An Alphabet Of My Life: H


Some of my earliest memories are of going on our annual summer holidays when I was a child. They were always in Britain, and usually by the coast, or an easy drive to the sea. I was constantly car sick as a child, and with no motoways then, the trips from London to Cornwall took so long, we stayed overnight on the way. Cornwall was favoured, as we could stay with one of my dad’s relatives in Penryn, a man I called ‘Uncle John’ who was in fact my dad’s oldest cousin.

It always seemed to be sunny and hot in those days, and our two week holiday consisted of sand castles, ice cream, and huge beaches like Praa Sands, and Newquay. Evening meals would often be fish and chips, or the famous Cornish Pasties.

Then when I was 11 years old, I went on a school trip to France. That gave me the bug for foreign travel, and I eagerly went back on more organised trips to places further south in France, like Biarritz and Royan. Those trips were always by sea ferry followed by train-travel, and I loved how everything seemed so different to England, and more exotic.

By the time I was 14, I considered myself far too old to go on holiday with my parents, and they travelled without me. But as my mum had no desire to leave the UK, they continued to holiday there. As a result, I spent a considerable time not going anywhere on holday, and just stayed at home.

When I met my first wife, she was incredibly well-travelled and had already been to every continent except Antarctica. She was eager to introduce me to places she knew, as well as those she had not yet visited. I went on an aeroplane for the first time at the age of 23, to travel to Tunisia. Once we were married two years later, we could afford to take two holidays every year, and my travels really began. We went to Greece, Crete, Turkey, the Soviet Union, (Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev) France, (three times) East Germany, West Germany, (Berlin) and Kenya.

After we split up, I lived with a much younger woman for a time. She was also interested in travel, and we took a long trip to Soviet Central Asia and a part of Mongolia, including Tashkent, Samarkand, Dushanbe, Ulan Bhator, and Alma-Ata. With the holiday starting and ending in Leningrad, I got to go back there too. We also visited the WW1 battlefields in Belgium and France, staying in Ypres and Arras.

Then I married again, and with my second wife I visited Egypt, taking a Nile cruise. We also had a long weekend in Amsterdam, and a week in Paris. Other holidays were closer, including the Cotswolds and Pembrokeshire. We also went back to Cornwall, but had a rain-soaked holiday in Looe. One highlight was a trip to Northumberland, taking in Seahouses, Alnwick, Holy Island, and Bamburgh. Whitby provided another holiday location, and we explored North Yorkshire from there.

Following a second break up, I travelled with a girlfriend to Bruges, Normandy, and Edinburgh. Then I went to China alone, to visit a friend who was living and working there. He lived in central Beijing, and that offered me a memorable stay in and around the capital of China, where I finally got to see The Great Wall.

Once I met Julie, we had to consider her children. We took two of them (the younger girls) on enjoyable holidays to Somerset, Bulgaria, and Turkey when they were still at school. But we were also able to get away alone later, going to France, (Carcassonne) Morrocco, Singapore, Malaysia, Barcelona, Ghent, Rome, and Prague.

That trip to Prague in 2011 was the last time I left England. I retired the following year, moved to Norfolk, and we got Ollie. Holidays were now something to also accommodate our beloved dog, and since then we have returned every year to the Lincolnshire coast, save for one year when we rented a cottage in Kent.

I had finally lost the urge to travel abroad, and allowed my passport to expire in 2016. We didn’t want the hassle of airports any longer, and the problems of car parking and dog-kennels. We had seen some great places, and were now content to stay in England.

My holidays had finally turned full circle.

A Photo-Edit Thank You.

When I posted my holiday photos recently, I was upset that a photo of Julie and Ollie was spoiled by leaving in a plastic shopping bag, and Ollie’s drinking bowl. Here is the offending photo.

(All three photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Two very kind blogging friends offered to edit the photo so they could not be seen, then sent me the edited result. I have no idea how to do this, so for me it is like a magic trick!

From Ed Westen.

From Fraggle.

I am very grateful to them both for their time and trouble, and I will have them printed soon.

Another great example of helpful community bloggers.

