A Travellerspoint blog

Day 59/60/61 Melbourne to New Zealand

Off to visit Wallan way out in the wopwops of Victoria then home again, home again, jiggidy jig!

Day 59
Saturday 16th June
8 degrees as we land at Melbourne airport after the 7 hour flight from Singapore. So much better to have another stop this time instead of the over 12 hour flights. Note to oneself - always visit Fleur on the way home, with these long haul flights. Pete and Fleur met us at the airport and drove us to their beautiful home in Wallan. We had a sleep in the afternoon like 2 old people. At 5pm, we met Pete's Dad, John, Mum, Liz and Grandmother, Hazel (Haze as she is called). They all came for dinner and to see Pete's new home. John had seen it when Pete was buying it but Mum and Haze hadn't. We are all very impressed with this lovely 4 bedroom home with huge rooms and 2 bathrooms. Infact, the 3 smaller bedrooms are almost in their own separate wing making it a great place to stay away from the master bedroom and ensuite. Pete and Fleur made us all a sumptuous meal and we all got to know each other and got on splendidly. What a lovely family Pete has. We hoped they felt the same about us of course. We then had a wonderful sleep in a very comfortable bed. Nice a warm in the house with Pete having installed central heating this year but outside, it was winter temperatures and a way of us getting used to winter conditions for our return home to NZ. It is actually strange seeing bare trees as we left before the leaves dropped off the trees at home and of course, we have had spring and summer for the last two months. We off loaded our presents on Pete and Fleur and the seemed happy with them and we were also happy to lighten our load.

Day 60
Sunday 17th June Wallan
A sleep in until 9am was bliss. Fleur had made bacon, eggs, tomatoes, toast, coffee and tea for brunch and then we had a drive around Wallan and Kilmore to see the area. Kilmore is quite historic but of course, not like the history we have just experienced in Europe and the UK. It was wet, cold and grey and places never look at their best then do they. We found more shops in Wallan to buy even more gifts for those back home and Fleur insisted on buying Jenna a puzzle and a soft toy to take home to her from Aunty Fleur. We relaxed in the warmth of the central heating watching DVDs and then went for a walk to see the immediate area around their home. It rained on us yet again. Pete and Fleur then took us to the new local Thai Restuarant for dinner which was yummy. Another early night as we all needed to get up at 6am to go to the airport. Fleur and Pete were heading to the Gold Coast for a week's holiday and us home to Thames. It was lovely to have this couple of days with Fleur and Pete and to meet his parents and see where they were living and see how happy they are. It was also nice to finally be able to tell some family about our wonderful adventures. I know Fleur has been reading my blog so she will have been filled in on everything that happened by now.

Day 61
Monday 18th June Wallan to Auckland New Zealand.

This time, we are to have our first flight with Virgin Australia. This was also a good flight and pretty smooth as well.
Lisa (our Daughter and Travel Agent) met us at the airport where she drove us home to Thames. Lisa was so looking forward to hearing how the trip which she had put together for us had gone. In fact it was a 16 page itinerary that couldn't have gone any smoother. Anton brought Jenna over from their new home in Whangamata and we all enjoyed dinner together, which Lisa also cooked. I really appreciated that as it had been so long since I had really cooked, apart from in Ruda, Sweden, I was at a loss as to what to even cook. I actually felt like a stunned mullet being home again I think.
When Anton arrived with Jenna, we realised how much a child developes and changes in 2 months in these early months. We had left when Jenna was 11 1/2 months old and just starting to take her first step and she had 2 teeth then. They were still living in their little apartment in Auckland at that time. Now she was a big girl of 13 1/2 months, walking and starting to climb stairs and saying a couple of words. She had much thicker and longer hair now as well as 4 teeth. They had been living in their own 3 bedroom home with large garden in Whangamata since 2 days after we had left and Jenna had started walking properly about that time also. Lisa had been working full time at House of Travel in Whangamata since their arrival in the Coromandel Peninsula as well and Anton was the stay at home Dad working remotely in IT. Jenna was even going to creche 2 half days a week. Such a lot happened in that 2 months for them as well.

