December 29, 2003

Final Days

Christmas has been and gone and now I'm back to finish off the Trip Tale.

Saturday saw us up bright and early...well bright anyway. We had a visit to Bury Markets planned. The last time we were there, we spotted a rucksack with wheels - just like the suitcases have. It was just what we wanted for plane trips and for Rob to trundle to work, when it's soccer day.

It's a rather longish bus trip from Prestwich to Bury, but there's plenty to look at on the way, so it's not one we minded taking. Bury Market is huge! If it's for sale anywhere, you'd probably find it (or a knock off) at Bury. Rob and I went from one building to the next, up and down the aisles and around every corner, looking for the place we saw the rucksack for sale. We stopped to have lunch at the same cafe we had eaten at previously and it suddenly dawned on us that the shop we were looking for was quite close. Eureka! There they were and there was the object of our expedition. At 14gbp it was a steal.

We did a leisurely cruise of the markets and decided to head off back to Prestwich. After dinner we watched a couple of TV shows and then headed off to bed. One thing about Rob's Gran's house, I never had any trouble sleeping. It was nice to have a room at the top of the house with our own private bathroom.

Sunday: Our plan was to catch a bus into Manchester and catch a movie. We had a wander around a few shops and then decided that the only show we wanted to see, was Finding Nemo. OK, so it's a kids flick, but we're both only a couple of overgrown kids anyway. We loved it - especially the turtle Crush, who was caught in a 70s surfing time warp. Bruce the Shark was pretty cool too and his voice was that of, no less than, Barry Humphries.

Sunday also marked the turning on of the Christmas lights in Manchester. The tree that we had witnessed underconstruction, was now complete and so were all the street decorations. The Town Hall was all dressed up and looking pretty smik. We didn't arrive for the entertainment or thankfully, the speeches, but we managed to have a good look, before we were swept up in the mass exodus from Prince Albert Square.

We had intended to stop for a meal in the City, but every place was either crowded out or closed. The decision was made to hop a bus and head 'home', grabbing a pizza from the local Pizzeria. I have a feeling that the damned virus may have already been at work on me, because I was decidedly grumpy and wasn't really upset with the idea of retiring to bed shortly after eating.

Monday: Our last full day in the UK.
Rob's aunt Heather kidnapped me for a trip to the local Tesco store. Now that was an experience and a half! It's just as well we don't have a store like that in Hornsby or Normanhurst. I'd spend all my time there, trying to decide what to choose, from their overloaded shelves and cold cabinets...not to mention a fully stocked variety and gardening section. I've never seen so many items of food in one place before ...and I'm no mean shopper!

I managed to find a really nice basket arrangement of plants (growing) as a 'thank you' for Rob's Nan, so the shopping trip was worth it just for that. I also found something I really love to eat. Something that took me right back to Sunday night supper when I was a kid: A large Melton Mowbray pork pie! I grabbed it and we had it for lunch with salad. Pure heaven.

Rob and I pottered around doing the last of the laundry and sorting out what we were sending back by parcel post, rather than paying a huge amount for excess luggage. We packed it all up ready for Rob to despatch first thing Tuesday.

Later in the day, we spent as much time as we could with Heather. I wish she lived in Australia, I'm sure we would be really firm friends. Rob's Gran still wasn't well and spent a lot of her days sleeping in the chair in front of the TV. (We heard from Heather the other day and she says that they've finally found out what was wrong with Gran and she's doing a whole lot better.)

Tuesday: Our last day in the UK.
Rob and I lugged our, now fully packed, suitcases and hand luggage down to the hall way. We had a leisurely breakfast and then decided to go for a last walk in Hetley Park. The sky looked pretty threatening and so we rugged up in anoraks etc. It was to be a nostalgic wander for Rob, who wanted to find the old Bandstand, where he played as a child.

