Monday, 25 August 2008

Olympic fever

Sunday, August 24 - Today is our last day in London (this time) and also the last day of the Beijing Olympics. As the 2012 Olympics are in London, there was great interest in the closing ceremonies and the Olympic Flag 'Handover Ceremony'. A party on The Mall has been sold out for months but the festivities in Beijing were being broadcast on big screens in a couple of other locations in London. We chose Trafalgar Square and about 11 am headed out on the tube. We found a fabulous seating spot on the wall of a fountain very near the big screen and PetDoc headed off to get us some sandwiches while we held the spaces. VISA handed out 2012 flags for us all to wave and the crowd cheered as the successes of Team GB were displayed by the BBC on the screen.

The handover of the Olympic Flag and the British presentation featuring a double-decker bus, Leona Lewis, Jimmy Page and David Beckham were enjoyed by the crowd. The fireworks were not nearly as exciting, however, on the screen as I'm sure they were in Beijing.

After the show we headed over to see 'The Gherkin' and went souvenir shopping through Leicester Square, Tower Hill and Piccadilly Circus. Satisfied with our remembrances, we headed back to Greyhound.

For our last supper (and since we hadn't been to a pub yet today) we caught a bus to The Jolly Maltster, where we all had the Sunday Roast (some had lamb and some beef). It was generous and delicious! A great way to wrap up our London visit.

Tomorrow it's home again. Our flight is at 1 pm, so we can be relatively leisurely in the morning to pack and get to the airport. The Singer is meeting us in Ottawa and after a brief tea-stop we'll be off to Gananoque.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Bognor Regis

Saturday, August 23 - When we went to see 'Glorious' at the 1000 Islands Playhouse earlier this summer, there were references in the piece to 'Bognor Regis'. We figured at the time that we were probably the only ones in the audience who had ever actually BEEN to Bognor Regis. Let me tell you why ...

Gananoque has got quite an airport for a community of 5000 residents. There's a reason! The Link Manufacturing Company in Gananoque produced the 'Link Trainer' - a flight simulating device to train pilots. In 1943-1944 hundreds of allied pilots were brought to Gananoque airport - some to train, others to be trained. One of the trainers was an RAF pilot named John. These visiting airmen were often entertained in Gananoque - one such event was a dance at the Gananoque Golf Club. At this dance John met a young woman named Alice, one of my mother's best friends (see, this isn't just a random World War II story!!)

Well, as you can guess, the two fell in love and Alice moved abroad, to be married in a little church in John's home town of Bognor Regis, on the south coast of England. They had four children and (since Alice's family still lived in Gananoque and John was a BOAC pilot with staff privileges) made frequent trips to Canada. The children were sort of like cousins to me and the eldest, Kate, is my mother's god-child. In later years, John and Alice often holidayed with Mom & Dad and and Ted and Clare, travelling across Canada and to Florida. This continued connection with John, Alice and their family has always been special for us. One of the reasons for our trip to Clovelly when we were in Cornwall last week was Mom's fond recollection of her trip to Clovelly when she and Dad visited John and Alice in England.

Sadly, both Alice and Mom are now gone but the Bognor Regis connection lives on.

Saturday we, along with PetDoc and Noise, took the train to Bognor Regis and had a lovely day at John's cottage in Felpham, visiting with him and two of his daughters. We had a delightful lunch, walked along the seashore, watched some Olympics, and then caught the late afternoon train back to London. I doubt that this will be our last trip to Bognor Regis.

Tonight we went to a pub which specializes in Bangers and Mash - I ordered a safe choice (pork with cheese) and was startled when my dinner arrived with the announcement that they were out of that selection and had substituted Wild Boar. Delicious!!!!

Tourists again

Friday, August 22 - Today we visited a couple of London must-see institutions - the British Museum and the British Library. Of particular interest in the former were the Greece exhibits, wherein the frieze and sculptures from the Parthenon are displayed, the Rosetta Stone, and the Egyptian wing with its sculptures (including a piece of the Sphinx) and mummies.

It was a nice day so we decided to walk to the Library. Note to self: the number 91 bus which stops outside the Museum stops shortly thereafter at the Library! We limited our visit to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library. Among these are: original musical manuscripts by Handel, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Mozart; the Magna Carta; early maps showing Ireland nearly as big as England; Shakespeare manuscripts; a Gutenburg Bible; pages from Leonarda da Vinci's notebook - well, you get the idea. One highlight for me (sounds plebian after the aforementioned list, but it's not) is the Beatles display. Here there are handwritten lyrics (some with corrections) for many familiar Beatle songs. I think my favourite (maybe it's the teacher in me) is the handwritten lyrics to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" with the notation "3/10 - See Me"

Our daily pub visit today was to O'Neill's, near the King's Cross tube station. We went for the 'Pickers and Sharers' - a combo of 4 starters (we chose cod, prawns, potatoes (with cheese and bacon) and chicken wings). We thought we'd get a plate with a couple of each (as we had at 'The Shakespeare' near Victoria Station) and were startled to be presented with generous portions of all four choices. The atmosphere was a little more like Kelsey's than a pub, but the food was great!

