London Tourism: Something Different

Away from the open-top buses and the packed touris magnets in the centre of the city, there are some unusual things to see there that justify making the extra effort to travel to see them.

St John’s Gate.
Built in 1504 as a monastic priory, this ancient gate in Clerkenwell remains to show us what London would have looked like at the time of Henry VII.
It is now the museum of The Order of St John, and entry is free. Opening times and more information can be found on the website.

The Museum of the Order of St John

Sir John Soane’s Museum.
The fascinating collection on display in the house where Sir John lived from 1792, in the historic district of Lincoln’s inn Fields.
Entry is free, and opening times can be found on the website.

The Horniman Museum.
This 1901-built museum will require an easy train journey to the south of the centre, but you will be rewarded with a collection of cultural artifacts and exhibits from the natural world. The gardens are also extensive.
Entry is free, with charges for some extra exhibitions. Details on the website.

Kew Gardens: The Royal Botanic Gardens.
Located to the south west of London, this can be accessed via the London Underground. The world famous gardens and glasshouses contain botanical samples from all over the planet, situated in lovely peaceful grounds. You could easily spend a full day there, but allow at least a half-day for a visit. Tickets cost £15 per adult. More information on the website.

The Thames Barrier.
Accessed south of the river near the district of Woolwich, this engineering marvel saves London from being flooded by the River Thames, and is an amazing sight straddling the great river.

The Painted Hall, Greenwich.
This amazing Painted Hall is part of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Take a riverboat trip from Westminster to Greenwich Pier, and see London from the river on the way. Tickets cost £12.50 for adults, but last for a whole year of visits. More information on the website.

Painted Hall

Six unusual things to see that will not usually be on any tourist itinerary.

London: American Connections Tour

If you are an American planning to visit london, you might be interested in this specialist tour I have discovered.
(I have NO connection to this company)

History, Heritage & Culture: The American Connection
America and Britain share a long and valued history together. As a result of this history, we invite you to visit the sites in central London that create this special relationship between Britain and the America. On this tour, you will see the places that relate to the fore-fathers and countrymen of the great USA. In addition, you are guaranteed to see the main London landmarks. While you will be sure not to miss anything of the American Connection. Most of all, there are many opportunities to stop for that extra special photo for your album.

Itinerary summary.
Your driver guide will pick you up from your hotel in a black taxi and take you on this special memories tour of our amazing city. You will start with a brief overview of the US Embassy and various statues and memorials in Mayfair such as Roosevelt Memorial, 9/11 Memorial, Reagan Statue with Berlin wall piece and the Flying Squadron memorial dedicated to US pilots who fought with the RAF before America entered the war. Not far from there, you will see where Jimi Hendrix lived and President Theodore Roosevelt got married and had his honeymoon as did the other President Roosevelt!

In Westminster, you will learn that Churchill was half American and had a secret hotline to President Roosevelt linked from the Cabinet War Rooms. Around the corner is a statue of Abraham Lincoln, a direct copy of one in Chicago.

You will drive past Downing Street which was built by George Downing, one of the first 12 students to graduate from Harvard, and up to Trafalgar Square to see a statue of George Washington placed on Virginian soil as he never wanted to set foot in England again!

You will see Benjamin Franklin’s House, the only surviving house in the world that he lived in and see the shop where he borrowed books from and which later gave him an idea of opening public libraries in the States.

You will pass St Paul’s Cathedral which has an American Chapel and was one of the first buildings to use Benjamin Franklin’s famous lightning rod. Not far from there, there is a church where Native American princess, Pocahontas used to worship during her time in London.

You will see the old pub in Rotherhithe which is believed much of the crew for the original Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage was recruited here.

Back over the Thames, you will head towards Whitechapel where you will see the Whitechapel Bell Foundry where Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were founded. After that, secured with hundreds of special photos, you will head back to your hotel.

Email address for more details and prices.

