London trip to the Canadian Embassy

The back of Buckingham Palace
The back of Buckingham Palace

A few months back I booked tickets to look around the newly refurbished Canadian Embassy, it was on a Friday so we had booked a day off. We got the first off peak train from Berkhamsted, which was packed, Helen reckons it was the first time she had had to stand on a train to London, thankfully it was a fast one so we only had to stand for 30 minutes. we arrived and there was lots of police with guns at Euston so we figured out which bus we needed then got a 73 to Buckingham palace.

We arrived at the palace a little early our tickets were for 12 o’clock so we headed away from the tourists and found a cafe full of builders where I had a cherry tart and an americano they were both very nice. When we went back to the palace there was band outside the palace playing the Happy chart hit from a couple of years ago. Back at entrance C we were allowed into an ante tent where we could wait for the security search. It was not a long wait and the security was swift unlike Luton Airport.

A room in the Canadian Embassy
A room in the Canadian Embassy

Suitably checked out we headed into the one way tour of the palace, for which a commentary iPod/MP3 player was provided. There were a lot of people going round so it was difficult to get close to the exhibits but we saw enough, and I felt that there was plenty to see, and would recommend it to anyone. Eventually we came to the back entrance where we walked out to an area with a cafe and the palace gardens. We were again in a one-way path to the exit, but we were now allowed to take photo’s. At the exit we signed up for the year long pass as I think it may be useful to return in the winter when there may not be so many people.

Just up the road from the exit we got a bus to Piccadilly then walked to but stopped off at an Italian restaurant chain called Prada where I had a half decent Pescatori Pizza and we shared a bottle of water. Whilst eating lunch I checked the tickets it was from 15:00 till 16:00 we both had it in mind that it was at 16:00. Our plans changed instead of going to an exhibition we thought we would be able to go straight from the exhibition and make it to Euston to get the last train before a wait till 19:00 would be required due to the off-peak tickets we had. We headed to Trafalgar Sq, but we were a little early (there is a theme emerging here), so we dropped into the special exhibition about how good Canada were at detecting Neutrinos and cosmic rays. We had to have our bags x-rayed again before we were allowed in.

Window at the top of the Canadian Embassy
Window at the top of the Canadian Embassy

The exhibition was small and we were finished by 14:40 and headed o the other entrance where we met a woman with a clipboard doing security, she was insistent that our names should be on the list before we could be let in, the trouble was the site where I booked the two tickets did not ask for may name it just used the account details I had previously given them. Helen was not on the list, I tried to explain that there was a column for quantity on the form on her clipboard but she was having none of it. A member of the embassy staff intervened and we were let in and the situation explained to the clipboard monitor. We were then scanned and x-rayed again to get into the building for a second time.

View from the top floor of the Canadian Embassy
View from the top floor of the Canadian Embassy

We sat around for a while and the same member of staff came over and started the tour by first giving us a bit of history abut the building which used to be a gentleman’s club before Canada even existed. The tour was very informative there was a lot of art to see, carpets made from art designs and furniture made from Canadian wood, there was at least one room for each Canadian province. We were lucky that there were no conferences or talks going on so we got to see all the rooms, including the ones on the top floor where we sampled honey harvested that day from the roof top bee hive and then we were allowed on the roof terrace to have a look at the view and take picture of Trafalgar Sq.

Once the tour was finished we headed straight for the tube which Helen had agreed to brave to save time. It was very hot but we did make the  1630 train got a seat and had time to stop for a bottle of water. We got home tired but felt we had had a great day out, it beats going to work!

The National Trust Living Tradition London Bus Tour

RMC 1453 front view
RMC 1453 front view

Quite a few weeks back I signed up for a tour of some buildings around London in a vintage London bus. I put it in the diary then forgot about it, till Helen the diary supervisor reminded me. I eventually found the tickets hidden away in the back of a draw, where I had put them after printing at time of booking. The tour kicked off at 10:30 but registration and hopefully chance to grab an upper deck seat, began at 10:00.

