A Travellerspoint blog

England

England/Netherlands: Crossing the English Channel on Stena

August 10, 2014

storm 63 °F

A quick 35 min drive from Sharon’s house in Coggeshall and we arrived at Harwich where we would board a 6 hour ferry across the English Channel dropping us off in the Hook of Holland port. The Stena Line is one of the most affordable (albeit slow) ways to get to mainland Europe. At 36 pounds per person or 60 USD p.p., it’s a steal, especially when you’re booking last minute. It’s easy to get from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam via train— just be sure to BUY A TICKET ON THE FERRY for about 18 euros because the ticket machines in the train stations in the Netherlands do not accept euro bills, ONLY COINS and don’t accept any US credit cards?!?

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Hurricane Bertha has been following us around with a vengeance and today we had choppy waves, rain and clouds as we crossed the English Channel.

As for the ferry itself, is pretty comfortable and more like a cruise ship with restaurants, casinos, children's playareas, an arcade etc. They also do night ferries where you can rent a cabin for the ride, we would suggest this because a cabin is only an extra 30 British pounds a night. If you do decide to take the day ferry, get there early and grab a comfortable seat near a power outlet. If you're running late like us then you will be sitting in the cafeteria next to the kiddie corner!

Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:27 Archived in England Comments (0)

England: Essex County: Friends and a 500 Year Old Farm House

August 6-10, 2014

all seasons in one day 65 °F

Oh our dear friend Sharon spoils us every time we visit her and this time was no exception. We first met her in Ecuador on our last Around the World Trip before she was married, a mother, or the owner of a 500 year old farm house! This is another example of the fact that if you invite us to visit you— there is a good chance we may actually show up at your doorstep! :)

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Sharon took us on a short walking tour through Coggeshall and got some “Cream Tea” with her dad at the West Street Vineyard. Cream Tea is actually Tea and scones with jam and whipped butter cream. YUM!

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The next day we had lunch in the small coastal town of Mersea. I insisted on Fish and Chips and it tasted just like almost any other fish and chips I’ve had. I think I’ve just about learned that fish and chips taste almost the same everyplace in the world…even along the English coast.

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We stopped to see Layer Marney, the beautiful church where Chris and Sharon were married and WOW it is amazing. Wish we could have been at their wedding! Their adorable and sweet daughter Elizabeth aka Bonkey steals the show every time :)

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Eating out is great when you don’t do it every day so we were grateful to have the the opportunity to cook. Chris and I drove down the butcher grabbed some fresh meat and veggies to grill. Sharon made an amazing Pavlova desert with fresh picked strawberries from the market and eggs from her sister’s chickens…talk about fresh! :)
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Chris and Sharon went away for a night and left us the house to ourselves. . . aaaah we took some time to relax at their house and cook another meal. A visit to the butcher to grab some marinated pork and we were in business. After figuring out how the old fashioned Aga stove worked we had a great dinner in their amazing Conservatory (sun room).

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Sometimes we splurge so we had to have some more good food at Bauman’s Braisserie a Michelin star rated restaurant in the adorable little Coggeshall town! The lamb in a mint sauce and spanish style Gambas all ajillo and pimientos de padron tapas were so so yummy! Next time we’ll spend more time chilling at the bar at the restaurant.

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Our car was due to return today so we decided to drop it off at a small town near the train station. Boy are we glad we rented a car…the train back cost almost as much as our car for the entire week! :( We stopped in the small romantic town of Dedham with it’s gorgeous church parish, and small river boats. It was too late for a row-boat so we decided to hike though the cow fields along the river. This turned out to be quite the adventure…battling cow patties, confusing directions, a not-to-scale map and even charging cows. It’s about 45 min to the small town of Flatford and another 45 or so back to the train station. What we thought would be a short walk in the country turned into a 2 hour/ 8 mile hike through the English countryside.

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We arrived back a little after dark and stopped to grab some dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was a long hike back up the hill to the house but we managed to make it without getting run over by a speeding car (no sidewalks on the dark windy road). By the way whoever said England has the best curry has never been to India or San Francisco! :)

After we had a few drinks we managed to talk Chris into driving us to the ferry in Harwich :) Thank you soooo much for all the hospitality and we look forward to a visit from them in California.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 07:55 Archived in England Comments (2)

England: Salisbury/Oxford: Am I Too Old to Apply to Oxford?

August 5, 2014

semi-overcast 65 °F

Salisbury is a beautiful small historic town with a huge central cathedral.

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We walked around town exploring and Ruby found some nachos (her favorite) and tried some local spirits in the market.
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On the road again we found our way to Oxford. WOW, what a beautiful place to go to school. I wonder what the tuition is?? This town is a photographer’s dream— a huge campus, with 36 colleges, several bridges and unique buildings.

