Last day in London

Last day in London
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


We had no plans for today. It was our last day in London so we thought we’d just see what we felt like doing on the day.

We decided that we couldn’t in all good conscience stay 2 blocks from the British Museum and not go there, so that was our first stop. Lil Sis wanted to see the Rosetta Stone, and we duly located it, viewed it and were suitably impressed. Equally as impressive was the vast array of Rosetta Stone souvenirs. You name it, they had it: UBS sticks, paperweights, keyrings, fridge magnets, bookmarks, travel card holders, jigsaw puzzles . . .

We spent some time browsing through the British history section of the museum, looking at the artefacts from Celtic and Roman times. One of the features was the Lewis Chessmen (the most famous chess set in the world) (also available on a wide range of souvenir products). I was lining up a shot of the board when a man with a much bigger camera than mine, and therefore clearly superior to me elbowed me aside to take a photo. Then, not 60 seconds later, I was looking at the exhibit from the other side when a French tour group arrived to take up position exactly where I was standing. The tour guide manoeuvered herself into place precisely, while announcing loudly to the group, but obviously intended for me to hear, that tour groups had priority.

I don’t recall seeing any signs in the museum advising non-members of tour groups of this, but she said it so authoritatively I’m totally sure she was completely correct. I mean tour groups are the only people on schedules aren’t they?

Wedged tightly between this tour guide and the glass of the exhibit, I wasn’t exactly sure how she expected me to move out of the way so that her precious tour group could have the priority viewing that they were so clearly entitled to. I felt like staying there and listening to her talk, but I heard her saying something about non-group members not being welcome. She looked most offended, however, when she had to move so I could make my escape.

Of course a visit to London wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory bump-into-someone-you-know-at-a-famous- landmark routine. For us it was Lil Sis’s TAFE teacher at the British Museum.

After we’d had enough of that, we took the train to St Paul’s. We wanted to climb up to the top of the dome to look out over London.

We forgot one thing.

It’s Sunday.

They don’t allow people to tour St Paul’s Cathedral on Sundays on account of all the services that are going on. You can go in, but they ask you not to walk around. (You can, however, buy postcards.) So we saw what we could and then made our way, haphazardly, to the Millennium Bridge across the Thames.

This bridge is a footbridge only, and apparently was closed as soon as it was opened because on the first day, there were so many people on it the whole thing started swinging and they needed to further reinforce it.

We walked past the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe, but you don’t get a very good view of it, and had lunch at a Turkish restaurant nearby.

After lunch – which ended up being about 4pm – we did the 10 minute highlights tour of Tate Modern (we looked through the surrealists gallery). The vague plan was to make our way to the Freemason Temple via a couple of pubs and then head back to the hotel for an early night.

What we actually did involved a lot of walking, a couple of pubs and a lot more photos for the Monopoly Crawl. This became somewhat addictive, as we checked the map to see how close we were to the next street we needed, and debated whether it was too far or whether we should keep going.

So we ended up with a night time tour of some of the swankier parts of London. We admitted defeat when we got to the point that we’d need to go on more than one train to get to a couple of the further away places (but kicked ourselves when we realised how close we’d been to them at the Tower of London). I think we did well to get what we got, as we were really only in London for 3 and a half days.

We missed a couple of train stations, a couple of streets (some that we got from buses rather than going there), the Waterworks (we think Tate Modern used to be the Electric Company), and actually going to Gaol. That last one is probably a good thing.

The family history trail begins

The family history trail begins
Salisbury, United Kingdom

Salisbury, United Kingdom


The main reason for our trip is to visit our Auntie R, our late father’s only sister. She lives in East Sussex, and we’ve only met her once – almost 20 years ago when she visited Australia with our youngest cousin. She’s our only aunt and we don’t have any uncles and we’ve only ever known her through letters and the time that we met her.

We’ll be visiting her next week, but before then there will be a couple of day trips from London to begin us on our search for our father’s past. A very brief history of him: he was born in the UK, was evacuated from his home as a child in World War 2, was conscripted into the armed forces with the Royal Engineers, served overseas in places like Egypt, Malta and Malaya-Borneo and moved to New Zealand after he was discharged before settling in Australia, where he met our mother.