Google maps suggested that the 08:45 from Berkhamsted would give us plenty of time to spare. We managed to grab a free parking space, the train left on time, and we got seats at a table, however the man sat next to Helen was tapping away on the table all the way to London I could tell it was annoying her, but it made a change I’m normally the one to be reprimanded.

Richard Greens modern art gallery
Richard Greens modern art gallery

At Euston we got the Victoria line to the lines namesake, Victoria station then we headed to 20 Grosvenor Gardens, where there was quite a gathering around a green double decker. It was raining lightly and it took an age to get on the bus as they were handing out audio devices and tote bags as everyone got on. It may have been more efficient to load the bus then distribute the devices, but we will never know. Helen and I managed to get a couple of the remaining seats on the top deck just at the top of the stairs on the driver’s side.

The bus is an RMC1543 one of the most popular by all accounts. We first stopped on Bond Street where we all got off and they guide told us about the building belonging to Richard Green the old masters art dealer, who had another building built opposite to sell more modern art from. Then we walked via the Burlington Arcade where the modern floor was of interest. Heading towards Piccadilly other buildings were pointed out. We were then told to buy lunch, I had sushi and a tuna and mustard onigiri, and Helen had a nice looking sandwich. We met back on the bus and headed to the Queen’s gallery attached to Buckingham palace.

St James square London
St James square London

A lady from the architects office who designed the Queens gallery gave us a talk about they challenges of designing a wing to fit in with the rest of Buckingham Palace, which had been added to by many over the years. We got back on the bus and headed to our next destination which were some houses in Regent’s Park, on the way we headed up Park Lane which apparently is one of the (if not the only) section of road in central London that is not 30mph, it is 40mph. The bus driver had a go at braking it but even with the run up, taking the bends at speed (relative) he hit some traffic about 2 thirds in and only managed 35 mph. The tour has a history of record attempts they currently hold the record for the number of circuits of the Elephant and castle roundabout in a vintage bus they did that whilst looking at a building on the roundabout.

At Regents park we jumped off the bus and took a look at the 6 houses built on the edge of the park they were all very large and each one was an example of different styles of architecture, e.g. Venetian, Doric, Gothic etc. We all stood outside as the tour guide explained them, we had the curtains twitching on one of them and an armed policeman keep his eye on us from the other. The policeman was keeping an eye on the entrance to Winfield house the the residence of the American Ambassador has the second largest private garden in central London, after that of Buckingham Palace. Helen enjoyed the paparazzi effect.

One of eight houses in Regents park London
One of eight houses in Regents park London

We skipped the Camdem Packington Estate as we were short of time so the next and final stop would be the Highbury Gardens, which Prince Charles has some connection to in that after the famous Carbuncle affair, more care was taken over the design of buildings. The development was a combination of housing association flats with low rental for local and shared ownership with 5 year no interest mortgages combined with private ownership flats. All mixed together so that it was not obvious which flats were which. We looked around one of each type and I must say it felt a bit awkward, in fact too awkward for Helen who opted out, however the two where the people were in made us feel very welcome and were proud to show off their homes.

It was a short journey on a full Victoria line tube train back to Euston where we got the 15:54 train back to Berkhamsted. The day was interesting I now have a better feel for the architecture of London but I am not sure I would repeat it unless the subject matter was of real interest as architecture is not really my thing. Having said that the tour was very well organised and the people running it friendly and informative, I imagine it took some organising.

The cosmonauts exhibition at the London science museum

The London Science museum main hall
The London Science museum main hall

We unexpectedly got a free Saturday when a visit from my brother cancelled because their cat was sick. We one idea we had thought of this as a trip to the London Science museum to take a look at the exhibition of Soviet space programme which up until now has been pretty much a secret.