We stopped at the butcher shop near the Baron's Court station to pick up lamb burgers and chicken brochettes to barbecue and then walked through the cemetery (a wonderful short-cut and well-used) to Greyhound. Took Buggy for a short walk and then relaxed until PetDoc and Noise returned home from work for supper.

Saturday we're off to Bognor Regis, but that's a separate entry. Sunday we're planning to participate (as spectators) at Trafalgar Square in the Handover Ceremonies being broadcast from Beijing. The Olympic Flag will be handed over by the mayor of Beijing to the mayor of London (2012 and all that, you know) and there's going to be a city-wide party here. We wouldn't come to London for it, but since we're here ...

Friday, 22 August 2008

Relaxing Thursday ...

Thursday - Today we had no particular agenda so we started off with a trip to the Camden Canal Market. We watched with great interest as a couple navigated a narrow-boat through the canal lock. We've been through a ton of locks in our day, but we've never participated in the actual operation of the lock. The market was interesting (must tuck this location away in case we're looking for tatoos or piercings in the future) but items for sale could have been found in any market anywhere in the world - nobody had anything which had any local flavour to it. We stopped at the Oxford Arms for lunch and then got back on the tube and headed for High Street Kensington, an excellent shopping area.

Since, on our way, we were passing through King's Cross Station, we stopped for the obligatory picture at Track 9 3/4. I do believe the family set of photos here is now complete!

Supper tonight was at PetDoc & Noise's flat - barbecued chicken, vegetables, fresh baguette with dipping sauce. We enjoyed this delicious supper while we watched the BBC repeat broadcast of Eric Lemaze' gold-medal jump-off and Andrew Willows' advance to the K2 500m finals. We had seen both earlier today but PetDoc & Noise were now home to watch.

No agenda for Friday - we'll check out Rick Steves' recommendations and see if something (without too much walking) appeals to us. We're both going to need hip replacements when we get home - we've done so much walking and climbed so many hills and stairs!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Another day in olde London towne

This morning started with a tube ride to Victoria Station where we emerged to walk past the mews to the Buckingham Palace tours. These tours are something relatively new, offering a glimpse of the opulence and history of the interior public areas of the palace. No pictures are allowed inside, so the best I can offer is of the back of the palace from the garden.

From the palace we headed back toward Victoria Station where we grabbed a very tasty sandwich in Cardinal Place at a shop simply called EAT.

From here we went over to locate the Apollo Victoria Theatre to make sure we could find it to see 'Wicked' tonight. So often we have found that when you're trying to locate a landmark in a strange city you turn a corner a WHAM! - there's the Eiffel Tower -- WHOA! - there's Stonehenge -- WOW! - isn't that St. Paul's. Well, same deal with the Apollo Victoria Theatre - around the corner from Victoria Station and BOOM! - there's the theatre.

Confident that we could find our way to the theatre this evening we contemplated what to do for the next 6 hours. We started with a trip to Harrods - what a store!! Everything from fresh vegetables to a Bosendorfer piano for £51,000. Our only purchase was a Krispy Kreme donut and a coffee. From Harrods we took the tube to the Victoria and Albert Museum. If you want to know what's at the V&A, read Rick Steves. There's really no thread or plan to these exhibits - just a vast collection of stuff that British monarchs thought ought to be in a museum.

We then headed back to the Victoria Station area and had dinner at 'The Shakespeare', a pub noted for its fish & chips (which were excellent, btw). After a leisurely dinner (another way of describing slow service), we headed to 'Wicked'. It was awesome and that's not a word I use lightly. Being familiar with (having performed) some of the music and intimately familiar with 'The Wizard of Oz', it was spell-binding.