It only took Jenna a few seconds looking at Des and I, (her Granna and Gaga), to realize who we were. She was then ready to give us our long awaited cuddles which we had missed so much on our trip. Straight away, she showed us how she now dances to music (I wonder where she got that from? (Both her parents have been dancers, as some readers know.) She now holds her arms out to you to be picked up for a cuddle and laughs even more than she did before. (which was a lot before anyway). She actually laughs much more than she ever crys.

We are feeling quite overwhelmed by the fact we are now home and life will get back to normality. Our house sitters had left the house very clean and tidy and the garden looked beautiful too. Alley, our cat seemed very happy to be reunited with us and life would get back to normal for her as well too.

All up, a fantastic trip which we will never forget, that is until the alzeimers sets in properly I suppose. Its nice to be home now and to plan the next trip. Hope it won't be 8 years in the planning this time. Nice to be able to use the computer as much as I want and to have a free washing machine and drier in the building. Des had taken early retirement from his job, so that will be different for him being at home more.

Last but not least, I just want to say 2 votes of thanks.
1 - To all those who have read my blogs and there has been heaps of you. Infact some blogs have had as many as 657 and the least views on one blog was 79. I would love to know who you all are but thanks for taking the time anyway.

2 - To Lisa, who just prepared for us the best holiday we could possibly have ever had. In fact the 16 page itinerary seemed so mind boggling at first and we couldn't even imagine doing all she had arranged for us. Working through it day by day was just a breeze. We were so happy with how smoothly it all went. (She had nothing to do with our French Tour Director spoiling France for us naturally). I would thoroughly recommend her to you to arrange travel as she just got everything so perfectly right for us. She now works at House of Travel Whangamata. Check her out on the web. She may be our Daughter but she certainly is an excellent Travel Agent as well. Nothing was left to chance which we certainly appreciated as this had been our first time to the other side of the world not knowing what we should expect.

Posted by RitchieOE 15:45 Comments (0)

Day 2 in Singapore on the way home to NZ and on to Melbourne

Thurs/Fri 14th15th June Day 57/58

14th June a day to see more of Singapore.

Bed and pillows are hard but the room, view,location and pools make up for it. We were so tired we slept in until 9am. Wow the day is half gone - lets go - we still have so much to do here in Singapore. We headed out into the humidity to catch the underground train to Sentosa Island. This island is fantastic although we hardly saw much of it. We loved the fact it was so close to the city and you can escape the busy city and veg out on a tropical island just minutes away. The locals certainly do this too. Using our Singapore Stopover vouchers, we travelled across by cable car. This saved us $48 and was another lovely way to see the city from high up. Being so hot, it was too hard to get yourself going enough, to do too much there really. We did go up in the Merloin, the Singapore emblem, to get yet another view of the city and theme park of Sentosa from high up. One view from the top of his head and the other view from inside his mouth. We walked down to the beauitul mosaic artworks as we headed towards the beach. The beach train is a lovely way to get to the beaches as it is just too hot to walk. A bit of a breeze in the open air carriages as well as you travel past the beautifully manacured beaches. I think they must be man made as they are so perfect. Why we didn't take our bathing suits? I don't know! Anyway we enjoyed paddling in the warm water looking out to all the hundreds of ships waiting in the channel to dock at the extremely busy cargo wharves. Very expensive Movenpick icecreams enjoyed on the beach but our pool at the hotel was calling us. Off we went to just veg out there for a while. What bliss that was too. It was 6pm and still just as hot as we enjoyed the one and only swim of our whole trip. Laying on the deck chairs for a short time with the sun to drying out our bathing suits in the heat, we realized there had not been a cloud in the sky that day.

Suitably refreshed, off we went to seek our fortune at the Casino. This would be our 3rd try at getting into a casino on our journey. The other 2 times we were turned away. In Switzerland, we didn't take our passports and we would have had to pay for the pleasure of having them take the rest of our money anyway. In Nice, our clothes just didn't suit their standards. So try again, this time passports in hand and nicer clothes. No jeans or sports trousers. Yep they let us in. Unfortunately, Singapore has no rules about smoking in the Casinos so wherever we sat, there was ashtrays full of cigarette butts and the smell was disgusting so we didn't stay long. Not before we had each won mini jackpots though, so we came away wealthier than we went in. Dinner was in the food court in the enormously long Mall, in that huge building with the boat sitting on top of the three towers, Marina Bay Sands. The building is amazing - the dinner was not! But it was a food hall meal and what more can you expect when you dine like that eh?