American Connection Tour of London

Guest Post: Gavin Marriott

I used to know Gavin in London, where he worked as an EMT before returning to his native New Zealand. He has been in touch recently, and sent me this short guest post about his trip to Samoa.

A decade ago I visited Samoa, a four hour plane ride from New Zealand, to visit the place where my mum and dad met. That story is interesting. Dad was an armed NZ policeman during WW2 and mum a NZ nurse. On arrival, dad had to line up to get his vaccination and mum gave it – literally I’m the prick as a result.

The Samoans have no armed forces. The church protects them.

Gavin’s father in 1982, and Gavin at the same spot in 2012.

I got the clear message that China was muscling in back then. They had paid for a hospital, provided new ambulances (over NZ second hand ones) and proposed to build a deep water port and lengthen the runway. It was obvious to me why. But the world stood unconcerned.

The South Pacific spans over 15% of the world’s surface with a small population spread over many sovereign nations, some French, some New Zealand including being in the British Commonwealth – such as Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Solomons, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and technically New Zealand. If the 2 ice caps melt much more, then the Pacific will rise and flood these nations out of existence. Many of these islanders are moving to New Zealand now – look at the make up of our All Blacks team. The west has done nothing because it doesn’t learn about the Pacific at school.

China has just done a full security deal with the Solomons, including providing their police force. This is a total threat to neighbour Australia. Like a pack of cards, China has today signed a deal with Samoa and Fiji. The rest will follow. Plus of course getting Taiwan back.

China has clear intentions of establishing multiple air and sea bases in the Pacific. Ironically, while Britain had no maritime air patrol from 2010 to 2020, Canada, Australia and New Zealand did the patrolling for Britain. Britain may have to return the favour.

Thailand’s Tourist Boom

Thailand is legalising the growing and sale of full medical grade Cannabis from next month. I anticipate a tourist boom.

Some quotes from various sources in Thailand.

Authorities are also exploring the idea of a “cannabis sandbox” that would allow tourists to visit the country while recreationally using cannabis in select areas, to help create destinations synonymous with the drug.

Linn is optimistic that the bill will help Thailand rebuild its economy post-Covid. “Nothing as small as marijuana use can save [an economy], but I think it could provide a spark,” he said.

Kitty Chopaka, an independent cannabis advocate based in Bangkok, says “industry people” from places including Australia, the UK and Canada are already contacting her about plans to visit Thailand following the announcement. “People are going to come to Thailand trying to find cannabis,” she says.

Cannabis is Thailand’s ‘secret weapon’ to lure back tourists after Covid, public health official says.

Amsterdam had better watch out. There’s a new kid on the block.

World Travel: Different Perceptions

I was thinking about my mum today, and smiling as I remembered something she once said.

In 1978, my mum was 54 years old. She had never been outside of Britain, happy to spend all her holidays at seaside locations in England, or visiting friends in Scotland. She had never been to Wales or Ireland, and was content not to have done so. At the time, we still had a shop in south-west London, an off-licence. I had taken a full time job, got married the previous year, and she employed a full-time assistant to help her run the business. I helped out whenever I was free.

One weekend, I was looking though some newsletters, and found one offering a trip to Rome for anyone who held a licence to sell alcohol. It was a five-day tour, escorted by guides, and included all flights, meals, and accommodation. I suggested to my mum that she should go. There would be other single people taking the trip, and it was a small group who would all have something in common, of owning a pub or off-licence. She had never flown in a plane, or owned a passport, but she had seen the Audrey Hepburn film ‘Roman Holiday’, and had previously mentioned a desire to see Rome.

Once I assured her that I would take time off from my job and run the shop for her, and that my wife and I would move back into the upstairs accommodation for the duration of her holiday, she gave in and applied for a passport, sending off a cheque for the deposit on the holiday at the same time. So in June that year, she headed off with a small suitcase, taking a taxi to the airport to meet the tour organiser at the terminal. I was envious, as I had never been to Rome. (I eventually got there in 2002.)

