May 6 to 19, 2018
After 6 days in and around Amsterdam we travelled to London, England by bus. We took the ferry across from Calais, France to Dover England. The first glimpse of England we had was the white cliffs of Dover. Very cool. And I enjoyed the bus ride through the countryside to London. We stayed at the Bayswater Inn. The hotel was a bit tired looking inside, but clean and currently under renovation. And the location was excellent, just a stones throw from Hyde Park, as well as the Baywater and Queensway tube stations.
The first thing I noticed about London, was the traffic. We were in London in 2005 and I remember the traffic being horrendous. Wall to wall vehicles, exhaust, honking horns and noise, noise, noise. My first impression, which continued throughout our stay, was of relatively little traffic – mostly made up of buses, taxis and delivery vehicles. Seems to me that their congestion tax has paid off. I found the city absolutely enjoyable to be in without all the vehicle traffic.
Our first full day in London was a free day. Ken and I, along with four group members, opted to do the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio tour. Since our tour was not scheduled until the afternoon, we did a short tour of Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square in the morning before taking the subway and train to Watford Junction.
The Making of Harry Potter was quite enjoyable. Very cool to see the original sets, costumes and watch how they did the special effects. I really enjoyed watching the kids, in particular, one girl approximately 12 years old. She was over the top excited and knew everything about the movies. Many of the kids were dressed in Harry Potter garb. I enjoyed a lesson in wand combat, which was great fun even though I sucked at it.
Ken was like a little kid, taking it all in. We are both fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. And of course Ken just had to get a wand to bring home. My stipulation was that it could not be one of the ‘dark’ wands, so he got a Dumbledore wand.
The Great Hall at Hogsworth
Day 2 was a group tour of Bath and Stonehenge. I never realized that Bath, England was really about a bath – a Roman bath. The tour of the Roman bath house was really good. During our free time, we found a quaint little vegan restaurant – Chapel Art – located in the basement of a church that was converted into an art gallery. We always get so excited to find vegan restaurants.
The Abbey at Bath is also worth seeing. The façade has unusual carvings of angels climbing a ladder.
Apparently, the person commissioning the building had a dream that he was supposed to build this church and in the dream he say angels climbing a ladder to heaven, which he had incorporated into the building.
Stonehenge was spectacular. In recent years they have stopped allowing people to roam among the stones and you are relegated to a pathway at least 30 metres from the stones. It did mean you could get a good shot of the stones without a whole bunch of random tourists in the shot; however, it was difficult to get a perspective of the size of the stones without standing next to them. Given the number of tourists visiting the site, it’s a totally reasonable step to help preserve the area.
Since both Bath and Stonehenge are a fair hike from London, we also got to enjoy the English countryside.
Day 3 was the official end of the organized tour; however, most of the group; including us, opted for an extra three days in London. On Day 3, Ken and I, along with four other group members, took the train to Liverpool for a day of Beatles.
We visited The Beatles Story Museum and took the Magical Mystery Tour. It was cool to see the sites that inspired the songs – including Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.
We also stopped to see many of the homes the Beatles lived in. Kind of funny to take pictures of random doors in residential neighbourhoods.
And of course we visited the Cavern Club. An enjoyable day.
Day 4 was a day at the seaside – in Brighton. The town has fabulous architecture, a lovely beach and The Lanes are a great shopping experience.
Brighton is often described as the vegan capital of the UK. I’ll vouch for that. Had the best vegan pizza ever at Purezza. The restaurant was totally plant based and we enjoyed a smoothie with our pizza.
Brighton has a pier that stretches out into the sea 1/3 of a mile. And the pier has an amusement park and many eating venues on it. It also has a number of standup cutouts for photos. We decided to take our picture and asked a young man if he would take our photo. He looked a bit puzzled but said yes, and promptly went to stand in the cutout so we could take his picture. We couldn’t stop laughing, but took his photo and then handed him our camera so he could take ours. While we went to stand in the cutout, we found him browsing through our pictures to see his. Too funny. It seems our photographer/model did not speak any English. Brighton is a hot spot for English language schools and we saw many school groups out and about.
After walking our feet off in Brighton we took the train to Arundel to see the castle and walk the town. Fabulous cute little town. If you are looking to see a castle, I would recommend this one. Not too far from London and very easy to get to. The
castle and town are a short walk from the train station. Although we did not tour the inside of the castle, other members of our group did and said it was fabulous. We arrived in Arundel about an hour before the castle closed, so we opted for a short walk of the town before catching the train back to London.
Our last day in England we
spent hiking in the Surrey Hills – which is labeled on the map as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. After almost two weeks of touring we were ready for some quite countryside time. We took the train to Leatherhead where we rented a car (from Kendal Cars – highly recommend, they were very helpful) so we could get to some of the many great hiking spots. We figured driving on the left side of the road might be easier in the countryside – Not! The driving was nerve wracking and right hand turns a nightmare. The small country lanes were very narrow and winding. You never knew what would come speeding around the next corner.
We managed to get to the Box Hill hiking area and enjoyed a very enjoyable hike. While walking through a wooded section we came across a deer on the trail.
We took a wrong turn on the way back to the parking lot and ended up heading down into the valley. We climbed a barb wire fence and hiked up a steep slope to get back on track.
I highly recommend the Box Hill hikes. They have a lovely little café at the parking area as well as volunteers manning a booth with trail maps of the area. We were quite thrilled to find the café featured a bean chilli and a bean soup, so we also had a great homemade lunch as a bonus.
After lunch, we braved the roads again to get to our second hike, the Lovelace Bridges. This one was not so well labelled. We did find the parking spot but it was a starting point for two different hikes. We took the wrong one. After tramping around for a while, we happened upon a local out walking his dog. He informed us the Lovelace Bridges were on the other side of the road. We found our way back and onto the right trail. We even found the first bridge without much difficulty. After that, however, we got hopelessly lost. It seems locals make their own trails through the wooded area, for walking their dogs and riding horses. It was impossible to tell which was the actual trail. We gave up without finding any more bridges, but the first one was very impressive. Lord Lovelace built the bridges to even out hills and valleys on his property so he could transport lumber by horse drawn cart. Lord Lovelace was into architecture and each of the bridge was unique in construction. About 10 of the original bridges still exist. If you decide to do this hike, be sure to download a copy of the map before you go. We couldn’t get a signal in this area so could not access the map.
After a white knuckle drive back to Leatherhead – travelling the long way round trying to get there without using the freeway, really small roads or making a right hand turn. Thank goodness for the map book Kendal Cars lent us, as our phone was running low on battery by the end of the day. We made it back safe and sound but next time I would gladly forgo the driving part (just to be clear, I did not drive, Ken did. Non-the-less, it was a very stressful experience)
The final day, May 19, it was up early and off to the airport. We missed the entire Royal wedding of Harry and Megan, as there were no screens showing the nuptials in the airport. It was a long fly back to Toronto and a long layover in the airport (6 hours) followed by another long plane ride to Winnipeg. Was a great trip but happy to be back home.
Thanks to Lucas, our Belgium workaway, who stayed at our place and took great care of the house, dog and cat.
After taking two weeks off in May, a busy time in the spring, we are working furiously to get the garden in, the greenhouse up and the yard in shape. Will post soon on the new greenhouse and garden development.