We were up at a reasonable time and headed to Berkhamsted station, as luck would have we were there with a short wait for the 09:18, or so I thought. I dropped Helen off at the entrance to get the tickets whilst I parked the car. I parked a short walk to the ticket machine but when I got to it there was a sign apologising for it being out of order. The next machine up a flight of steps only took coins and I did not have sufficient coins to make up the £4.20. Back down the steps it was a 100 yard run, (I was running out of time) to the next machine, I popped in a card but the payment failed, then failed for all three cards that I had in my wallet. Helen turned up as I was starting to register to pay by phone, and between us we managed to find the change but the train station as due imminently. I did the 100 yard sprint to the far machine, followed by an eternity entering the handful of coins, then a 300 yard sprint to the car, and back to the platform. I arrived as the train doors opened, so a the effort got us on the fast train and spared us a 20 minute wait. Out of breath I found a seat and settled in the the 40 minute train journey.

Random Helicopter shot
Random Helicopter shot

Everyone seems to be on the underground go somewhere it was extremely at which Helen doesn’t like. Helen was taken out on the escalators when the lady in front of her who was towing one of those bags with handles wheels stopped as soon as he got off the escalator but left the wheeled luggage behind Helen had nowhere to go. A few stops on the Piccadilly line followed by a couple of Victoria line stop and followed by a third of a mile walk down the tunnel and the pops up white outside the science museum. On the escalators ascend from the underground we saw a man descending with a China plate with a slice of chocolate cake on it, we looked at him confused, he smiled back.

We already have tickets for the cosmonaut exhibition but we have noticed that there was also a Alec Soth photography exhibition going on at the same time as we were early we got tickets for the exhibition and have a look around and even had time for a coffee before we went to the main event.

The exhibition was very good although very popular. Apart from the engineering model, actual space craft, space suits and other equipment there was personal items and other stuff which I think makes all the difference to an exhibition. Helen insisted on a look at the shop before we exited. To spare Helen having to fight her way back to Euston I suggested a cab to the Welcome institute for lunch and possibly a look at the exhibition of coloured mist which had been in the papers. We had lunch and bought a few books from the Waterstone’s. The wait for the mist was 45 minutes so we gave it a miss, and headed across the road to Euston. We only had 5 minutes till the 13:24 departed.

We did battle with the car park at Waitrose and picked up some dinner. Then we went to a metal detector shop in Northchurch as Helen fancied buying one and last night had googled  and found to her surprise we had one locally. It turned out it was not a shop but someone’s house, we had to call to make sure we had the right place. We pulled up outside a big house call Northchurch House, which was quite big and old, it was on a sweeping bend between Northchurch and Ashridge. When we pulled up the owner was waiting and the front door and welcomed us into his house. We went through to the large lounge which was half occupied by unsold metal detectors and an impressive light diffuser for taking pictures of products. Helen explained that she wanted to have a go at metal detecting and wanted a mid-range metal detector. He explained what was available then went on to demonstrate a model in Helen price range, he did a really good job because Helen decide to invest.

A few pounds lighter we headed to Helen’s folks and to test the detector out and watch the rugby world cup semi-final between South Africa and New Zealand. We only had twenty minutes but Helen managed to get her first find and lump of rusty iron, she was really chuffed. I must say the features available since I had a go are amazing you can do all sorts of tweaking to target the types of metal you want to find.

New Zealand won the rugby in a match with a close score but NZ seemed to have the edge.

Port Quin to Port Isaac the high road and the low road

The nearest place to the east of Polzeath is the little hamlet of Port Quin, on a previous holiday we had walked from Port Isaac to Port Quin and back, we had taken the coast path but the overland route back. Today we decided to do the route the other way, more for convenience than anything, there were coffee shops and loos in Port Isaac but Port Quin only had a coffee van and a car park.