We did the grand tour, taking in the Nursery section. The glass houses were full of plants, ready to give as gifts for the fast approaching Christmas. It was strange to see plants that we grow openly in our yards, treated with kidgloves. I must say that none of mine looked that good though.

Strolling up a hill, we came to some paddocks with Angus cattle and horses. The horses were rugged up with blankets against the chill and the cattle were sporting extra thick natural coats. The cattle started laying down...a sure sign that stormy weather was on its way!

Heading back towards the gates (and not a little lost) Rob spotted a path he recognized and, sure enough, there was the duck pond and his beloved bandstand. It's sorely in need of refurbishment and a facelift, and, according to notices we had seen, it would get one. Heatley Park is being given a complete overhaul. It needs it, because it would be a pity to let such a lovely (and huge) area of public recreational land, fall into complete disrepair.

We toddled off home, happy that we'd managed to accomplish our last wish and managed to still be dry. We spent the rest of the day chatting with Gran and Heather. Unfortunately, the time we had to leave for the Airport coincided with rush hour in and about Manchester, so dear Heather decided that she really didn't want to drive in the heavy traffic and leave Gran alone for so long. She had booked a taxi for us, earlier in the day AND given Rob the money to pay for it. I can't say enough about her hospitality and generosity.

Arriving at the airport, the obligatory 2 hrs before the flight, left us with time to tour the duty free shops and the bookstore. Rob picked up 3 Bill Bryson books that he got for the price of two and I scored a very ornate bottle of Jeans Co. Woman by Versace. Rob's excuse for spoiling me, was that he was using up the last of his UK currency.

Eventually we boarded our Emirates flight and proceded to be force fed every couple of hours. Fortunately their food is pretty nice. We landed in Dubai and found that our departure gate was right at the other end of the airport. Those travelling further (us included) were taken by bus to the terminal.

Dubai Airport has to be seen to be believed. It's obvious that no expense has been spared with the decorating. Huge, glittering spaceships, with flashing lights are suspended from the ceiling. Gorgeous lighting fixtures which look like cascades of golden water drops are high up on the walls. I only wish I'd taken pics of it all.

Our next flight was not so good. We boarded to find that I didn't have my requested aisle seat. Luckily the third person in our row didn't like his seat either and the flight attendant managed to find him another. We watched movies on the seat back consuls and also played a few games...and of course ate. Landing in Singapore, we stayed on board. It was only a stop for refueling and neither of us wanted to drag our handluggage down for a break of under an hour.

The new crew came on board before the passengers returned and in no time I was told I was in the wrong seat. I explained the situation...heck I was only in the next bloody seat! Being me, I got a little hot under the collar and told her that I had booked an aisle seat and that due to arthritus in my hip, I wasn't moving. I think she got the message and agreed that I was OK sitting where I was. Now I understand Air Rage. It's bad enough being cramped up in a tin can, without things going wrong...especially when you have a long flight ahead of you.

Looking out over Australia was one of the loveliest things I've seen in a long time. Coming into Sydney was euphoric! I was so happy to be home. I know Rob was pretty pleased to get back too.

We caught a taxi home and, after a couple of hours, decided that the jet lag had won. I don't think I'd been asleep for more than an hour, when my phone rang. It was my work...wanting to know if I would work Sunday! For goodness sake, I'm back in the country a couple of hours (this was Thursday) and they wanted to know if I'd do someone elses shift? I couldn't believe it and I don't think I was too polite, just before I hung up!

So, here ends the saga of Rob and Vickie's trip to the Old Dart.
Thanks for your patience in reading this far.

Vickie.

Posted by Midus at 01:24 PM

December 16, 2003

Maurice & the Travellers.

Maurice and the Travellers

Maurice and two happy travellers.
Good food, good booze, good company.
A fun night was had by all at Chequers near Bristol.

Posted by Midus at 11:38 AM

On the Road Again!

Hi all!
Finally I've found the energy and the enthusiasm to post. The dreaded virus has left the building. (I hope!)