Back on the train as it was now after 10pm and we had made good use of our daypass on the trains as Des always makes sure he does. Lisa and Fleur would tell you how he does like to do that. My legs and feet were complaining so much about all the abuse they had suffered in the last 2 months, now as we stopped and waited at traffic lights, they seem to just cease up and I am finding it hard to get them going again. I wonder how many miles/kms we have walked since April 19th and how many stairs we have climbed up and down as well. But this wonderful hotel has a first for us on, the whole journey - a footstool. We must be getting old eh when we see that as a real treat to be able to put your feet up at the end of the day.

Fri 15th June Singapore to Oz
Day 58 A day to shop till we drop!

Another lovely sleep in today and breakfast in the Hotel was half price with the largest selection of every nationalities food imagineable. Every nationality was there to enjoy it too. I told the head chef how impressed we were as we have breakfasted in many hotels in our 2 month trip. They were very happy to hear our positive comments.
Although we are heading to Oz today to see Fleur and Peter, we actually have the whole day here in Singapore so that was quite a bonus as it meant a day to finish our shopping experiences. This has been the only day in the tour that we actually have just used to shop and all the Malls are airconditioned, making it a pleasant experience. We now have 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks full to the brim and a large cloth bag as carry on luggage. Lets hope they let us on the plane. When you see what others take, we actually think we have done pretty well. We are still under weight as well. Well our bags are anyway. Maybe, not us though. When we get to Oz, some of it will be off loaded onto Fleur and Pete anyway. Stuff in the bags that is, not our weight. Today, we saw the Fountain of Wealth. This is apparently, the largest fountain in the world - according to the 2008 Guiness book of Records. OK we've seen that - lets go..... We decided Mc D's icecreams were better value than Movenpick icecreams at Sentosa Island. Mc D's = $1.60 for 2 Movenpick = $18.00 for 2. Des's best deal of the day:). He was also able to get his $20 deposit back on our Rail tickets for yesterday so he again, was a happy man .:) In Sweden, he was a bit disgruntled when he went to do the same thing and they wouldn't refund his due deposit for some reason.:(

We had a delicious dinner in a Thai stall at Raffles Mall Food Court. This disproves our view, that not all food court food is bad here in Singapore. We then went back to our hotel to collect our bags and waited for our pick up for the airport for our 11.55pm flight to Melbourne. Again we fly with Singapore Airlines for the 4th and last time. We enjoy this airline but after this flight, we will have 8 prs of socks, 8 travels toothbrushes and 8 tiny tubes of toothpaste. Maybe we can sell them on Trade Me or take them to our local Thames Saturday Markets. Just joking, the socks are really comfy and dry faster than sports socks do, so we highly recommend them. Its been great having 3 days here and 2 last time, in April. After 5 days in Singapore all up, we sort of, know this beautiful and friendly place. The mild mannered people, the cleanliness and it also feels very safe here. A lovey experience to have had on our stopovers during our long flights. Thoroughly recommend anyone going to the other side of the world, to do the 2 day stop to avoid jet lag. It certainly worked for us.

With only 3 more days to go on our big OE, we now are just starting to feel ready to go home. So only 3 more blgs to go dear readers.

Posted by RitchieOE 14:45 Comments (0)

Paris and Singapore

Day 55/56 Tues 12th and 13th June

Up at 6.45am for an early transfer to airport for the 12 hour 40 minute flight back to Singapore. Our sleep in the yucky smelling hotel room with it's smoke ridden pillows and duvets, was no reason to want to sleep in anyway. We did go through a fairly rigorous check at the Paris customs. I was asked to take off my shoes and my large beaded necklace and put them separately through the detector. Then they went through ALL our souveniers (of which we had a lot by then, of course). They looked in every last little plastic bag and I am sure they were very disapointed they could not take any. We are always very concsious of what we can and cannot take home to NZ with our strigent regulations here. This time we got to experience the HUGE plane - the Airbus A380. Very quiet with smoothe takeoff and landings and hardly a bump the whole way. More room in the seat as well. We have been very lucky with all our flights with turbulence. Hardly had a problem at all and they have also been on time mostly, with no problems with any connecting flights, not that we had many of those either.