The road into Port Quin is very narrow and quite steep in parts, but it is worth the thrill. The port itself is a natural feature, a rocky inlet that stretches a couple of hundred yards in land, apart from a storm in a perfect direction it is hard to imagine that waves of any significance reach the port.  The coastal path starts very steeply between a couple of cottages nestled into the rocks.

The weather was a treat again with blue skies and white fluffy cumulus cloud, perfect seaside photography weather. The coastal path however was far from perfect clinging to every contour and believe me there are lots of them, and for good measure the downward ones are matched equally with stretches of upwards ones, for the whole 3.2 miles. I am not sure if the distance on the signs was measured on a flat map or reflected the true distance a tape measure placed on the ground would have measured, it seemed longer and took more than the hour 3 miles should usually take. (ed: Cornish cliff miles!)

After several rests, one for lunch, we descended the final set of steps to Port Isaac, which is where the ITV series Doc Martin is filmed, it stars Martin Clunes as a doctor, dealing with his patients and getting into lots of moral dilemmas. That all I know about that as I don’t watch it myself. Down in the town itself it started to rain and we were fortunate enough to get a seat in the terrace for a coffee and a packet of crisps, where we nursed them until the rain stopped and the sun came out.

The walk back was quicker and simpler, although the first hill was a long up hill trudge. We took the direct route straight over the top avoiding the undulating coastal path. We also avoided cow fields until the very end, much to Helen’s relief, as she does not feel she can trust cows. (ed: sensible woman!). Back at the car park Fiona’s coffee wagon was still serving coffee and biscuits, I had an Americano and a white chocolate and raspberry shortbread.

They had had trouble at the mill today, so I took the opportunity when we had a mobile signal to check in. The outage was just about cleared by the time I checked in which was good to hear. Back at Polzeath we headed to the beach and enjoyed a well earned pint in the late afternoon sun. We had had an energetic day with great weather, all in all another great holiday day.

Hot and sweaty in the city

The Serpentine Hyde Park London
The Serpentine Hyde Park London

A few weeks back I noticed that there was a exhibition of photograph at the Royal Geographic Society. In fact it was the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition. Helen agreed that we should go and see the exhibition and after having mentioned it to A& C they said they’d like to join us so on Saturday they picked us up from the house at about 9:15am so we could get the 9:45 train from Berkhamsted.

We parked up at the usual spot near the back of the station then went to the ticket office and managed to bag ourselves a £7 discount on the usual £20 travelcard tickets. We could not find 4 seats together but by the time we got to Watford and after a couple of changes we ended up with a set of 4 around the table which was perfect. At Euston we got straight on the Underground and after one change got out at Kensington Tube station. We had to walk up Exhibition Road to get to the Royal Geographic Society but on the way we checked Google Maps to find the way there and I noticed that the place is closed on a Saturday.

Art in the Sackler Gallery Hyde Park
Art in the Sackler Gallery Hyde Park

We decided to go and have a look at the entrance anyway because that was the sole reason for going to London and when we got there much to our surprise the exhibition was open and so was the cafe in the Courtyard behind. Things were looking up. I had seen some of the photos in the Press in the previous few weeks but the exhibition of the whole I must say was excellent. I find it very interesting to see the settings and lenses that the people have used to take the photograph. It was very hot wandering around in the Courtyard which seem to be a sun trap. The hot temperatures were apparently caused by a Spanish plume whatever that is. We took the opportunity before we moved on elsewhere to sit down and have a cold drink in a sunken garden within the Courtyard, where the shade & slight breeze were refreshing after the strong bright sun and heat.

We weren’t sure what to do next so we decided to head off to Hyde Park to have a look around.  We wandered up to the Albert memorial that was sparkling in the sunlight.  There are a couple of art galleries in Hyde park which is something I was previously unaware of. We visited a couple (choosing the shadier paths to navigate the park) and found that the air conditioning was a very welcome relief from the oppressive temperatures outside which was in the low thirty’s.  The exhibitions were quite different; the first was oil character portraits which were well executed.  The second was rather more unusual. It was life size figures of people doing ordinary things, a chap on a sit on lawn mover, a lady seated reading, children playing.  Some were extremely realistic and Helen sidled past them suspiciously, half anticipating one of them to be a real person who suddenly moves as some sort of modern art interactive installation. They did’nt though.

