Author Archives: Richard

About Richard

Blogged since retirement at "thereadrovers" & "morereadrovers" but now on our 3rd blog, "morereadtravels". Our "Gap Year" (or nearly 5) has seen visits to over 50 countries since retirement. Travel definitely broadens the mind - I hope at least some of my postings inspire others to go to the places I have been to even if my log is really more of a diary.

Savannah

IMG_52472 November

On checkout at the Crowne Plaza in Asheville, we are not asked anything about our stay, had we been, we would have told them the sorry story about the misappropriated bag, but that will now have to wait until a survey is requested.

So, after our free breakfast, I am so glad we didn’t pay for breakfast it wasn’t really very good (apart for the freshly cooked eggs that is), we headed off SE towards Savannah. Stop a couple of times on the way for fuel for the car and for us and check in to the Holiday Inn Express in the city centre.

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Savannah River from roof top of hotel

Not the cheapest hotel but once again we have hit the marathon season with the event taking place next Sunday but certainly of the three hotels we have stayed in so far on our travels this time in the US, the best.

The staff seemed to enjoy their work, a nice change from many other hotel staff we have encountered.

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Savannah Cotton exchange building

We have an 8th floor large room looking east, the hotel has a swimming pool on the top floor overlooking the whole city and of course breakfast is included.

Whilst Sal has a rest; she still has the virus, I go wandering around the river district, which we hadn’t explored last time when we were here 4 years ago.

Some wonderful architecture such as the Cotton exchange building and some old buildings re-invented as pubs, restaurants and bars with, in some cases, some very steep steps to reach them.

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Re-generation of old warehouses

The cobbles on some of the access roads to the waterfront, we are told later that form the ramps from Bay Street to River street were from Liverpool UK and were used for ballast in the early ships that came here to be filled up with cotton for the journey back.

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outdoor dinner at Vic’s on the River

Dinner tonight out in the open on the walkway in front of the river side of Bay Street at Viv’s on the river.

The building the restaurant is housed in has a history, explained on the back of the menu, completed in and originally used as a warehouse and played it’s part during the Civil War.

During renovation in 1901, lines were found on the wall and a portion of this map has been preserved and is on display in the main dining room.

The map was drawn by Union Soldiers detailing Sherman’s march from Tennessee through Georgia.

The food here was excellent although supplied in far too large quantities. The meatloaf especially can be recommended.

3 November

Sadly, again, we have only factored in one night for our stay but as we don’t need to leave until midday, get a hop on, hop off trolley tour that takes us around the city, starts close to our hotel although we have to change buses at the old station, now a museum.

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Savannah buildings

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Savannah Railway museum

Much of the centre squares are preserved thanks to the efforts of three ladies who were so enraged about some of the old buildings being destroyed and replaced by a monstrosity of a three storey car park in the 1970s style of concrete construction that they formed the preservation society that has seen restoration of many other houses.

Nowadays, Savannah wouldn’t be anything like as attractive as it is without the efforts of the gang of three.

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Pirate house

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This was a real one

Of course we are just past Halloween so it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t see a pumpkin and, yes, this one was real.

We get back to the start of our tour on the water front but stay on so as to get back to nearer the hotel  and avoid the steps but near the end of the tour, we get stuck behind a sewage truck taking sewage from a hotel, we can’t back up without the driver being guided by another employee who is summonsed.

Driver also won’t open doors and let us out as it is not at a recognised stop – which is less than 100 yds away!   Jobsworths, the lot of them.

Despite the delay of about 10 minutes the tour was good but we do have to go. Sarah messages to say the house went through, they are property owners again!

Check out of hotel, parking advertised at $22 but we only get charged $15, bargain and we head off South using this time Interstate roads.plane on I-4

Whilst we have an initial uneventful drive towards Kissimmee we slow to a crawl about 10 miles from Orlando on the I-4 Interstate when we slow to a crawl for about two miles.

A plane had landed on the Interstate, having run out of fuel and people are rubber-necking.

Eventually reach Westgate Towers and manage to check in for Jim & Laura as well as for our 2nd week.

Laura and Jim arrive just after 9:30 pm from their flight to Tampa, surprisingly not showing too much signs outwardly of jet lag.

Two weeks in Florida beckons without going to a Disney Park – whatever shall we do? (well, all will be revealed in the next blogs).

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Asheville, NC

IMG_519029 October

Early wake up at the hotel at Heathrow although clocks have gone back. Virgin people confirm we are on their flight, they were puzzled by our email that said we were travelling with Delta, and it takes off on time and is very full.

I seem to get the impression that even the Premium Economy seats we are sitting in are smaller in pitch than before – it just seems to be more crowded and cramped. Sal manages the flight well bearing in mind the virus and watches 3 films whilst I get stuck into some broadsheet newspaper reading and a good dose of music listening.

