Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Night in a Lovely Village

Already near the beginning of our trip, and I note from my journal that it's "...difficult to recall what we've done the last two days. Hard to write in the van.Things are running together."

Ha! If I thought things were running together for me then, wait a couple of weeks. And it's true. That was one of the hard things with keeping a running journal. We were on a lot of twisty-turny roads with lay-bys so we were constantly jostled. A lay-by is a "... place at the side of a road where a vehicle can stop for a short time without interrupting other traffic", according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. And we say a lot of those on many of the small roads in the countryside.

Hedges border many of the country roads throughout England, but don't try to dive through them, especially with your car. The hedges cover rocks.

One of the road signs we noticed said "Queues likely for busy intersections where traffic is backed up."

Continuing on from yesterday, we saw poppy fields around Stonehenge. Amazing seeing the Stones close up.

Next stop: Exeter. Simon dropped us off so we could wander around town and get some lunch. We walked along the River Exe that runs through Exeter, and stopped off at Samuel Jones Smoke & Ale House. Kind of a modern appearance, faux industrial look, but a cool old wooden bar inside. Wendy and I had appetizers -- the Halloumi Fries with salsa, and Whitebait with garlic mayo. Delicious! Halloumi is a cheese made from goat's and sheep's milk; whitebait is a tiny fish about two inches long. Here's a link to check out the place: Samuel Jones

After lunch, we walked over (did I mention we did a lot of walking on our trip? -- needed a lot of fish and chips to fuel up) to Exeter Cathedral, a magnificent cathedral that just takes your breath away. Click here to go the cathedral's web site: Exeter Cathedral. I can't properly do it justice by writing about it, so here are a few photos.

On to our rest stop for the evening, a small village the likes of which Wendy and I first fell in love with -- Lydford, in the county of Devon. We're returning to our beloved Devon area. Along the way, we've seen more thatched roof cottages than I remember from our first visit. Just coming down the hedge-lined roads was magical and brought everything back from 23 years ago. How can it be that long ago?

Simon dropped us off at night. It's raining, naturally. Our inn here, in this country village, is beautiful, the Lydford House Hotel.

Couple of travel tips: many places we stayed did not have lifts, so you have to do stairs. Sometimes several. Also, especially in London, toilets are in the basement in restaurants. Might've mentioned those details before, but can't remember. Just something to keep in mind, especially for folks with disabilities.

One especially nice thing with country inns is they have windows you can open to get a cool breeze in. Worked great for us, as we had 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) while we were there. Might get a bit uncomfortable if the weather turns warm, as we heard it was going to in another couple of weeks when we were heading back to the states.

More about Lydford tomorrow. In my next post, I'll tell you about our walk down the country lane, and the house we were tempted to buy. Also the watchmaker's tomb.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Heading to Stonehenge Today

It's funny. We've been home over two weeks now (I think), and as I write these posts from our trip, it seems so long ago. Good thing we took photos along the way in addition to our journal entries. At the time, you think 'Aw, I'll remember this and that place we saw or thing we did', but looking back over one of my journal entries, I can't recall one of the inns we stayed overnight in. Have to consult my photos.

Also, when I have a travel tip, I'm just going to call it that: a travel tip. I'd started off with my series of travel posts doing something fancy, calling our travel tips learned TTL for short. Nah, that's pretentious. I'm just gonna call it a travel tip and leave it at that.

June 11th. Spent the night at a lovely hotel in the country in Chichester, in West Sussex, called Crouchers Country Hotel. Fortunately, they served an evening meal. Breakfast is always included, so that's never a problem.

Woke up this morning to different bird sounds than what we hear back home. A variety of squawks and chirps. Also sun. Really good to see some sun.

Note: Best I recall, many of our country inns didn't have air conditioning, but they all had windows we could open to get a cool breeze. Crouchers was like that.

View from our room at Crouchers
Met the gang in the breakfast area, had salmon and eggs on a toasted muffin, and a banana. Needed some fruit today.

