Cleves here, Catherine Howard's ghost is supposedly seen and heard upstairs, and lastly Henry married his 6th and last wife Kathryn Parr in the Chapel Royal.
We visited the huge Tudor kitchens where cooks laboured to feed 600 a day. We marvelled at the wonderful tapestries, and the beautiful paintings and the stone steps worn down with countless feet. Part of Hampton Court was refurbished for later monarchs, but we both loved the older Tudor parts best. It was a thrill to see this slice of history.
The Great Fountain Garden
Friday, August 15, 2008
Back view of Buckingham Palace
Lake Buckingham Palace
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Jenny had her photo taken with the Queen and Prince Phillip - they were smiling but didn't deign to speak to her. Robin posed with one of the musical greats in his opinion - Freddy Mercury. And luckily Elvis was still in the building, so Jenny cuddled up close to have a photo taken with him too.
For Jenny who else!
We jumped aboard one of the black London cabs in a continuos line. These took us on a journey back in time. Starting at the reign of Elizabeth 1st, through the plague, the Great Fire, Queen Victoria and the Industrial Revolution, and the two World Wars. This was very well done and certainly a highlight of our visit.Next stop was Hyde Park. It's not far on the map, we decided, let's walk. Bad idea - we had turned in the wrong direction and after walking for ages discovered our mistake. Two tube rides later we were finally in the right area. Hyde Park is huge but there at last was what we were looking for, the New Zealand Memorial, a series of dark brown metal cross beams of different heights. When viewed from the correct perspective you can see a white cross on the top of each one, and they each tell a different tale of New Zealand.
New Zealand War Memorial Hyde Park
On the way back we purchased tickets to Buckingham Palace for tomorrow morning. Wonder if the Queen will remember posing for that photo with Jenny? Perhaps we will ask her.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"The Original Tour" Bus
The traffic was painfully slow but this made it easy for photo opportunities. We drove past all those important places such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's, Fleet Street, and passed the spot where the Great Fire of London started. We criss-crossed over 6 of the bridges spanning the Thames, saw Cleopatra's Needle, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, The Ritz Hotel and drove down Piccadilly. Due to the congestion, all this took 3 hours. There are big recruiting ads on the sides of buses offering £500.00 plus to new drivers. Robin commented that it wouldn't be enough pay to compensate for all the stress of driving in London.
Then we joined the boat "Millennium City" for our Thames River Cruise down to Greenwich. It gave us quite a different perspective passing under the bridges. Our commentator relayed all sorts of interesting facts, such as the Globe Theatre being the only building to have a thatched roof in London. Thatched roofs have been banned in London ever since the Great Fire of London and it took an Act of Parliament to allow the Globe to be re-created as it was in Shakespeare's time. We passed a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind and marvelled at the many apartment buildings lining the Thames, obviously all very expensive with their river views,
Built for the purpose of finding longitude at sea, the Royal Observatory is home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Meridian Line. Sir Christopher Wren designed the observatory with it's striking octagon room. Now a museum, it tells the story of the development of an accurate ship's clock which made it easier for captains to pin point their position at sea.
Royal Observatory, Greenwich
On board for our return journey the Tower Bridge had opened up to let a tall ship pass through. This only happens a couple of times a week so we were lucky to be on the river at the right time.
Tower Bridge Opening
Walking back to the hotel we came across the Laughing Halibut and stopped there for fish and chips. There is something about English fish and chips, we have to admit that they are far superior to what we get at home. The cod was delicious, with nice crispy batter. At £16.00 for two is was a bit more expensive that what we pay at home, this equates to $40.00 NZ.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The London Eye is 135m tall (by comparison the Singapore Flyer is 165m) and the ride takes 30 minutes to slowly complete a rotation. It was a clear London day and we had marvelous views across the River Thames. The Houses of Parliament were very close and we could see Buckingham Palace peeping out further back behind the trees.
View From London Eye
Walking back along Whitehall we passed a mounted horse guard standing in the archway to the Household Cavalry barracks. Both horse and guard stayed perfectly still as people milled around getting their photos taken beside him. He was a model of patience.
Next stop was a visit to the war rooms and the adjoining Winston Churchill Museum. Some of the war rooms were just as they had been left at the conclusion of WW11 and had been sealed for some time. Others had been stripped of their contents but then recreated later using old photos for reference. The staff lived underground in these rooms, working long shifts and sleeping when they could. Winston Churchill ran the war and wrote and delivered his stirring speeches from these historic rooms.
Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms
We wandered back through St James Park and were delighted to see several tiny squirrels scampering around. They were so quick it was difficult to catch them on camera.