Tue 1 Oct - Tue 7 Jan 2014

As Blogger only allows a maximum of 100 posts per blog, our posts from 1 October to 7 January 2014 will be found under:


Our posts from 1 July to 30 September can be found here:


Our posts from 1 April to 30 June can be found here:


And our posts up to 31 March can be found under:



Mon 30 Sep - London, England

Car, then train, then taxi... A variety of transport means today...

Our breakfast at Hogs Head pub in Awsworth was not scheduled until from 7.30am. We needed an early start to ensure that we would drop off our car in Newcastle before our train departed for London at 12.25pm. Hence, we had showered and packed and put our bags in the boot of the car just after 7am and then let ourselves into the breakfast room of the pub.

Monday morning and things were a bit slow, the place's lights were still off, but the Manager/Chef arrived at the same time and we probably scared him a bit by moving around in the dark. He may possibly have thought that we may have been up to no good. We convinced him otherwise. We knew that he forgave us when he accomodated our early breakfast wishes.

By 7.50am or so, we were on our way, now filled with a cooked (but not Full) English Breakfast. Of course, getting onto M1 to drive north meant negotiating a bit of Nottingham's Monday morning rush hour traffic.

We drove north along M1, then M18, then A1. It would stretch the imagination to say that it was a beautiful drive... An example here is from outside Leeds. We don't feel we missed anything here...

So, Hans unfortunately had to give the scenery a thumbs down... This is not Scotland... He looked happy enough anyway.

Nevertheless, the roads were good, traffic fine and well behaved and we arrived in Newcastle with plenty of spare time just before 11am. Hans let Di off at the train station together with our bags while he continued to Hertz to drop off the car.

No issues with the car other than that Hertz in Newcastle is opposite major construction works including the reduction to one lane with lights just outside of them. In addition, Monday morning and they were frantically moving cars around and Hans had to park our hire car outside on the sidewalk.

However, Hans had soon walked up go Newcastle's train station to join Di. These stations tend to look a bit similar with these domed roofs.

As we were traveling over lunchtime, we picked up a few sandwiches and drinks and also... This...

Cadbury chocolate... Mixed with old Swedish company Marabou's Dajm chocolate, now changed spelling to Daim (international market...?). There must be some amalgamation or cooperation happening that we were not aware of, but the chocolate was absolutely delicious.

Our train had already arrived when we walked onto the platform, but we heard that this spare time had been dedicated to train driver learning. No, we saw no L-plates anywhere on the train, but it left and clearly did a loop as it came back some minutes later from the other side of the platform.

Waiting for our train and practicing train driver to return with train...

A pretty smooth trip although...we had booked seats in a "quiet car" of the train, but there was nothing of that sort. Two single mums with their individual kid made sure of that... Why bother?

Unfortunately Di has been feeling a bit unwell and sure enough the train trip brought out the full "bug" (whatever it may be). She was a bit miserable so not a chatty trip. "Quiet car" remember...

Along the way, we passed Arsenal's home arena Emirates Stadium. Quick, take a photo... We almost missed it.

Once we arrived at Kings Cross station, Di could not face a busy tube ride so we opted for a cab trip to our hotel instead. Di was grateful and also quite excited about her first London cab ride but declined a photo. Instead she took ones of the cab and driver and our luggage...

And of Hans...

As soon as we arrived at the front door of our guest house called "Stay in Chelsea", at the corner of Old Brompton Road and Gloucester Road, we knew it was quirky. No reception, locked front door with keypad, just someone comes to meet you... That is, if you call ahead.

Our greeter seemed Latino, flamboyant and charming. He led us to our "studio" on the 2nd floor which we liked but we think is a bit oversold as self contained. It has a kitchenette with a 2 burner hob, kettle, small fridge and sink. No microwave, no toaster and together with 1 tiny saucepan and no sharp knives or cooking implements Di could be doing some nifty improvisation for dinners.

A few pics from Chateau Carlen... Well, for the next 6 nights...

Di in bed, hiding behind her cup...

And yes, they have had a serious water problem upstairs...which unfortunately makes us dubious about the cleanliness of crockery here.

Still we liked the place - definitely faded (not sure about the glory). We love the big windows and bed and storage space are all good so we think all will go well.

No room key, but a combination lock...

Di went to bed to rest, trying to shake her "bug" and Hans went out to explore our new neighborhood in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

This is how "Stay in Chelsea" looks like from Old Brompton Road.

Hans quickly checked out the neighborhood; expensive, lots of real estate agencies, luxury car dealerships, but around Gloucester Road tube station, there was a Tesco Express where Hans picked up a few food items before returning to our "palace".

