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London- Part 1

JH 10Fresh from the Yorkshire Dales, which could not be topped- we thought- we headed to London on the train – a rather fast train which didn’t enable much sight seeing. We discovered a confusing system of seat booking which many travellers, including us, ignored. This led to the occasional travel rage amongst those who had actually tried to reserve a seat. I also left one of our tickets in the machine in Sheffield- so if you are travelling by train in the UK, please be aware that the machine spits out an extra summary ticket. Luckily I was able to have the missing ticket re-issued.

We had massive plans for our London visit, just as we did for all our travel- see as much as you can in the short time you are there. The skies were overcast and threatening rain as we checked into our hotel in King’s Cross. We immediately set off on foot to find the travel information booth where we could purchase our Big Bus tickets.

With three days of bus travel purchased, we jumped on the nearest Big Bus and took a tour of the city, taking in St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and landmarks like the Shard, Big Ben and the London Eye. The city of London is an interesting mix of ancient and new. We soon determined our focus would be on the ancient and the Tower of London was pencilled in for the next day.

It was just our luck that Big Ben was getting a makeover – but then we realised it had been damaged in that episode of Doctor Who. You know the one. There was all manner of centuries-old architecture to admire including many pubs. But I couldn’t get over the ever present contrast between modern architecture and loved old landmarks.

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We finished our first day in London, uncertain of what the next day would bring and convinced that Yorkshire and Scotland were far superior.

GreenwichStay tuned for London Day 2, when we explore the Thames, Greenwich and the Tower of London.

Until next week!

Bernadette x

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James Herriot’s World

JH 10I was already in love with North Yorkshire – the dales, the stone houses, the narrow lanes and amazing views- but it was about to get even better.
As a child, my interest in being a vet was heightened by a certain television series called All Creatures Great and Small. The books and television program were set in this very region and the real-life practice that inspired the James Herriot phenomenon lies in Thirsk.

Alf Wright was the vet who wrote the best-selling books All Creatures Great and Small and its sister books, based on his life as a vet. He taught himself to type, and to write, and would record his veterinary stories each night after his long working day. I can’t even conceive of being able to do this, knowing the hours he would have been putting in. He named himself James Herriot after a football star at the time.
The practice is now a veterinary museum and tourists can explore the building, getting a sense of what life was like – the hardships of living in the Dales – not to mention practicing veterinary science there.

There is a bunker used to shelter during air raids,

a dispensary with all manner of weird and wonderful concoctions used to ‘treat’ animals

and outbuildings which have been turned over to a cinema and small film set.

The practice was more of a home, with many areas used for both family and business. Below you can see Mrs Pumphrey and her Pekingese, Tricky Woo.

The cosy breakfast room was the hub of the family and Alf would sometimes clear the table to perform surgery on one of his patients.

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Upstairs, where the bedrooms would have been, is housed a museum of veterinary instruments- a truly frightening array of hardware. Some of them are very similar to those modern vets still use.

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To top off the visit, St Mary’s Cathedral is just down the street. It’s a medieval church dating from 1480. I longed to have more time to learn about the building but we were due to head home.

And that was the fitting end to a fun-packed visit to The Dales! I’ll never forget it…

Stay tuned for next week’s adventure when we take on London!

Bernadette x

 

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James Herriot Country- North Yorkshire

After revelling in the delights of Chatsworth palace and gardens, we decided to escape, this time to James Herriot country- North Yorkshire. We had a sneaky day before we left for three days in London. That night was spent at The Rock Inn.

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Fortified by their full English Breakfast, we embarked on a fun day touring the Yorkshire Dales. We drove up and up, along narrow lanes…

through classic Yorkshire villages…

and discovered a lake/tarn on a large open tableland. It was 10 degrees Celsius and windy on this late spring day.


Heading out from the tarn, the local flock of sheep blocked the road. It really is true what they say about sheep. What a delight!


We couldn’t get enough of the expansive vistas. Around every bend was another feast for the eyes and soul!

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You could imagine James Herriot trekking across the paddocks in search of a sick sheep! It was also obvious how inhospitable these hills would be in winter- brrrrr!

There were so many stone fences and peaceful streams and magnificent trees.


I was excited to catch a pleasant pheasant in the wild. He was very obliging, allowing us to get very close.