Now to get back to the final stages of our trip to the UK:

On Thursday November 13th, we boarded a coach at Victoria and left the big smoke behind. London is OK to visit - if you like grey, but it's not somewhere I ever want to live again. We travelled for about 2 1/2hrs to Bristol and my internet friend Maurice. The bus travelled through some really nice countryside, so at least there was something to look at.

We had originally planned to go to Glocester first, to see one of my cousins, but when I rang her, it turned out she was leaving that day for a short holiday in Wales, so I guess we'll have to wait until she comes to Australia again.

Meeting Maurice was exactly as I'd imagined. He looks the same as his pics and he sounds the same as he does on the phone. We've been in touch for 5yrs off and on. At one time, when I was in Cairns, there was a cyclone very close to us and, being alone at home, I was pretty nervous. Maurice stayed on line and kept me company until it abated. That's the sort of unselfish person he is.

The three of us took a taxi to Fishponds, where Maurice has a TV and Video repair shop. At that time he was living in a flat over the shop...he's since moved into a house. We had a bit of a rest and checked out our email etc - YES Maurice has cable! It was nice to put up my feet and have a cuppa.

It was decided to go for a drive in search of lunch. Maurice isn't exactly a cook.<g>

Outside the shop was a big surprise for Rob. Our host drives a Cadillac complete with left hand drive! It's a '75 model (if I remember) and so comfortable it's decadent. Maurice drove us firstly to his favourite pub down by the river, but unfortunately they were closed during day in the off season, but we had a booking for dinner that night. It was an experience getting there...sitting in a huge Yank Tank, navigating very narrow country lanes!

We eventually found a pub that was open for lunch...The Blue Bowl. Rob and I tucked into a huge lunch and then realized that it wasn't that long before dinner time. Rob also sampled the local brew. I think he's fast developing a taste for beer, whether it's UK or Aussie variety...or even the imported Dutch brand. Roger even had him drinking Guiness and that's not something he'd do at home.

After we finished lunch, Maurice drove us to our accomodation for the night. What a difference to our digs in London! It was 10GBP cheaper per night and really lovely. Crossleaze Farmhouse is somewhere we would recommend. The only fault I had with it, was that they didn't do breakfast. Apparently we had the last room available because they have a very steady guest list. Sure the bathroom was next door, but we did have our own private loo. They actually had a 'real' shower and wonderfully huge, thick towels...pure heaven! Our room was the smallest in the place, but it was twice the size of the dog kennel at the Dover.

Maurice arrived at 7pm to whisk us away to Checkers...the pub that was closed for lunch. We didn't go in the Caddy but in a VW van owned by his friends Paul and Donna. When we arrived at Checkers, Gloria, one of Maurice's ex wives (yes he has a 'past') was there already and waiting to join the rest of us for dinner. We had a terrific night. It was a pity that Rob and I had stuffed ourselves at lunchtime, because the food was great. The company was excellent and we had a lovely time. Another highlight of the evening was the weekly Trivia night. We didn't officially take part, but we had fun answering the questions and giving tips to a couple of the teams.<g>

We decided it was time to hit the road, when it looked like Rob was going to end up face down on the table! We got back to the Farmhouse and slept like logs.

Maurice picked us up the next morning and dropped us off in his local shopping area, so that we could go find breakfast. We certainly did find it! We had a huge meal at a nearby workmens cafe and then walked the distance back to Maurices place. Unfortunately Maurice had a really bad headache and sinus trouble, so he wasn't really feeling up to much...just as well he was taking the day off.

Just before we left in the taxi to go to the coach station, Maurice gave me a little Christmas ornament from his own collection. It's a little robin sitting on an alligator clip, so that it can sit firmly on a branch. Robin is now sitting on the branch just under the Christmas Angel on our tree. It will be on all our trees from now on...a lovely reminder of a really good friend.

The weather for the trip back to Manchester was bleak. Really heavy storms were forecast...and we got them. It rained in torrents for most of the way.