Before he passed away he wrote us out a history of his life, with a lot of anecdotes of his life before he met our mother.

We decided we wanted to go to Salisbury. The main reason for this is that when we were growing up there was a print of a John Constable painting of Salisbury Cathedral in our lounge room. We wanted to see it because it was something that had been a constant in our lives for many many years.

Originally we’d planned to do a day tour to Salisbury and Stonehenge, but when I was re-reading his journal, I realised that the place his paternal grandparents had lived, and the place he had lived in for a lot of the war was a small town called Amesbury, which is only just down the road from Stonehenge.

It’s the town that earlier this year was recognised as being the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Britain.

None of the day tours go to Amesbury, but it seemed like an important part of our father’s story, so we ditched the day tour idea and made our own arrangements.

Salisbury is a 90 minute train ride from London Waterloo. We booked tickets on the Stonehenge Tour, which gives you a short tour of Salisbury, transport and entrance to Stonehenge and also, if you want, to Old Sarum, which is the original site of the settlement of Salisbury.

Our train arrived in time for the first Stonehenge bus departure of the day, so that was our first stop. I was interested in Stonehenge, but didn’t think we’d spend more than about an hour there. We had a look through the exhibit at the Visitor Centre and then boarded the shuttle for the drive to the stones.

I wasn’t prepared for how amazing the stones would be and didn’t expect to spend as much time as we did just looking at them and soaking in the atmosphere around them. This surprised me because the place was packed with people, most of whom were trying to take the perfect selfie in front of the stones. (We might also have been guilty of this.) But there was something about this place that made me want to stay and not rush past.

It was fascinating and amazing, and I can’t rech bcally explain why.

When we finally left the stones, we called a taxi to take us to Amesbury. Stonehenge isn’t well served by public transport: the only way to get there from Salisbury is on the official tour bus or by taxi. There are local buses between Salisbury and Amesbury, but they don’t go to Stonehenge.

I think the taxi driver was amused by us wanting to go to Amesbury. It’s a small town, population about 9000, and cost us about £13 to get there. The taxi driver said we’d see the whole place in 5 minutes. We asked him where we could find a good pub for a meal in Amesbury, and he said Salisbury. I think he must had had a hard time not laughing. He said all the pubs there were rubbish.

Not to be deterred we had lunch in a pub called The Bell, which is part of the JD Wetherspoon group so its kind of like a chain pub, with the same menu as all the other pubs in the group. A particularly nice deal was the meal + a drink deal, which included a meal (obviously) plus a drink from a selection on the menu (a pint of Guinness thanks) for about £7.

After lunch, we walked around the town and made our way to the Amesbury History Centre and Museum, where we met some lovely people, including Norman, who told us some of the history of the area and explained how they had come to find the artifacts that proved Amesbury was the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Britain. It was really interesting. They had a big collection of flints and tools, and Norman told us about the digs they’d done to find these pieces.

We told them who we were and why we’d come to the town and they were very helpful in explaining how we might find the schools our father had attended and also the former Pickfords depot – which our family had operated for a time. We found the schools and wanted to see the cemetery, but didn’t make it that far in the end (and they’d told us that it would have been difficult to find the family graves anyway).

We wanted to get back to Salisbury in time to see the Cathedral, so instead of catching a taxi back to Stonehenge and getting back on the bus, we caught a local bus directly there.

Salisbury is a beautiful medieval city with a population of about 40,000. The first cathedral was built at Old Sarum in 1092, and the foundations for the new cathedral were laid in 1220. It’s been added to since its original construction, including the massive spire, which was constructed between 1300 and 1320. The cathedral houses one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta (which we were too late to see).

It is an awesome building. A complete contrast to Stonehenge, and absolutely stunning. The work that must have gone into building it is mind blowing.

We walked around the town, we think we found the secondary school our father had attended before he returned home, and also the Infirmary where he was taken from Amesbury when he had a serious accident.