Dinner, of sorts (sandwiches) in the room and a lazy evening to follow. Good night.


Sun 29 Sep - Awsworth, England

Transport day... And a low photo day...

Going back north again as we needed to return the car in Newcastle on Monday before noon. We broke up the trip from Headcorn to Newcastle with a stop in a small village called Awsworth which is just west of Nottingham.

So, after packing up our things and saying goodbye to John, Ruth and Richard around 9am, we were on our way. Not very much to report from driving mostly on M-roads, we stopped for a morning cuppa at Starbucks in one of those roadside service areas and then drove a further 2 hours.

We started to look for a pub doing roast from around 1pm. We discarded the first 2 pubs we encountered as the first one was full and very popular... with bikies. Some kind of a "rock'n roll" event was advertised for the day and we would surely feel totally like fish out of water there. The next pub was not any better. It looked fine from a distance but once we were inside the parking lot, we realized that it was probably out of our price range as the punters looked far better dressed than us and... there was a brand spanking new red Ferrari parked just in front of it. Forget it.

Better luck with the 3rd pub, see below. A normal "family pub" offering everything from the roasts we desired to pizza, burgers, fish and chips, Mexican, steak, you name it. The pub was called The Wheelhouse and we think that it is part of a chain called "Hungry Horse".

Di is holding up the menu which was, like the rest of the pub and restaurant, very American in style.

We ordered 2 lots of roast pork with all the trimmings and 2 sparkling mineral water, all together for the price of £12. Good value.

Our pub stay for the night was only 20 minutes further driving - a pub called "Hogs Head", just outside a small village called Awsworth. As it was a slow photo day, we took a photo of the pub from the outside. Looked nice enough.

Some fancy props inside our room. We just had to take a photo of the movable combined toilet roll holder and toilet brush. For maximum convienience...

From 4pm, we had a lazy afternoon and evening, staying in our room for the rest of the day and evening as Di had a bit of an upset stomach and hadn't slept that well. Hans was just lazy and took it easy with a down day anyway.

As we will become car-less from tomorrow noon, we also needed to get anything from our many plastic bags that we wanted to keep and fit it into our travel bags or even wear, with the rest to be discarded. Hiking boots were the tricky ones as we have kept them separate during our car hire period. No more of that.

More action is likely tomorrow with some train traveling, but for now it is good night from the road.

Sat 28 Sep - Headcorn, England

Lazy lazy Saturday in the south of England... We needed it!

There had been a lot of running around, seeing and experiencing things lately, but today it was downtime big time. No driving anywhere, just pottering in the village of Headcorn and relaxation.

We start off though with a few pics from outside and inside where we stay. First off, this is the house from the street... And the cars of the inhabitants...

The property is really two properties...

  • Hollydene at the front is where Richard and Ruth (John's daughter) live together with Will (John's grandson from another of his daughters).
  • Hollyberry at the back is where John lives... And where we are staying at the moment in John's bedroom

Work is underway to build a new garage. We have seen the local builders coming and going while being here, noting that start of work day is 8.30am rather than the 7am that is the norm in Australia. When we mentioned this to Ruth, she joked that the builders also probably started with a cup of tea once they arrived...

The two conservatories from the garden. Di is in the back conservatory in John's part of the building while we've seen Richard working from his laptop within the front conservatory.

John's living room where we had our dinners the last two nights, and also our breakfasts.

The window to the left of the above picture contains an array of John's travel memorabilia.

OK, another pic of Max sneaked in here, doing a bit of a scratch...

Around 11am, John, Di and Hans took a stroll through the village of Headcorn. Proof below...

Headcorn cemetery, in front of their lovely village church.

Headcorn High Street looking east...

...and looking west. Krishna to the far right below is the Indian restaurant where we had our dinner when we arrived on Wednesday night. George and Dragon is a Pub a bit further up High Street and is where...

...Will is working. Doesn't he just look very boss-like in this picture? We managed to walk past just when he was out on the sidewalk setting up even more blackboard signs. Clearly, the owner loved those.

Across the street from the pub are two old and crooked houses. Must feel weird inside if the outside is anything to go by. Or maybe it is all straightened up inside... Who knows?

We stopped for a cup of tea at... The tearooms, which is in one of those buildings that was created in an era when people were significantly shorter than they are today. Hans managed to maneuver through without hitting his head, but John took one soft hit from the ceiling. We had our tea and coffee in an outdoor garden to the side of the building where headroom was plentiful. Very nice indeed.

We stopped at the local bakery to get some fresh bread rolls for lunch, which was conveniently located next door to the local butcher where we got some fresh ham and pate.

