Last Day in London

Our last full day is Sunday – always my favourite day in any city. It’s when the locals relax usually in a park.

We started at Westminster Cathedral at a choral Mass. The Cathedral was packed and the singing was beautiful.

We skipped the invitation to have tea with the congregation in the church hall. We had a lunch date!

I had booked at Tredwells – a restaurant recommended by a friend. It does a Sunday roast for £29.

Tredwells is near Covent Garden and it was great. We had a table looking out over a terrace to the street. For no extra we got a great little drama. The police pulled over a car. Not just any car but a rather bright blue Rolls Royce with a casually dressed man behind the wheel and another man – perhaps his boss? As the driver engaged the policeman in chat the passenger got out threw on his expensive jacket, looked at his Rolex and strolled off! What were we witnessing? I could speculate……

What to do after Church and Sunday roast? Go to the park.

So off to Hyde park to visit Kensington Palace, to see the flowers and words for Diana on the gate. To sit on the green deck chairs and watch the world go by. And believe me there were lots of people of the world here in the park today.

Kensington Palace gates decorated for Diana

We walked for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel to collect our bags and head to the airport hotel. We have reached the end.

With an early flight, we had the last night at the Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4. What a great find. For £49 it was great. Best airport hotel I’ve stayed in.

Now just the long flight home.

The Wonderful Wallace Collection

When I asked visiting ADFAS lecturer Viv Lawes “which London Gallery I should not miss?”, she had no hesitation in answering “The Wallace Collection”.

So today was the day.

I also wanted to check out Marylebone High Street. So off I went and Steve went to the National Army Museum (which he thought better than the Imperial War Museum).

The High Street is lovely. Lots of beautiful shops including The White Company – which just happens to make the pyjamas handed out on Qatar Air – for business class passengers.

I witnessed a rather posh baby christening where the guests looked dressed for a wedding. It was in St James’ church.

Then at 11.30am I joined the tour for an overview of the Wallace Collection. Our guide was a very little, very posh lady dressed in a lovely suit. She was a good age, so probably had been volunteering for ages. She led us around the house at a snails pace which suited me as I wasn’t in a hurry.

When it finished right on 1pm I made my way to the cafe to meet Steve for lunch.

Museums and Galleries generally have great cafes and gift shops and this was no exception. I had a lovely light quiche and salad. Just right!

The next hours were spent wandering the large house separated into rooms of various colour with an amazing art collection. Canelettos everywhere. And at the moment in each room are shoes.

Not just any shoes but Manolo Blahník works of art. They have been arranged to match the colours and the themes of art in each room. It’s extraordinary.

Steve was rather taken with the armour room and there was a ‘try it on session ‘ so naturally I tried on a glove!

Leaving the gallery we walked back to our hotel through the streets of Marylebone. I saw a little chair on the pavement! Needed some care and a new home! A lovely area of London.

The evening held another adventure. We met up with Chris, a swim friend from our very first trek in Sardinia back in 2013. We met in a pub near St Martyn’s in the Field – a church near Trafalgar Square and the wonderful National Gallery.

Again we caught the bus there as I love looking at the famous landmarks from the front seat on the top deck!

Following a pub meal and a goodbye selfie with Chris we went to the church for a performance of some “oldies but goodies”. Vivaldi & Bach just for starters. Very enjoyable.

Then the evening ride back to Marble Arch by bus.

Swimming the Pond at Hampstead Heath

Today it’s catch up day with friends made through our swim trek in Montenegro several years ago.

Somehow swimming is a social sport- something I didn’t realise until I took it up several years ago.

We’ve now been on about six Swim Trek holidays. They involve a week of swimming with like minded people. We’re there for fun, exercise a holiday.

This group from Montenegro: 6 came from England, 1 each from France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. And us!

We’ve kept in touch and the ones from England, France and Switzerland have all caught up and swum together. So when we said we’d be visiting London we organised a catch up.

And where better than the pond / lido ( as pools are called here in England) at Hampstead Heath. You may have been there so let me know if you have. This area has featured in a few movies including one last year starting Diane Keaton. It looked great so I was keen to visit The Heath.

We caught a bus there. I prefer a bus if the traffic is flowing as you can see where you are going. We arrived at Hampstead for coffee then walked down some charming streets towards the Heath.

It’s a beautiful area to visit. Both the village and the Heath.

There were lots of people out walking, most with dogs, as we made our way along the track leading up the mixed pond. There are three bathing areas: a mixed pond, a women’s pond and a men’s. We were meeting at the mixed pond in case Steve wanted a swim. He didn’t!

