Saturday, April 21, 2018

Day 10 on the Thames Path - Chertsey to Staines

With the glorious weather we have been having in London I knew I had to get out on the Thames Path.  And what a walk it turned out to be!  

I am so lucky staying in SE London as I can connect to anywhere in southern England via Clapham Junction (Britain's busiest rail station) which is just three stops away on the train.  And believe me when I say my seniors rail card is the "bomb" - it is saving me so much money.  Why didn't I do this before? (slaps side of head...hard!)  

Anyway on the morning of Friday April 20th I was off to Chertsey.  The journey took me about 90 minutes in all.  The crazy part is that I passed through Staines which was my destination!  

I was the only one left in the train carriage!! 

As I was walking through the town centre I noticed a woman waiting for a bus - turns out the bus was due in ten minutes and it was going to Chertsey Bridge where my walk would begin.  Yay!  I remembered that long walk to the train station when I was finished last time and wasn't looking forward to it.  So we spent a pleasant ten minutes chatting before the bus pulled up and she kindly told me when to get off the bus just before the bridge.  Bonus as I could use the facilities at the Bridge hotel (the place I had my "finishing" drink at last time) and then walked over the bridge.  The sidewalk on both sides are so narrow that when trucks flew by I stopped walking and stood there cringing.  I was glad to reach the other side!  

Hello again my old friend!!!

Looking back at Chertsey Bridge with the Bridge Hotel on the other side - I thought it was wonderful of this swan to greet me!  A perfect start to the walk! 

Before I knew it I was at Chertsey Lock...there were two locks on this stretch of the Thames. 

Lots of canal boats and pleasure boats on this stretch.

About a km or so was along the side of a fairly busy road which was a bit annoyiing but at least there was a strip of grass to walk on. 

How sad...but what a lovely tribute.  This was on a bench along the path.  There were lots of benches and believe me I plunked my butt on quite a few of them.  Even though I didn't need the rest most of the time I thought it would be prudent to rest when I could.  My motto when on a walking path: never let a bench or a toilet go to waste!

I kept murmuring "it's so beautiful"... I have said that a lot on this trip. 

Okay I won't win any fashion awards but I don't give a crap - I was happy, happy, happy. 

Lucky people living so close to the Thames - lucky people having that kind of money!

Yes I did a double take too when I saw that Polar Bear sitting on their balcony. 

I thought this was a beautiful mirage but it was real and I marched right up and ordered myself a 99 Flake ice cream.   

It hit the spot.  This is Penton Hook Lock - the second and last lock of the walk.


We are getting near Staines now...

That's telling 'em!!!

Two necking swans - they were pulling at weeds or whatever in the water with their necks entwined.  How romantic I thought.  Then he proceeded to ahem...jump her and she went right under the water and we thought she was going to drown.  Charming! (not)

Such a beautiful area - I can't even begin to explain how much I loved this walk. (gush, gush)

Staines railway bridge...painted yellow on top to stop the swans from flying into it.

Sculpture of the Swan master on Staines' river front.  The Crown owns all the mute swans in Britain.  For five days in July the Swan Master and assistants row down the Thames and when they see a brood of cygnets they stop and count them as a way of doing a census of the swan population on the Thames. As I approach Windsor I will be seeing more and more.

Staines bridge..and the end of the walk...

I finally found my way to the Railway station which at least isn't as far as Chertsey's is.  Confession time:  I stopped at Marks and Spencers to grab a sandwich to shove down my gob.  I was hungry!

Now I can't wait until the next time I am back on the trail - it won't be long!!!  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Three months on the road (well, almost)

Yes it's been nearly three months and I must say I am starting to feel it.  Despite taking rest days my health hasn't been the best on this trip though for an "almost" 66 year old gal I think I am doing pretty darn good!! I have a cold that has decided it likes traveling with me - just when I think it goes away it comes back.  Hmmm...kind of like the winter that never leaves that my home province of Saskatchewan is having. (sorry guys - but so glad I am not there!)

So let's pretend it's April 10th okay.  I have a table here, unlimited coffee and tea (and I've got the wine bit covered as well)  and awesome wi-fi so I am trying to get lots of writing done.

So what's been happening the last month?

Places I visited

London - I spent nearly half the month there
Liverpool - awesome day trip
Guernsey and Herm in the Channel Islands
Rottingdean, E. Sussex 
Budapest where I am now

Beds slept in

The highs, lows and everything in between 

How did I spend my time in London? A couple of days were spent being a tour guide to my friend June, her brother and sister-in-law which was so much fun!

I got back on the Thames Path and walked from Shepperton to Chertsey.  I can't tell you how wonderful that made me feel - I had tears in my eyes with pure happiness.  There was a time I wondered if I would ever be able to walk that path again.

I visited the East End markets on a Sunday which is something I never managed to do last winter.  I love looking at the street art as well.

I also attempted the Columbia Road flower market - not a good plan on UK Mother's Day.  I decided not to fight my way through the crowd for some pictures and got out of there!

My friend Pat was in London so we got together two days - one day to pay our respects to Abbey Road Studios (of course) and spend some time in nearby Regents Park.

