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United Kingdom

Hadrian's Wall


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On the morning of the 30th we left Fort William for Carlisle via Glasgow on the train. From Carlisle we took a bus to a small village called Greenhead, which is located near Hadrian's Wall. We checked into our accommodation, a bunk barn part of Holmhead Guest House, just outside of the village, surrounded by pastures for cows and sheep. Nearby was the ruins of a castle from the 12th century called Thirwall Castle, really just a small keep, which was built with stones from Hadrian's Wall. We had the barn to ourselves save for a resident cat called Figit who slept on Jade's slepping barn that night, which happened to be the coldest night we had endured in Britain - the first time Chris had been really cold in years. The next morning after breakfast at the Greenhead Inn, which is a great pub with a really nice owner, we began our 20km hike along Hadrian's Wall, which being a defensive barrier was built on the highest ground in the region, meaning that the walk consisted of going up and down steep hills for almost the entire time. The Wall was enjoyable (even with our packs), the views were great, and there were many ruins along the way including original sections of the Roman wall, milecastles, turrets, and a couple of average museums. We also came across two old forts, Housteads being by far the one with the largest remains including well preserved latrines. After about seven hours of hiking, we arrived at our accommodation the Old Repeater station, with was a bit noisy and had the smallest room we've ever slept in, but we managed to get a decent night's sleep. The morning of the 1st of September we took a ferry/cruise ship called the King of Scandanavia from Newcastle to Amsterdam, thus ending our trip in Britain.

Posted by CJTaylor 04:59 Archived in United Kingdom

Fort William


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We had an amazing train journey through the southern and western highlands of Scotland to Fort Williams. Our B&B for 2 nights was the Rhu Mhor Guest House, which was well priced and had a lot of charm, owned by a proud Scottish family and run by a mother and son team. The breakfast was hearty with a good vegetarian option, and was served by the owner who wore his traditional tartan kilt. We had a day trip to Mallaig on the steam train 'The Jacobite', which is said to be one of the best train journey's in the world. It was also made famous by the via-duct in the first Harry Potter movie. We went for a walk in Mallaig around the port and found a path leading into the hills where we came upon fields of wildflowers and waterfalls. Whilst we were on the train back, we saw the shaggy-haired highland cattle. Back in Fort William, we walked to the base of Ben Nevis, which is the highest mountain peak in Scotland and popular with hikers. Cuisine that we recommend is flapjacks and tablet! On the train journey out of Fort William we saw wild roe deear with huge antlers and golden pelts.

Posted by CJTaylor 04:51 Archived in United Kingdom

Edinburgh


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We arrived in Edinburgh, which is quite busy at the moment becaue of the Fringe and International Festivals. We dropped our bags off at Heriot-Watt University (where we stayed for 2 nights) and then went to the King's Theatre to see a play called 'Caledonia'. It was an entertaining production, set in the late 1600's about a colony Scotland tried to settle in South America that failed. The next day we went to Edinburgh Castle and spent a couple of hours there. We saw the Stone of Destiny (special stone sat upon by the kings of Scotland), the Scottish Crown Jewels, a 900 year old chapel, Mary Queen of Scot's birthing room, a war museum, and great views of the city. Later that afternoon, we checked out some live street performances and attended the Royal Edinburgh Miitary Tattoo. It has been sold out for the past 12 years, so we were glad we got our tickets months in advance! We had good seats very close to the entrance to the castle.