After a lazy lunch from the goodies back at the ranch, we had a lazy Saturday afternoon doing very little but to read, snooze and chat. Oh boy, we needed that. It had been a bit of a runaround lately.

Richard and Ruth seemed to have endless energy though. Doing all the chores that we remember doing on Saturdays when we were working, but perhaps not giving the dogs a combing...

Later in the afternoon, we had a cuppa and chatted in the garden, accompanied by the whole spectrum of animals (well, both of them at least).

A dog is a man's best friend...Chloe knows...

Feeling very Northern European..

Will came back from his morning shift at the pub, but due to staff shortages (only 5 of 8 staff turned up), he was asked to come back for the evening shift as well.

Around 7pm we all wandered down to the village centre. An initial drink or two at the George and Dragon pub was on the cards before potentially moving onto the Italian restaurant, which of course never happened. The pub was too nice.

Yep, here we are, looking very comfortably set in at the pub. Will, our friendly family bartender, took the photo.

A second photo when all the food had arrived. We never moved onto anything else, surprise, surprise. George and Dragon was a very nice pub with a very friendly and homely atmosphere.

Well, we had discussed Tripadvisor's power with Will earlier in the day, and he had mentioned about how the management of George and Dragon was very keen to get some positive reviews after having had some summer fill ins working in the pub showing a somewhat relaxed attitude to service shall we say.

In fact, they were so keen to get some positive feedback that our first round of drinks were free if we did a Tripadvisor review. No pressure about the review itself, nudge nudge wink wink, but we didn't need to be guided as we thought the food, drink, environment and Will's service towards us were all tops. We would have given George and Dragon a very good review regardless, but free drinks are always... Let's say... Welcome.

Hence, as soon as we got back to the ranch, Di was on the iPad giving her review - a 5 out of 5. Here she is in action with Ruth looking on and learning from a master reviewer...Maybe.

Time for a bit more wining and for Di trying out various home brews of fruit flavoured spirits, and laughing and chatting. Very social and fun. We called it a day around 11pm. Geez, we've had a good time here in England's south... Again.

Tomorrow, we are off traveling again. We are due back north to Derby and then to return the car in Newcastle on Monday, but of course, we are also very conscious about the old saying about 3 days, I.e. After 3 days, both visitors and fish go off. For now though, good night.

Fri 27 Sep - Headcorn, England

Brighton rocks...but it doesn't rock as much as Blackpool, in our view at least.

It was a 2 hour drive to Brighton from Headcorn through lovely countryside A and B roads. Windy, a bit narrow and occasionally with heavy woodlands which turned the road into a dark tunnel.

Once at Brighton, we found our way to the seashore and parked (pay and display of course) and made our way directly to the main pier, a long anticipated moment for Hans.

Brighton does have a beach as opposed to Blackpool that has a beach of sorts during low tide only.

We passed a disappointing new type of Ferris wheel on our way towards the pier. It looked like the London Eye, all fancy, air conditioned, VIP packages etc... and expensive. No business from us, we were after shabby chic, not this.

Ahh... The famous Brighton Pier. There were posters advertising various live music events, including a tribute band doing The Who's "Quadrophenia", an iconic album about Brighton from the mods and rockers days as well as later a movie with the same name that was filmed here.

Upstairs... On the pier...

Downstairs... From the pier, which actually was in a way more interesting.

Looking eastwards towards the Marina in the distance. As usual, there were not many people on the beach and no swimmers. The water was not quite as cold as the water off Blackpool, but it certainly did not invite swimming.

What? The Swedish flag? Why? Hans gave it the thumbs down. Or was that for the "Eye"?

We stopped for a cup of our own thermos tea on the pier and we bought 4 expensive and not very nice sugar donuts to go with it. We did not make use of the free(!) deck chairs as it was windy and we sought some protection instead. Nice to sit and watch the people wander by. Still an icon, with at least wannabe iconic people passing by.

However, we were a bit disappointed with Brighton Pier, for example - you can't get to the very end of the pier, no go zones due to lots and lots the amusement rides, all too glammed up and everything seemed too overpriced. Blackpool's piers rule! So let's check out what else is along Brighton Beach's seafront.

Looking westwards - like Blackpool the seafront is lined with guest houses, although these look a bit more posh.

We were not sure whether this was a retaining wall or old wharf but it seemed hopeful that these fisherman would catch anything with the receding tide. They would soon be casting onto a dry beach.

Ok, the beach is not sand, it is pebbles, but we thought we would try it out for sunbathing comfort. Zero!

Under the pier is as gloomy and grotty as Hans could hope for - visions of mod riots filled his mind.

