Thursday, 8 September 2011


ENGLAND & SCOTLAND – (THE ROAD TRIP) - It's been 25 years since we set foot in our Mother country and how lucky were to have our nephew (he's grown up too) and wife pick us up at Dover. As we loaded the car with numerous bags, we waved our lovely "Dawn" au revoir ……. until we meet again!! After meeting the kids and bassets we were treated to a wonderful roast and apple crumble – what a welcome!! Colin's sister & hubby arrived and next morning headed up the M6? to Kings Lynn in Norfolk where we stayed right on the town square – it hasn't changed at all! More family and friends arrived for a lovely reunion and we all celebrated the long & interesting life of dear Nanna.

With 'sat nav' set to head north and Scotland in mind, we took off – easy driving on motorway but the roundabouts are something to contend with!! Drove all day, enjoying the beautiful countryside and all I wanted was to stay in a nice little B&B on the coast, perhaps Blythe? No success, just nothing, so ended up at a Holiday Inn at 8.30pm – we were getting rather desperate but had a nice night chatting to the barman who was from Cochin, India, where we have just visited and he just loved talking about his beloved homeland.

Next day arrived in Stirling, Scotland, which is between Glasgow & Edinburgh and were lucky to find a beautiful B&B – (picked it out of a tourist mag.) – this stately old home (1803) on a huge estate with gardens & working farm, was a delight. We also drove to Perth and onto Scone (pronounced Scoon) where Colin's family lived for a while when he was a lad – we found the house, opposite a pine forest and he well remembered the dog who lived next door, biting him on the face – he still has the scar!!

Stirling is a nice town with the most wonderful Castle perched atop Castle Hill and we could barely believe our eyes when we spotted JOANNE & GARRY from our cruise, on their way out of the Castle as we were just about to enter. Hugs and kisses all around and what a small world it is!!!! Stirling Castle is strategically the most important castle in Scotland and steeped in incredible history from Robert the Bruce to Mary Queen of Scots who was crowned in the Royal Chapel…. a wonderful visit. Then went to the Falkirk Wheel, opened in 2002, (not heard about this one before) and were quite stunned by the ingenuity of this huge rotating boat lift which links the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal. Because of all the daylight hours we then drove to Loch Lomond – 'twas a beautiful sunny afternoon where we sat on the bonny, bonny banks, not quite believing that we were actually at a place sung about for ever and ever and seeming to be so far away.…… What a brilliant day!!

With suitcase back in car and thanking our lovely host after being served another full English breakfast, drove to Edinburgh. Took advantage of the 'Park & Ride' and caught the bus into the centre of the city. Wow, Edinburgh Castle was right there, just massive!! But, those rotten tourists are ruining our day again - the queue just far too long to go inside but we did walk around the parade ground at the entrance where we've all watched that famous 'Tattoo' on the telly. Also walked the famous Royal Mile, full of sourvenir shops and pubs, to the Queen's official Scottish residence, Holyrood Palace. After picking up the car we soon realised that we had also picked up a huge screw in a tyre – not repairable – so after that slight set back to our time schedule we just prayed that we didn't get another flat as it was the weekend and tyre shops closed.

A good drive down the M6 passing all the city signs recognisable by their football clubs, and a night in Penrith – another cute little town and nice, newly renovated hotel. We spent the next afternoon and evening with friends in Birmingham who took us on a grand walking/talking tour of their city – it's all been freshly modernised and because the weather was so good, people were spilling out on to the footpaths in inviting café's and pubs. Our friends lived on a long boat on the canal for many years, until children arrived, and there were many to be seen 'parked' right in the centre of the city – fun during good weather but can't imagine what it would be like in the middle of winter!!! We also visited the really lovely and family friendly Botanical Gardens and heard a rumour that Camilla would be arriving that day – unfortunately we had to get on with our road trip and missed seeing her in the flesh!!

Next stop was Melksham, where Colin lived for a while and we stayed in another B&B, only to find it only had a bath – no shower - how does one wash one's hair?? Well the answer is, with great difficulty crouching in the bath with head under the tap!! To add to the frustration, the bath 'sheet's were so thick, it was very difficult to dry oneself. We also looked up Colin's old footy club – Chippenham and went to look at their new grounds. No one there as it was Monday but after a phone call, they suggested we come back on Wednesday night – we did and found pictures of Colin's team of long ago on the wall of the office and also chatted with an oldie, who remembered Colin but not the reverse. He was able to fill Colin in with news of many teammates, some of course had 'left the building'. We also had a great day at Fordcombe Abbey where they were holding a charity do, beautiful grounds and ferret racing!!!

