A Travellerspoint blog

11: Reflections

sunny 21 °C
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Somehow the Hurricane largely blew itself out overnight so that when I woke up this morning the sun was shining and the wind had slackened noticeably. I spent the day today driving back in land towards Salisbury. Salisbury is the home of Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral so I had booked a couple of nights at the YHA so that I could have a good dose of druids and history.

The drive from Brighton was largely uneventful and saw me arrive at Salisbury just after lunch. The hostel here is a an old manor house that has been converted into a hostel. It’s probably one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. As you drive up you come up this steep driveway lined by huge trees into this sweeping right hand bend to the manor. Just awesome for only 20 pound per night!

After settling in I hoofed it into town to find the tourist info and also to see the Cathedral. During my wanders the usual English squall came out of no-where and as per usual my rain coat got a working out! This time though the coat didn’t quite go the whole hog, the zipper failed on my black and white jacket so I decided it was about time I upgraded and got a decent rain coat. So after the squall had abated (somewhat) I found an outdoor store and got myself a new rain coat. I then set off for the Cathedral.

There has been a cathedral in Salisbury since before William the Conqueror! The current cathedral is circa 1200 AD and was built as the second most important place of worship behind the Canterbury Cathedral. This cathedral is quite interesting because unlike all of the other large churches I have been in it doesn’t have a high and low alter! This one was re-modelled after the reformation and the lower alter and its screen were removed. Therefore it is quite nice because you can clearly see down the whole length of the Cathedral! The cathedral is also home to an original signed copy of the Magna Carta! I love the fact that official documentation in the middle ages was so meticulously written, it’s almost a piece of art work! The other thing I loved about this cathedral is its grounds. The cathedral is surrounded by lush lawns and beautiful flower gardens.. I’m sure it makes for great photos if the sun is shining!

After really enjoying the cathedral I headed into town and bought myself some veges and meat so that I could cook myself steak and veges back at the hostel. Rounded out my evening by catching up on some TV and uploading a blog.

Posted by weary_feet 23:49 Archived in England Comments (0)

10: Salt Tang

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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What a day! The weather is probably the most extreme I’ve seen in a long time! An ex-hurricane from the US blew onto the British isles last night lashing the country with gale force winds and heavy rain… So my day started interestingly… try driving a little buzz box along windy country roads with a 60mile/ hr wind blowing and driving rain… Mmmm. It’s probably a recipe for an accident (which I thankfully avoided) and arrived in one piece at the White Cliffs of Dover (only about a 20min drive from Canterbury).

The cliffs were obscured by driving rain and really strong wind (it’s that strong today that I was having some issues doing up my jacket!!) so I stopped into the coffee shop to see if I could wait out the worst of the weather. Below me (the café where I’m drinking my coffee) is the port of Dover where the trans-continental shipping lines all pull in for the passenger ferries. Luckily the rain wasn’t heavy enough that I couldn’t see what was happening in the port. It’s incredible, most of the time I was having my cuppa at least 2 ferries were pulled up off loading and on loading cargo and passengers. And the part that is amazing is the turnaround… it seemed like less than half an hour and they have been and gone from the port…. I can’t believe there are that many people and trucks wanting to go to the mainland and they can turn around the boats that quickly! I felt truly sorry for those people catching one of the ferries today, the weather is really abominable and I can imagine that the crossing would be pretty yuk! The person selling sea sick tablets would have been doing a roaring trade today!

Believe it or not the weather cleared a little bit so I decided to go and brave a part of the cliff walk to see some sort of white cliffs. I mean you can’t come to England and not see the cliffs! The walk along the cliffs was very blustery to the point that when I was taking my photos I had to really plant my feet to try and get a semi steady photo! Here’s hoping they aren’t too out of focus!! I hadn’t walked even a couple of hundred meters before the weather started to close back in so I decided to head back to the car and continue my journey onto Brighton, hoping that during the intervening time the weather might clear a little bit more.

