The Changing of the Guard

What vist to London is complete without watching the Changing of the Guard. The red coats, furry hats, trumpets, rifles, swords. Fun for young and old… mainly old judging by the crowd.

Parading up The Mall today were the Queens Life Guards, the Army Air Corps and the Coldstream Guards Band.

-Simon

Royal Windsor

Windsor was a quick stop before heading back into London, mainly to have a look at Windsor Castle. Situated on the Thames, Windsor is a pretty town and a favourite with the tourists. We wandered through Windsor’s busy streets and checked out some of the tourist shops followed by ice cream by the river.

I like this photo, Victoria is quite imposing and I dare say I shall practice this pose and glare. If only I had the castle to go with it!

– Gemma

Avebury Henge

Whilst they aren’t ‘Stone Henge’, the small town of Avebury is home to some big, old rocks that are possibly older than the more well known site and made for a good destination on our way back to London from Bath. 

A massive ditch, 21 metres wide and 11 high, encirlces the town that is built on the historic site of the stone circles (the wall of the ditch can be seen in the background of the above photo). Most of the stones where pulled down and chopped up for use in buildings and stone walls, others were buried to make more space in the fields. Originally there were almost 100 stones, some that weighed over 40 tonnes, only 27 have been re-errected.

While I marvelled at the size of the rocks and how they were originally moved here and put in place (the larger ones continue underground 3 metres deep or more), Gemma and Kimberley seemed happier to take photos of the sheep.  As you can see sheep graze peacefully amoungst the henge disturbed only by a passing tourist.

A local souvenir/antique shop provided the most enjoyment.  The owner, who had lived in Avebury all his life, was somewhat of a history buff and able to inform us of the history of the town and henge.  For his trouble we bought an antique stone medicine jar that will become a vase in our home (when we find one).  We also checked out another old Church  in the town that originated over 1000 years ago, the current building being completed in the 16th centuary. 

-Simon

Bathing

The drive from Edinburgh to Bath, whilst scenic, did not really provide much of note so I shall skip straight to our day in Bath.

We joined a walking tour in the morning with one of the Mayor’s Volunteers and she took us to see the main historic sites in Bath. The tour highlights where the Roman Spas, forgotten underground for hundreds of years before being excavated for public viewing, and Bath Abbey, completed in 1539.

Bath was essentially a centre of wellbeing and rest and that feeling still exists today with a number of dayspas offering the latest in mineral treatments. Just like the Romans did, people from all over the world come to soak in the hot springs for their healing (or at least relieving) qualities. Still the springs pump up 250,000 gallons of water a day. Somone asked the guide had the city of Bath done anything to harness this sort of energy – not yet.

The rest of our day in Bath was spent strolling the streets and soaking up the atmosphere…

-Gemma

Edinburgh

Edinburgh instantly grabbed me as a city I could probably live in. From the fantastic cheap hostel (Globetrotter, definitely stay here if your ever out this way) and the cheap transport to its historic charm, it just seemed to fit. If we ever do another working holiday, this will be high on my list.

I’m going to list the days events out of order to mix things up a little with this post, I hope it makes sense. The photo above is a view of Edinburgh looking towards the sea. I took it from Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the mountain range that forms Holyrood Park. Holyrood park contains the ruins of Holyrood Palace where the coronations of the Kings and Queens of Scotland took place. I climbed the mountain you see in front and the one the photo was taken from in the afternoon while Gemma rested in the grass below. Its very steep in places but well worth the effort.

From Holyrood Park the ‘Royal Mile’ stretches up towards Edinburgh Castle. If you click the photo to see one of the larger versions you will find Edinburgh Castle just to the right of dead centre. As with Jedburgh Abbey yesterday we were able to see this for free this weekend. We wandered the castle grounds getting a good look at parts of Edinburgh and also checked out the Honours of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels).

Before heading back to our hostel we met up with Gemma’s friends Jodie and Tammy for a meal. It was good fun catching up on each others travel’s and we were especially grateful that they new a good inexpensive place to eat, the conversion rate is chewing through the poor Australian/Candian dollars we have!

-Simon

Jedburgh Abbey, Scotland

Not really knowing how far till we hit Edinburgh and in much need of a stop we randomly picked a town on the map for lunch. As we neared the town of Jedburgh we could see the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey and were not so hungry anymore. Our curiosity was all the more satisfied when we discovered it was a free weekend for entry and audio tour in the ruins.