Next trip down memory lane took us to Chard, and a super B&B with shower, where Colin finished school. School holidays but the gate was open and we walked in, luckily to find the headmaster very happy to show us around. It was built in 1553 and became a school in 1671 and some rooms haven't changed at all – winding wooden dilapidated spiral staircase leading up to little rooms (once used as the dormitories) with stone arched doorways – these rooms now mainly used for storage but a couple of classrooms still operate. There again Colin was featured in one of the very few 'year' photos on a wall in an office. Later we did a great 'pub crawl' of Chard talking to the locals, trying to find someone he knew but ended up at the Conservative Club – we had to be scrutinized before being allowed to enter - had a great dinner and Colin reminisced about his old headmaster spending many an evening in that very Club.

Next day we drove down to the coast to Lyme Regis, what a pretty holiday spot. The best and funniest sight for me were the colourful beach huts - there are many along the cement path, only the size of a very small garden shed but filled with literally everything, including the kitchen sink. We couldn't help but take photos and were welcomed by one lady lying on her sun lounge outside 'hers' on the cement path. She somehow recognised our accents and was very chatty telling us that their family had been coming there for 38 years!! The beach was gritty and pebbly but guess they don't know any different and they do just love their water views, even if rugged up….

On to Weymouth next to visit a lovely old aunty, whom I've only ever seen three times. Her daughter and I became pen pals over 50 years ago and we still communicate, now of course via email and the very occasional visit. Weymouth is an extremely busy and popular holiday destination with a lovely sandy beach but of course not many 'waves' – I have memories of my uncle winning many competitions for his great sand sculptures here… The sun shone and the promenade was totally congested with holiday makers – lovely big beach, hoards of people lounging in colourful deck chairs, holiday shops laden with blow up beach balls and anything that could float, amusement parlours and tall, skinny hotels and apartments butted up against each other.

We also visited Portland, as one of our dining companions on the ship grew up there, we hadn't heard of it and it was very interesting – right off the Dorset coast there's a massive sandy stretch, Chesil Beach, with one of the largest man-made harbours in the world on the other side and then on a massive block of limestone sits the town of Portland, renowned for its stone. The narrow windy roads weave their way up to the top and a fantastic view all the way back to Weymouth – a nice hotel/café up there with welcome coffee!!

The next couple of nights were spent in Weybridge at my cousin's (my old pen pal – well she's as old as I am) and it was a great catch up with her and hubby along with being wined and dined. My cousin took us to Brooklands, now a fantastic museum – it was opened in 1907 as the first motor racing circuit and aerodrome and today is filled with all sorts of vintage cars and aircraft, including the Sultan of Brunei's old plane and the Concorde, both of which we toured through.

Next overnight stay was with one of Colin's old school mates and his family on a beautiful farm near Dorking. It was quite delightful and serene with acres of rolling hills, hay bales, horses, cows and chickens and a lovely old farm cottage, all topped off with good tucker and good friends. We then had a very quick 'knock on the door' of one of Colin's cousin's daughters (didn't have their phone number) and were warmly greeted by her and hubby and 3 great little boys – we are just so glad we met them all and had the chance to have a quick chat.After 1,600 MILES, we returned the car back to Brentwood and decided to spend a couple of days in London. Our hotel was near the London Eye but as it was still school holidays, very warm weather and the crowds wall to wall, we opted for doing the Eye first thing next morning. So with that in mind, spent the rest of the day, walking, walking and walking amongst many of those iconic buildings and finally ending up at Buckingham Palace for the most wonderful tour of the Palace and the grounds – another brilliant day!!! We were so tired when we returned to the hotel we picked up the room service menu and after finally deciding what we wanted, realized it was their restaurant menu!!!....... feet up for another half an hour and then crawled across the road to enjoy a delicious Italian meal.

Feet recovered, but Colin decided not to do the "London Eye"– woos!! It was fantastic and I have got some great video of this wonderful city and a few good photos as well….. Queues to enter Westminster Abbey were humungus so not this time - got on the tube and visited Harrods, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and more – so impressed with the roads in London now – obviously with the congestion tax keeping the majority of cars out of the city, there seemed to be only buses and big cabs literally flying by……. think we should take heed!! It was back to Brentwood on the train and the most wonderful dinner with our family, before a very early morning wake up, for the drive to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais and then exploring France.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011