Singapore is 6 hours ahead of Paris so we arrived at 6.30am Wed 13th June. Neither of us can sleep on aeroplanes so we were lucky if we had had 1/2 hour each on the flight. Singapore Airlines are really fantastic to fly with but they were very sneaky making us all put the shutters down not too far into the flight, giving us all a false sense of night time. It was still only afternoon in Paris. Those who were used to this going to sleep in the middle of the day, seemed to accommodate that quite well, but not us. By the time we arrived in Singapore, it was still only 12.30pm in France for us and although we had been in England, the time difference was not much different, infact I think it was 11.30pm really for us, so sleep was not really in our body clocks. We had our second lot of Singapore Stopover tickets to collect, like we had the first time. We were wondering how that would be this time. Last time, if you read that blog, we had had great difficulty getting these from 2 very incompetant young women who had typed in the wrong coordinates for our free tickets and told us we had to pay for anything we went on, instead of getting it for free with the Singapore Stopover Programme. Then they realised what they had done, after I said our Daughter who was our Travel Agent would not have put us wrong on this deal.They then gave us our free tickets afterall. This time, we had two men at the counter where you collect your tickets. They were very efficient and pleasant and it was almost like they had all been told to buck up their ideas. We were even asked to fill in a form on their service. How facinating is that! Lisa your complaint to them, after we told you of our horrible experience, may have paid off for fellow travellers perhaps. We had even got through customs, this time with no problems either even having my sewing kit still in my checked - baggage. Last time, we had be pulled aside by the customs agents due to the tiny sewing kit in the checked- in luggage. They had then gone through our baggage to look for a "knife", they were sure, we were concealing in our checked in baggage. I used the tiny scissors they had discovered, while we were on our trip and they were so useless, they couldn't even cut the cheap cotton in the kit I had bought at a $2.00 shop in NZ. That "knife" they thought may be so dangerous, proved to be a very poor excuse for scissors. They couldn't have hurt anyone, even if I had wanted to do that. Hmmm, maybe I could have used them to protect myself in France and Italy from the "knife wielding people and bag snatchers" perhaps.... never thought of that!!! :) Anyway, we never saw any of those people although we certianly we told constantly to look out for them.

Day 56 Wed 13th June Singapore

26 - 30 degrees sunny, hot and humid and we are in the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel in the heart of town. Really lovely and nearer to the Hop on Hop off bus route, Singapore Flyer and the river than the previous stay on the 19th April at Hotel Royal @ Queens. That was great too though. This hotel has 2 pools. We look forward to a long awaited swim which will be the first during the whole trip in the end. We arrived at the hotel at 8.30am in need of a sleep. We could not check in until 2pm so we left our bags there and found our way to the Hop on Hop off bus to go to the Botanical Gardens. This was something we ran out of time to do in April so we decided that would possibly be a quiet way to spend the morning as we were so tired by now. That was a very wonderful experience albiet humid and due to ourtiredness, we walked very slowly through these tropical gardens and the Orchid Garden. Back on the bus to head back to the hotel. We knew there was a white church near the hotel so we got off at the church stop. Wrong church! It was the Catholic church though and the bells were ringing calling everyone to Mass. St Mary of Lourdes was really lovely and we have never seen so many electric fans go all at once making it a little more bearable than the heat outside. This church was beautifully done with Mary's grotto up behind the alter. Having been to Lourdes and seen the real Grotto, we were intriqued with their lovely interpretation of this. It was lovely to be there and to enjoy the Mass which was in English even though we were the only Europeans in the church. All Singaporians, Chinese and Indians, we noted. Although this was a lunchtime Mass on a Wednesday, there was still more people in the church than we normally have in our St Francis of Assisi parish in Thames on a sunday. What is it with kiwis now that they no longer attend Mass, you have to wonder.