Two little asides here regarding theatre: 1) I realize they want to sell you a souvenir programme but every patron should receive a free programme which lists the cast, production crew, orchestra, etc. 2) When did it become OK to come into a theatre at any point in a show and get up and leave and come and go like it's a rock concert? Whatever happened to 'latecomers will be seated at a suitable break in the show'? I felt especially sorry for the person who got up just as 'Defying Gravity' began at the end of Act I. I hope she was please to be first in line at the bar, because she missed one of the most spectacular events in London theatre this year. However, that said, we thoroughly enjoyed the show although when we stayed and applauded the orchestra at the end people around us looked at us like we were from another planet. Here's a little teaser, taken during a legal moment:

Just around London

Tuesday - Today was a London walking day. We started out taking the tube to Trafalgar Square where we checked out the Olympics on the big screen. We were about an hour early for the paddling (we were hoping to see Andrew Willows' K2 heat) so we popped into the crypt at St. Martin in the Fields for a coffee. Back to the Square - still no paddling - so we went into the National Gallery. We spent over two hours and just covered the highlights (a least the highlights according to Rick Steves).

Then we went back to St. Martins for their free lunchtime concert - today's was a pianist and flutist from the US. Then down to the crypt again for lunch and a trip over to Leicester Square to check out the ticket situation for musicals Wednesday night. TKTS didn't have any bargains of interest so we paid a little more at a shop for tickets to 'Wicked'. We're seeing 'Les Miserables' at the 1000 Islands Playhouse next week and seeing it this week in London is not fair to them. And we're planning to see 'The Sound of Music' in Toronto, having cheered for our favourite Marias on CBC. So 'Wicked' it is.

Then down The Strand. This walk retraced for me the trip The Singer and I made a few years back - right by the restaurant and theatre where we ate and saw 'Chicago' - The Royal Courts of Justice - the Twinings Tea Shop - Temple Church - Old Bailey. On Fleet Street we stopped at 'Ye Old Cheshire Cheese' pub for a drink and fish and steak and ale pies and a quick sit in Charles Dickens' favourite seat beside the fire.
With renewed strength we headed down to St. Paul's - from here we walked across the Millenium Bridge and back along the Thames to the London Bridge tube station.

Back home, via Baron's Cross - we had to detour around the cemetery this time (gates closed by now) - seemed much longer but PetDoc says it's only a couple of minutes more.

Wednesday's itinerary is partially set - we have a tour of Buckingham Palace booked for 10 am and we're off to see 'Wicked' in the evening. Haven't decided about the hours in between, but I'm sure London has something to offer ...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Back to London, via Clovelly

Our accommodation at the Riverside Hotel in Boscastle was very nice, and after a full breakfast we set off on a little walk around the village. We walked down to the harbour - everywhere we were on the trip was low tide except Penzance - stopped at the bakery and headed off for Clovelly.

Cars are not allowed in Clovelly (unless you live there) so you pay $11 to park and enter the town and walk down a very steep beach-stone walkway through the town to the harbour. Again, it was low tide, and very interesting to see all the boats just sitting on dry land, attached to chains and ropes to float when the tide comes in. We walked around the harbour seawall and across the beach to a waterfall and then back up the hill (we've done a lot of walking and climbing and this was the first time we really felt pushed for conditioning). However, we made it without medical aid and got back in the car for the trip home. We bought pasties again today, to eat in the car, but they were not nearly as good as the ones at St. Ives.

One thing which amazes us as Canadians is that the English don't seem to alter their day's plans according to the weather. If they're planning to go to the beach today and it's raining, they go anyway. If it's windy they button up their jacket a little tighter. If the sun comes out, they take off their jacket. Nobody seems to comment on the weather - they just accept it and get on with their plans.

The trip back to London, navigated courtesy of Microsoft Auto-Route and the GPS, was via the motorways this time and much shorter (although we were already a good chunk of the way by the time we got to Clovelly). We picked up Buggy, dropped off the car and had supper just before 8 pm. PetDoc and Noise are both working today (Tuesday) so we're heading out this morning in hopes that they'll be showing Andrew Willows' K2 heat on the big screen at Trafalgar Square. If so, we'll probably be the only ones in the Square who know him. Don't know what the rest of the day will bring - we're hoping to take in a show some night and we have reservations to tour Buckingham Palace tomorrow morning. And, of course, we're travelling to Bognor Regis on Saturday to visit the Hudspith clan.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Cornwall - the REAL one

Saturday - Noise and I took a bus to the car rental place and picked up a brand new Skoda for our trip to Cornwall. With the help of Auto-Route (Streets and Trips for Europe) we navigated our way to Buggy's sitter and out of London without any muss or fuss.

Our drive to Penzance took longer than we expected - there were several bottle-necks on the highway. As the highway moved from 4-laner to 2-laner and back, traffic slowed to a standstill. And around Salisbury traffic was very slow because everyone was rubber-necking to see a pile of rocks beside the highway. Don't know what all the fuss was about - it's not like it's something new to see.