Not bad food on the flight although they weren’t able to supply additional coffee due to considerable turbulence once we hit the Canadian and US coasts.

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Atlanta Airport at dusk

Arrival into Atlanta was early but the queues for immigration lengthy.

The American system seems still to be archaic, having to queue to get a slip of paper from a machine and then join another queue to get the slip of paper processed.

I understand they want to control immigration but there must be an easier way to process people? [Compare this with our arrival back in the UK at the end of the journey]

Anyway, It would have probably taken another hour to be processed, there was another flight’s passengers before us, so I asked an official if there was anywhere for Sal to sit down whilst we waited and we were pointed to what I can only describe as the disabled queue and were processed in under 5 minutes! Thank you Atlanta immigration staff; she really wasn’t feeling well.

Shuttle bus for hotel doesn’t visit the International terminal so we would have to first go to the Domestic terminal and then wait for the half hourly bus so we get a taxi instead. Probably in hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Atlanta Airport) when some fellow passengers were still trying to pass through immigration.

30 October

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It’s cold in Atlanta

Frost on the cars in the car park, it is 1C outside! Not too early finally waking up, 4 hour time difference helps rather than 5 hours.

Sal still not well so go on my own to get car from car rental – so I will be doing the driving – pack up and go on up NE towards Asheville.

We are going to drive through the Nantahala National forest for the scenery rather than the drudgery of the Interstates.

First stop is a Walmart just off the route at East Ellijay for some essential supplies followed by lunch at Ingles, a local supermarket in the area, in Murphy, a smartly kept shop, unlike Walmart.

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Nantahala River

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Autumn colours at Patton’s Run

Driving along the very scenic US64 we stop a couple of times en-route to Asheville, one a lay by at Patton’s Run on the Nantahala River where an early naturalist met a Cherokee chief in 1776.

Onwards to the Nantahala Outdoor Centre, where there is an activity centre for rafting, walking, canoeing, zip lining and a kids rope walk area although not a lot of activity this late in the day and season.

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Nantahala Outdoor Centre

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Autumn colours at Nantahala

The approach to the Crowne Plaza Resort at Asheville is difficult to find to say the least especially with the out of date Sat Nav that we have but once on Resort Road, you dramatically leave the hustle & bustle of the Interstate roads and arrive in an oasis of quietness.

Our room is in the glasshouse wing, a bit old fashioned but nevertheless comfortable.

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Crowne Plaza public area

We don’t however take advantage of the large open fire situated in the public area – silly us.

Meal tonight was meant to be using room service but there is great confusion as no menu was left in the room and the bar steward gave us the wrong one.

Eventually manage to get a correct room service menu and settle down for another early night – we are still a bit jet-lagged.

31 October

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Hotel Halloween display

Halloween display at the hotel is attracting children’s attention and after breakfast using what we bought at Walmart we venture out into Asheville for a drive around the city’s centre to familiarise ourselves with the layout.

Eventually park in the multi storey car park having wasted about $1 on a failed attempt to use a parking meter.

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F W Woolworth walk cafe

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Crocheted lamposts

Walk down the very delightful Wall Street from the car park, past some elegant buildings, crocheted lampposts and the flat iron building with, appropriately, a flat iron street furniture statue outside and find the F W Woolworth walk.

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Flat Iron building, Asheville style

The F W Woolworth building is now used by local artists and the café is to be recommended as well.

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F W Woolworth walk

The flooring and many of the fittings are original and all seem to be so reminiscent of a 1970s Woolworths store.

Lots of different stalls, pottery, artwork and photographs being prominent. We couldn’t leave without buying a picture – now framed back at home and being put in our bedroom.

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Street furniture

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Flat Iron street furniture

Back to the car via an outdoors climbing wall (no, we looked, didn’t try – it was closed) and lots of street furniture but sadly not enough time to get into Grove Arcade which houses considerably more craft stalls but head out of town to a Panera Bread for lunch, they must have missed us as we haven’t been to one for at least 13 months!

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Asheville climbing frame

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Bright sky, red leaves and scattered clouds at Hendersonville

A drive into the hills around Hendersonville for views of some rural housing and a graveyard with views of distant hills.

Some of the houses are grand, others, mediocre and others you just have to wonder how people manage to live in them.

Back to hotel and I go for a walk around the grounds; there are zip wires galore here, a golf course, cycle tracks, tree climbing and adventure playground for youngsters.

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Hidden housing

Dinner tonight at PF Chang’s at nearby Biltmore village where we had been to with Phillip & Sylvia 2 years ago.

Lovely Mongolian Beef dish and a chicken with Ginger but not a lot of Halloween revellers in evidence either here or back in downtown Asheville.