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North Yorkshire was truly magnificent in spring. I want to go back and see everything we missed. You should too!

Next week I head to James Herriot’s old veterinary practice and you get to see a little of the man who inspired me to be a vet!

Until then…

Bernadette x

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Chatsworth House

Chats 17Chatsworth house was another spectacular sight in a whole list of them in our first week in the UK. It was a short drive from our base in Dore, Sheffield and we went with our son, Tom and his partner, Monique. The weather was magnificent and so was this stately home. We were permitted to take any photos we wished and took full advantage of the invitation.
While Michael and I toured the palace, Monique and Tom saved a few pounds and checked out the gardens. I was totally overwhelmed by the opulence of Chatsworth House. Sculptures, huge paintings and other treasures abounded. Even the ceilings were works of art.

I was fascinated by the paintings which took up all the walls of one of the main staircases, the ceiling of which was a magnificent dome.


My imagination was captured by several displays which I have included here.

Some of the rooms were a little dark to photograph well but there was still plenty to add to my iphone.

Chats 13The formal dining room was perfection as you can see below. Not a detail was missed, even in the ceiling.


There was a whole room of statues on the way out to the gardens.

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We found Tom and Monique lounging in the sun with plenty of other sight seers. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The maze was my favourite part of the gardens after the stunning flowers.

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I’ll leave you with two stunning images- the first looking from the mansion up to the head of the water feature and the second looking in reverse. Enjoy!

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Please join me next week when we hit the road again, this time it’s North Yorkshire!

Bernadette x

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Scotland Bound- Part 1

back Yard 2Our flights from Brisbane to the United Kingdom, landing in Columbo, Abu Dhabi and Manchester, could not be said to have been without event but finally we were at our ultimate destination- Dore, Sheffield. And while this part of the world has oodles of old-world charm, we had a mission to achieve. Scotland.

Aided by Tom and Monique, we planned a 4 night get-away, based on their road trip the year before. Airbnb was the site we used to book each night’s accommodation and the venues were affordable and suitable. The next morning, we hired a Mini Cooper and began our northern quest.

Windermere was our first night’s stop- a short 200 kilometre drive NNW from Dore. The countryside was magical- narrow lanes, stone fences and lots of sheep. The houses we passed were often stone with slate roofs. Our B and B room with its private ensuite, sat perched a short walk up the hill from Lake Windermere. Breakfast was taken underground in a charming breakfast room in the basement. And so began the first of many walks we would undertake on our three week holiday- broken only by our lazy days watching the cricket.

Lake Windermere was very pretty with small islands dotted across the lake and plenty of water birds and local perch and brown trout. We had a walk through the cemetery and partook of a massive cheese platter. I discovered Chile produces a very decent Sauvignon Blanc and continued to enjoy it throughout the UK!

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Off early the next day, our destination was Edinburgh. On the way, we stopped at Lake Keswell, enjoying more water fowl and a beautiful view of the lake, not to mention a lovely walk.

Then it was on to Lowther castle which was completed in 1812. The castle has a varied history, playing host to royalty and nobility for a century or more before being abandoned.

At one stage in WWII, it was occupied by the army and in 1957 it was partly demolished. Today, the castle ruins stand beside a grand façade and the only occupants are the castle gardens. The gardens and fields are extensive, however, and well worth a walk.

Having taken so long to explore Lowther castle, we arrived in Edinburgh late afternoon and decided that this city would need to be explored another time. However, we did discover Edinburgh castle- perched on a hill in the centre of the city – as we drove out next morning. And the Kelpies fascinated me- they are 30 metre high horse head sculptures, completed in 2013.

And that is where I leave you this week- on the way to the Scottish highlands. Stay tuned for beautiful snow capped mountains when I continue my Scottish adventure next week.

Bernadette x

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Our UK Adventure

IguanasYou will remember I left you last week as we arrived back in Brisbane after a wonderfully relaxing Island Hopper cruise with P & O. We had a week back in Brisbane to prepare for our three weeks in the United Kingdom. My husband and I had never been on a long-haul flight before and were anxious about how we would cope.

columboIt was not good news when we were told our 10.30 pm departure would be delayed a couple of hours and then we would have to stop off in Columbo and collect a new flight crew. Still, I settled back to enjoy catching up on movies such as The Greatest Showman and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As an author, it’s vital to fill the creative well and inflight entertainment is the perfect vehicle. I loved both movies. I also re-watched the first Twilight movie somewhere along the line and only wish I could have watched all three.