DOVER (England) – Well we have finally arrived and the white cliffs are right there in front of us. It's a time of very mixed emotions for us as we leave this wonderful home away from home which has given us a truly fantastic holiday, and new friends galore. We have had many Crazy Cruisers lunches – thank you Anne, (& Joanne & Garry for organising all of those fun awards), putting faces to the names of those we 'chatted with on the net' before we left home and look forward to keeping in touch. We also enjoyed many get togethers and a farewell lunch with our caravanning mates and hope to see you 'on the road again' one day!! When we look back on the thousands of photos we have, it brings back so many memories of good times never to be forgotten.
To all of you lucky ones who are still cruising home, we wish you a very happy and fun filled trip and really look forward to reading your continuing adventures in your blogs and emails. To Table 18, hope you behave yourselves – well we know you won't!! - but we are sure you will look after Carol & Randy (our dear American friends whom we warmed their seats for). Such a super adventure to new and fascinating places that I never dreamt we would ever visit and we feel so privileged to have met such a great group of travelling companions - and as the saying goes - all good things come to an end……. well this voyage anyway – hope to see you all on the high seas in the not too distant future!
Sadly our next journey will be to King's Lynn in Norfolk, for Colin's Mum's funeral…. We'll continue with our land travel blog and hope to keep you posted…. farewell for now…… Judy & Colin

Thursday, 11 August 2011


LE HAVRE (France) – Well after being blessed with the most amazing weather for most of the trip, our last port of call before disembarking was grey and rainy. Many of the ship's passengers were doing trips into Paris today but as we will be spending time there in a few weeks time, we again just mozied around on foot. Not a great deal to see in town as it was Saturday afternoon and many of the shops were closed but we did find a luggage shop open and were able to buy 'another' bag despite the language barrier. We then ventured into a café and bought coffees and cakes (oh it's going to be fun dealing the French lingo when we get there!!!) We did our final pack and began farewelling so many friends we met whilst we were on board, lots of lovely friendships made and so many good memories… Before we knew it, we were enjoying our last supper with our great dinner mates and wonderful waiters – we'll miss them all so much.
Photos above are: General de Gaulle Place; the War Memorial there; just walking in the rain.


LISBON (Portugal) – After a great farewell deck party, we cruised through the night through the Straits of Gibraltar and turned the corner leaving the beautiful royal blue water of the Mediterranean behind us and entering the Atlantic and unfortunately the temperature has dropped dramatically. Time to pack the swimmers away and think about how we are going to sort out our luggage, with all the extras, after we arrive in Dover for the next instalment of our journey in England and France….
We loved Lisbon from the moment we arrived, with its colourful old buildings decorated with beautiful tiles of various patterns and colours. Again we hopped on a city bus tour and saw the sights, then walked and walked and walked around several 'Squares' with imposing monuments everywhere and surrounded by wonderful architecture and enjoying all the nooks and crannies, ending up in a street café in the Alfama Quarter, the old part of the city, where we devoured delightful Portugese tarts and coffee….. so good!!
Photos above are: Ultimate Deck Party and some of the crew having fun; amazing desserts; and more amazing desserts; our last 'deck dance' with Jo & Garry; I'm sure someone will remind me of the name of this lovely monument; Discovery Monument honouring 15th/16th century writers, artists, mathematicians and explorers; no, we are not in San Fran or Rio, it is Lisbon's beautiful monument; enjoying Ros' birthday (whilst she & Arnold spend a few days in Paris) – we had a very good party!!

Monday, 8 August 2011


GIBRALTAR:  What a great big Rock!!! Very impressive and so British - flags, red telephone boxes and letter boxes everywhere and of course all the British shops!! As there was another huge cruise ship in port, this little town was buzzing with tourists taking advantage of the duty free shopping and stocking up with souvenirs. We made our way up to the Cable Car but sadly the queue was so long that we would not have had the time and there were very few cable cars to ride as well, so sadly we missed out on seeing the Barbary Apes (we did see a million stuffed ones in the shops tho'?!!). Our sail away was a lot of fun with the Independence of the Seas (berthed next to us) which was full of Brits touring the Med for 10 days, providing the music and frivolity. Their top deck was full of passengers 3 deep by the time they departed, looking down on us on our top deck and giving us a lot of cheek!! A very pretty sail away with the Rock of Gibraltar and its lovely little town fading into the distance.

Photos above are:  the closest we got to seeing Barbary Apes;  a popular shop with the passengers;  too few cable cars for 6,000 passengers;  shoppers everywhere;  our ship in the foreground with the Independence of the Seas;  and last of the warm weather with the Rock of Gibraltar in background.


BARCELONA (Spain) – As it was Sunday, most of the city was closed but we enjoyed a city bus tour with the wildly different architecture of Goudi very noticeable and fascinating. We got off half way and walked down La Rambla which was filled with market stalls, street gamblers (which pea is under the pod), and buskers etc….. had lunch al fresco and watched the locals stroll by as we were continually being reminded by café staff about thieves and to keep an eye on our bags!! Hopped on the bus again and got off at the Museum where we had a great view of the city before returning back to the port where we strolled around more markets.
Photos above are: the start of Las Ramblas; McDonalds sign showing what you can buy for 1Euro (AUD 1.5); sweet treats in La Rambla; Colin looking like a real tourist; quaint architecture; the Palace Museum; view from the Palace Museum; more views of the city; and may not look exciting but these mobile gangways are great – move along on runners.