Simon picked us up in the van. Forgot to mention earlier, it's a silver Mercedes. I think a 12-passenger, so we have loads of room. Has places to plug in adapters to juice up our phones. Also WiFi. Remember, though, to keep your phone set to Airplane mode. Just use a WiFi connection when you have one.

On A27, just saw a sign for Gosport. Will be at Stonehenge soon. After 23 years, we'll finally get to see the Stones. That's what folks in these parts call Stonehenge -- the Stones. Wendy and I were in England back in 1996, but didn't get to see Stonehenge that time. Just so glad we can sit back and relax and let Simon do the driving.

Clouding up a little. Might add to the mystery and power of the Stones. Excited. Don't know what to expect. I have a pastel I painted of Stonehenge many years ago in an art class, so they've always held a fascination for me. I'd love to see how they set the stones in place.

We're seeing England in its apparently natural state -- rain. But we're getting an unusual amount even for here. No drenchers, though, just light rain. Doesn't stop us, however.

Heading along A303 to Exeter.

Walking up to Stonehenge is spectacular and gives one a thrill. Interesting how you can get fairly close to the Stones. Just a thin rope barrier, no chain link fence. What's great is we can walk all the way around, and notice how the aspect changes from the different angles.

Better close for now as I don't want to keep rambling on. More later about the same day, June 11th.

Here's a link to the previous day's post: June 10th.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Finally Leaving the Big City

June 10th. London is big. Really big. And we're itching to see some countryside. So we're finishing our last morning in the Mercure with another good English breakfast, then wait in the lobby for Simon Ellis, our driver. It's nice not having to drive ourselves. I've done that before in England and Ireland, but I'd never do it in someplace as big as London. Country roads, okay.

Had to have a banger this morning. I'll get back to eating less meat when I return home, but over here, nope. I'm sampling everything. After all, I don't know if I'll get over here again. Trying the black currant jelly this morning. I think I've finally figured out which shaker's for the pepper and which for the salt. Having a latte this morning, as their machine for espresso and Americano isn't working. Had the usual beans, a poached egg, tomatoes grilled with a dash of salt and pepper, mushrooms, and fried bread.

A mild day today with rain. Looks like it'll stay in the upper 50s, perhaps low 60s. We never saw any fog the whole time we were in London.

We just checked out of the Mercure and waiting for Simon. We've been scavenging chocolate and cinnamon biscuits (cookies) whenever we're served coffee in places, stashing them in our day packs. Figure that'll come in handy.

Headed to Bodiam Castle (pronounced Bo-die-am, long 'o', short 'a') in East Sussex after leaving the hustle of London. Ah, the quiet calm villages we've passed through. Places we could easily live in. Ate lunch at the Castle Inn. I'm having a mature cheddar and ale chutney sandwich. Wen's having Mediterranean vegetable soup. 

Bodiam is a fairly intact castle, built in 1385. The stone looks like sandstone, but not sure if it is. Great to see a castle once again after all these years. Our last visit to England was back in '96. Bodiam has a steep, circular stairway leading to the top, which Clark and I climbed. I always have to touch the stones and feel the smoothness or roughness. The history. I imagine the impressions of years coming through to me. Have to be careful climbing. There are metal hand rails, but it's easy to trip and fall.

Heading on down the road now, we saw a sign for the Winston Steam Rally on July 13th and 14th, a family-themed weekend with merry-go-rounds and steam-powered vehicles. Sounds fun. Wish we could be here for it.

Here's the link the previous day's post: June 9th

More later. Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Feet Still Gotta Move

Yeah, well, today I was going to write another post on a day in the life of our overseas journey. However, we still had itchy feet this morning and went for a drive.

We started out with a quick breakfast at Cracker Barrel before heading on down south on  US-27 through Nicholasville. Destination: Lancaster. Why? Because we hadn't been there in a long time and it deserved a look-see. Along the way we passed a sign for the Princess Motel. Probably one of those cool old strip motels from ages ago. No sign of the motel any longer. Too bad. It was perhaps the type that had the Magic Fingers massaging mattresses.

