Travel Diary: Europe, 2018

Join Stephen and Rona Yarrow, and Steve and Debbie Hall, as they trek around England, Wales and Scotland during September 2018. In the first week of October they take the ferry to Amsterdam, then travel by train through Germany, Austria and Switzerland on their way to northern Italy. There's a lot to see in a very short time, but somebody has to do it!

Penny Lane will be "in our ears and in our eyes", though being "there beneath the blue suburban skies" is a bit of wishful thinking, knowing what the weather is like in Liverpool in September!

Previous posts

4.9.2018: Sydney to London
5.9.2018: London

6.9.2018: Canterbury, UK
7-9.2018: London City

8.9.2018: Greenwich, UK
9-9.2018: London

Debbie's Reflections on London

The Underground Railway is amazing, it is so efficient, fast-moving, free-flowing, meaning any part of the city can be reached quickly and the signage is clear. Joanna Lumley's voice makes the announcements on one of the Underground lines; I suspect Stephen was hoping to hear Nigella's voice.

The Gherkin and Cheese Grater are a stark contrast to the classic lines of St Paul's Cathedral

London is a delightful mix of very old and very new which seems to work. The old cathedrals and churches with their grand spires are beautiful. Right in the middle of these old gems them are some brand new, often quirky new ones, with names like The Shard, The Walkie Talkie, The Scalpel, The Cheese Grater and The Gherkin which accurately describe them. Weaving in amongst these buildings are the mostly red double decker buses and distinctive black taxi cabs that you see in all the movies.

It is really interesting to learn about the London of old with its narrow alleys, gas lighting and murders in abundance (from Jack the Ripper in 1888 when murder was frowned upon, to the beheadings and gruesome executions cheered on by blood-thirsty crowds that were a part of the city's rich and fascinating history).

London has so much culture - even Jimi Hendrix lived next door to George Frederic Handel and the Bee Gees lived a few blocks away.

Londoners don't know what a Spray Jacket is, or what windcheaters are, nor do they sell cold and flu medicine eqivalent to our Ease-A-Cold for early symptoms - only nasal sprays, and tablets for full-on flu but nothing in between.

Things difficult to find in London - mixed nuts, barbecue chicken, Ease-A-Cold, shower caps, low-carb protein bars, Vegemite, A2 milk, full-size supermarkets, decent cappuccinos.

Curiously, though Londoners drive on the left hand side of the road, they walk on the right hand side of the footpath.

Goodwood Revival 2018

While the rest of us were wandering the streets of London getting our Monopoly Board photos, Steve was having a ball 130km away at Goodwood, near Chichester. Held at the Goodwood racetrack, Goodwwod Revival is a three day festival that recalls its heyday in the 1960s, with people dressing up in period costume, and driving and racing the types of vehicles that raced there at that time.

"After a pleasant train trip, we got off the train at Chichester Station and were conveyed to the racetrack aboard a fleet of vintage double decker buses to get us in the mood. Once arriving and registering with thousands of other enthusiasts, I mingled among the stalls and marquees where items from the era could be purchased.

A Jaguar SS100 in a field full of classics

Decision - to make a left hand turn into the race track, or turn right and check out the many cars on show in the various car parks. I ended up turning right! There were over 3,000 cars on show featuring many makes and models, mainly British, and with many exclusive models I have never seen before.

Jaguar XJ220

After several hours in the car park I found myself trackside watching various races with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately when the sun went down, so did I ... we all had to go home.
- Steve Hall.

Monday 10th September 2018

Today was our first day of "time out", if you can call a 5 hour train journey "time out". We said farewell to London by paying a visit to Waterloo Station, one of both London's and the world's busiest Railway Stations. With photos taken, we took our last trip on the Underground this visit, and headed for Kings Cross Station. As there is a train to Edinburgh every half hour, we expected no problem in getting facing seats with a table between so that the four of us could discuss the next week's itinerary. Not only could we not find such a seating arrangement, we were lucky to find a carriage with four seats not far from each other that hadn't been pre-booked. It was only after three stops and numerous people getting off that we were able to get four seats within speaking distance of each other.