We decided to have dinner in one of the pubs before returning to London on the train. A very full and interesting day out.

Hop on Hop off

Hop on Hop off
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


Our first full day in London. I woke up feeling relatively normal, which was a relief. Breakfast was included in our hotel rate, so we didn’t have to go anywhere. S

peaking of the hotel, you’d think our room would have a fridge wouldn’t you? Maybe this is just an Australian thing, because it’s not something we’d even thought about. However, at this hotel, you had to ask for a room with a fridge in it. We didn’t, so no fridge for us. Not a major deal in the grand scheme of things, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a different room, because we hadn’t realised until we’d unpacked yesterday. Repacking and unpacking again was not something I had any intention of doing.

We had tickets for a hop on hop off bus tour of London. There were several routes taking in various areas around the city and a stop for the ‘museum’ route was close to our hotel, so we duly hopped on the bus and plugged into the headset commentary. At one point the commentator reminded passengers to take all of their belongings with them when they got off the bus. This included their bags, coats, cameras and, of course, their children. We weren’t sure if this was supposed to be a joke or not.

After a couple of stops, we changed onto the route with the live commentary, which was a lot more personal. Our guide, Steve, was friendly and gave a really interesting commentary. During the day we learned that Steve doesn’t like modern art, and that jokes about no work ever being done in public servant offices aren’t just an Australian thing. There was a lot of information about the things we passed by and I don’t remember any of it.

We saw most of the landmarks you’d expect to see in London. Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! (Although as we all know, Big Ben is the name of the bell, not of the tower, which is called Elizabeth Tower. The Great Bell chimed 12 as we went past.)

We played Spot a Monopoly Square (I’m sure we aren’t the first people to do that) and were basically overwhelmed by how much there is to see and how much we wouldn’t get to see in only a week.

The bus took us past Buckingham Palace, which is open to visitors at the moment while Her Majesty is away on holiday. (I noticed that this was how Steve referred to her, where we Aussies would just have said ‘the Queen’.) It’s tempting, because this opportunity isn’t available very often.

We crossed the Thames several times, including over the Tower Bridge, and ended up at Westminster Pier, where we took a river cruise back up the way we’d just come. The river cruise guide told us about the history of London’s watermen, and explained that it was a tradition dating back 500 years, carrying people and goods across the river. In recent years their role has changed to taking people on pleasure cruises. He said he was very proud to carry on the traditional profession of waterman.

The river cruise took us under the bridges we’d crossed on the bus, including London Bridge, Waterloo Bridge (built by women during World War 2) and up to the Tower Bridge, where we got off to visit the Tower of London. I didn’t have much of an idea about what I might want to see in London, but as soon as we passed the Tower in the bus, we both decided we wanted to go and see it.

After a quick lunch break, we made our way in, past the security guard whose job it was to confiscate any chocolate visitors might have, just in time for the start of one of Yeoman Warder tours. The Yeoman Warders are the bodyguards on duty at the Tower.

The tour was a little over 30 minutes and then we were free to explore the Tower on our own. We saw the Crown Jewels, the tower where the two princes were supposed to have been imprisoned, walked along the wall, saw the ravens (there is a legend that the Kingdom and the Tower will fall if the 6 ravens leave the tower, so Charles II insisted that they be protected – there are currently 6 captive ravens at the Tower -plus one spare).

We shopped for tacky souvenirs – which is going to be a theme of the trip, as always. If you haven’t worked it out yet, this will be a feature of the whole trip.

At the end of the day we hopped on another hop on hop off bus, but we were too late to catch the one that would take us back to our hotel, so we got off at Baker Street Station and caught the Tube to Kings Cross, where it was an easy walk back to our hotel, having dinner at a pub on the way.

Slabs will appreciate this, but when I was talking to the barman, he asked if I was from New Zealand. He was surprised that I wasn’t, because he said he thought he’d heard a Kiwi twang in my accent.

We made it

We made it
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


Remember that sleep I was going to get on the flight from Dubai to London?

Hahahahaha!