Ferris Wheel Marble Arch
Ferris Wheel Marble Arch

We managed to mislay one of the party on the subway when she nipped onto a train but we didn’t get there quite in time. We weren’t sure what to do but decided that as we had all agreed to go to Liverpool Street we would get on the next train and hopefully meet up further down the line. The Underground carriages were extremely hot probably maybe 40 degrees so we were very glad to get off the train, where missing A was waiting for us stating for a moment she had felt like a lost child.

C got a little bit geographically challenged when we were wandering around back streets looking for Spitalfields market, but eventually we found the place and wandered in to have a look round. There were lots of street food sellers there, the falafel samples were great but we couldn’t find anywhere to sit so we ended up in a pub restaurant called Smiths and we had some great food. I had a fish finger sandwich in some brown bread which was lovely.  The halloumi and avocado salads were much appreciated by the others. Iced cider also went down too with some of the party.

Lverpool Street Station
Lverpool Street Station

Suitably refreshed we had a look around and had a meander through the market back towards Liverpool Street tube station. It was too hot for shopping which was felt to be a wasted opportunity by the rest of the party. There were lots of interesting shops and stalls which will be visited at a later, cooler date.   The rest of the journey home was pretty uneventful. Air conditioned tube (wonderful!) to Euston Square then we had a 20 min wait for a train back to Euston. All in all a good day out with friends despite the extreme temperatures and that we thought the RGS might be closed.

Double Hubble in London

Great Court British Museum
Great Court British Museum

My birthday was coming up and Helen had arranged a treat in London, for the Saturday so we were up earlyish and out of the house to catch the 0915 from Berkhamsted. We managed to find a spot in the free parking outside Berkhamsted castle. We got travel cards from the machine and only then did we notice delays and cancellations on the Euston line, apparently due to signalling problems. It turns out that we would have less of a wait because the 0901 was due in at 0908 so we only had time to get a coffee before the train arrived.

I had plans for the trip too, I was going to choose a new light tripod, with a tilting centre column to help with taking photospheres. I thought I might also have a look at a Canon 8-15mm lens, which would enable me to apply to be a Google trusted photographer.

The weather was grey with the threat of rain, temperature was below 10 degrees. It turns out the signalling issues were near Tring so it did not affect our journey time. We got on the 68 bus and because we were early I suggested that we get off the bus at the British museum. I thought it would be a good idea to take some photospheres of be fantastic roof inside the british museum.

London street
London street

Helen tried to help some Chinese guys looking for the university of London once I told Helen that she had the map upside down she send them on the right direction. We can across a load more Chinese tourists outside the museum some of them in factory overall suits, not sure if they were the guides or something else. Once at the museum helen send a happy half an hour with the elgin marbles while i went round and took photos of museum roof.

Suitably photographed we left the museum and got on the 188 and alighted on Waterloo bridge, then headed to the BFI iMax cinema which was the surprise that Helen had arranged, the film was about the Hubble telescope in 3D, which I was well pleased about. We had time for a coffee at the Costa franchise.

The film was excellent it told the story of a mission to upgrade the Hubble telescope in 1990. The result I on of imax is very high and the footage from n space was stunning. After the film we headed to o the National Theatre just in case there was a photo exhibition in the lobby, it turns out there was not but in the past we have seen the press photographer of the year and landscape photographer of the yeat., both free and well worth a visit to. On the was to the NT we past a street food market and after some deliberation I had an excellent griddle toasted sandwich and Helen had a Polish cottage cheese, onion and potato dumpling.