Waterloo Station

It was surprising to us that the train was so full, given that they run every half hour and that the cost of a ticket is anywhere from $Aus135.00 to $Aus260.00. Someone on the train told me Monday's trains are always full and we should have chosen Wednesday or Thursday as less people travel on those days. Next time we'll be booking seats in advance, rather than just showing up and expecting to get the seating we want.

Our Edinburgh accommodation

We arrived in Edinburgh at around 6pm, and the weather directly contrasted the 21 degrees C we were enjoying when we left London. The temperature was a chilly 11 degrees, a biting wind swirled around us as we moved towards the station's exit, and by the time we had reached it, a sprinkling of rain added to our discomfort. We were pleasantly surprised with our Air BNB accommodation, however - it is a lovely 2 bedroom unit in a quiet cobble-stoned street just out of town. From the outside, it looked as though it had been a barn or stables in a past life, but the owner has gone to a lot of trouble to make the inside very attractive and comfortable.

Tuesday 11th September 2018

Our itinerary said that today we would be spending the day in Edinburgh exploring, but the previous evening's weather made us think a change of plan might be in order. We checked the weather forecast for numerous destinations in southern Scotland and Edinburgh's "windy with sunny periods and a 20 percent chance of rain" seemed like the best option. It sounded just like Melbourne, and we've learnt to cope with their four seasons in the one day quite well, so Edinburgh would be a breeze (literally!).

The day started off pretty cold, so we took no chances, dressing up to the nines in as much weather-proof, waterproof gear we could find. The walk into town takes about 15 minutes, and by the time we got there we were glad we had rugged up. The wind had a bitter edge to it, and though there was the threat of rain, we only got a sprinkling, and that was well into the day. We did the usual things tourists do in Edinburgh - amble up the Royal Mile checking out the shops bursting at the seams with tartan scarves, tartan caps and bottles of whiskey in every shape and size imaginable.

Rona, Steve and Debbie ascend from the Military Prison, Edinburgh Castle

Those who have been to Edinburgh know that at the end of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle. It's an unspoken rule that you can't visit Edinburgh without going into Edinburgh Castle. It was a bit tricky getting to the entrance as the seating stands that are erected each year for the Edinburgh Tattoo were in the process of being distmantled and taken away. As usual, there was a long queue for tickets and we were grateful we were there in Sepember rather than July, as it only took 10 minutes to buy our tickets.

After seeing everything we wanted to see, we headed for the exit and the chance to sit down and have lunch. On the way we saw two ladies who train birds of prey and allow passers-by to have their photos taken with them for a fee. One lady had a falcon named Gwyneviere, and there were a number of people lined up for a photo with her. The other lady had an owl, and as everyone else was focused on the falcon, Rona had her picture taken with the owl, who was appropriately named Haggis. As we were leaving, the lady put Haggis away and pulled out a kookaburra named Skippy, who promptly burst out into laughter.

"Hurry up and take the picture, Steve, I'm being deafened here"

By now, the sun was shining through the clouds and the winds had died so we had lunch, then headed for the railway station to buy tickets to South Queensferry. The main attraction here is the mighty First of Forth Railway Bridge which dominates the skyline. Alongside it and a little upstream are two road bridges which play second fiddle to the railway bridge.

South Queensferry

We were all quite taken by how pretty the village of South Queensferry is, but ominous clouds rolling in from the west meant we had to head back to the railway station to avoid getting drenched. We need not have worried, as 15 minutes later we pulled into Edinburgh's Waverley station in bright sunshine. By the time we had shopped for something for dinner and were heading home, the dark clouds and a cold wind had returned.

First of Forth Railway Bridge

- Stephen Yarrow.

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