Posted by CJTaylor 04:44 Archived in United Kingdom

Our time in London

7 nights in London

We took an AirAsia flight into Kuala Lumpur and stayed at the Swiss Inn in China town. Had a great dinner at the Fat Yan restaurant, which serves Chinese Buddhist vegetarian. The next day, we took another AirAsia flight, 14.5 hours, to Stansted airport - London. We sat next to a young Australian fashion and graphic designer who told us about her own travels throughout Europe. We stayed overnight near the airport at the Holiday Inn Express. The next day we took a bus into London. Our first impressions of London was a rainy but bright, clean city, with wonderful old buildings lining the street with lovely shop fronts. Few high-rise buildings, and a lot of renovation work on the old buildings. While we were walking to find our accommodation, two Londoners asked if we were alright and helped us with directions. Londoners seem quite friendly and don't rush about too much. It stays light until 9pm! There are a lot of corner pubs where business people go after work. For our first two nights, we stayed at Carr-Saunders Hall which is a London School of Economics (LSE) residence. Fantastic for the price and location, great breakfasts. To cut down on costs, we've been going grocery shopping at Sainsbury's and Tesco's. Around this location, we went to the British Museum (great at night time), Regent's Park (where we saw squirrels but no hedgehogs), we've walked around swanky Camden, shop lovers Soho, sat in Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, and gone past University College. Chips and curry sauce highly recommended!

After two nights staying at Carr-Saunders Hall, we booked into another LSE residence for 4 nights - High Holborn. Again, really good, central accommodation for the price. In this section of London, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hyde Park (not as nice as Regent's Park), and walked along the Thames river to go to the Tower of London. The Tower tour was a lot of fun, long queue to see the Crown Jewels, and the highlight was sitting in the 900 year old White Tower Chapel. We did a tour of Westminster to learn more about the British Parliament, and had a good meal and drink in a pub. One night we splurged and had a delicious dinner at the oldest Northern Indian restaurant in London, the Punjab. Being close to the date of India's Independence day, we did a tour that highlighted significant buildings and points of interest to the Indian community. Another good experience was the National Gallery, with works by Van Gogh, Vermeer, Cezanne, Rodin, Picasso ... you name it. You can hire audio guides that tell you more about the artist, painting techniques and symbols in the painting. There are a lot of Europeans here on vacation, particularly rich Italians. The London Museum seemed to be a bit overlooked by tourists and more popular with locals - it was a real gem of a place. Jade liked the prehistoric Briton's and the suffragettes in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Chris liked the photographs and artefacts of the early 20th century. It inspired us to walk along the banks of the muddy Thames, but we only found old bits of pottery. For our last night, we relocated to the otherside of the Thames to stay at our last LSE residence - Bankside House. It is right next to the Tate Modern Art Gallery and the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We spent 15 minutes in the Tate compared with 3 hours in the National Gallery - modern art is a bit lost on us. The last night we did a Jack the Ripper tour with London city walks. The speaker was very convincing, made many audience members a bit squirmish with the details of the murders, and set the scene well. The atmosphere in the East End lended itself to the story well. The speaker also emphasized the dire circumstances for London's poor in the 1800's, and how many middle aged women (100,000) turned to prostitution on the side just to survive. All in all we had a great time in London. Check out the photo's.

Posted by CJTaylor 05:30 Archived in United Kingdom

The first part of our trip

Where we'll be staying in the UK

We'll be leaving Townsville for the Gold Coast on the 9th of August. The next day we catch a flight into Kuala Lumpur and stay overnight at the Swiss Inn. Then we fly into Stansted airport and because we get in late we'll be staying there overnight at the Holiday Inn Express. The 12th of August is when we begin our journey in the UK and we start by catching a bus into London. This is where we'll be staying for the 3 weeks:

12th-13th: Carr-Saunders Hall, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
14th-17th: High Holborn, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
18th: Bankside House, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
19th: Wyndham Park Lodge, Salisbury
20th-21st: Eastwood Residence, University of Bath, Bath
22nd: Cefn and Kilvey Residence, Swansea University, Swansea
23rd: Exeter College, University of Oxford, Oxford
24th-25th: Holiday Inn, Liverpool
26th-27th: Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
28th-29th: Rhu Mhor Guest House, Fort William
30th: Holmhead Guest House, near Hadrian's Wall, Greenhead
31st: Old Repeater Station, near Hadrian's Wall, Hexham
1st: Catch overnight ferry King of Scandanavia from Newcastle to Amsterdam

We want it to be a surprise what we'll be doing at the different locations, so stay tuned for updates!

Posted by CJTaylor 19:53 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged preparation

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