We decided to walk to Tottenham court road, I wanted to check out Park cameras. I looked at the to pods and liked the look of the 190 carbon fibre model with 4 sections, it is small light, has a 90 degree centre column feature and is very expensive. So I bought the even more impressive Canon 8-15mm USM lens because I asked and got a £50 discount. It is likely to become my goto lens as it covers that wide angles I look and is suitable for photosphere sets. Oh forgot to mention we also stopped off Foyle’s and helen bought some books.

Having spent enough money for the day we headed back to Euston on the 73 bus.

Tropical Nursery tour at Kew Gardens

Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew
Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew

I noticed on the Ian visits website that there were tours round the Kew gardens tropical nursery so I sent an e-mail off on Thursday but didn’t get a reply the next day so I tried again on Friday. By lunch time I had decided that I not got a place but when on checking my e-mail I noticed that there was a reply from the lady at Kew . It said i should phone her back by 12 o’clock so it looked like it was a bit late however on rereading the e-mail I noticed that it said call by 12 o’clock or just turn up on the day so that’s what I decided to do.

I was up at a reasonable spent hour an tinkering around on the computer then headed off to buy the M25 about town 2 o’clock writing good time on 11 o’clock at the Ferry lane car park. The parking machines were solar powered and apparently there was not enough sun to power them so I had to get the parking ticket at the entrance booths. It is not cheap getting into Kew gardens it cost me £7 to park and £16 50 to get into the gardens on top of that I was having to pay £10 for the tour, however they have been in the new recently due to funding issues so they need all the support they can get. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31715081

The squirrel that thought I was a tree and climbed up my leg and onto my rucksack today at Kew Gardens
The squirrel that thought I was a tree

The weather was sunny and warm a coat was not necessary iI spent a couple of hours wandering around the park looking at spring flowers taking photos then I stopped off at the Victoria gate cafe for lunch. I have a packet of crisps and a hummus, beetroot and carrot sandwich which was very nice I took them and found a bench in the sun to eat it, as the cafe was heaving with people. There was plenty of wildlife about particularly birds, I spotted lots of Ringed-necked Parakeet, Greater Spotted wood pecker and a couple of Jays. As I was walking along the edge of the lake I spotted a fat looking squirrel eating a nut sat on a branch of a bush. I stood and watched tit for a while it seemed quite tame and I was able to get within 2 metre of it. The it moved towards me ran up my leg and and then onto my rucksack had a look around realised there was nothing to eat then head back down the way it had come.

I took the long route round to the White Peaks cafe and shop which was the agreed meet up for the special tour of the Tropical nursery. I arrived at the allotted time and we hung around for 10 minutes, then the nice volunteer took all 9 of us into the largest green house in a botanical park in, I’m not sure if she said United Kingdom, Europe or the World. In any case it was very extensive. The tour was very informative and the works had left out examples of Succulent, Carnivorous, rare and Orchid plants which the guide knew all about, and was very good and explaining to us. After the tour I headed home.

Sample of succulent plants in the Tropical Nursery Kew
Sample of succulent plants in the Tropical Nursery Kew
Inside the Tropical Nursery Kew
Inside the Tropical Nursery Kew

A very nice lunch at Wisley RHS

Back of Wisley house
Back of Wisley house

We had a Sunday to ourselves and following a recommendation from my parents, I suggested Wisley RHS might be worth a try. The weather forecast was overcast with a promise of some breaks on the could and it was the middle of winter, not the best time to visit a garden, but we threw caution to the wind.

I picked Helen up after church at about 1020 then we headed off around the M25, the road to all venues. I missed the turning off of the A3 so we had the pleasure of visiting a plane called Burpham! The detour was slight and we were soon parking up. Given the time of year the car park was surprisingly busy we were in the last few rows of the third and final car park.

Butterfly in the glasshouse at Wisley
Butterfly in the glasshouse at Wisley

I had checked out the membership options on the RHS site, and enquired whether the single membership which allowed for a “family guest” would stretch to letting the wife in, it did so £42 later I had one year’s entrance. Given that adults pay £12 all I had to do was to visit twice on my own or once more with Helen and we were quids in.