Some faves were:

The Bridge of Sighs: See the underside of the bridge? It’s bright red, perhaps this was the inspiration for the trademark red soles of Christian Louboutoin shoes?
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The rowboats: This shot is from the bridge above.

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The Radcliffe Camera: It’s the Oxford library that was built in 1737 and it has a beautiful blue dome. For all you Harry Potter fans. . .pretty sure it wasn’t named after Daniel Radcliffe :)

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and this cool door too :)

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We found a cute tapas place for dinner— it was pretty authentic and fairly inexpensive (thank you college town prices!): 20 pounds for a bottle of wine and 4 large tapas!?! We left here content and headed for Essex County to visit our friends Sharon, Chris and Bonkey!!
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

England: Stonehenge: Breaking Rules Not Budgets!

August 3-4, 2014

sunny 65 °F

We flew into London and headed straight for. . .
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. . . the cheapest hotel in London--- 35 British pounds per night. . . at the Earl Court Gardens. After a night from hell trying to sleep at what we think was a crack house above a train station we started our drive south to Stonehenge. The roads are a little confusing and if you follow a sign to a castle (Windsor) it may turn into a two hour mission almost back to the Heathrow airport :)

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We finally arrived at the visitor center for Stonehenge. It isn’t exactly at Stonehenge. . . it’s actually a mile or two away. It’s a pretty pricey endeavor at 15 pounds per person or $25 US pp. So we decided that we would take in the view from the barbed wire fence enclosing the ruins which isn’t that much farther away than the viewing platform you pay to use. Check out our photos and you can be the judge if it’s close enough for you :)

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The visitor center is free and there's some pretty neat exhibits on the size/weight of the stones, the classic architecture from that time. . and of course you can actually touch one of the actual stones!
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I went back to my skateboarding trespassing days and jumped two fences and crossed a field to get a closer look. Got some good shots at dusk and then at sunset before a security guard spotted me! You can also get a great view on the drive by :) That night we stayed in Salisbury at the Red Lion Inn in Salisbury, just about 20-30 min from Stonhenge which is super nice and arguably the oldest purpose-built hotel in Europe!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:10 Archived in England Comments (0)

England: London: Sharon to the Rescue with Secret Cinema

April 30, 2011

semi-overcast 68 °F

I don’t know how it happened but even after unloading what looked like 4 bags worth of stuff we’re still carrying 4 bags? At least Tony didn’t have to stand on them this time to get them closed! Jeff and Samantha took us to the airport in Geneva. We are already missing the entire family; this week was so much fun :) We have a few hours in London then off on our flight to Egypt . . . or so we thought. We arrived at Heathrow and leisurely made our way over to terminal 5 only to find out that we had missed our flight to Cairo! Apparently they had changed the time (to four hours earlier) and didn’t notify us! OOPS! The girl at British Airways was trying to charge us 75 British pounds EACH to change our flight and acted like she was doing US a favor. Well, of course Ruby was so exhausted that she nearly paid it but Tony knocked some senses back into her and we went to go speak to another representative. We luckily found someone helpful who booked us some great seats for the flight tomorrow . . . and didn’t charge us either! So now we’re stranded in London on the weekend of the Royal Wedding. .. what to do?

First, we tried to book a hotel near the airport but they were 350 British pounds a night!?! Yikes, so next we called our friend Sharon who is a complete lifesaver! She welcomed us with open arms and tickets to an event called the Secret Cinema :) We hurriedly hopped on the tube and were at her place in less than an hour. We met her fiancé Chris, her sis Laura and Laura’s boyfriend Mike at the house. They were all dolled up 50s style and ready to go. So what did we do? Ruby unzipped her suitcase and threw on a suitable outfit faster than Sharon could put on her shoes and we were off! :) We wish we could have borrowed from our friends Toula and Mike McCarley’s wardrobe! They waiting for us so we were all running late by now and at one point Tony thought he might have to carry Ruby down some stairs because it has been a while since she’s had to run in heels!

On the tube we got some of the secret details. We were all given special ID cards before the event. It’s a really neat event where there’s an undisclosed film to be played but before the film starts the audience gets hints by immersed in the setting of the film through the surroundings, actors, music, and food. Even clued in, the only thing we knew was that it’s a film set in the 50’s. So we hop off the tube and head to a graffiti lined tunnel filled with hundreds of people all dressed up in 50s outfits, with actors dressed in military uniforms yelling in French! They were directing us into a small room shrouded in fog and covered in barbed wire. Upon entering we found a maze of different rooms, Arabic music playing, women fully dressed in white hijabs, schwarmas being served, and guards asking for our identification card. They even had a gendarmerie like the one in France that we visited to report the car break-in. Ruby immediately thought of North Africa, specifically Morocco—probably because we’re hoping to go there soon but she was wrong. Can anyone guess what obscure film it was?? We’re not sure if anyone could have guessed.