The Abbey was founded in 1138 by David I and housed the Augustine monks. Given its close proximity to the English border and the frequent feuding between the English and the Scots, the abbey has been repaired a number of times. The levels of arches tell a story of gradual development as they move through the architectural styles, from mostly Romanesque and then to Gothic. The Abbey was ultimatley destroyed by Henry VIII and parts laid dormant under the town of Jedburgh before being excavated in 1983. Despite its current condition the abbey is still very inspiring.

Also of note is Mary Queen of Scots house which is now a museum.

Oh and Alison, we had our first chip buttie!

– Gemma

Richmond Castle

We are on our way to Edinburgh today, our first stop was Richmond Castle. It was built in 1071 by the Normans.

We only stopped briefly to take a few photos, much of this trip around the UK has been unplanned and we are really finding things to see by chance. Its worked well so far, we’ll see what else we run into down the road.

York

We left early this morning from our questionable accomodation in Leeds for York which is only a short drive. We made a stop at Hazelbrooke Castle along the way, our first taste of what I’m sure will be many.

Not having any accomodation booked, the best part of the day was spent chasing up various hostels and hotels. So much so that we missed the free walking tour at 2:30pm. Not to be discouraged we took a walk around the old streets of York by ourselves and even joined a Ghost tour following dinner.

While York is of similar age to London, having been founded by the Romans, it is very interesting to be in a city that hasn’t visually changed a great deal since medieval times. London has burnt to the ground at least once and actually appears to be more modern than even Sydney in many regards while an English knight wouldn’t look out of place in York.

Stepping out of our car where we first parked I stumbled across the ruins of St Mary’ Abbey. Only one wall still remains behind the York Museum as its stone was recycled to build newer buildings.  York Minster is now the main draw card, it is the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe.

The structure in the above photo is Cliffords Tower built on a Norman motte and named after Roger de Clifford who was exectued and hung from the walls for opposing Edward II. According to our tour guide in 1190 the Jewish population of York, seeking protection inside the walls from a violent mob, found themselves trapped and rather than surrender killed each other while the tower was burnt around them. The tower was rebuilt in stone that apparently turned red with the blood of the Jews.

A very intersting city, it is a shame we don’t have longer here.

-Simon

From London to Leeds

Our first leg of our UK trip is London to Leeds. We spent the day weaving through the english country side, which is beautiful. Very green with lots of little leaping lambs and fields of bright yellow canola.

When we stopped for lunch in Bedforshire Kimberley remembered that our Aunty Phyll (my Dad’s sister) lived somewhere in the area. Armed with only her first name and a vague memory of the street name we set off to find her. We grabbed a directory for Bedfordshire and found ‘The Birches’ ( Phyll’s street name) in the town of Shefford. Unfortunatly this was not right, so we stopped in the White Swan for a beer to reasses the situation.

A neighbouring town, Flitwick, also had ‘The Birches’ so we set off again. This was not correct either, but a lady in the street helped us out and let us use her phone to ring Aunty Phyll. After this (oh and a quick stop into the George hotel for some assistance) we found her in a different town not far away and topped off the afternoon with a strong cup of tea and good chat.

We then set off for the rest of our trip to Leeds, an overnight stop before our trip to York.

-Gemma

Exploring the city

After our quick orientation of London yesterday, today we took our time to look at a few of the sites a bit more closely. What you are looking at here is Kimberley ascending a stairway (of 311 steps) which winds its way up the Monument. 202 feet high the monument gave us a great view of London and I was suprised by how modern the city looked.

From there we checked out Tower Castle and Tower Bridge and had lunch overlooking the Thames. We then met up with my cousin Candice and Kimberley took us all out to Camden markets. Lots of variety in Camden, from new age, to gothic to cheap souveniers and had the Aus dollar compared a little better with the Pound I may have come back with quite a few things.

I am enjoying London, it has all you expect, like the big red buses, old fashioned taxis, and telephone boxes, but it is much cleaner and has a interesting mix of old and new architecture. The gardens are also great, lots of tulips at the moment and the grass is thick and green,

Tomorrow it’s off to York and into the english country side

– Gemma