Nice drive to Lancaster, not too much traffic. We stopped in a public parking area and walked around a bit, then noticed the sign for Smith's Restaurant. This was the kind of place Wendy and I always hunt for. Local diner, spinny stools, good coffee and food. We were not disappointed. Walking inside, we were greeted warmly, and we took our places at the counter. Grilled cheese, breakfasts, and friendly people. We'd just eaten, but I had to try a bite of something, so I got an order of onion rings. Oh, man, a slice of heaven. Perfect batter, not greasy. They're open Monday through Saturday, 6 to 2. I think it was 2. Might've been 1:30. Forgot to write it down.

I mentioned to the cook I loved breakfast, especially pancakes, so she placed a small piece of freshly-made pancake on my plate. Oh, yeah, we'll have to go back for breakfast sometime. I'm a pancake hound.

Wendy Meeting Mr. James Garrard
A lady joined us at the counter, a regular at Smith's. She told us a hysterical story about going to Woodstock back in the day with the Methodist Youth Foundation. Apparently, the youth director had heard about a concert up there and took everyone. Well, they stayed three days. She said they'd walk along, smile and nod at the other attendees who would smile back. She offered no other details. :-)

Smith's Restaurant
From there we headed along US-52, to just south of Richmond, KY. We really didn't want to do cities, or at least cities with much traffic, so we skipped around Richmond on 876, picking up 52 on the other side, then headed on to Waco, KY. Found a great little antique shop called Treasures from the Past Antiques. Plenty of bargains in there, as the owners are preparing to sell their place and retire. Destination? Full-time RVing.

Closing for now. More tomorrow.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Today is a Day of Great Expectations

June 9th. One thing we notice in the cafes is no loud music, unlike back in the U. S. That's nice, especially in the morning. Having breakfast in our hotel cafe, gearing up for the day. They're out of Caffe Americano this morning, so having a latte instead. It's just as good. Not sweet.

One of the great things about our hotel, the Mercure, is the selection of restaurants nearby. Italian, Turkish (the Antalya), and an Indian restaurant are close. The fish curry was delicious at the Indian restaurant.

The room's small in the Mercure, but the bed is comfortable. We're trying to see what stuff we can jettison along our travels to save space. Extra bags, brochures for places we didn't visit, those things must go.

Made our way to the Charles Dickens House and Museum today after another good English breakfast. Only a 9 minute walk on a quiet Sunday morn to his residence on Doughty Street.

Advice time (Travel Tips Learned -- TTL): I should have mentioned this sooner. If using your phone's GPS, keep it on airplane mode. You may not always have a WiFi connection, but you won't be charged additional fees. Most all the hotels have WiFi, so you should be good to go. Be sure to check out the Charles Dickens House. It's cool! He was a rock star in his own time.

By now we're becoming comfortable with the tube (subway). I think I could navigate it without too much help now. They did throw us a clinker today, though. We needed the Circle Line to get to the Tower Pier for the Thames River (pronounced 'Tems', with a short 'e' sound)but it was closed for some reason. Fortunately, one of the attendants told us which line to take to work around and get to our destination.

By the way, the Queen's birthday is today, June 9th.

Today's our last day in London, then we get out of the big city.

More tomorrow.

Nearly forgot. A link to the previous day's journeys: June 8th

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Brief Rest Stop from Our Journey, for a Movie Review

Had to toss this in. Wendy and I watched Svengoolie last night. Featured was another of I don't know how many Jekyll/Hyde incarnations, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. A Hammer production, we get to see our old friend Christopher Lee, but not in the Jekyll role.

We get the bright and showy, Kodachrome-like Victorian sets typical of Hammer during their heyday. Really clean London streets, everyone dressed up, no one with bad teeth.