1 November

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Art work does not have to be just painting and drawing

Cloudier today so not so photogenic. Head for the Riverside studios and by random choose to visit one of the studios (Jonas Gerard) that are housed in redundant warehouses, appropriately next to a coffee shop.

We are welcomed into the studio by the artist himself, the first item is a map of the USA made up of left over acrylic paint in every single colour imaginable. We are encouraged to touch as well which is interesting.

It is tempting to buy one as they are good but realistically, at a minimum of $350, we would struggle to get a decent one back home especially as it would have to travel on our US journey for about 3 weeks.

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Inside the Jonas Gerard art studio

Gary would love this especially as we also are able to go into the studio: lots of colourful pots of paint.

We are told that Jonas Gerard has recently been in London with a client on a commission but his assistant that we talk to doubts if he will ever see the commission.

Coffee next door at the Ultra Coffee Bar and then off to Wearville, north of Asheville, a drive through a quaint town and follow road to The Vance birthplace museum on Reems Creek Road for a stroll around avoiding a junior school trip!

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Part of the Vance birthplace museum

This outdoor museum is tucked in the beautiful Reems Creek Valley and features a two-story log cabin “mansion,” an original 1790s slave cabin, and five outbuildings in some quite extensive grounds so you do not feel claustrophobic at all.

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Workshop contents

Furnished as it would have been in the 1830s, the site explores life in early Buncombe County as seen through the lives of the Vance family and enslaved people.

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Loom at one of the out-houses

The Visitor Centre contains a kid-friendly exhibit detailing the life of Gov. Zebulon Vance from his birth on the farm to his political service as Civil War Governor and post-Reconstruction Senator and includes many old photographs and other memorabilia.

Driving on, going up into the hills to look at some secluded properties and Autumn colours, we reach the hamlet of Beech and turn left.

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Restoration projects

Sign says untarmacked road so we retrace our steps to Ingles in Wearville for lunch via at least one property that is in dire need of restoration as are the items outside.

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Autumn colours

Some lovely colours in the valley which appears to be a bit sheltered from the wind and perhaps is a day or so behind other areas in leaf fall.

Had we continued, we would have reached Barnardsville but we didn’t know that from our old SatNav and without a map.

Back at hotel, our key doesn’t work and on eventually managing to get it reactivated, find our room not serviced. Ring to ask for it to be serviced and two virtually non English speaking women turn up one of whom promptly puts lipstick on the bed cover whilst they are making it so they both have to go off to change it.

We comment that the glass by the door had been there for two days but maids mistook the message and took away a bag with some medication for a cold we had only bought at Ingles earlier in the day but didn’t take the glass!20171101_182829

When we realise, we ring reception and whilst one item was salvaged, the new shopping bag we had bought an hour earlier had vanished.

Even a trip with the manager to the refuse bin failed to locate it. Not good, Crowne Plaza.

We did, at least get two free vouchers for breakfast the following day. Dinner tonight at Olive Garden, you know what you are getting with them.

Tomorrow it is on to Savannah in Georgia so we say goodbye for the moment to the autumn colours.

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Autumn colours at the Vance birthplace museum

 

Jersey for half term

IMG_514920 October

Only a few days at home after the Anniversary celebrations and we are off again on a late flight to Gatwick and an overnight at Premier Inn Gatwick North.

Lifts to reception crowded and all checkin terminals out of order but get to our room quickly for a good night’s sleep.

21 October

Late morning Easyjet to Jersey, arrival in strong winds – something to do with storm Brian – which lasted all day.

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Windy at St Ouen’s

I could hardly stand up when I tried to take a photo at St Ouen’s Bay although of course a photo will not give this impression and a video would have been too noisy.

After camping for 7 weeks in the summer, Sarah, Ali and Harry are now in a holiday let at Les Ormes for a 6 months let whilst they search for a house.

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Les Ormes house

Small and compact 2 bedroom (1 en-suite) semi-type house amongst pine trees and log cabins in a sort of complex and whilst many units are occupied, it does not at all feel crowded.

Fish and chips from a Quennevais shop: you wouldn’t want to go out too far in this wind and rain.

22 October

A lazy morning in town with Harry going to a party in the afternoon, then lifesaving so we are on our own for some time – a rest for a change. It is cold again today so glad of the extra jumper I bought.

23 October

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Les Ormes chalets

A wet and cold day again so really not a lot to do apart from food shopping.

24 October

Breakfast at Ransoms the other side of the island and with road works in town, we opt for a drive over the top of the island. Christmas decorations already on sale there.

25 October

We have to go to town for some office visits in connection with Sarah & Ali’s house purchase. Harry is good whilst we go round the various places and we are off to B & Q then an afternoon on the new crazy golf course where we are followed on the course by Mel’s school friend (from 17 years ago!) Katie du Feu and her boyfriend.