We trundled our way along the streets, with our suitcase, looking for a bus stop to take us to Prestwich. We found one, but it was bucketing down and I wasn't in the best of moods. A taxi came into sight and we grabbed it. Far nicer than standing in the rain! Not only that, but it saved a walk in the rain at the other end.

Rob's dear Aunt Heather was waiting up for us and had a very lovely cuppa on the go. Bed was very, very welcome and I don't think either of us stirred, until morning.

I'll post the last 4 days of our trip shortly, after I've finished my Christmas list.

Vickie.

Posted by Midus at 11:17 AM

December 03, 2003

Swindon & More!

Hi all!
Sorry for the delay in getting around to this posting, but that damned virus I caught in the UK is still with me. I'm a lot better than I was and I'm back at work, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.

Back to our trip:
Day three saw us met at the coach station by our old mate Roger. He'd returned to Briton just a couple of days before we left on our visit. It was a pleasure to have a hug and see his 'ugly' mug again.

We did a little wandering around, prior to meeting up with his lady, Clair, in an Irish Pub (yep...I've forgotten the name.) Clair is a delightful lady and we sincerely hope that Roger brings her back to Australia on a permanent basis.
The food was great, the drinks were plentiful and the time passed too quickly. We arranged to meet Clair later for dinner, because she had to leave to go back to work.

We stopped off for coffee before our next move and I managed to give some person a wonderful Christmas gift. I went into a newsagency and somehow dropped 65 British Pounds. I hope their need was greater than ours.

Roger took us on a trip to see if we could take in a movie, but we'd seen most of them or they didn't fit into our time frame, so we went back to Swindon and had coffee and a tour of the shops...where I picked up yet another Christmas ornament.

On the way back in, we went around what must surely be the ultimate in traffic nightmares. It's actually called 'The Magic Roundabout'! It's a central large roundabout with five smaller ones on the perimeter. God help the unsuspecting tourist who is thrown into this traffic mahem.

Roger took us to visit his parents and to also check our mail on their computer. It wasn't such a good idea (the mail thing I mean) as they only have dial up and our time was limited.<g> After a cuppa, we were on the road again and it was time to pick up Clair from work...as Roger was driving her car.

Dinner was at a place called The Pattern Store. It was a converted factory(?) where they used to keep all the technical stuff attached to the railway. It was a huge place which retained a great many of the artifacts from its original usage. Again the food and company were wonderful and it was with heaps of regret that we took our leave of them at the coach station that night.

We arrived back in London a couple of hours later and were really glad to see bed...even if it was in the same horrible little hotel.

Next post I'll tell you about our visit to Bristol and my old friend Maurice.

I've posted a few snaps of our trip and there are more to come...when I eventually finish the role of film.

Stay tuned for further 'adventures'.

Vickie.

Posted by Midus at 12:51 PM

Sinclair's Manchester

Sinclair's Manchester

We wanted to have a meal in Sinclair's Oyster Bar, but we were too late!
It's still a great building to take a snap of though.

Posted by Midus at 12:28 PM

Prince Albert Square

Prince Albert Square

Poor Prince Albert...never has a man been more captured in stone than he!
Wherever Queen Victoria's Empire touched, a statue was erected. It must have been a problem to be so idlolized by his missus. This one is outside the Manchester Town Hall, in a square named in his honour.<sigh>

Posted by Midus at 12:25 PM

Some fireplace!

Fireplace Chambers

This rather overdone fireplace is in the Council Chambers of the Manchester Town Hall.

Posted by Midus at 12:20 PM

Shades of Autumn

Shades Of Autumn

I couldn't miss taking a pic of this beautiful coloured creeper on the side of a retirement unit.

Posted by Midus at 12:17 PM

Top of the Stairs.

Top Of Staircase, Manchester Town Hall

This is the top of a stairwell in Manchester Town Hall - very impressive!