We took a look at the map and decided that the cafe at the far side of the entrance was the place to head for as it was more or less coffee time. The cafe was heaving by the time we got there it seemed like every Londoner had decided to have coffee or lunch at the Wisley RHS cafe. We did however manage to find a table inside amongst the screaming 5 year olds. The coffee and walnut cake was great shared with Helen and the cappuccino was good.

Our next stop would be the glass houses where they had a special feature for the winter, butterflies from exotic lands were in one section. The queue sign suggested a 20 minute wait did not seem like too long, so we waited and it did not. The man controlling the entry said the sun had made the glasshouse hot so people were moving though quite quickly. Once in it was great there were lots of different types of butterfly, most of them much larger than the British varieties. They seemed quite tame too, sitting on leaves and allow me to take their photos.

View of the green houses of Wisley
View of the green houses of Wisley

From the glass house we headed up hill towards the apple tree collection, at the top there is a great view over the site. From there we headed kind of back towards the entrance. We looked in on the alpine area and I took a pan of the small glass house. The bonsai were interesting nearly all were over 50 years old and one was 150 years old, clearly not a hobby you should start a when you’re tire if you want to see the results of your efforts. The veg growing area was impressive and almost inspired me to sort out my two metre square patch at home.

We headed toward the restaurant and cafe for some lunch, it was about 13:10 and the food hall was Ramos but once we had got some food we found a whole courtyard in the the sun where no one wanted to sit, we had the place to ourselves then shared it with another couple. The food we chose was Parmesan butternut squash baked in filo pastry with a celeriac and beetroot coleslaw and a couscous salad, it went down a treat.

Unusual red flower Wisley
Unusual red flower Wisley

After lunch we wandered towards a bird hide in a far corner of the site, where the pines and heather collections are. On the way I suggested that we might see a ringed neck parakeet and would you believe it about a minute later one flew over and perched in a tree ahead. For once I had my binoculars with me and we got a good look. I have seen enough now to be able identify them was they fly over, with tree long tails and fast fighter jet like flight. There is a public footpath that runs through that part of the park and the park path goes under a bridge to allow the path to be bordered by chain link fence and barbed wired, then strangely at the other end you can get into the park with just a sign suggesting you should not and a couple of CCTV cameras as a deterrent.

We had to exit via the gift shop which was very comprehensive, and had a good book department which along with all the other tut meant that Helen spent some time browsing then spending (ed: Helen was ushered too fast out of said gift shop!).  I did buy a device that allows eggs to be decapitated. The journey home was smooth and without traffic issues, we chose the M40 Beaconsfield route just for a change. I will look forward to visiting again throughout the year to see how the plants and flowers change throughout.

York and the Minster

York Minster
York Minster

Day two of our  holiday, we decided that we should go and have a look at York, I had been there a long time ago but Helen ha never been. We headed out and up the M1 to the park and ride at Askham Bar. The bus into the city was only £2. We realised early on that we were a bit sore footed and tired from our previous days exertions so walking was a struggle. The first thing I noticed was that there were lots of geese in nurseries trying to cross the road.

We headed to the Minster area and found the the said named building. The entrance fee was £10 but given the cost of upkeeping such a grand building it seemed worth it. The building is very old and has many layers of  ages in it’s fabric. The space inside is vast, and a lot of skilled craft work goes into maintaining it. We had not paid the extra fiver to go up the tower but we did the undercroft which explains how in the 60/70’s they though the whole thing might fall down due to subsidence. I managed to take pictures and a couple of panorama sets despite the low light levels.