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Crazy golf at Les Mielles

Both Sal & I get a hole in one on the same hole! Sarah, Ali and Harry walk (Harry wants to do a night walk) to Roccos for dinner but we drive there. Again a very good reasonably priced meal.

26 October

Sun, a first for our visit and we are off to the Pallot Steam Museum, a place I had been to once before, probably just after it opened in 1990.

Harry was adamant he didn’t want to go; thought it would be boring telling us he wanted to go to the play area at the Co-op instead.

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Waiting form Grandad to board the train

However, once he saw that there was a real steam engine, he was excited as ever and sped out of the car towards the entrance; what a change.

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Our steam engine

Whilst the layout of a simple short circuit for a steam train ride hasn’t changed, the museum is now packed with many old cars, trucks, bicycles and many other items such as old mechanical and bellows organs, children’s toys and a few other old steam engines although not in steam.

The main thing lacking is some interactive activities for children: there is a colouring area and a car that children can play with but not a lot else.

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Exhibits at the Pallot Museum

The museum itself has a fascinating history being created by the late Don Pallot over a number of years and after his death continued by his family.

Some of the agricultural items are those that he had developed to aid folks during WWII when Jersey was occupied by the Nazis.

The train ride is a double circuit and is pretty crowded with young and old alike; we shared our single compartment with two Jersey born “£10 poms” living in Queensland Australia and who had returned for a relative’s 90th birthday.

Train rides are only on Thursday’s and today is the last day of operation for the year but the museum is open for the rest of the half term week.

Harry not up to staying for too long at the museum and we are off shopping before a quiet afternoon. Help Sarah with some accounting issues for the local lifesaving group along with the group’s new treasurer.

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Halloween time

27 October

Back to colder weather for Sarah’s day off. We are off to look at the proposed house purchase in deepest St Ouen. Some very vibrant colours as decor and still some furniture in the property but these are to be removed next week.

Not a great deal of renovation, but a lot of blotting out the bold colours will be required. A great stone fireplace for cold evenings and a distant view of the sea towards Guernsey from one of the bedrooms. Plenty of scope for change later on if they wish but nothing immediate required.

The house comes with the ability to rent an adjacent field for £300pa which will be a fantastic opportunity for the outdoor life the family like.

Sarah has transferred the funds to the lawyers, so it is on schedule to complete on the first Friday of November after their visit to court, which is the way it is done in Jersey but after we have left them.

Sarah & Harry cycle from Les Ormes to the Goose-on-the-Green whilst we bring the van for a lunch with Sue Thorne, a lovely catch up hearing about her travels to NZ next year and on to Dunelm, a new shop opened where Co-op Homemaker was.

Visit Jim & Laura for a great curry although Sal suffering from a very sore throat.

28 October

Easyjet Flight to Gatwick from Jersey arrives 30 minutes early and our pre booked cab takes us to our overnight at Crowne Plaza at Heathrow. Strange email suggests we are now flying out to Atlanta tomorrow with Delta as well as on the way back next month (we knew about the return one as we have been upgraded to business) but an online chat suggests the email was sent in error. Sal has a bad cold / fever so we have room service rather than a sit down meal but hotel not impressed with my Jersey coins.

Tomorrow it’s off to Atlanta.

 

 

Broadway Tower & Anniversaries

IMG_5121Friday 13 October

A day visit with Flic, Gary and Cody to this folly overlooking the Worcestershire town of Broadway.

First stop the cafe for lunch followed by a walk to the Privately owned tower which is somewhere I had been as a child at a Scout Camp at nearby Stanway all those years ago.

The cafe is not particularly large but there were enough tables to house a German family, some American tourists and some Japanese tourists but does have a large outside seating area.

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Red Buck

Today though is too windy, even though it is 20C, remarkable for mid October.

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Red deer

A short walk up the road to the tower past some deer with a seated Red Buck admiring his harem.

Sal stays with the pram whilst the rest of us go up, passing through rooms with Curtains and wallpaper designed by William Morris, another floor about the history of the folly and one about the nearby listening post used for military purposes.

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William Morris fabric & wallpaper

Broadway Tower was the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown. His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. [this paragraph from the tower’s website https://broadwaytower.co.uk/history/ ]

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Broadway from Broadway Tower

Wonderful views out over the countryside from the top but it is so windy!

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Flic, Gary & Cody

We now head for Honeyborne where there is a little zoo, café and shop, perhaps something for Cody when he is older.

We say goodbye to Flic, Gary & Cody who head off home and we head for Gloucester Water Park and the de Vere hotel there for a special celebration.

Saturday 14 October

50th Wedding anniversary celebrations with Phillip & Sylvia – ours is not far behind (in numbers) but we do share the same day.