Posted by Midus at 12:10 PM

Interesting Building

Interesting Building

No particular reason that I took this shot, other than it reminded me of some of the buildings in St.Louis Missouri.

Posted by Midus at 12:05 PM

The Local Motel.

Vaulted Ceiling MTH

This impressive pile of bricks and mortar is the Midlands Hotel Manchester. It would probably cost me a week's pay to stay one night.

Posted by Midus at 12:00 PM

Vaulted Ceiling

Vaulted Ceiling, Manchester Town Hall

As you can see, I like architecture and this is a great example of a vaulted ceiling in a corridor of the Manchester Town Hall.
Sorry about the Fire Exit sign, but it was the only way I could get a pic of the ceiling.

Posted by Midus at 11:57 AM

Ornate Ceiling.

Vaulted Ceiling Stair Well

I'm glad I don't have to clean the cobwebs off this ceiling! It's above a stairwell in the Manchester Town Hall.

Posted by Midus at 11:53 AM

The Duke of Lancaster

Christmas Tree Manchester 2003

This ornate statue of the Duke of Lancashire circa War of the Roses (not the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner version) stands in the foyer of the Manchester Town Hall.

Posted by Midus at 11:49 AM

Christmas Under Construction.

Christmas Tree Man 2003

Erecting the Christmas tree in Prince Albert Square Manchester...and I thought putting up a 5foot tree was a problem!

Posted by Midus at 11:45 AM

Sinclair's Oyster Bar & Pubs

Oysters And Beer Manchester

This delightful group of buildings is situated in the heart of Manchester.
How would you like this for your local Pub?

Posted by Midus at 11:40 AM

November 5th Heaton Park.

Bonfire Heaton Park

This is the bonfire at Heaton Park 5/11/03 where they burned Guy Fawkes in effigy. It's a yearly event all over GB.

Posted by Midus at 11:25 AM

Horseguards

Horseguard From Bus

I managed to snap this shot as we were passing in the bus.

Posted by Midus at 11:22 AM

Another Side of Nelson

Another Side Of Nelson

How many people take the rear of Admiral Lord Nelson? What can I say?... I appreciate the view.<g>

Posted by Midus at 11:19 AM

Red Square in Trafalgar Square.

Rob Trafalgar Sq 11th Nov

A cold day in Trafalgar Square and Rob is dressed for the weather.

Posted by Midus at 11:14 AM

November 22, 2003

Timed Out.

I'm back on Planet Oz and totally understand the Pope's urge to kiss the soil. The further I venture, the more Australian I become. Not in an ocker way, but in my desire to return as soon as possible.

At the moment, both Rob and myself are still battling jet lag. This, off course distorts everything. No amount of Bach Rescue Remedy has been able to fix it. I checked my blood pressure yesterday and it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

Rob is setting up a post on the subject of jet lag...he's actually trying to work out the hours we've slept or not slept, since we've been back. I've given up!

Our trip to London had it's highs and lows. Firstly our hotel, The Dover on Belgrave Road, Victoria...don't, unless totally desperate for a place to lay your head, give them your hard earned $$$! Our 'room' was on the third floor. That doesn't sound too bad, except the stairway was narrow, steep and like a switchback. It took 5 seperate sets of stairs to get there. No lifts and no help with the luggage. The breakfast room was down 2 flights from reception, in the basement. I feel totally exhausted just thinking about all the climbing we did. One night, I actually crawled up the last flight...and NO I wasn't drunk! The room itself was about the size of a breadbox. The double bed was jammed up against the wall with just enough room to walk next to it. In this space was crammed a clothes rack and a bedside table. At the foot of the bed was a dressing table. Facing the end of the bed was a tiny shower in a glass cubicle. It's just as well neither Rob or myself are particularly modest! Oh and yes, the loo was in the hall way! Ensuite in the UK means something totally different from the Australian version. If you want a shower and a loo in your room, you have to be specific.