We arrived in Penzance in the late afternoon and checked into our B&B (Chiverton House). We had chosen it partly because it is close to the promenade on the seawall so before dinner we walked down to the ocean and enjoyed watching the surf splashing up over the wall. we also visited the obligatory Pirate Gift Shop (Penzance, you know) but refrained from purchasing anything. We had dinner at Turk's Head, a pub dating back to 1233 - the oldest pub in Penzance. After dinner we walked around the town and marvelled at the palm trees lining some of the streets.

Sunday - After a scrumptious full breakfast at the B&B, we headed first to Mousehole, a little community clustered around a small harbour, up the coast from Penzance. Then we trusted the GPS and headed overland toward Land's End, the most westerly point in England. We travelled on some roads today that were barely wide enough for our car, let alone to meet another car (which we did on several occasions). We had to do some serious squeezing, jockeying and a bit of backing up to negotiate some of the encounters. We even had to fold in the side mirrors a couple of times. We would never had tried to navigate this route except the GPS kept telling us we were on the green route (the route we had laid out the night before).

We made a stop at Sennen Cove and walked on the beach - a beautiful, broad sand beach with enough surf that there were surfers. Then we started off for St. Ives. Only when we had completed the nursery rhyme did we realize that we had missed the turn and had to go back. At St. Ives we parked about a 10-minute walk above the town (straight down - and straight up on the way back!!). We walked down to the harbour, had Cornish pasties for lunch and ice cream for dessert. Then we climbed the mountain back to the car and were on the road again.

Off to Tintagel - on this route we encountered the scariest narrow and steep roads of the day. However, we arrived in one piece and set of to tour the castle ruins where King Arthur is purported to have been born. It is a fascinating site, perched on the side and top of a huge island mountain. The trek was a lawyer's dream - very steep and dangerous. The stone steps (about 3,000 of them) were very uneven and slippery (it had been raining) but the view from the top was worth the climb.

Then back in the car for a short drive to Boscastle where we have a reservation at the Riverside Hotel. We had a wonderful dinner of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, lots of potatoes and six vegetables. We all had dessert as well, with clotted cream. We thought we'd climbed enough steps today to justify the calories.

Off to bed now - tomorrow we have breakfast at the hotel and then Clovelly and back to London.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Anybody got the time???

Today both PetDoc and Noise had to go to work so the Bluffdwellers did a little sightseeing on their own. We caught the tube down to Westminster and hopped on a tour boat to Greenwich. The boat had an open deck on the top and it was a gorgeous sunny day so we very much enjoyed to hour-long trip down the Thames. That's not the London Eye in the background but a huge wheel at Greenwich.
Once at Greenwich, we had a look around the Royal Naval College and then dropped into a pub for lunch. After lunch we headed up to the observatory to experience the tourist 'prime meridian' experience (one foot in the western hemisphere - the other in the eastern). Then we went through the Maritime Museum which contained, among many other interesting displays, the uniform Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at Trafalgar. The original painting "The Death of Nelson" is also on display.
From Greenwich we took a combination of train and tube to Wimbledon, where we had a tour of PetDoc's clinic. Now when she describes things at work we'll have a mental image to go along. She then gave us a bit of a tour of Wimbledon Village (as much as our legs would stand - it's a long hike (if you've just been up to the observatory at Greenwich) from the tube to PetDoc's clinic). So we stopped in a pub for sustinence (are you beginning to see a pattern here?!).

Noise met us and we had pizza at Napule, at Fulham Broadway, where they serve pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven and served by the metre. Each of us had a different kind so the table was quite an array of sights and smells.

Tomorrow we're off early to pick up the rental car, drop off Buggy, and then a 6-hour drive to Penzance. We're expecting three sunny, hot days so we can enjoy the beaches of Cornwall. Yeah, right!!!

Off to London!

Well, here we are in London, comfortably situated in PetDoc's flat drinking instant coffee.

Wednesday we started out in Ottawa having birthday lunch with Singer and Serdic and then headed off to the airport. As we approached the check-in counter, we saw J & S's Zoom flight land (they were returning from a 2-week visit with PetDoc) so once we were checked in we headed to Arrivals to wait with their mom for them to disembark. This sure helped shorten the wait for our own flight - once through security we only had about a 20-minute sit at the gate before our own flight was loaded.

Our flight was comfortable and actually appeared to be short. The A-V system was not working so there was no music / TV / movies - only the map showing our progress across the Atlantic. Air Canada has offered us a 5% discount on our next flight as compensation for the lack of entertainment. This is a very real possibility because we REALLY like this direct flight from Ottawa.