We have been invited to a meal at the de Vere hotel to celebrate with their family and close friends. Some of their friends we have met before and of course the family we know well although have not seen them for a few years.

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Old houses at Bilbury

The morning was spent driving around some of the Cotswold villages we had not been too before including Bibury, a place where many tourists go for the picturesque houses – so many tourists, how do the locals cope.

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Phillip & Sylvia

A lovely evening meal with a magician for entertainment and a “slide show” of some family photos spreading over many years, some of which included us.

We had found some photos of us all together and much to their daughter Andrea’s delight, we had managed to unearth one they hadn’t been able to find.

Sunday 15 October

Back on the late ferry from Liverpool, not as rough as was expected bearing in mind the following day we were hit by the ex Hurricane Ophelia.

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Hidden London II (or the case of the changing station name)

Now that is what I call a rough sea as we leave on the ferry under clear skies, after a stormy few hours.  Even my laptop tries to make it to the floor unaided and there is no TV, just a message saying “Please remain seated”.

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White horses on the sea crossing

Liverpool reached with no ill effects and after a couple of stops reach Reading for an overnight, having had to deviate because of night road closures.

Thursday 12 October

After enjoying Cody’s company in the morning, Gary, Mel and I head for London, Mel to meet up with her friend Sophie and Gary and I to do another Hidden Tour organised by TfL. There were supposed to be three of us, but Victoria, our friend Elizabeth ‘s daughter was in the end not able to make it due to a family illness.

We had a bit of time to kill first so after a visit to an office near the Strand for the purchase of a Sovereign we went next door to the Coal Hole for a pint and a chat, watching two guys try to fit a bespoke window pane which cost £1200 to make and was the wrong size.  Sadly, they had to take it back to the office and wouldn’t let us find a home for it!

If you ever get to go to the Theatre in London and see Aida at the Colloseum Theatre, then look out for the gigantic hand which we saw awaiting putting into the Theatre.

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You’ve got to hand it to them!

The tour met at Charing Cross which in it’s time was called, Trafalgar Square, (Bakerloo line) and Charing Cross (Northern Line) before the latter’s name was changed to Strand over a 100 years ago before the two were joined together and were renamed, yes, you’ve guessed it, Charing Cross in 1979.

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Construction of the now static escalators

Our tour starts at the ticket barrier for the Northern line exit and after going down the public escalator we were shown through a locked door to a set of static escalators once used by passengers on their way down to the Jubilee line.

After a few explanations of the history we get onto one of the platforms of the abandoned line.

The line originally was to have been called the Fleet line, after the river fleet but changed to the Jubilee line nearer opening to reflect the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

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Dotted lines were options for the line’s extension

 

The line was supposed to have an extension through Waterloo towards Docklands and E London but it was not built at the same time as the first section, so when it was eventually commissioned, the route chosen resulted in the closure of the line from Green Park to Charing Cross in late 1999 when the extension to Stratford and the Olympic City was opened.

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Station sign especially created for Skyfall

Anyway, back to the tour, the posters on the walls are all fakes, with incorrect phone numbers and web addresses and are there from the last use the platform had as a film set.

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Deserted platform, fake posters and a rubbish photo!

A number of full length films have used the site, most notable of which was Skyfall, the Bond movie. The track is still electrified and receive the same passenger announcements that the rest of the station receives, somewhat surprising.

The reason why the line remains live is that it is in occasional use as a storage facility to get a failed train off the main route and to park trains in times of exceptionally heavy patronage especially when there is a big event at Wembley stadium.

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Bobbles on the floor

There are a few features that have been trialled on the platform such as a raised area for wheelchairs etc. and bobbles on the flooring to denote the nearness of the platform edge.

Passing to the other platform, this is curved, rather than straight and has a number of vents on the opposite side to the platform. Obviously the tube trains are in a hot environment, stuck underground as they are.

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Storage tunnel

To cool the air, one shaft to the outside world was built with underground tunnels built to the lines that use the station.

As trains pass into the station, they push hot air in front of them which escape up the ventilator shaft and is replaced by cold air.

Anyway, less of the science lesson, we now get to go into the “stores”, a long and winding tunnel that houses, amongst other things, unused track, ballast and sleepers.

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Descriptions of where we are and how we got there

Geographically, we are now almost under the 4th (North West) plinth in Trafalgar Square.

We retrace our steps and now, through a locked passageway off a public are!

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We are looking at you!

We are led down to a grill above the Northern Line platforms where we can see people getting onto trains from one of the ventilation grills; they have no idea we are there.

It was very tempting to shout something down to them, but I resisted!