Our arrival in Abu Dhabi was met with the news that we had missed our flight and would be hosted free of charge in Etihad’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. A nuisance sandstorm stopped us from appreciating the beauty of the city. We enjoyed two meals and a lovely four-hour sleep then returned to the airport to resume our journey.

Finally, eighteen hours late, we landed in Manchester and were met by Tom, our oldest son. We were to base ourselves in Dore, Sheffield. The countryside we travelled through was immediately so different to home. I loved the stone walls and sheep and the lovely flowers and stone houses. There is something about natural stone that really speaks to me.

The home we were to stay in was cosy with a cute little private English garden and pear and apple trees in front. How great would it be to be able to pluck a fresh apple from a tree on your way to work? We explored the immediate surrounds and then Tom’s partner, Monique, helped us plan our Lake District and Scotland adventure.

And that’s where I leave you this week. Stay tuned for the first of our trips north from Sheffield.
Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 2

PV approach 1By Day 4, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company. We’d survived the rough departure from Brisbane up the coast, arrived in warmer and calmer climes and dipped our toes into the social scene on board.

Pv approach 2.JPGDay 4 saw our early arrival in Port Vila. The entry into the harbour was spectacular. We joined another tour and were driven around the area taking in a tribal cultural experience. We were greeted by a tribe of warriors and then met the chief, after which we were offered a fruity snack. To top it all off, I got to hang out with two local iguanas- don’t miss the little guy on my hat!

Port Vila was a city of contrasts- great beauty and serious poverty. There were five- star resorts as well as residents who had very little. I would love the chance to return some day and really get to explore the bays and beaches. The city area had few road rules or speed limits, so you had to have your wits about you as a driver or pedestrian. Josie and Sam enjoyed an outrigger canoe experience, along with snorkelling in the water between the two islands above.

After a fantastic Port Vila experience, we returned to the ship, determined to come back one day.  It’s only a two hour flight from Brisbane – very conveniently located- you can live as upmarket or casually as you wish.

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Facing us were two sea days before our arrival back in Brisbane. Determined to get the most from our cruise, we threw ourselves into the activities, watching movies, shopping the specials, having a small win at bingo, attending the music quiz each night and managing to snare an illusive spot for the four of us at the Luke Mangan High Tea.

As a last fabulous hoorah, Michael and I sang Karaoke late into the night, then went to our rest, satisfied we had had wrung every last experience out of the cruise.

Highlights of the cruise were:

  • delicious and varied food options included in your price
  • a fabulous entertainment staff and cabin stewards
  • fantastic island experiences
  • absolute relaxation
  • great time spent with our family

Recommendations:

  • don’t buy the drinks package
  • do take friends or family with you
  • go ready to have fun and unwind, far from social media

And that’s my Island Hopper Cruise report. Highly recommended!

Stay tuned for part one of our UK experiences next week…

Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 1

IMG_0221And so began the best four weeks of my life! Not knowing what to expect from our first cruise, we set sail from Brisbane for New Caledonia. Our travelling companions were Sam, our middle son, and his partner Josie. Embarkment day was my birthday, certainly a day I will never forget.

IMG_0230After a short delay boarding the ship Pacific Dawn, we sailed up the coast, able to catch a glimpse of the Glasshouse Mountains as the sun set. It was rough going, really testing those who had yet to get their sea legs. Thankfully I was fine.

IMG_0231Day 1 was a sea day- the ocean was an incredible blue and we had fun spotting flying fish- boy can those little guys soar! That night was the first night of the Pop Star heats. I sang Shania Twain but had no luck getting through.

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Day 2 dawned fine and smooth with New Caledonia on the horizon. We had time to take part in a delicious wine tasting before setting off for our tour of Noumea.

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Soon it was time to return to the ship for the Back to School blast!

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Day 3 was Lifou day and my personal favourite. We took tender boats to the beach then enjoyed an Islander tour, topped off when I went swimming off the beach and patted a turtle! We sat within the parliament hut where all the island decisions are made and were given a woven headband. There was even a feast prepared for us!

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By now, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company.

Stay tuned for my next instalment where we arrive at Vanuatu and then head for home!

Bernadette x