After Mass, when we started walking to where we thought the hotel was, and it wasn't. We realized we were lost again! We get lost a lot eh. This time, overheated and sleep deprived, its 1.30pm (7.30am Paris time and no sleep so far) and also feeling quite dehydrated in this very busy hot city, that we thought we knew our way around, as we had only been there 2 months before for 2 days. Finally, we got back on the bus, bought some water which the driver sells thank goodness and got off at the correct white church, the Anglican church and found our way easily to the hotel. Collect the bags, shower and sleep was all we could think of at that point. A couple of hours sleep revivied us enough to go out again in the evening. This time to use our Singapore Stopover vouchers for the Singapore Flyer again at night. We decided, while it was lovely seeing the city by night so high up again, it was actually better the first time, in the day light, being able to see so much more. We had dinner near the Flyer again, at the same Singaporian market stall, where the locals go and we had enjoyed lunch in April. The same lovely friendly stall holder, selling us the same delicious food we had had from him last time. As I enjoyed eating his lovely food, and noting there was only 1 other European couple eating here, amongst all the locals, I pondered on my time away in Europe and the experiences we had had since we had been to this same stall 2 months before. Here was the same man, still making his wonderfully hot dishes and probably, that is what he had been doing the whole time we were away. Even our drinks were an experience in themselves. They were tropical fruit drinks with heaps of ice all poured into an old tin cup. They tasted so good and we loved the tin cups making it a very simple pleasure for us like what we may have drunk out of when we were children. We then walked the long way back home to our hotel. This time we took the waterfront walk which turned out to be about 6 - 8 km of walking in the end. Lovely though, with the evening air being more bearable. At 9.30pm, when we were about 1/2 way round the riverbank walkway, we noticed lots of people sitting on the terraced steps. We decided to sit down with them to see what they were waiting for. It turned out to be an amazing lazer light, water, bubbles and sound show held on the river, which lit up the whole harbour. A free show that was so spectacular that the locals were enjoying as much as the tourists. Maybe it is everynight perhaps. Not sure, but we were really privilaged to experience it and to be actually on the spot when it started too. I will never forget the elderly Chinese Grandfather dancing with his little 2 year old Grandson in amongst the bubbles that were spraying out of a bubble machine nearby. It was such a simple but beautiful sight, watching the 2 of them, with everyone enjoying the whole experience all around us. We finally got back to the Hotel at 11pm for a much needed long sleep in a very comfortable bed. Yay!

Posted by RitchieOE 17:14 Comments (0)

Castle Combe and back to London and on to Paris

Day 54 Mon 11th June

What a comfortable, pretty, friendly and unique place to stay is Castle Combe. We would thoroughly recommend it to everyone. We will make sure we go back there if and when we get to that side of the world again. We were expecting staying in a Pub to be noisy but it was very quiet and really like staying in a luxury hotel instead. The Restuarant with its ambience and olde glass bottle windows looking out to the street, was fantastic. The food was marvelous as were the waiting staff. Breakfast was in another beautiful room with a rounded glass roof, similar to a conservatory, letting in lots of light and making this another wonderful area to enjoy. Early breakfast and once again, off in the rain to Bath. A few extra directions googled and printed for us by the lovely Receptionist gave us even more confidence in arriving at the Hertz dropoff in Bath, which we did within 1/2 an hour. Taxi ordered for us from there to take us back to Bath Railway Station, arrived promptly and we were actually waiting quite some time in the end, for our train back to Paddington Station in London. The journey takes 1 1/2 hours from Bath to Paddington Station so we then had time to reflect on our lovely trip to the Cotswolds. How glad we were, that we had been able to have this experience. Rain and all, it was totally worth doing. From Paddington Station we needed to get to St Pancras Station to connect with the Eurostar train to Paris. We decided as it was so wet, we would get a taxi for this connection. So had everyone else in London that day. Apparently, according to the friendly Taxi driver, Mondays, wet days and road works was the reason for the huge queues waiting to catch taxis that day. The lines you wait in at the airport are like was what we had to contend with. They were 6 rows deep at the back but it only took 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue in the end. The black London Cabs were just pouring in, in a constant stream. This was nothing like we had ever seen before. They hardly stopped to pick up their fare and they were off again. 20 minutes later, we were at St Pancras Station. Luckily, we had done all this travelling in plenty of time to catch the Eurostar. Lisa had told us you must get there in plenty of time Mum as the train leaves dead on 2.01pm. Yep, it does. Not 2.00pm, not 2.05pm - 2.01pm. and off it speads with a hiss and a roar.