Access to the ventilation shaft to the outside world is visible from here and having been told where this comes out, realise we have walked underground from just beyond the North Western edge of Trafalgar Square to more or less under the taxi rank outside Charing Cross main line station.

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Ventilation shaft

Back up using the public escalators the tour ends, it didn’t seem 75 minutes long but it was.

Meet up with Mel, after her theatre visit and make our way to the hotel that she is staying at with Sophie, which seems to be full of film people as there is a film festival nearby, and make our way back “home”.

More tours are being organised and go on sale soon so maybe I will get on another one next year.

Sorrento

IMG_4668 (2)Friday 8 September

Very wet start to our day for a flight from Birmingham to Naples for a week in Sorrento. Flight full and taxi waiting for us at airport, what could go wrong, we were flying with Monarch Airlines?

Well, absolutely nothing went wrong, flight on time and comfortably full but I am so glad we are not hiring a car, the drivers here are maniacal, there seem to be no rules of the road or if there are, no one follows them.

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Hotel Caravel at Sant’Agnello

Our 32 mile journey to our hotel (Caravel at Sant’ Agnello) takes over 2 hours during which time we nearly get hit by a coach when we pull out onto a roundabout, nearly go into the back of a stationary queue on a motorway and sit crawling through a 2000m tunnel at about 10 km/hr. Not sure my lungs have recovered.

Buffet dinner tonight in the hotel as it is late, we are tired and there is thunder and lightning in the air so it promises rain.

Very pleased with room, functional although perhaps a couple of drawers in the bedside units would have helped.

Free bubbly was appreciated. although we didn’t appreciate it until the next day.

Saturday 9 September

Clear day today (which is not what was forecast) and we have a view from our balcony of Mt Vesuvius so after a leisurely late breakfast take advantage of the free shuttle bus and head for town. We are the only takers on the shuttle bus so we all get a window seat.

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Mt Vesuvius from our hotel room’s balcony

Sorrento is crowded with tourists although it thins out after lunch when cruise ship passengers (including some from P&O) head off elsewhere.

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Sorrento centre

Past the main roundabout and we head off down Corso Italia which seems to be the Main Street, stopping to admire the interior of the Cathedral before continuing to stop for lunch at Hotel Rivage where for €23.50 we have two large pizzas between the three of us, three drinks and a coffee. Not bad value for money we thought.

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Sorrento Cathedral

Retracing our steps, we dive down an alleyway to discover loads of shops hidden away on via Fuoro and via S. Caesarea which are well worth browsing.

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Cathedral ceiling

Nothing particularly expensive here, many items €5.

One of the churches had a photographic exhibition by a local photographer who specialises in Black and white prints but at €85 each, I did think they were a tad expensive.

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Chiesa dei Servi di Maria

The ice creams at a nearby café were definitely not expensive at €2.50 each though and the view to the church with the exhibition was worth it.

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Saint Francis Cloister

We had talked to a guy at lunch who was getting married in Sorrento on Wednesday at Saint Francis Cloister, so we had to go and find it and glad we did.

Not only had the courtyard been set up for a wedding, another nearby church had also been well decorated and vintage cars abounded including a Fiat 600 rear engine car that really would only fit the smallest of people but was used for a wedding couple.

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Church of Santi Felice and Baccolo

So many weddings today but it is a Saturday.

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Vintage Fiat 600

We are near the coast but high up so the views from here are stunning in the virtually cloudless sky.

Swimmers are in the sea, people are out and about on their boats and there is a view across to Naples and the area is very vibrant.

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Swimmers from above

Catch shuttle back to hotel for a rest before venturing out for dinner in a lovely cliff top open air terrace venue, Belvedere La Marinella with it’s lovely views out to sea.

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Lazing about on the water

We were lucky to get a table, this place is popular although it is noticeable that unlike in the IoM and the UK, smokers are allowed so near the cafe building.

Lovely trio of fish followed by a proper Italian Tiramisu and a stroll back up to the hotel after watching a great sunset.

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Sunset from Belvedere La Marinella

Sunday 10 September

Another day for a late breakfast and a walk up the hill to Sant’ Agnello.

Coffee in Pina, said to be the best coffee shop in town (adjacent to the petrol station on Piazza Matteotti) and some essential supplies bought in a local supermarket before lunch in the same restaurant we had dinner in last night.

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Memorial in Sant’ Agnello

There is a storm coming, we are told several times but this doesn’t materialise until after dark so we stay in hotel for dinner, it was an Italian themed night with a Lute player.

Only an OK meal although the Lute player was a bit of a character.

Monday 11 September

It is raining and quite frankly the less said about today the better as it rained all day. Another late breakfast and a shuttle bus ride to Sorrento for a walk, along with everyone else it seems, to look for lunch.