I’ve heard the women’s pond is amazing and I bought a book in a book store which is a collection of women writers writing about their swimming experience st the Ladies Pond. Anyone read it?

Well the two brave girls, Lucy and Catherine jumped in ! not a problem. Water temperature was 18! Yeeks.

When they got out they had to have a cold shower !

Brrr. We must be soft Qld swimmers.

We then went to the nearby pub – the Freemasons Arms , where we were joined by Ellie, Rosie and Lexie. And that’s where we stayed all afternoon.

Steve was the only guy there – Chris couldn’t make it today so we’re seeing him tomorrow.

What a great group.

Kew Gardens comes alive at Night: Chihuly

After walking all day we headed out to Kew Gardens on the train. Well – 3 trains and a walk. About 45mins.

I wanted to see the glass sculptures by day light – with the sun on them. And as magnificent as they were in the day it was the night light that really made them shine.

We entered the gardens and had an hour and half to walk through the main areas and see all 12 sculpture locations. So we walked.

We went to the Hive. A steel structure which lights up depending on vibration from real bees in a hive nearby. Read about it here.

https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/real-bees-drive-the-hive

We continued to walk around the locations of the sculptures.

Here are some of the glass sculptures.

Read here about Dale Chihuly. It’s a great story. You may have seen his work. Let me know if you have.

https://www.chihuly.com

When the gardens closed st 7 we had to leave then wait outside until 7.30 when we could get back in for the night session.

So we resisted queuing until the last minute. It paid off know how to plan our tour of the night garden. We hurried to the Pavilion before the crowds and ordered some food and drink listening to the music 🎶.

Then it was dark and off we went on a magical journey along paths lit by lanterns.

Each sculpture was a treat.

Inside the glass house they were hidden in and around the plants and suspended from the ceiling.

And in the smaller Waterlily pavilion the white sculptures were breathtaking.

It was a wonderful night out.

And I walked over 30,000 steps!

Henry Moore Sculpture Garden.

Belonging to ADFAS Brisbane is a great way to discover new ideas, artists, sculptures – things of a Fine Arts and Decorative Arts nature.

https://www.adfas.org.au/societies/queensland/brisbane/

At a lecture a few years ago I found out about two sculptors I had heard of, but hadn’t seen their work – apart from in books.

Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Being near the Moore house and garden was an opportunity not to be missed. I’m so glad we went.

http://www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-studios-gardens

It’s about an hour from Cambridge and and hour and half from London in a little village called Much Hadham.

We wound around country lanes, past churches and houses like out of a tv series. In fact it is close to Grandchester – which is a tv series.

We pulled up at the gallery and garden with the house ‘Hoglands’ next door.

We spent the next few hours wandering around the large garden and sheep fields with its massive sculptures.

They are scattered around the green fields – the furthest about a 15 minute walk.

There are also several studios and a barn which houses some massive tapestries done by local master weavers to Henry Moore’s sketches and colour design. They are beautiful and something I hadn’t seen before.

In an adjacent studio there was an exhibition of his drawings over a long period of his life. Again wonderful. In the years during the second war he was commissioned to do some drawings reflecting the life of people in London. He chose to do a series in the bomb shelters.

The tour of the house, in its original state, as left by his daughter after Henry died and three years later his wife Irina died.

This is where we found out about the man. He seems to be not only talented but also very warm and kind.

The studio with the marquettes is fascinating. It’s full of models of the sculptures. Henry would prepare them and with the help of other sculptors they would be built to scale.

If you get the chance to visit this wonderful part of the world don’t miss Henry Moore House and garden.

Cambridge and College life

Leaving the island was difficult. It’s so beautiful and we had such a ‘jolly time’ as the Famous Five would say!

Cambridge and the punts beckoned, so after lunch at the pub we packed up and headed off.

Arriving in the afternoon around 4 it was still very warm, so after checking into our accommodation – Newnham College –  we headed off.

Accomodation in Cambridge is quite expensive and we had a car to park so this College, just over the river from the town, was perfect.

Steve did some study here a while ago and remembered the layout. So we started walking and opted to jump on a punt for a close-up view of the Colleges that line the river.

They are beautiful. Our guide and pole master, Charity, was very good at storytelling and brought alive some of the history behind the establishment of these famous Colleges.

Kings College, Trinity and St Johns are big, imposing and rivals!

We glided along – sometimes ducking the poles of the punters who thought they could ‘do it themselves’ and obviously couldn’t!

After river excitement it was beer and Pimms time. Very traditional to have a Pimms before, after or during punting.

Dinner in a pub on the river then a walk back to our College. It would be great to be a student here for awhile.