The journey from London to France, through the chunnel and onto the French countryside was lovely. It only takes 2 1/4 hours and it is not a huge amount of time spent in the chunnel in that time so we got to see much more than what we had been expecting as well. It was nice to see France again and it was even dry with patches of blue sky there. No taking photos from the windows though as it goes so fast everything is gone in a flash and is just a blurr if you do get a photo. We got out at Gard du Nord Station in Paris and with Lisa's expicit instructions for our walk to our Hotel just up the road, we expected it to be easy, just as it was in Switzerland. Well it wasn't this time Lisa.
We got outside the station to find the road we needed to walk down 600 metres heading east. OK but which way is East???? We went around the corner to find that road was also called the same. So now which way is east??????? Carrying our luggage which is pretty heavy by now we were totally bamboozled by this. We thought no point heading in the wrong direction in all the bussiness of Paris and unhelpful French people. Yes we had asked for directions already by this stage. No help from this lot, to find a Hotel which is 600 metres away just up the road. Yep! we were definitely back in France..... luckily for only 1 more night. We felt stranded, confused, tired and actually quiet stupid too. Lets get a taxi! The taxi driver didn't know where the Hotel was either and he even backed up in rush hour traffic into another street when he caught a glimpse of the hotel which really was JUST up the road. We think he thought us really weird foreigners but was still happy to take our 10 Euro taxi fare of course. Note to oneself... next time take a compass! The only time we needed one mind you.

We arrived at the Hotel tobe confronted by the most unfriendly Receptionist we had ever experienced. She was so bored by the whole idea of having to work to earn a wage. Our room was to be a non-smoking room but it was definetly not that. The smell in the room was so disgusting when we walked in, it hit us like a ton of bricks. We opened the window to let some fresh polluted Parisian air in and discovered where the cigarette butts get chucked. Just on a ledge right outside the window. Piles and piles of them. YUK! This was the only hotel room so far, in 54 days that we have had to put up with cigarette fumes. I suggest anyone trying to find accommodation near the Gard du Nord railway station, steer clear of the Ibis Hotel Paris Gare du Nord. Its not good!
Even our pillows and duvet were caked in cigarette smoke and for non-smokers coming from NZ with so many smoke free areas now, we are just not used to it anymore, nor should we have to put up with it either. On reflection, we should have gone straight down to the bored receptionist and requested a room change but we just thought that would be in the too hard basket for her.
Views of France now - nah, won't come back thanks. No different 2nd time around. Too busy and too arrogant for us.

Having said all this we did have a lovely meal out at an upmarket Brasserie nearby. Yann and Alice, more guests that had stayed for a week with us 3 years before, met us and paid for us as well. It was so lovely to catch up with this young french couple. When they stayed with us, they had just got engaged. They later invited us to their wedding which we just could not go to at that time, but we kept in touch with the promise we would see them when we did our big OE. Yann and Alice also gave us a beautiful momento of France in the form of a cartoon book with no words. It is really mocking the French and what they do and how they are. We have really appreciated its humour. It was so nice to see they seem so happy and we were able to converse with them pretty well. They even walked us back to our Hotel which was probably a good idea knowing how lost we had got earlier. Back to our cigarette smelling room for one more night in France before starting our journey homeward.

Posted by RitchieOE 21:22 Comments (0)

Stratford Upon Avon to Castle Combe England

Day 53 Sun 10th June

Yay the sun is shining still! I have never slept so poorly on our trip as although the B&B was nice, the bed and pillow were like what the Flintstones would have been used to. I kept having dreams that I was shut out and trying to sleep on the doorstep. This is what it felt like in the bed of course. The shower was very pedantic but we enjoyed our breakfast though, in a dining room with others, reminiscent of "The Hotel Inspector" TV series. Never met the wife this time,just the friendly Spanish Husband. She was busy making the breakfasts for the full B&B with 6 rooms I think. We then enjoyed the morning in Stratford Upon Avon in the sunshine. Firstly, at Shakespeare's Birth Place. A great museum with 2 DVDs about him first which then leads on to his house and garden. This is in the middle of the town and of similar age to Botterum (my Grandfather's home in Sweden) but not as palacial or as large I noted. In the lovely garden, actors performed in costume, extracts from Shakespeare's plays. We then headed down to the Avon river for a boat ride where, for the first time, we saw how locks worked. That was really interesting. We had 2 to go through in the 1/2 hour ride. It was a very serene trip basking in the warm sun. It is afterall, meant to be summer in the northern hemisphere at this time. There were plenty of swans, ducks and ducklings swimming around beside us. We then visited the sunday market near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the Avon where I of course, succumbed to buying something else for little Jenna. Its been really hard reining myself in from buying lots of presents for her. Des once again, reminded me "We have to carry all this home you know!" We then went to the beautiful Church where Shakespeare and his family are buried. This is situated right beside the Avon also and just up the road from the Theatre. Again, in the grounds, more actors were acting out parts of his plays. Having got a new memory card that morning, I was able to take heaps more photos and especially of the wonderful Shakespearian architecture with its wobbly walls and caved in thatched rooves.