I think Spring is playing hard to get everywhere and London is no exception!

Another day we met up at mid day and I showed her Crossbones Graveyard in Southwark where prostitutes and paupers were buried as we both love quirky things like that. Every month on the 23rd there is an evening vigil so I hope to go this month unless the weather is miserable.

I went to a play and left at intermission.  It was called "Frozen" and was about a woman whose daughter has been murdered.  The reason I went was because it had three actors I like - Suranne Jones (Scott and Bailey, Dr. Foster and Karen in Coronation Street), Jason Watkins (Line of Duty and Being Human) and Nina Sosanya (Last Tango in Halifax).  I wanted to like it, I really did but I just couldn't get into it.  So I left.  It's becoming a disturbing trend with me.  So much so that I only have one more event in the West End (although that could change) - a musical based on Tina Turner's life.  Oh please, please be good!  And let the seats have more leg room...

The weather in London was dire - snowing at one point.  I was supposed to go to my friend (and B & B host) Claudia's twelve year old son Allessandro's football (soccer) tournament but it was canceled because of the weather as the event was to be held in the countryside. (where Chelsea pro football team train which I was assured is a BIG THING.)  So I promised him I will go to a game before I leave - hopefully in warm weather!

I went to the annual Wildlife Photography Exhibition at the Natural History Museum and swore it would be the last time.  There just aren't enough animal shots for me...I was disappointed last year but even more so this year.  It might be my imagination but it seems to be getting smaller as well.  Anyway I am done.

Other than that I bopped around and got a much needed hair cut - I looked like a shaggy dog when I got back from Asia.  It was embarrassing!  I am getting to be quite friendly (behave! not that friendly!) with the guy who runs the local launderette.  He actually asked me how I was the last time I was there and believe me he is a guy of few words.  I feel quite at home in Streatham...Kevin at the local shop who tops up my oyster card always asks me where I am off to next.  Or "back again"?  We shoot the breeze for a few minutes.  And yes I am still a card carrying member of the Wandsworth Library, Balham branch!  Streatham Library gave me a temporary card but they want to see ID with my London address on...needless to say....I do miss my former "home" up in Hampstead Garden Suburb though and must take a trip up there before I go home and take a trip on my beloved little H2 bus with the grumpy drivers.  I stayed there for over ten years and I miss my little room overlooking the park.  But I do love my room at Claudia's just as much.  I love the fact that I feel so at home in London - it is really a dream come true.  Would I want to live there permanently?  In a  I love it and back in the day I would have killed (seriously..) to do it but it is too expensive and my life is in Canada.  No matter how much I embrace my British ancestry, I am Canadian - simple as. When things in the UK drive me nuts (one day I will write a blog post on things that drive me crazy in the UK) I grit my teeth and mutter "grandma and grandpa emigrated for a reason".   But oh to be able to go to the UK as much as I want without eyebrows being raised and without paying the 600 pounds for a UK ancestry visa.

Okay enough about London...for now...

In mid March did a day trip up to Liverpool.  The theme of the day was the Beatles and Terracotta Warriors.  

I got myself a seniors rail pass.  Somehow I was under the assumption you had to be a UK resident but nope.  It cost me thirty pounds but I saved more than that on my return trip to the Lake District next month.  And it's saved me all kinds of money..more on that in a bit...

I flew to the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands for a week.  It was wonderful!  Two years ago I loved Jersey so much I decided I had to see what Guernsey was about too.  Fun fact:  Jersey and Guernsey are friendly rivals.  Jersey people call Guernsey people donkeys which they take as a compliment - steady, hard working, stubborn and they only do what they want to.  Guernsey people call Jersey people crapauds or toads.  Jersey was the last island to be cut off in the Ice Age so it is the only Channel island with toads.  Okay if I have to rate...I love you Guernsey but Jersey wins...  I will be writing about Guernsey in detail in the future but some of the highlights were visiting the neighbouring island of Herm, doing a walk from Rousse Tower to Pembrooke Bay, visiting Castle Cornet in the harbour, just riding the local buses all over the island and exploring St Peter Port.  I stayed in what is now the only two star Bed and Breakfast on the island.  The fellows who ran it were first rate and couldn't do enough.  I loved it.  Here are a few photos in no particular order.

One of the many towers around Guernsey (and likewise in Jersey) built in the 18th century to defend themselves against the French.  The Germans reinforced them (and added their own bunkers) during World War II.

The only donkeys I saw in Guernsey!! Downtown St Peter Port

The capital of St Peter Port

A beach on Herm

St Peter Port lighthouse

Castle Cornet

Torteval church 


Part of the walking path to Pembrooke Bay

The Little Chapel

One of the many buses that took me on my adventures

Much more Guernsey content coming! (but don't hold your breath okay - it will be when I get home)

Then it was back to the UK.  In in my infinite wisdom (and because I am cheap) I decided to take an overnight ferry to Portsmouth (pronounced Portsmith) rather than pay the inflated Easter weekend airfare. My B and B host (and his dog rode shotgun) drove me to the ferry terminal - like I said, total sweethearts.  Stay at El Tabora in St Peter Port! I decided to upgrade my seat to one that was in a secure area and had a table with plug ins, unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits and newspapers.  I did not regret it one bit and the journey was just fine.  Apparently because of the size of this ferry (huge) it goes in most weather conditions.  However the crossing was smooth.  I am so glad I did it.