We did, however, find a great place to eat and have a few drinks. The St.George's Tavern was just 2 blocks away and provided meals in three sizes, to cater for all appetites. Prices were reasonable and they had cheap drinks from a 3hr long happy session. This is one place we can recommend.

As we didn't have a heap of time in London, we decided to go for a bus tour with the Original Tour. It was a pretty good investment, as it gives 24hr travel on their buses and has 70 destinations where you can alight, sight see and then catch a bus that suites you, to continue your journey. We managed to see quite a bit without getting off the bus. London by night (well after 4pm) is still quite spectacular.

We did, however, get off the bus to visit 221B Baker Street. This, for those of you who don't recognize the address, is the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson. It's a really well put together, little museum of memorabilia and it's hard to remember that none of the events actually happened...especially after you've been greeted by Dr.Watson.<g> We gave it an A+ on the list of things to do...and we've the TShirts to prove it!

Oh...one special thing of note: We saw St.Paul's Cathederal - well we thought that's what we were looking at as the bus approached, but then we realized that the entire facade was actually a sketch of the building! It was covering the scaffolding that was in place while it was being cleaned. This must surely be the world record for Trompe-l'oeil. The rear of the Cathederal was still quite visible and yet to be cleaned. Rather like a Charles II virgin (if there was such a thing) showing a rather grubby pair of drawers.

On day 2, we were unfortunate enough to get caught up in the traffic mayhem connected with Rememberance Day at the Cenotaph. Our bus was 3/4hr late and we hung around getting more and more testy...along with a great many other tourists. Once underway, we actually saw the changing of the Horseguards on our way past. Our aim for the day was Oxford Street, Regents Street and a trip to Knightsbridge to Harrod's. We achieved all of those and managed a trip on the 'tube'...again held up, this time due to someone having fallen under a train. I'm now the proud owner of a zip top shopping tote from Harrod's with the name embroidered on the side. (I'm such a snob!LOL)

One of the things I make a habit of doing, is picking up ornaments for our Christmas tree and I scored very well in London.

Day three saw us on a coach again...this time to travel to Swindon and to visit our old mate Roger. I'll tell you all about that in my next post, which should be ready sometime tomorrow or Monday.

Vickie (Who is so very glad to be HOME!)

Posted by Midus at 09:16 AM

November 08, 2003

Across the Pond

Here I am, sitting in the Prestwich Library computer room, sweltering! I can't get used to the solid wall of heat that hits you as soon as you venture in from the outside. Shopping malls are like saunas and you could cook your Sunday roast on the floor of Boots the Chemist!

The weather this past 4 days was glorious. Autumn sent swirls of amber leaves on gusts of wind that were quite temperate. Today, Saturday, is pretty chilly. Rob and I are all rugged up when we are outside. It's not really unpleasent, just so long as the extremities are warm. We've both aquired some pretty snazzy hats etc.

Wednesday saw us on a hike across Heaton Park to find the huge bonfire that was to be lit later in the evening. Eventually we found the fun fair and behind it the mound of timber and the Guy. Remember, remember, the 5th of November etc. Prior to the ritual burning, the fireworks were set off. It was a pretty good display for a local community. Nothing like New Year and Australia day on the Bridge, but plenty of flash and bang. When the fire was lit, it was like something out of the Wicker Man and had a distinctly pagan feel to it. We headed for the exit gate on Sheepfoot Lane, only to find that the hundreds of people trying to get out a 3ft wide exit, were being held back by a mob of louts trying to push their way in. It began to get ugly after about 30mins of stalemate, with punches thrown, but then the police arrived and started weilding their riot battons on the trouble makers. It didn't take long for the crowd to disperse and we wended our long way home on foot.

We've been going to bed by 9pm and awake about 5am...it's totally insane and something that we will no doubt put right when we return.

Next week we're off to London. I'll keep you posted!

Toodle Pip!<g>

Vickie.

Posted by Midus at 10:58 PM