Finally, at 1.45pm, we decided we should leave this lovely town at the top of the Cotswolds, as we needed to head right down to bottom of the Cotswolds, to our final night booked into the olde world Castle Inn Hotel at Castle Combe. We had plans to visit Bambury and see Banbury Cross (where the children's rhyme is said to have come from) but on reaching Banbury, we decided it didn't look as interesting as we expected and we had a lot of miles to cover, so we kept going. The next place I wanted to see was Woodstock and Blenheim Palace. As we drove into the town, it was seething with people and then as we headed up the driveway to Blenheim Palace we saw why. There was a triathalon in the palace grounds where it was going to cost a fortune to park and we would have to fight our way through the thousands in the grounds for the event, to get into the Castle. Nah, not for us. Next time maybe??? We could only just see the castle in the distance and with time short already, best to get out of the queue and head on our way. Luckily we were able to do that with a kind parking attendant agreeing with our decision and showing us a way out without having to pay. We were still only 1/2 way to Castle Combe. This trip was reminiscent of France today as we spent so much time in the car just driving.

Bath is only another 12 miles on from Castle Combe so we continued on to there to do a dummy run of finding our way to the Hertz Rental Car place. Des was very concerned we would get lost in Bath again and as we were to be on a tight schedule for the train back to London after dropping the car off in the morning, he wanted to have the route instilled in his brain. He had worried about that a lot while we were in the Cotswolds so it seemed a good thing to do. It was. We actually found it easily this time.He knew how to get there the next morning and he was content.

By the time we got to Castle Combe it was 5.45pm and you guessed it, raining again. The 13th century medieval village and pub with its Market Cross, are the quaintest we had experienced and I am so glad I booked here for our last night. It was exactly as described. It is exactly as it was 500 years before and is deliberately being kept that way. There is nothing modern to be see here. Stephen Spielberg had, last year, filmed "War Horse" in this village and there have been other films done here as it is still as it was centuries ago. There is a little brook that meanders through the cobblestoned town. There is 2 pubs, a church, St Andrews, a post office and a tea room in this village only. It is in a little leafy valley and even though the weather was horrendous again, we enjoyed our walk through this really beautiful place. The church was spectacular and also had an ancient clock in it similar to the one in Salisbury Cathedral. We didn't go into the church until it was almost dark but it was still open and once again, it was so peacefully beautiful and the presence of God was definitely there in amongst all the history. This church has inside, the tomb of Walter de Dunstaville who was a Crusading Knight and Baron of Castle Combe. He died in 1270. These little villages really do make you feel you have just stepped back in time hundreds of years ago. I will miss the beauty and history of all those we have entered through Europe. Our churches in NZ are all so young compared to them and very plainly adorned in comparison as well. I know our own church in Thames was only built in the 1950's but it has nothing in it, that records its history like European churches and I actually feel quite sad about that now, on reflection.

We had had such a full on day sightseeing in Stratford then driving all that way, we realized we had actually not had anything to eat or drink since breakfast so our dinner in this delightful pub was superb. It was actually very posh compared to many pub meals we had had so that made it even more delightful. Wonderfully welcoming staff and Receptionist we happily met as we arrived and went upstairs to our gorgeous and very comfortable room overlooking the village lane. Once more, being so old, the walls were a bit wobbly but it had been refurbished recently. Our large room with ensuite was very well thought out, having to incorporate the huge old beams in the walls and remain in keeping with the actually time period of the dwelling. We absolutely loved this place. We wished we could have stayed another night but it was not to be unfortunately. Yes, WE MUST COME BACK HERE.

Posted by RitchieOE 18:50 Comments (0)

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