Yep, this looked sinister enough during the day, never mind at night. Cool.

Further westwards there were various fishing relics along the beach belonging to the Brighton fishing museum, and this seagull was making the most of the high position.

Picturesque deck chairs but no one used any of them, perhaps due to the cool blowing wind... Or did they charge for these? We didn't know.

We came across some fresh seafood shacks selling cold local specialties including cockles, whelks, shrimp, crab and mussels. You could get a little pot for about £2 so we tried a mix.

Hans liked it more than Di so went back for another pot of crayfish tails this time. Equally good.

That part was better than Blackpool which didn't have any of these eateries along the water from what we could see.

Di preferred this guy - called a Brighton lobster but we think he was more crayfish (and the little crayfish tails were yummy).

Hans working through his second pot.

It was around lunchtime and we spotted the Brighton Smokehouse, specializing in smoked fish - so lunch was an easy choice.

So, in we went. The people running this place have been here 16 years so they definitely knew what they were doing.

A hot kipper on a roll for Hans. He loved it as it was very tasty. Di had smoked mackerel pate on toast, which was also good.

At this time, we needed to get back to our car to put more £ into the parking meter. Parking where we had the car was limited to 2 hours, and that was not nearly enough to explore Brighton's seafront, never mind off the water a bit.

Then we saw this guy cleaning windows and every other surface it seemed. We stopped and gawked. Amazing. We were impressed.

After moving our car a few metres and paying for an additional 2 hours of parking, we were back at the seafront. There were 3 or 4 promenades on at least 3 levels, including under shelter should the weather require it.

The same area as per above, but from the beach and including not beach huts but storage units. We wondered how people got hold of these spaces. They probably had been in the same family for generations and been handed down to the offspring.

Hans on one of the promenades.

This is where we split for an hour or so. Di wanted to go on this little electric train which went east and Hans wanted to explore Brighton's seafront further west. We agreed to meet back in an hour.

Bye Di... Feeling a bit lonely...?

Di enjoyed her train journey which went as far as the marina and returned. A few highlights included the train passing through it's own storage shed, which was gloomy and full of cobwebs, and also passing a naturist (nudist) section of the beach. The council had put up signs and tried to give them some privacy by mounding pebbles up to about 2 metres high behind the area, but it did not stop one naked chap wandering further to exhibit himself...not too bad really...seen worse although the weather was cool...

Hans was also on the lookout for the Grand Hotel and he found it soon enough a bit to the west of the pier. We understand that Grand Hotel featured as a backdrop for the rockers and mods clashes of the sixties and therefore also in the movie Quadrophenia.

"Bell Boy-y... Gotta keep running now...". Apologies for all of you who are not familiar with the Who's musical masterpiece of Quadrophenia. "Bell Boy" is one of the key songs and the album cover has an image taken from this spot just inside the entrance of Grand Hotel. Hans felt... sentimental. He quietly wondered how sick the real "bell boys" would be hearing references to that song.

The seafront here had a beach volleyball court (empty) and a basketball court (game on) plus a lot of eateries and drinking holes. Definitely more of a party atmosphere along the seafront than in Blackpool.

Hans wandered back to the train station, caught up with Di and we were on our way. Di has found out that the seafront area to the east of Brighton was supposed to be very rugged and beautiful, including a white cliff formation referred to as the Seven Sisters. We decided to head home that way.

We saw this from the car, not that scenic, but a funny name for us anyway.

We zigzagged along the water, including a few dead ends, saw some scenery as per below, but we didn't stop. It appeared that the Seven Sisters white cliffs can only be seen by foot, once you've paid to enter a national trust area. Too much effort for us at that time. We kept moving eastwards towards Eastbourne.

As the time approached 5pm, we decided to take ourselves back to Headcorn with a quick pitstop at a brand new Starbucks with absolutely no customers when we arrived. The place even smelt new from paint etc. All refreshed and with coffee with continued on our journey, with the bonus of having Google maps updated so we knew where we were and how to get home. Thanks Starbucks for providing the free wifi.

Back in Headcorn some time after 6pm. The families had made a haircut appointment with a home visit from a local hairdressing bloke named Iain. First off to get a haircut was John... Before pic...

...and after pic.

Then Richard had his hair done, but we forgot to take pictures as we were chatting away. We did remember when it was Ruth's turn. Before...

...and after. She looked equally happy before as well as after...

Nothing for Will - he was working at the local pub.

Richard and Ruth again cooked up a storm, this time a nice cutlet of hake fish, with veggies. Very very nice. No pics from the dining table as we just had too good a time. A very good and tasty fishy kind of day. Now, it's good night from us.