We left Dubai at about 2am Dubai time (11pm UK time), with a revised ETA into Heathrow of 6.45am, apparently due to strong headwinds.

I did try to sleep but, apart from maybe an hour of light napping, and a couple of 20 minute blocks, it didn’t happen. From sneezing man on the last leg to wriggling woman in the seat behind on this leg, I had no hope.

So a 4am breakfast was welcome, and chicken curry with coconut rice was a nice way to start the day.

We finally arrived at Heathrow at 7.15am, and started to worry that we might be too late for our booked hotel transfer, which we had to notify if we’d be any later than 90 minutes past our pickup time.

Being new to border security/customs procedures, we had no idea how long this side of things was going to take. The clock was ticking past 7.30 and it really didn’t look like we’d be out of there before 8.00, so I suggested to Lil Sis that we call the transfer company.

What ensued I will put down to lack of sleep, but it involved an unactivated SIM, no reception, a credit card and a pay phone that charged rates that I’d expect to pay for a bus ticket rather than a phone call. We eventually found our driver and, in the way of everyone who goes overseas, found ourselves booked on the same transfer car as the lady who had commented on our light packing in Melbourne. Of course, she’s also booked on the same return flight as us next week.

Travel tip: Pre-booking the airport transfer was a great idea. The thought of struggling onto a train with our bags after so little sleep and more than 24 hours travelling was too horrific to contemplate. This is a situation where price becomes irrelevant. It took a bit over an hour to get to our hotel. I spent most of the trip looking at the buildings and comparing them to ones back home. The housing rows just out of the airport were really interesting and I don’t remember ever seeing anything like them in Tasmania. They looked typically English.

Luckily our hotel room was ready when we got there – this was worth the phone call before we left. A blissful shower was my first priority. I’d thought about having a shower in one of the transit airports, but once we were in the airports, it seemed like it was going to be a lot of trouble to organise. And I’d just end up feeling grotty again anyway. So I decided to put up with it. So the shower was great.

Then I managed to Skype Juniordwarf and Slabs. It was so good to see them. When it was time to go Juniordwarf kissed me on the iPad screen.

Then it was time to explore. We’re staying near Russell Square in Bloomsbury, and we’d found a craft beer pub in the next borough called the Holburn Whippet. It sounded like it would be worth a visit, so we made our way there for lunch via the O2 phone shop so I could buy a phone and an international SIM card.

Holburn Whippet serves light lunches: burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. We sampled a couple of beverages, had a yummy lunch and decided that London wasn’t all that much different to Sydney (sorry London). I was expecting to feel different being in a different country, but I really don’t. Sure it’s bigger and older, but when you’re on the ground, the immediate space around you is no bigger than the immediate space around you at home. And while there are more people on the street and vehicles on the road, they are spread out over a bigger area, so there aren’t heaps more people or vehicles in your vicinity. The city ‘feel’ extends further out from the CBD than in our cities, but it still feels like one of our cities.

That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I was expecting. So while I’m on the other side of the world, and I’d been travelling for over a day, in some ways it doesn’t feel like I’ve gone anywhere. It’s an interesting feeling that I’m just going to sit with.

After lunch, we bought some postcards, looked for tacky souvenirs and oriented ourselves around the train stations. We found that when you book train tickets online and nominate a station to pick them up from, even though it says you have to pick them up from that station, you can pick them up from any station with a ticket collect self-service machine. So we picked up all of our tickets for the rest of our stay.

While we were writing out postcards in the hotel bar, it occurred to me that I’d gone almost 48 hours without sleeping. Following the travel advice on adapting to a new time zone, I really tried to stay awake until as close to my normal bed time as possible, but it wasn’t going to happen, and it was a 7pm bedtime for me.

find me friday #5

Welcome to Find Me Friday, the series where I post a picture of part of a building and you have to find it.

This week I have some updates and corrections to some earlier posts, now that I have more information.

My source is the book “Here’s Cheers: A Pictorial History of Hotels, Inns and Taverns in Hobart”, by C. J. Dennison. 