On her return, she looked less than excited. I asked her if she had a lovely time, and she shrugged before replying.

“It rained twice.”
“The food tasted funny”.
“It was too hot, even at night”.
“Everyone hangs their washing out over the street”.
“All the buildings look shabby and run down”.

I reminded her that the buildings she was referring to dated from as long ago as 300 BC. But she shrugged again.

“Well they could do them up a bit. It’s a long way to go to look at someone’s washing and some ruined temples”.

At that point, I gave up.

Many years later, (2009) when I was working for the Police in London, one of my colleagues booked a holiday of a lifetime to Egypt. A full tour of the ancient sites, including Cairo and The Pyramids, and a luxury cruise down The Nile to Aswan. As I had visited Egypt in 1989, I told her what to look out for, and added that I was envious, as I had not seen Cairo or The Pyramids on my trip.

When she got back to work, looking very tanned, I asked her what she thought of her wonderful experience.

“Well, there are lots of stones, beige stones. And beige columns. Once you have seen one, all the others look the same. The food on the ship was good though”.

Our Holiday: The View From The Porch

As I have mentioned, our holiday cabin is situated in the grounds of a hotel, and had a covered porch that I spent much of the time sitting on, with Ollie.

I took some photos of my daily view, one that changed constantly as guests and customers made use of the large beer-garden. These are the last of my holiday photos for this year.

(All of my own photos are full-frame, and can be clicked on to enlarge them.)

The view to the right. The white building is known as ‘The Cottage’, and we have stayed there twice previously. That was before the cabins were erected.

To the left is the non-smoking covered area, adjacent to the main road running through Sutton-on-Sea.

A closer view of the main hotel and the benches of the beer-garden.

This photo is not mine, it is from the website advertising the cabins. It shows all five cabins at the back of the hotel grounds. It can be enlarged too.

If anyone is interested in staying there, here is a link to the main website.
(Scroll down for all the pictures.)

Ollie’s Holiday: The Porch

In our house in Beetley, Ollie cannot see outside. If I open the back door to let him out, he only has the familiar surroundings of our garden to look at. So being able to sit outside for a large part of the day, and most of the evening until bedtime, that’s a real treat for our beloved dog.

Because I spent so much of our holiday sittng happily on that covered porch of our cabin, Ollie was happy to be out there with me. When I got up each morning, I would carry his bed and toys out onto the porch, and leave them there until we closed up to go to bed for the night.

(All photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

At various times, Ollie would take himself off down the ramp and explore the hotel beer garden. I was lucky enough to have the camera handy when he was ‘patrolling the porch’.

We love the fact that we can take Ollie on holiday with us, and that it is just as much a holiday for him as for us.

Our Holiday: Winceby Battlefield

Not too far from where we were staying, there is a memorial to a battle fought during The English Civil War. I have always been interested in that period, and have been a member of The Cromwell Association for a long time. As we were going to be so close, I thought we could combine it with a trip into the nearby town of Horncastle.

Winceby is tiny. A ‘blink and you miss it’ village. I had expected some signs directing me to the battlefield, but after driving back and forth for twenty minutes, there was nothing to indicate where it might be. Giving up, I started to head back, on the busy main road. As we passed a lay-by on that road, Julie spotted a notice board that looked relevant. After turning round in a side road, I drove back and parked in the lay-by, and there it was.

(Both photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged for detail by clicking on them.)

Behind the sign, a hedge borders the fields where the battle took place, in a landscape virtually unchanged since that day in October, 1643.

If anyone is interested, here are some more details about the battle.

On 10 October at the village of Horncastle, approximately 6 miles west of Bolingbroke Castle, the Royalist force commanded by Widdrington came upon a cavalry detachment screening for the Parliamentarians sieging the Royalist garrison. A brief skirmish took place and the Parliamentarians withdrew. The Parliamentary detachment reported back to the main army that the Royalists were moving towards them.