The Rocket National Railway Museum York
The Rocket National Railway Museum York

We needed and sit down so stopped for a light lunch at a Jamie’s restaurant, I had crab pasta and a primavera salad which was lovely, Helen has a broad bean bruschetta and some chips ( I had half of them). Next stop would be the national railway museum which is a gem of a museum. Where else can you see so many old trains in one place. We had a close look at the Mallard, and the Japanese bullet train. That done we had had enough so we got the £20 fake train back to the centre of the city then followed the appalling signage back to the park and ride bus stop which seemed to take us in a most circuitous route.

The drive back was pretty straight forward back down the motorway. A good day out despite having sore feet from the day before.

Le Tour de Yorkshire

Holme Moss climb Tour de France
Holme Moss climb Tour de France

When they announced that the Tour de France would be in Yorkshire this year we immediately arranged with my brother to stay with him, and were cheeky enough to arrange to stay for more than just the weekend. We decided against a rushed trip on a Friday night in preference of a relaxed drive on the Saturday morning. We arrived before lunch and spent the rest of the day chilling out. An old school friend joined us late afternoon with his wife and we spend a relaxed evening eating and drinking. The school friend is a professional commercial photographer and was interested in the panorama techniques I use as he had a commission that required such photo’s.

We were up early on Sunday as we had an appointment with the Tour de France. We had breakfast and made a picnic and headed out down the hill towards Holmfirth the plan was to dump some food for a late afternoon picnic at ones of K’s friends and then head out to find a spot to to get a good view of the race. In all there was about twenty of us who headed out of Holmfirth on the Honley road, about 50% adults and 50% children. We headed for a field owned by one of my brothers friends. By the time we got the the filed we had probably walked 5 miles so were quite welcome of the chance to sit down and wait for the race. There were lots of people lining the roads at the point we chose.

The Peleton Tour de France Yorkshire
The Peleton Tour de France Yorkshire

The anticipation of the race to come was fuelled by the odd official car that would pass through the crowds. Slowly the frequency of cars increased and eventually the caravan publicitaire came past and threw the odd free gift. From that point of view we had chosen the wrong spot perhaps being just outside Honley and Holmfirth the staff were probably told to stop in the towns. There were enough of us to warrant a couple of the tshirt vans to stop for the opportunity to purchase an umbrella and tshirt. We knew that there would not be a three quarters of an hour gap before the race would pass.

We went back the field to eat our picnic the warm weather had made the cheese taste particularly cheesy. Back at the road side the crowds were getting more and more cheery every time a police or official car went past we would move out of the way then some of us would move out into the middle of the road. At one point a Gendarme van very aggressively pushed the crowd further and further back towards the edge of the road. I was surprised that no one got hurt, perhaps it was the same car that knocked someone out further down the road.

Gendarmes Tour de France Yorkshire
Gendarmes Tour de France Yorkshire

Eventually the team cars hurtled pas followed by the red car where the main referees travel, and the neutral service vehicle then quickly followed the race itself. We were all forced back the the edge of the road and the cyclists gesticulated and swore in foreign languages about the lack of road space that they had. It was all over in a moment but well worth the wait. We sat around for a little while and then packed our picnics away and walked back into Holmfirth. As we got into town the heavens opened but luck would have it there was a garage with a gazebo with a TV showing the finish of the race.  The rain stopped at about the same time and we headed back to to K’s friends to eat and drink some more.

At about 19:30 we were thinking about leaving when I checked the bus time table on google maps, only to find out a bus was due in 4 minutes. We rushed out and stood at the bus stop, then someone told us that the service we wanted was not running. We started walking home and annoyingly a bus went past where we were 100m from the stop. We were resigned walking home which was not good because it was about and hours walk and involved two steep hills. Luckily after the first smaller of the two hills we came across an friend of K who offered a couple of us a lift home, then I drove down (I had only had one bottle of beer all day) and picked up the rest of the party.

Once home we relaxed with a glass of wine and then slept very well after having walked about 8 miles and been on our feet for most of the 10 hours we had been out and a about. Certainly a day to remember.