Mr Dennison is also the author of “Yesterday’s Hobart Today”, which was published last year by the Hobart City Council. “Here’s Cheers” is written in a similar style and provides a fascinating insight into many of Hobart’s forgotten pubs, as well as those that have survived the wrecking ball.

So before I reveal where last week’s photo was from, I have some updates on a couple of previous posts.

Hobart Animal Hospital (Find Me Friday #4) – 198 Murray Street

Image

The site of the Hobart Animal Hospital on the corner of Murray and Brisbane Streets was the site of the Sir John Franklin Hotel, which, according to Mr Dennison, was first listed in 1847.

He says that the hotel was “part of a nest of brothels that had sprung up in that area of Hobart, in a precinct centring on hotels around the Lamb Inn, which was a little further down Brisbane Street”. 

The site of the Lamb Inn is now occupied by Freedom Furniture.

“Union Building” (Find Me Friday #3) – 67 Murray Street

Image

This one confused me, because I thought that this was the site of the Plough and Harrow Hotel circa 1867, but other references to the Plough and Harrow suggested that it was actually closer to Bathurst Street.

A picture of the Plough and Harrow exists on the State Library website (link here) and it really doesn’t look like it’s at the location of the current “Union Building”.

Some light was shed on this when I found out that street numbers in Hobart changed in about 1907-08, so what is now 67 Murray Street probably wasn’t in 1867.

Mr Dennison to the rescue again.

He says that the Plough and Harrow opened in 1842 and it was just up from the north-eastern corner of Bathurst and Murray Streets – pretty much a block up from where I thought it was.  According to Mr Dennison, this area at the time was “down-at-heel” and the hotel didn’t have a particularly good reputation. It closed in the 1880s and all of the buildings on the lot were demolished.

The building that replaced them is still there today, and if I’d been more organised I would have taken a photo of it, so you’ll have to trust me on that one. It was originally the YWCA Building and is now called John Opie House, home to the Fight Cancer Foundation.

So – what was on the corner of Murray and Liverpool Streets?

Was it a pub?

Of course it was.

It was first opened in 1825 as the King George, and renamed the Duke of Clarence Inn in 1844.  Mr Dennison says that the pub was used as a polling booth on election days.

Now there’s an idea. Voting at the pub. Can we make this a thing?

In 1846, the publican was Ann M’Andrew, and this is what it looked like (link here).

(By the way, there are a lot of sketches on the Library’s website of former Hobart pubs, which were drawn by Andrew Fleury, an Irish immigrant who arrived in Hobart as a child in the late 1860s.  His drawings are the only known pictures of some of the pubs, and they feature prominently in Mr Dennison’s book.)

Find Me Friday #5

And now, to last week’s puzzle.

ImageIt is, as the sign suggests, a barber shop.

But where?

I do like to keep people guessing, and I know one person has been trying hard to find it with no success.

It’s a bit out of my normal walking zone, but I was in Hampden Road last week and this building caught my eye. Actually, I think it was the sign rather than the building.

ImageIt’s the Three Thirds Barbers Lounge, at 76 Hampden Road.

ImageI don’t know anything about it, other than this report from The Mercury from 2012.

ImageBefore Three Thirds opened it seems to have been an architect’s office. And before that, I’m afraid I don’t know.

This week’s puzzle is this lovely coloured window. Do you know where it is?

Image

Dunalley Hotel

Yesterday we went to Dunalley, the small town that was devastated by a huge bushfire in January.
The road to Dunalley
I’ve tried several times to write about the trip, but what can you say when faced with such huge devastation? It was heartbreaking to see the effects of the fire, but inspiring to see things like the new school that was up and running for the start of the school year, about a month after the fire.
We had lunch at the Dunalley Hotel. I have a vague connection to this pub, as my Great Great Great Grandfather built it.
Dunalley Hotel
 