I was so lucky, by the time I hit Brighton the clouds had largely rolled away and I was left with the wind still blowing a gale but at least a clear sky. I found my hotel (which is in Hove not Brighton) and spent the remainder of the day walking along the sea side towards Brighton. I love Brighton and Hove! It is so quintessentially Victorian that you can almost imagine ladies in their hoop skirts and boater hats walking along the Promenade holding their parasols! I just love it! I tested out the ocean temp and it was pretty chilly but probably not as cold as I would have expected… If the sun was shining, no wind and the sea a bit calmer I may have even tested out the water….. well I say that now…… probably in all likelihood I would still find the ocean too cold for a swim!

I spent a good 3 maybe even 4 hours just walking along the beach towards the pier of Brighton. And in doing so I probably had the most enjoyable afternoon on the Promenade as I have had for months. I can’t describe how amazing the ocean looked (I would describe it as an angry grey sea), the wind felt (I almost had to bend double to walk into the wind!), the smell of the sea (it has such a strong sea weedy smell), the salt spray in the air (there was a very definite white haze in the air) and the sun shining down (intense and almost a golden colour from all of the salt spray).. Just incredible. On my return journey I stopped in at a little seafood restaurant and had a seafood chowder with crusty bread.. An absolutely heavenly way to end a heavenly afternoon!!

Posted by weary_feet 12:40 Archived in England Comments (0)

9: Canterbury Tales

sunny 21 °C
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Nice leisurely start today with a 2 pound all you can eat brekky at the hostel! One thing I have to say for this hostel is they know how to make someone feel welcome. Nothing is too much trouble, the kitchen is very well stocked, free meals, comfy beds, great selection of dvds.. you name it and the hosts will try and accommodate you!

We had been warned that an ex-hurricane was due to hit England either late tonight or first thing tomorrow so I really wanted to make the most of my day before the weather turned sour! I started my day by going back inside the town walls of Canterbury and walking to the ruined Canterbury castle. When I arrived at the castle I was pleasantly surprised to see that a mock medieval tournament was being held in the grounds! I spent about 30mins watching some teenagers and young men bash each other with swords and axes before taking a quick look at the ruin (not that there is much to see). The reason for the mock battle was that well over 1100 years ago a band of Vikings invaded this part of England and nearly wiped out the local population! This battle was to commemorate those awful days (well maybe commiserate is a better term? I’m not sure you really want to commemorate a massacre….)

The stewards who were running the event told me of another event happening on the other side of town so urged me to walk to the other end of the town to check out the Canterbury towers where prisoners used to be held. So over I went to have a squiz. The towers are still in working order (or would be if they wanted to re-use the cells) but are today a museum dedicated to all the traitors who were locked up in the towers. I had never heard of any of the so-called famous prisoners (but I guess I’m not a local so what did I expect?) but one guy caught my attention.. He was 15 yrs old when he was put in gaol for stealing. He decided he didn’t like prison so he escaped. He was then re-captured, and then re-escaped. He managed to get captured/ escape over 7 times!!!!! Finally, they had the lad killed so that they wouldn’t spend any more time capturing this escapee!

I rounded out my day in Canterbury by going and viewing a tourist attraction dedicated to the Canterbury Tales.. when in Canterbury….. I had read a part of the ‘Tales’ when I was in high school for English.. When I read it back then I remember not being a big fan of the Tales so I thought that it was high time that I learnt more about this absolute English classic. The attraction actually enacts a couple of the Tales so it didn’t really help me with the background of the classic.. I guess I’m going to have to just re-read the Tales to get an idea myself!!!! I did notice a similarity though, between one of Chaucer’s tales and one of JK Rowling’s Beadle Bard Tales… If you ever get the chance read Chaucer’s Tale about Avarice (I think it might be by the preacher??) and JK’s tale about the Deathly Hallows (the headline one in the actual HP Deathly Hallows story)… you might find the similarities quite striking!! I guess some literary plagiarism is ok when a book is out of copyright and the author has been dead for hundreds of years???

I spent this evening back in the hostel this time cooking my own dinner which was a just a big plate of veges before we all settled in front of the box to watch Sam Stosur win the Women’s US Final! What a great way to end a really nice day in Canterbury. Off to see the White Cliffs tomorrow before I head on to Brighton.