As we approached London the pilot gave us a wonderful banked view of the highlights of the city. We were able to see all the landmarks and even got a glimpse of PetDoc's street (the tennis courts of The Queen's Club are a dead giveaway). After passing through customs and collecting our luggage we headed to the Arrivals lobby where PetDoc was waiting for us. Then on to the tube to head home. It was strange to get off the tube at Baron's Court and know exactly where we were and where to go. The Google satellite images and maps have allowed us to become familiar with this neighbourhood even before we left home.

Noise had not left for work yet so we were able to deliver a large box of Tim-Bits in person as requested. A few were kept but the rest went to the London office of PWC for a little taste of Canada.

We went for a little walk with Buggy around the immediate Greyhound Road neighbourhood; had to check out the Vespa. We then decided that if we were going to adopt London time were were going to have to consider the breakfast we were served on the plane a midnight snack and have breakfast in London at London breakfastime.

Later in the morning we caught the tube downtown to meet Noise for lunch. We had a very nice lunch at a pub on Fleet Street and did a little sightseeing in the area. Then we took the tube to Tower Hill. We headed to St. Katharine Docks and had a coffee before we walked across Tower Bridge and along The Queen's Walk in front of City Hall. After a visit to The Borough Market (Borough Market is London’s oldest food market, established on the south bank of the Thames when the Romans built the first London Bridge) to pick up some fruit & veggies for supper we walked across London Bridge to catch the tube back to Baron's Court. It was rush-hour so fairly crowded but at least we didn't need Japanese-style pushers to get us on board.

After a great supper of stir-fry and Pims (gotta have Pims!!) we turned in fairly early. This morning (Friday) both PetDoc and Noise have to work so we'll do some sightseeing on our own. We're thinking maybe today's plans will include a visit to Greenwich. We're meeting PetDoc at her clinic after work - we saw Noise's stomping ground yesterday; today we'll see how the other half works.

Tomorrow we're picking up our rented car, dropping Buggy at a sitter's, and heading off for a couple of nights at Cornwall. We have B & Bs booked and all we need now is sunny, warm weather.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Bluffcam

Earlier this summer we decided to save a few trips up and down the cliff to check on the boat. We bought a wireless camera and mounted it on a post at the top of the cliff, aimed at the dock. Even though it's stretching the limits of the wireless range, it transmits a clear enough image that we can check on the waterfront situation by turning on the TV. If I get up the energy to trim a few trees (between the camera and the dock and between the receiver and the camera) the image will be even clearer. All in all, it's a pretty effective outfit for <$30 on eBay. Better not skinny-dip off our dock or the video will be on YouTube.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Rainy but nice ...

We just got back in from a couple of weeks out - we spent the long weekend on the main dock in the bay at Beau Rivage; came in Monday to get ready for a charity cruise on Tuesday we had auctioned of at the Grace Church Budget Booster in May. We had probably the nicest weather we've had all summer on Tuesday and found an empty dock at Camelot. After lunch we cruised down around Mulcaster and up the inside channel. Wednesday morning we headed out again, this time down to the 1000 Islands Bridge. There's almost always space at the North docks on Georgina because boat traffic makes it quite rough there, but we had two great nights with m-in-law (though it rained a good bit of Thursday - bless the hard-top again!!). Friday morning we motored over to Ivy Lea and then made our way to Mulcaster for a night. By this morning our house batteries were dead (no generators allowed on Mulcaster) but we're home, plugged in, ready to go. Tomorrow (pray for good weather) we're out for the day with another family who bought a day's boating at another auction and then we'll pack it in for a couple of weeks as we get ready to travel to England to visit PetDoc and Noise (and Buggy).

btw - while we were at Beau Rivage last weekend I removed the stock swim ladder (a two-step job that swung up and fastened to the stern boarding ladder. We felt that this made climbing the ladder to the boat awkward and as a swim ladder two steps was not quite enough. We replaced it with an under-platform 3-step ladder and it's much more satisfactory. It also increases the amount of space on an already small swim platform.

We've been struggling with which kind of dinghy davits to buy and finally settled on the C-hoop style. We've seen a lot of weaver davits pull loose with the stress of leaving the outboard motor on the dinghy and we liked the idea of being able to offset the dinghy to one side or the other if necessary. We also sprung for the swivel motor bracket (scroll down a bit), allowing us to keep the outboard nearly vertical when carried on the swim platform. Lifting, securing and lowering is really quite easy and the system appears to provide an excellent method for carrying the Zodiac.

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