This is so far my least favorite of the good doctor versions. None of the characters were truly likable, even the kindly Dr. Jekyll. Yes, he's once again working on the whole good-evil thing, but he's more aloof, distant, in this adaptation. He's attempting to help children who are unable to speak for one reason or another, but he refers to them as "poor, dumb animals". His motives were unclear to me. He had this theory that by suppressing the power of speech, they turned to violence at times, as we have a scene showing one child shoving another. Then we get into the whole moral-code-of-conduct vs. complete-moral-freedom thing, and the "higher man", but I was never certain which side he favored.

Basically, it was a melodramatic love triangle. He was distant from his wife, who was distant from him, who was having an affair with Henry's so-called friend, Paul (Christopher Lee). It was interesting, however, seeing Mr. Lee in a shameless (as he put it) role, tapping Henry Jekyll for money, drinking it up, and in an adulterous relationship. Other than that, I didn't care for any of the characters.

Henry, ultimately, turns to his own form of addiction, the serum to bring out his Mr. Hyde, who was mostly a disappointment. Bearded, depressed Henry became the clean-shaven, confident Edward Hyde. And for those of us who want to see a monstrous, murdering Hyde, it sure took a long time to happen.

And then there's the oh-so-sad tragic music that plays when Henry's down in the dumps.

For my money, stick with the Barrymore or March version, or read the original story. Haven't seen the Spencer Tracy one yes, but I hear it's good. I'll check it out sometime when I need a Hyde fix.

I'll return to our England trip tomorrow.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Jet Lag Over, On With the Show

June 8th. Quick teaser. In case you're wonderin', Nessie does exist. Due to all the publicity, she packed up and left Loch Ness for Loch Lomond. We saw her. Aye. Caught her on film. Here ya go. 'Course, she's in Scotland, so that's a couple of weeks off.

There she is, folks! Nessie! Right in th' boat with you
Okay, still in London. Breakfast at our hotel. Buffet style. Good English breakfast. Beans, poached eggs, grilled tomatoes w/herbs, mushrooms, toast w/black currant jelly. Loved the black currant jelly. It's not so good as one of those sparkling canned soft drinks, though.

May be a little rainy today, but mild temp, around 65 (I don't think it ever broke 60. We found that throughout our trip. Highs rarely reached mid-60s.)

We found some drink today with skinny milk and real fat milk.

Walking our legs off today, even taking the tube. Getting used to where home is located -- near the Holborn station. Made our way to Soho and the John Snow pub. Great old mahogany or walnut bar. Not too big inside. Perfect. Mr. Snow was an epidemiologist who figured out how to stop the cholera epidemic. Seems there was a water pump near the present pub's location that was responsible for the toxic water. Not to fear. Drink all you want at the pub with no threat of cholera, merely inebriation. I had a Samuel Smith Extra Stout. My friend David Tussey had one of Mr. Smith's nut brown ales. Said it was like having a meal in a glass. Can't get cholera when you're having these. I highly recommend the Extra Stout. Have to see if I can get it in the U. S.

Fish and chips again with mushy peas (peas mushed up). Liked the mushy peas.
John Snow pub
Soho's very bohemian. Lots of street, lots of music. Fair amount of trash in the street. Have to watch for traffic. Still not used to which way cars some from yet. Got to hear some street chanting from protesters today. Saw a peace sign or two. Might've been for animal rights. All non-violent. Peace, man.
Protesters across the street
Had a wee bit o' confusion later. We wanted the Aldgate East station for one of our stops, but we got on the Metropolitan line by mistake and got off at Aldgate. Oops.

Went on a Jack the Ripper tour in the evening with our Ripper tour guide, Philip Hutchison. Learned that Jack went after mostly middle-aged women, not young women as I had thought. Walked past several of the locations of the murders. Lot of homeless folks back in that time. One of the places where they slept outside was called Itchy Park.

That's it for today, unless I remember something else or find another note in my journal.
Can't park here
Nearly forgot. Here's the link to the previous day's post: June 7th

Cheers and keep writing, friends.