When I knew I was going to be in Portsmouth I thought "Mary Rose"!!!  The war ship of Henry VIII which sunk in 1545 has been salvaged and is now in a beautiful museum.  I had booked my ticket online.  I had been told the ferry terminal did not store luggage - wrong!  So I gave them my luggage to keep (for a fee of course) and off I went on the bus.  I set up shop in Costa coffee until I knew it was open and then took another bus to the Historic Dockyards.  The museum was everything I expected and more.  I can't put into words how I was impressed with it.  I wish I had had more time and that it wasn't so crowded.  My ticket is good for a year so may be I can go back before I go home but I somehow doubt it. (and the ticket is now glued into my journal...)  It just sent shivers down my spine and there are so many artifacts.  And skeletons of the crew!  Just amazing.  Photography was allowed but it was so dark that they didn't turn out anyway.  I wish I had bought the guide book now..

Rather than go to London for two days I decided that Brighton was close to Gatwick and why not?  When I was browsing airbnb locations a delightful cottage popped up in Rottingdean and that's how I found myself staying with Katherine and her Springer Spaniel Lily for two nights.  I loved it there and will be writing a post on my stay.  Being the Easter weekend (and I suspect this is true for every weekend "in season") it was crazy busy.  The cottage was right on the High Street.  I spent Easter Sunday walking along the sea, in the village and up to the local Windmill.

Then Monday morning dawned and with it my taxi to Brighton.  Off to Gatwick for a flight here to Budapest.  I am happily ensconced in a studio apartment I rented through airbnb.  I love it.  I thought I might be lonely but so far I'm not.  While the apartment itself is modern the building is ancient and in dire need of a reno. All the apartments face onto a courtyard and it looks like a prison.  When I walk in the door of the building I expect to hear yelling and banging on the bars!

Of course I will be writing a day by day account of my time here (let's not talk about Barcelona- I will finish it, honest!) but here are some photos I've taken...

St Anne's church which is just around the corner from me

The Royal Palace 

Shoes on the Danube...poignant memorial to the 3500 people shot on the banks of the river during World War II.  Stories say they were told to remove their shoes first.

St Stephens Basilica - I didn't go in.  I am "churched" out. 

The beautiful Houses of Parliament - this view is around the corner from me as well.

The chain bridge connecting Buda and Pest.  (yes, they were once two separate cities) 

Where to next? 

This weekend I am off to Krakow, Poland on the night train.  I never learn do I?  I picked up my ticket today and discovered that no, I don't have my own sleeping compartment but am sharing.  Goodie.  Another adventure coming right up!  I will be staying in a room in a flat in the Old Town through airbnb.  It is self check in which I believe is a first for me.  Given my talent for getting locked in or out of places this shall certainly be interesting.  That said, I am really looking forward to discovering Krakow.  

Then it's back to the old UK on April 12th where I shall spend two nights with my friend Judi on the south coast.  I am looking forward to relaxing and having a really good visit together  

It's back to London for almost two weeks and I have a couple of day trips least for now as there could be more.  I got a cheap fare to Chester and another one to Birmingham.  My 30% off seniors pass got me some great deals off already heavily discounted tickets.  Gotta love it - there has to be some benefit to being old!  I plan to hit the Thames Path again as well.  If you saw my London "to do" list you would see I am going to one busy gal!  

At the end of April I am off to the Isle of Wight for a week and I am so excited to see more of the island.  I was there for one day in the mid 80's so needless to say I didn't see much.  The annual walking festival is on while I am there so hope to get a walk or two in as well as at least one of my walking club walks.  

Then it's back to London for a week which should be another busy one with my "to do" list, walks I want to do and a friend from Australia flying in and staying with Claudia as well.  I think there will be at least one pub night involved and lots of catching up! 

And for the finale...the Lake District for a week.  Once again I will be meeting up with friends there.  I am staying in a Bed and Breakfast in Ambleside but spending a few days with my friends.  An author that I like (who is a fellow Anglofile)  is having a picnic across from Beatrix Potter's house so we are all going - should be fun.  I have my Peter Rabbit postcard ready for an autograph which I will glue inside her book. (I wasn't going to drag that over for an autograph)  We will also do a bit of exploring together too.  I haven't been to the Lake District since my (first) retirement in 2002. 

Then back to London for a week before I fly away home....but that's over a month away so let's not talk about that just yet.   

I try to post on my Facebook page daily so check in there if you can.  This has not been a good trip for blogging or Instagram but I am keeping up my journals which is good as I had to refer to them for this post!  Stay tuned - the fun is far from over! 

Another great big adventure coming right up! (2019 version)

Yes, it's time to hit the road again for my annual multi-month adventure.  This time I will be away just less than three months. I don&...