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Storm clouds

End up dodging raindrops in various shops until we reach Hotel Rivage again. This time on the way back we have to shelter for well over 30 minutes whilst the rain just pelted down causing torrents rushing down the paths and the poor shopkeepers not selling anything.

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Rain in Sorrento

Eventually we leave our shelter and head for the shuttle bus but stay in hotel again tonight for dinner as it is too wet – bad decision as Omelette seems to have mushrooms in and ice cream is hazelnut neither of which were advertised on the menu.

As I said, the less said about today the better.

Tuesday 12 September

An early start for a coach drive along the Amalfi coast. We are the last pick up (from a nearby hotel we walked to) so not that many seats left in the 25 seat coach although I do get a window seat at the back on the right hand side of the coach alongside some very uncommunicative Germans from Berlin.

Off up hills outside Sorrento climbing steeply in our small bus winding left and right and, once at the top of the road, cling to the cliff side with some amazing views.

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Gallo Lungo

First stop is in sight of the island of Gallo Lungo once owned by Rudolph Neureyov but after he died, bought by Giovanni Russo.

A 15 minutes stop turns into nearly an hour as the bus doors fail (open) along with the air conditioning and the speaker allowing a few more photo opportunities.

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Amalfi coastal town

The driver summons an engineer from Sorrento but he fails to resolve the issue and we head on with the door open and towards Possitano and stop again at a place more suitable to resolve the problem.

Partial fix means we can get on to Amalfi for our 2 hour stop whilst the problem is looked at properly.

Amalfi is a largish town but built vertically with houses clinging to the side of the cliffs.

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Amalfi cathedral

We climb the 62 steps up to the Cathedral and manage to persuade the cathedral’s guide that we could go into the cathedral without paying to go through the museum.

A bit darker than other churches we have been in but well worth the climb.

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Inside Amalfi cathedral

Out and walk up the narrow main shopping street to just beyond an 18th Century crib named De Cape ‘E Ciucci.

Previously used by donkeys transporting fruit & veg, it also now (since 1974)  has a nativity scene at Christmas.

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De Cape ‘E Ciucci

Of course being in Italy, there are several fountains on show, one of which has interesting water spouts!

 

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Water fountain in Amalfi

We should have bought a huge Lemon for €5 to make our own Limoncello but thought we could get it in Sorrento – sadly not.

 

Some splashing waves at the Amalfi coach park whilst we wait to board our coach which now has a properly fixed door.

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Waves at Amalfi

Loads of people in orderly queues for public buses, and it is more than likely that some of them won’t get on the first two that arrive.

We leave and head on around the coast for a drive to La Margherita, Villa Guiseppina  for a lunch which at €13 per head was pretty good value, 3 courses and on a table set for 8, 2 bottles of very quaffable wine.

A long walk down to the restaurant so, a long walk upwards afterwards but the restaurant does have it’s own wine and good views across to Ravello.

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Overlooking Minori & Maiori

A short drive after lunch to the musical town of Ravello for a stop and view, through a tunnel, of the next two towns on the coast.

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Ravello Cathedral

Walk up one area of town not as popular with the tourists who are concentrating on the town square and the view to Minor & Maiori passing a hotel where D H Lawrence stayed whilst he was writing Lady Chatterly’s Lover around 1926 and 1927 as well as an artist drawing in a vineyard.

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Artist at work

Our drive back is over the hills, the authorities operate a one way system for tour buses so we are not going back along the coast, takes us to the beginning of the Sorrento peninsula past thousands upon thousand chestnut trees.The area has an annual chestnut celebration/festival in November but by the looks of those on the trees, they are almost ready to fall now.

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Chestnut trees

Once again, there is a long queue get past the village of Meta as the festival we encountered on our first night continues, I am guessing the queue is caused by the local traffic police giving priority to pedestrians. Arrive back at hotel at about 7pm, some 2 hours late.

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Il Ruttino restaurant

Dinner tonight in the local pizza establishment, Il Ruttino which can be thoroughly recommended and was far better than the dinner in our hotel.

Wednesday 13 September

A half day tour to Herculaneum which is a smaller version of Pompeii and a coastal settlement unearthed many years ago after it had been built upon.

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Herculaneum

We are given a guided tour with a headset which was very informative even if some of the connections to the headsets were a bit iffy.

Still lots of crowds and many school children obviously studying that era of history.

The tour took about two hours and you needed that to view the various rooms, columns and ancient walkways, bones of the skeletons we gave a miss though.

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Wall murals around a fireplace

One room in particular contained more or less in pristine condition, some fantastic murals and the town square could have been built recently, the buildings looked just like turn of the 20thC buildings.

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Town square buildings

On the way back, we are blessed with a lovely view of Vesuvius without clouds – a rare sight during our stay.