The next morning we bought tickets to view the Kings College Chapel – a must. It’s huge. Hardly a Chapel and has an interesting history to go with it.

Read about it here.

http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/kings-college-chapel

From here we went up the Wren Library in Trinity College. It’s a must for Library lovers. It opened in 1695 and is still a working library.

https://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/library/wren-library/

They have a wonderful collection including a hand written copy of Winnie the Pooh! But no photos allowed.

I loved the little brass motifs all along the footpaths.

Then it was off to the countryside to visit the Henry Moore Sculpture Garden.

I’ll have to blog about that separately. It’s that wonderful.

Camping on an island in the River Thames!

We’ve met some wonderful people on our swim trek holidays and Bill has become a firm friend.

He visited us in Caloundra after Christmas last year and now we have visited him at his summer get away.

He’s very fortunate to have the lease on a camp site on an island in the River Thames at Shiplake – not far from Henley.

We arrived in a little laneway with a ridiculously cute name and were met by Bill.

He led the way and we walked over the bridge to the island carrying a small bag for our overnight stay.

We passed the lock keeper’s cottage

And walked past the other 13 tents to the second last one.

It’s really quite civilised! A little more glamping than camping. There are beds and rugs on the floor, even a little kitchen. Just no bathroom. There is a toilet block nearby.

We settled in and had a swim before lunch. The river is cold and beautiful.

I didn’t actually swim! I watched and took photos. It was a little too cold for me after the warm Turkish waters.

After lunch we …

We set off in the row boat. I got to steer the rudder and Bill and Steve rowed. It was so lovely gliding down the river.

Quite an adventure!

We stopped for an afternoon G & T at the Bull a charming pub at Sonning not far from the river bank. We had to go through the church yard to get there.

Then it was back into the boat for an adventure. We went via The Patrick – an overgrown small river. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.

It was great fun. Bill sure knows how to entertain us!

Dinner, cooked by Bill was a bbq. Perfect sitting on the deck beside the river.

Sleeping in the comfortable bed was delicious. The noise of water splashing over the weir lulled us into a long peaceful sleep. It was cool but so cosy under the covers.

The next morning was overcast but that didn’t stop the boys from swimming – though even Steve said it was cold. Brrr.

Breakfast followed by a swing or perhaps table tennis. Or even some gardening!

Then it was back in the row boat heading up the river to another pub. This time for lunch. But not before we went under a low bridge or two! And past some very posh houses.

After lunch we meandered back to the island and reluctantly packed up.

We headed for Cambridge. Arriving at around 4 it was warm and the river looked inviting so we went punting. Such fun.

The Colleges along the River are magnificent.

We were entertained by those who thought they could punt on their own. Some were dangerously close to falling in. Others hitting people in other punts with their pole or simply not going anywhere!

We enjoyed a Pimms at the riverside pub as we watching the punting. Some good some not.

Tomorrow a bit more exploring – hopefully a visit the Wren Library.

Come along with me!

Sunday in London

We finally had a sleep in! We’ve been so busy – up and swimming and running around.

Today we had a slower start. We heard the Church bells from St Mary Abbots, a very old church at the back of our place. They got us going. We wanted to investigate.

Coffee at the same cafe as yesterday. When you find a good place I think you should stay with it. This place is great.

Then a wander down the street to look at the Church. We went in and chatted to a lady there about the history of the place. Steve’s sister nursed at the nearby hospital of the same name when she lived in London in the 70’s. It’s gone now – turned into luxury apartments!

Our good friend from our first swim trek, Chris invited us to lunch today. It’s nearby in Kensington. We really looked forward to going there and meeting his French wife, Cecile. She doesn’t do the swim treks, so hadn’t come to the various swims since we met Chris back in 2013.

We bought some gorgeous flowers and headed to their house. It’s a lovely 4 level house with a garden and sun terrace. Very special in this part of London. I didn’t like to whip out my camera so have very few photos.

The sun was out so we sat on the terrace and their daughter Susan was home from Paris where she works for a fashion company. She’s very sweet.

Then their eldest son Tim arrived. He’s been living in NY but is transferring back to London with his Australian girlfriend.

They are a lovely family. Cecile was a teacher Librarian like me! But works now as a careers advisor at the French Lycee.

Later in the day Steve went to the Science Museum and I went walking and window shopping in the area. It’s so nice around this part of London.

The blue spot is where we are staying. Quite close to Kensington Palace.

Later in the evening we walked to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie just down the street. We just had one simple course – but it was very nice. I had a fish curry and Steve had Shepherds Pie. Both little serves and quite delicious.