The original hotel was built in 1866 and burnt down in 1891. My Great Great Great Grandfather, Alfred Dorman, was the builder of the new hotel. 
My mother, the family historian, did some digging into the story of Alfred, and found that he arrived in Tasmania in 1883 under a program intended to increase the supply of skilled labour in the state.  He lived in Hobart and worked as a builder on projects including a number of hotels and Marine Board buildings. 
The plans for the new Dunalley Hotel were drawn up by Robert Huckson, the architect whom Alfred had worked with on some of the Marine Board projects. Alfred was engaged to construct the new hotel. It would seem that once the building had been completed, the insurance money paid to the previous owner of the hotel was nowhere to be found and so the building was auctioned. It was purchased by a Queensland investor, who installed Alfred as licensee.
This appeared to have been a wise move for Alfred, as he was able to build a large accommodation block adjoining the pub to house people involved in the construction of the nearby Dension Canal, who presumably would also have regularly patronised the pub. Such was Alfred’s investment in the area (he also successfully tendered for some of the work associated with the canal project), that one of the locals named the canal ‘Dorman’s Ditch’, a name that stuck for quite some time.
 
Alfred did so well out of the hotel and the other projects that he was able to buy it in 1912, but sold it two years later. After taking a world tour with his wife and three of his children, he returned to the area and purchased a property at Eaglehawk Neck, where he first started apple farming, then turned to vegetable farming and timber milling. He remained there until he died in 1933.
View from the pub looking to the Dunalley Fish Market
We had a great lunch at the pub (which has been refurbished and added to considerably since 1891) and then went for a drive (in the wrong direction, well done navigator). We didn’t have a lot of time today as we left fairly late in the morning due to other commitments, so we didn’t have the chance to look around as much as I’d have liked to.
We did, however, stop in at the Copping Museum on the way home, where local wine tastings were available. We picked up a couple of bottles, a Pinot Gris from Yaxley Estate, which lost most of its vines in the fires and is hoping to rebuild to begin producing wine for 2015, and a Cabernet Merlot from Bream Creek Vineyard.  The last Bream Creek Merlot we had was one we’d bought on our trip to Dunalley for our wedding anniversary in 2005 and cellared in our extensive wine cellar* to be opened on a future anniversary.
So it was a short half day trip to what is a beautiful part of the state. Next time we go I want to spend more time in the area and have a really good look around and find some of the places mentioned in my mother’s research. Maybe even camp for a couple of days. I’ve heard there’s a great campground in the Tasman National Park.
*Not extensive and not a cellar. There is wine though.

east coast retreat (sunday selections)

I’m linking up with River for Sunday Selections today with some photos of our recent getaway.

We went away for a few days to the East Coast of Tasmania. It’s not an area I know well, though I have visited parts of the coast previously and I have vague memories of going to some of the north-east towns as a child.

We had a very quiet time in a beachside town called Beaumaris, which is between St Helens and Scamander. We stayed in a fabulous self-contained house that allowed pets, so Sleepydog was able to come with us.

Juniordwarf was delighted by the choice of beds (two double bedrooms and a kids room with a bunk) and the fact that the “play room” had a TV and a DVD player.

We deliberately didn’t plan to do anything, just to get away and relax. The weather wasn’t the greatest for a coastal holiday, but I like the coast on misty wet days, so I didn’t mind too much.

I won’t say much more other than I don’t think I ever needed a break more than I did before we went away.

The house we stayed at.

Juniordwarf wanted to build a sandcastle.

Construction (mostly by Slabs) complete.

Moody closeup of the sandcastle.

I wanted to get some sunrise photos. 

Not very spectacular when the sky is overcast.

We went to Pyengana Dairy to taste some cheese.

This is really pretty countryside around Pyengana, just inland from St Helens.

Priscilla the beer drinking pig at the Pub in the Paddock.

Lunch at the Pub in the Paddock at Pyengana.

St Columba Falls near Pyengana. Stunning. Breathtaking.

You can see the top of the falls from the road.

The beaches at Beaumaris.

Juniordwarf attacked by a freak wave at Binalong Bay (this was very funny).

Near Binalong Bay

The Gardens

The Gardens

The Gardens

The Gardens

The Gardens

Attempted panorama at The Gardens.

The Gardens

Iron House Brewery

Ironhouse Porter and the view from the brewery.