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Vesuvius (from a moving coach)

Back at the hotel and after lunch at Il Ruttino which did include some alcohol, we fell asleep before we headed out again for dinner at Il Ruttino where we had a lovely Omlette for €4 – bargain and crashed out for an early night.

Thursday 14 September

We have booked a day trip to Capri which we know goes from Massa Lubrense which is along the Amalfi coast and whilst we are picked up in plenty of time, the main road in Sorrento is closed, for a funeral, and we are diverted inland along a circuitous route and then stop at a hotel to pick up some luggage, as you do, still making it in time for our boat crossing.

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Massa Lubrense harbour

Not a particularly comfortable boat, wooden bench seats along the side rather than from side to side, so we don’t get to see much and the boat is rocking somewhat.

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Fenicular from Marina Grande to Capri

Have a coffee on arrival and queue up to get the fenicular railway (€2 single) up to the town from the port.

You get the tickets from the bus station just by the port, you can’t pay at the entrance to the railway.

The place is absolutely heaving with people, the port’s landing docks seem to have a boat come in as soon as one leaves.

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Carole Feuerman sculpture

The town on the hill is even worse for the volume of people with loads of tours and even some school parties.

We lunch outside da Alberto (Opposite an interesting art work) which is expensive at €39 but a good spot for people watching but taking in smoke fumes from nearby diners.

One couple may have paid a premium to eat underneath a nearby bell tower with a wonderful view.

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Glasswork for sale

A walk down one of the shopping street (expensive shops here) and catch local bus down to the harbour ( €1.50 each payable to the driver ) and grab some seating near the Power station for a gelato whilst watching boats come and go taking passengers back to the mainland.

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Capri port

I am not an avid follower of fashion but there are some weird sights here, some dressing elegantly for the expensive island that is Capri and some more appropriately dressed for a holiday destination.

Get on our boat at the allotted time, at least two people who came over haven’t made it and set off around the island; the sea giving the boat an interesting ride.

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Green Grotto

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Archway island south side of

First stop is the blow hole (high tide, it wasn’t blowing) near St Michael’s hotel high up on the hill, then the green and blue grottos on the other side of the island.  We pass the mini port which was made famous by Audrey Hepburn.

Then it is on to the archway which we were able to go through, despite the choppy seas and past a few designer motor yachts, one of which was registered in the somewhat recently devastated British Virgin Islands.

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Massa Lubrense port

Back now to the small port of Massa Lubrense which is looking somewhat stunning in the evening sun and an efficient coach transfer back to the hotel before another fabulous meal at Il Ruttino meeting a couple from the Isle of Man by chance!

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Farewell fireworks

A few weddings tonight with a spectacular firework display to send us on our way.

Friday 15 September

Our last day so a leisurely morning with a stroll down to the high cliffs restaurant for a drink and service from a very grumpy waiter – surprised he didn’t break something the hardness with which he deposited our drinks.

Lunch in Il Ruttino, do you think we like it?, and a prompt pick up and a one hour drive to Naples airport for our flight home. We have arrived somewhat early and as the wait goes on the airport becomes even more crowded.

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Wallpaper stripping

 

Our flight home on Monarch Airlines was on time, comfortable and full.  It is such a shame that 16 days later the Company ceased trading.

Saturday 16 September

A drive to Clearwell to trim the hedge overhanging our drive and then to Reading to catch up with the family.

Sunday 17 September

Late ferry back from Liverpool for a catch up on what needs to be done at home including stripping the wallpaper in advance of some re-decorating

 

 

 

Baddesley Clinton and Packwood

6 September

An overnight with Elizabeth after an event free crossing to Liverpool and a visit to Dunelm to get our replacement bedroom curtains – good service, thank you.IMG_4550A morning drive to Baddesley Clinton Stately home and just in time to catch a fascinating talk by “Richard” about the house’s history followed by a visit to the wonderfully restored house.IMG_4559

The gardens are renowned for their Dahlias but sadly this year, following a move to a different supplier, the show wasn’t as good as previous years.

Nevertheless, some were still in full bloom and with their vibrant colours presented a good display along with some interesting scarecrows.IMG_4576IMG_4573

Afternoon at neighbouring Packwood House, another National Trust property with lunch in their café followed by a walk around their gardens and lake and before venturing inside.

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The Yew trees are a feature here and are so manicured, it is just as though from a distance they look as though they have been ironed.

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Inside, there are tapestries and the usual type objects in a stately home but some of it has been erected recently and is not as old as the rest of the house.  Still, an interesting afternoon.

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Late in the evening we are told that Sarah pulled out of buying a particular house for a the quite acceptable reason of their being a registered paedophile owning the house next door. Not something you want with a young child. He has at least enjoyed going back to his new School after his summer camping.

It’s off to Italy tomorrow.