We chatted with Mike and Laura who are huge travel addicts like ourselves and after a few drinks and some delicious schwarmas the movie began. It turned out to be a French film about the Algerian revolution against French Colonization. Despite sleeping through half of it, Ruby could clearly see the parallels between the film and what is going on today in Egypt, Libya, and probably a few other countries but we haven’t been watching the news that much. Poor Tony couldn’t read the subtitles because earlier in the trip he broke his eyeglasses!
Afterwards we were all pretty tired and headed back to Sharon’s adorable flat to catch some ZZZZZZs before our flight to Egypt. Before Ruby went to bed though, she read an email from Nancy that made her laugh out loud, the subject heading was “Are you crazy???” and it had all her hilarious comments about our time in the Afar Desert and the Danakil depression. Ruby liked that one so much she decided to post it on the blog under comments. Thanks so much Nancy for the good laugh! We can’t wait to see you in NYC.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:53 Archived in England Comments (5)

England:London: We Need a Swiss Watch to Keep Track of Time!

April 23, 2011

sunny 80 °F

Unfortunately Sharon couldn’t cancel all her plans for us so she had to take off to the lakes district this morning. We all ate breakfast together before she left and then Tony and I walked around town admiring all the greenery and flowers. We were in dire need of a few things including a new pair of shoes for Tony! YAY! He was in desperate need after the volcano melted his. London’s super expensive so we decided it was time for a McDonald’s moment—it was actually some of the worst McD’s we’ve had to date :) We picked up our tube tickets and checked out some cool parks and a cemetery before finding a nice place to do some wine tasting. Ruby was also ogling a gourmet cheese shop and couldn’t wait to get to France! Just around the corner from the wines was the Museum of Natural History which was free to enter and ironically they had an exhibit called “sexual nature” about the unusual mating habits of animals. Looks like “animal viagra” is still sticking with us—we probably have a few photos we could contribute to that exhibit. LOL. We saw some amazing fossils, meteorites and diamonds before we realized that we had lost track of time and basically rushed back to Heathrow to catch our flight to Geneva—luckily the guy at Swiss airlines was too busy training a new employee to charge us extra for all our overweight bags!

At the Geneva airport Tony and I both started contemplating which type of fancy watch to buy—we weren’t sure why that idea popped into our head. .. .until we noticed that ALL the marketing material at the airport was covered in fancy Swiss watch brands! Jeffy (Tony’s younger bro) was there to pick us up with a big smile on his face and his ridiculously large van—it’s a minivan in the US but compared to the Euro cars. . it’s a beast! About 2 hours and 20 Euros in tolls later we arrived at his gorgeous house situated between two mountain ranges in the city of Grenoble. The kids were up and had a chance to jump on us before we all headed to bed.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:42 Archived in England Comments (2)

England: London: Kilimanjaro…seen it! A View from Above

April 22, 2011

sunny 83 °F

Do you remember than elusive mountain in Tanzania that we mentioned before? Well, we are currently flying right next to it. . . Kilimanjaro is just out the window to our left. We have the most amazing view of its gorgeous snow topped peak along with its sister Mt. Meru in the background all from our comfy seats on the flight to London . . . much better than a 4 day hike! We’ll probably never climb it but being able to see it from the top is really breathtaking. At the end of this 10 hour flight we have something great to look forward to: catching up with our friend Sharon who we met at the very beginning of our trip at Bella Vista in Ecuador. She’s changed her plans to meet us on this long weekend and even offered to pick us up at Heathrow . . . which is a good thing because our bags are busting at the seams with presents and our backs are aching from all these flights, taxis, bus rides! :)

We arrived at London Heathrow and Sharon was waiting for us like our own personal limo driver :) Somehow we managed to get all of our stuff in her little European car, but it wasn’t easy. A few bags in the boot (American truck), some on the seat, one or two on our laps…we really need to unload these things! On the drive home we talked about our travels and she gives us the big news: Chris just proposed last weekend! She lives in a beautiful old part of town called Putney and after dropping our bags off at her flat we got out exploring. She treated us like royalty the whole time. Speaking of that, the excitement about the royal wedding was almost palpable.

We got to check out Big Ben and the London Eye at sunset before she treated us to dinner and drinks at the beautiful Skylon Restaurant on the river bank. We had an amazing gourmet meal ---one thing we haven’t had in quite a while! We had to laugh at how complex the menu was—half the time none of us knew what we were eating :) It’s ironic that the desert came in the form of a volcano after we just climbed one . . . we loved it! We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the night so Sharon flagged down one of the fancy London black cabs for us--thanks Sharon, you’re the best!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:23 Archived in England Comments (0)

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