Posted by weary_feet 11:18 Archived in England Comments (0)

8: Murder in the Cathedral

overcast 17 °C
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Early start this morning as I needed to be checked out of my hotel before 10am to go and pick up my car. Caught the tube over to Edgeware Rd (probably about 20min away) and then spent a good 15min walking the streets looking for the rental car pickup place. Eventually found it (I had walked straight passed it early in my wanderings) and picked up my silver friend. This time around I got given a VW Polo.. In some ways it is a fair bit nicer to drive than the Focus and really has some get up and go (which is a pleasant surprise for such a little car).

An hour later I had finally reached the outskirts of London and was on the road to Dover. My trek through town took me down nearly all of the streets of Monopoly (well it felt like it anyhow!)—Park Lane got a run, Marlborough St, Euston Rd.. the list just went on and on! Pretty funny huh? I had a lot of people comment to me about not wanting to drive in London… I’m not really too sure why? If you are comfortable driving in city traffic and you have a sat nav then I truly believe you can drive anywhere! London was honestly a piece of cake.. took a fair while because traffic was a bit hectic but what else do you expect when you are driving in a big city? I can imagine that even driving in peak hour would be ok.. it would just take you forever to get anywhere because of traffic! (But who honestly does anything during peak hour when you’re on holiday?????)

Anyway as I said got out of town and on the motorway towards Dover and of course Canterbury. Probably an hour later (it took longer to get thru London than it did to get from London to Canterbury!) I arrived in Canterbury. I had decided to not stay in Dover but instead to stay in Canterbury so that I could have look at its gorgeous cathedral as well as see a nice country town. (I wrongly believed that Canterbury was a small town!) Canterbury itself is a pretty nice old town. After settling into my hostel.. which is probably one of the nicest I’ve stayed in.. I went for a wander down town to see the Cathedral. I had this grand plan to go and see Evensong in the Cathedral but forgetting it was a Saturday I forgot that Evensong would have been performed mid-afternoon…. It probably wasn’t a bad thing that Evensong wasn’t on as I had a couple of hours to really get a good look at the interior of the Cathedral. The Cathedral isn’t one of the most specky that I’ve ever seen (interior wise), exterior wise it’s a different story! The Cathedral staff let you walk all around the Cathedral grounds so you can go into the old cloister area and sit in the gardens and relax.. It’s really nice! The Cathedral even has its own ginger cat.. he seemed to just lie around sleeping and looking for the occasional pat… must be a pretty sweet life being the Cathedral’s cat!!!!!

I discovered something interesting today… The Archbishop of Canterbury actually isn’t the priest who officiates at the Cathedral! There is another priest who looks after the Cathedral and performs the sermons etc.. The Archbishop actually doesn’t even have his own church! I guess it sort of makes sense as his role is probably more political and managerial than a front line priest! Apparently he will occasionally do the Sunday service at the Cathedral but more often than not he is away tending his ‘wider’ flock visiting another parish in England.

There were two interesting things about the interior of the Church. Firstly, within the walls of the Cathedral, Thomas a ’Becket was murdered by 4 knights at the bequest of Henry II. Apparently Thomas was refusing to accept some of the laws in place by Henry instead only following the Roman Catholic laws.. this upset Henry II who made an off-the-cuff comment in front of many people wishing that he could get rid of his Archbishop… The 4 knights took him literally and went and murdered the Archbishop inside his own church! Unsurprisingly, he was canonised (I swear every man and his dog was canonised back in the middle ages) and his remains were kept inside the cathedral as a shrine of pilgrimage (hence the Canterbury Tales!!!). These remains no longer exist because Henry VIII had them destroyed at the beginning of his reformation.

The other thing that struck me about the inside of the church is the crypt. The crypt inside Canterbury Cathedral is not used to store remains but is actually used as another place of worship! The morning services are all held inside the crypt, and there are three private chapels set up inside the crypt for individual prayer.. It feels like a much better use of the underground space than to store dead people, but then again, I guess I’m a heathen so what would I know?