Holiday Snaps (5)

We took the short drive of seven miles to Chapel Point, near Chapel St Leonards. There is a Coastguard Station there, as it affords marvellous views along the coast. It has a smart viewing gallery inside, and a cafe. But as it was a warm day, we decided to sit on a table outside the Seascape Cafe and enjoy the view.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Side view.

Main building and car park.

Ollie on the outside decking with his water bowl. As usual, he wasn’t cooperating with the camera.

Julie at Chapel Point cafe.

Julie cuddling Ollie to try to make him forget the camera.

After that we drove into the small seaside town of Chapel St Leonards, and had a walk along the seafront. This pub has tables on a fake pirate ship on the beach, and is very popular.

Julie took Ollie to a bench to give him more water, so I was able to stand some way off and get a photo. Perhaps the best one I got of him all week.

Holiday Snaps (4)

One afternoon, I decided we should drive inland. I wanted to see the ruins of Bolingbroke Castle, then move on to Gunby Hall. That is a grand house where dogs are welcome in the gardens. Unfortunately, the heavens opened once we got up into the Wolds. We had rarely seen rain like it, and it was of Monsoon standard. Even with 2-speed wipers, I could hardly see to drive. Cars were stopping on the main road, which was awash with water in seconds, and by the time we got to the ruined castle, it was still torrential.

So I abandoned the plans, and decided to venture back to the coast at Skegness. That is a rather ‘tacky’ holiday town. It is very large, and not our sort of thing, to be honest. However, there was a dog-friendly attraction, the seal sanctuary at Natureland.

Once there, the weather was better, parking was free on the street, and we could take Ollie inside on his lead. To be honest, it was barely worth the entry fee, but as it receives no government or charitable funding, we were happy to support it.

(All photos can be enlarged, by clicking on them.)

Rescued Harbour Seals in the water, and sunbathing.

They had some Meerkats too.

And some camera shy Penguins.

A not very shy Goat, hoping for some treats.

After our visit, we stopped for a very good coffee along the front, before driving back 14 miles to our cabin.

Holiday Snaps (3)

Just the one photo on this post. I wanted to take Ollie to Cleethorpes Country Park, north of where we were staying. It was just less than 30 miles, so under an hour on small coastal roads. It turned out to be a good decision. Parking was free, and there were dozens of dogs for Ollie to interact with. Long paths and bridges around a huge lake gave us a very pleasant afternoon, in excellent weather.

(The photo can be enlarged, by clicking on it.)

Ollie was in his element, and even ventured into the lake for a paddle and a drink. Unfortunately, he was extra-reluctant to have his photo taken, so Julie had to ‘ambush’ him so I could get just one photo.

That was the only one I was able to get that afternoon, but it did not detract from our enjoyment of the visit.

Holiday Snaps (2)

The anniversary meal.

On the night of our wedding anniversary, we had booked a table at the Ice Bar, a restaurant across the street from the hotel where we were staying in a cabin in the gardens.

For our starter we both ordered the same thing, garlic mushrooms. They arrived nicely presented in a large ‘Martini’ bowl, so we thought an anniversary photo was appropriate.

It was interesting for me to see how much I had aged since the wedding day 13 years earlier. My eye-bags are now so large, I could use them as extra luggage! 🙂

(The mushrooms were delicious!)

Holiday Snaps (1)

Because we have been to the same place many times in the past few years, I didn’t take many photos last week. I only took one camera, the Fuji X-30 that I bought some years ago. I will be featuring some of the photos I took over the next few days.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Ollie was in the cabin, and not happy about having his photo taken. So Julie streched out on a sofa and gave him a stroke to keep him still. This means the photo is not very sharp, and her hand is blurred.

The cabin we stayed in is in the garden of the only large hotel in the town. The beach and seafront are just the other side of the road. The beaches stretch for miles, and were mostly deserted. I spotted a couple walking their small dog, and took this to show the scale.

This man was well-prepared for sea-fishing from his chosen spot on the beach. He was the only fisherman there that day. The first photo shows him isolated on the beach, and the second is zoomed in for a closer look. He had to move soon after they were taken as the tide was coming in fast.

More to come from Lincolnshire tomorrow.

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 ÂŁ15 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 ÂŁ12.50 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