The next day the two opposing forces simultaneously took steps to confront each other. Manchester took part of his force and arrayed them on Kirkby Hill to prevent the Bolingbroke garrison from leaving the castle and organizing an attack from the rear. With the remainder of his army, Manchester advanced towards Horncastle. Meanwhile, Widdrington and the Royalists moved out of Horncastle and advanced toward Bolingbroke Castle.

The Parliamentary horse, which moved faster than the infantry, met the Royalists advancing in the opposite direction at Winceby. The field of battle was not ideal as the land falls away into sharp gullies on one side, but it was not poor enough to prohibit a battle. The two forces were approximately the same size and composition, all cavalry.

The ensuing battle lasted about half an hour. Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. A small party of Parliamentarians advanced on the Royalists who discharged their weapons at them. Cromwell then led his main body of horse in a charge hoping to press home his attack before the Royalists had time to reload. But dismounted Royalist dragoons managed to fire a second volley, hitting several of the Ironsides. Cromwell had his horse shot from under him, apparently by Sir Ingram Hopton (who was himself killed in the subsequent fighting and is commemorated by a memorial canvas found above the font in St. Mary’s Church, Horncastle.) The canvas’s inscription describes Cromwell as the ‘Arch Rebel’ and bears the incorrect date of October 6, 1643 for the Battle of Winceby.

Cromwell was only able to rejoin the battle after he had secured another mount. A Royalist cavalry division under Sir William Savile counterattacked Cromwell’s right flank. The Royalists were, in turn, attacked in the flank by Sir Fairfax’s horse. In the resulting melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when the command by Savile to about face was taken to be an order to retreat and Savile’s horse fled the battle. On the Parliamentarian’s left wing the Cavaliers enjoyed greater initial success, but the collapse of the Royalist left and centre meant that Widdrington had to retreat or face envelopment. A flanking attack by Cromwell’s reformed cavalry was enough to cause the Royalists to flee the field in confusion.

In Horncastle, at a place now known as “slash hollow”, some Royalists were killed or captured when they became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them) and in their panic the press of men jammed it shut. For the remainder of the day the Parliamentarians hunted down Royalist stragglers not stopping until dusk, which in October occurs in early evening, when they were recalled by Manchester. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded

Given the fact that Cromwell was present at the battle, and it was a significant victory for the Parliamentary rebels, I would like to see the site better commemorated.

Our Holiday: The Cabin

Last year, we really enjoyed our time in the wooden holiday cabin. Then this year it was even better, as everything was familiar. So much so, we have booked it again for much the same time in 2022, seven days in September.

Here is an overview. It has two double bedrooms, and two extra beds in the roof space, accessed by a ladder. A large bathroom with shower, and an open-plan living room and fully-equipped kitchen. TV, iron and ironing board, two sofas, a dining table and chairs, and a private picnic table to the side. Enough storage and hanging space too.

Wi-fi is also available, through a connection supplied free of any extra charge by the hotel. But the signal is sometimes erratic.

But for me, the joy is the covered porch. I sat there quite happily for hours, watching the clouds and the world go by.

And it is only 100 yards to the huge unspoilt beach!

(All photos are full-frame, and can be clicked on twice to enlarge for detail.)

Ollie’s Holiday: Ice Cream For Dogs

On our recent holiday, we noticed that almost every cafe was selling a new formulation of ice cream for dogs. Ollie has enjoyed ‘human’ ice cream on a few occasions, as well as the residue of a few yoghurt pots. But we are aware that he is older, and less active now.

With that in mind, he was treated to a doggy ice cream on holiday, but just the one. It includes some crumbles of dog-biscuit, and Ollie devoured it, giving it his seal of approval on a warm afternoon.

(These are full-frame 35mm equivalent photos, reduced by 50%. But you can click on them twice to enlarge for detail.)

More to come of Ollie on his holidays!