Rounded out my day back at the hostel where the lovely hostel owners had decided to have a free bbq for all of the guests. We had homemade cheese burgers with fries with all of the trimmings.. My hamburger was the best damn hamburger I’ve had in a long, long time so I savoured every mouthful! We then adjourned from dinner to watch the tennis on TV (men’s semi-final of US open--- Djokovic def Federer) before turning in for a well-deserved sleep.

Posted by weary_feet 11:05 Archived in England Comments (0)

7: The Hotline

semi-overcast 23 °C
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Last day in London today and I decided to spend my last day actually seeing some of the sites I had neglected to see so far, ala Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. To achieve this, I caught the tube to Green Park and walked down the park to the Palace. No changing of the guard today (damn) so I just got to have a bit of a look-see at the outside before I continued my wander down through St James’ park towards Whitehall.

Conductor has been telling me all along to stay somewhere around Bayswater so that ‘every day you can walk down through Hyde Park and St James’ to the city… far nicer than catching the tube’. Of course, I did the opposite and am staying at the other end of the town so I hadn’t had the chance to delight myself in these gardens… As per usual, I should have taken his advice and just stayed near the palace area because he is right—the gardens are spectacular! I took so many bird and squirrel photos in St James’ it isn’t funny!!! I think it is so great that there is so much wildlife just living in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world! It seemed like every square meter of water front land was occupied by some sort of water fowl, most of which I’m sure I’ve never seen before!

After spending an awful amount of time in St James’ my sojourn amongst the animals came to an end when I discovered Churchill’s bunker. Similar to other WWII bunkers (the one in Singapore comes to mind) they have turned the area where Churchill directed the war from into a museum. I love wandering through these types of museums and being able to get a little taste of what it must have been like for those working during the war. You can see Churchill’s office and bedroom along with the cabinet and map rooms and of course the first ever ‘hotline’ room. During the war, the American’s installed the first ever hotline between the President of the US and the PM of UK.. The telephone machiney thing took up a whole room! During the war the room was always locked, so no-one really knew what the room was for… most thought it was Churchill’s private toilet!!! There is also a large display about the life of Churchill. I didn’t realise that he was ousted from office before the war ended and that he then came back into politics to lead the country during the cold war! He was clearly a pretty amazing character… Other interesting anecdotes about Churchill- he loved to paint, he wrote hundreds of books—his best seller being his account of WWII which netted him millions of dollars (and was completed during the time that he was not in politics) and he loved to dress in a one piece jump suit style of pyjama thingy’s….

I rounded out my site seeing day by going to have a look-see at Westminster Abbey. I took the audio guide around the church and in hindsight really wished I had organised my time better so that I could have been at the abbey in time for one of the guided tours by the staff of the Abbey. The church is huge and has over 3500 people buried in its interior! 3500 people buried means lots and lots of mausoleum style monuments placed in every square inch of wall and floor space! I couldn’t get over how many statues and plaques are in the Abbey. The vast majority are people I’ve never heard of but were obviously important during their lifetimes. However the Abbey does contain the remains of the Who’s Who of England’s history (or have commemorating plaques/ monuments dedicated to them). I’m not even going to try to list out the people laid to rest in the Abbey, but some surprising ones that caught my eye (not necessarily the most momentous) Dylan Thomas, Cecil Rhodes, Dr Livingstone, Mary Queen of Scots (I love the fact you can be a traitor one day and a martyr the next!!) just to name a few… Of course there are heaps of the Kings and Queens of England buried here as well as many bishops etc. and poets corner contains the remains of some famous story writers eg Chaucer. I felt quite overwhelmed with my visit to the Abbey and have vowed to return before I leave the UK and do a proper tour with someone who works here so that I can get a better understanding of the people who are buried within its walls.

I finished up my last day in London back at my travel agent still trying to sort out my Middle East trip and my flights. A couple of hours later I left feeling quite satisfied and finally having some thoughts around my itinerary. Pick up my car tomorrow and start my ramble around England’s country side.. First stop Canterbury!

Posted by weary_feet 10:52 Archived in England Comments (0)

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