Now we are packing to leave this little Airbnb. Tomorrow we head towards Henley. Our friend Bill – yet another friend from our Galapagos swim trek – has a ‘camping’ spot on an island in the Thames! Yes. We are camping tomorrow night so that will be a change of pace. And the temperature is dropping.

Apparently we’ll be swimming in the Thames, perhaps a little rowing and hopefully a Gin & Tonic!

London

Arriving back in London was a change of pace.

Our Air BnB in Kensington is centrally located and great. It’s small but has everything.

Landing at 8.30pm it was late – so straight to bed.

The morning was clear and fine and I explored out the back of our apartment.

It backs onto a garden which is private and quiet. Really lovely.

We got ready and headed off to Covent Garden and Somerset House to explore it before lunch at Spring.

Covent Garden was alive with buskers – very good performers including an Australian opera singer. There’s so much life to the place. It’s infectious.

Then a tour of Somerset House built into 1547.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/plan-your-visit

In the new wing of Somerset House is Spring. It’s a restaurant owned by Skye Gyngell, an Australian.

http://springrestaurant.co.uk/about/skye-gyngell/

It’s elegant, pretty, delicious. I’d heard about from Gourmet magazine and a friend, Shelley who visited it earlier this year.

She was right. The sommelier, Monique from Cape Town, was welcoming and friendly and looked absolutely gorgeous in her ‘uniform ‘ as did the young waiter.

Everyone admired her ‘uniform’ and she demonstrated how it tied up!

If they looked so good, with attention to detail , then the food would be great.

We had the set menu at 27 pounds. It was delicious. I had a salad then octopus (yes can’t get away from it), Steve roasted beetroot with tomatoes and onglet (hanger steak) with beans. So pretty, so delicious. But light!

Passing by the restaurant we saw the latest demonstration about Brexit. They are heartily sick of it here. Boris is standing arrogantly against opposition and I think not worrying what the demonstrators are saying. They blocked the bridge near Somerset House causing disruption to Saturday traffic.

So we escaped the blocked traffic and caught the tube to the V&A where we were meeting Bill, our Galapagos swim trek friend.

The V&A is wonderful. Another tribute to Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

We saw the exhibition on baths (pools) or Lidos in Great Britain.

Then an eye opening exhibition on Food.

We really need to wake up and get moving with sustainable food practices. It’s a wonder we could eat after we saw the way some food is produced – en masse. We should all be growing our own and never waste anything.

With that in mind we went to Royal Albert Hall, another magnificent building used for big concerts notably the BBC Proms – one we were attending tonight.

https://www.royalalberthall.com

We had a pre-concert dinner at Elgar one of the lovely restaurants.

Then into our box for the Henry Wood tribute concert. Henry Wood a former great conductor, musician and composer. He died in 1944 after a long career. He started the Promenade Concerts in 1895 now called the Proms. What a legacy.

The concert was wonderful. A real mix of music types but all told his story.

The Royal Albert Hall is a great place to visit if you come to London.

Hellespont: Race day arrives

Steve left at 5.30 for a light breakfast before heading to the wharf for the 6.30 boat across to the start line – 800 staters for the race!.

I stayed and packed and made my way to the finish line. It was quite the scene.

Many Turkish families gathered to cheer on their sons and daughters.

It was hard to see the swimmers arriving. Some were being swept by the current past the finish line – adding a difficult swim back to finish.

I was hoping Steve wasn’t amongst those unfortunate swimmers.

I saw Vanessa. She was beaming. She’s had a great swim and came in under one hour. A really great time.

I couldn’t see Steve and started to worry. Not another swim like Hong Kong!

Finally Hussein, our local Swim Trek guide, came and found me. ‘Steve arrived about 10 mins ago. He came in around 1hr 5″. Then George arrived around 1hr 15. All three had great swims and were jubilant.

They all wore their Hellespont finishers medal with pride.

After photos and watching the last swimmers arrive (or not! – as some were pulled out) we had a beer before racing back to the hotel to change for our flight back to London. When booking we made a mistake with dates and booked a day early.

Steve was lucky he got to do the swim!

We had time to watch the award ceremony – we were hopeful Vanessa would get a medal.

The young Turks won the first 3 major places, and then they did the age groups starting with the eldest – for a change – and unbelievably “Stefan Maitland” was called out as the bronze medal winner for his age group. Third. Wow. We all cheered and Steve was a bit knocked out!

Then Vanessa won Gold in her age group!

What a day.

With Simon Murie, owner of Swim Trek and “foreigners” organiser for Hellespont.

From there to the airport for our flight to London. Talk about a busy day.

Looking forward to a change of pace and weather. It was very hot in Turkey but London will be cooler.