Category: Travel (Page 3 of 4)

UK Trip Day Six (8/23/2004)

Found a camera store down the street from the hotel, so bought a D70 with 28-200 lens and a 1GB card. Now I can still take pix; I’ll take really good care of the camera and then return it before we leave.

Stopped by the British Information center and got info and tix to the London Eye and Tower of London. Had lunch (fish and chips) at Captains Cabin – a nice pub near the Information center.

After lunch, we took the “Original Tour” bus at Trafalgar square; saw a bunch of the city (from the top deck), and got off at the London Eye (a big ferris-wheel type thing that gives you panoramic views of the city).

The London Eye was ok, but went too slowly. The cars you ride in are completely enclosed. The windows are curved, so any pictures you take are distorted and full of reflections. Not worth the time, in my opinion.

We walked back across the Millenium Bridge (over the Thames). Happened upon the Sherlock Holmes Pub (Restaurant) near Trafalgar square and stopped in. I had a snack of “Cheddar Ploughman’s Platter”. YUCK! – it was nasty. The English rendition of cole slaw sucks (at this place anyway). The “platter” was this cole slaw, a stale bun, a slab of cheddar cheese and some sliced gerkins. I just ate the cheese.

We walked around a bit more, and ended up at “Pitcher and Piano”. Met a nice (and gorgeous) Welch waitress (wannabe actress) there. She had lived in Texas for awhile, and had a “boyfriend” from there – who was a Marine being sent to Iraq. Wonderful food. The Lady had smoked salmon with fresh dill cream sauce. She topped it off with a couple of Brazilian drinks – Capricanas? Great bossa-nova and live jazz as well. Cool! We were pretty much the only people in there. The bartender told us how to get to the Charing Cross area (where the bookstores are). We walked around and found the Bookstore Alley off Charing Cross. All the shops were closed (it was past 9pm), but it was nice to find.

After walking around a bit more, and trying to find a subway station entrance that was open, we opted to take a cab from Charing Cross Station to the hotel. Night Night.

UK Trip Day Five (8/22/2004)

The Lady was very tired; I made it to breakfast while she snoozed. A first! I got up before the Lady!

Walked to the Castle from the car park near the B+B. Stopped by “Tower Coffee House” for a coffe and donut. Small incident with a bee in the window, but it was no match for me and the large magazine that hit it. The coffee shop was neat – right inside one of the original Castel Wall towers! Not many places you can have an espresso while looking out a window surrounded by 800 year old stonework! Wonderful view of the bay from the window.

Took a self-tour of Conway Castle. Impressive- built in 1283-87. It wasn’t really crowded, and though it threatened to rain, it held off long enough for us to climb to the top of a few Castle towers and walk around on top of the wall. I bought some Wales souvenirs at the gift shop.

Made our way back to the car, and off to London!

Shortly after starting back to London, stopped at a “Little Chef” (chain restaurant, like Shoney’s). It happened to have wireless Internet access, so I was able to check email and post the first two blog entries of this series. The Lady was able to lookup more specific directions to the Hotel in London. Ain’t technology great? :)

Arrived in London in about 5 hours (it’s about 240 miles from Conwy). Took us another ~45 minutes to find the hotel (Hotel Kensington Gardens; it’s next door to the Best Western Phoenix Hotel, and affiliated with them). London isn’t small. Or easy to get around if you are brand-new and driving!

I had planned to drop off the Lady (and the other bags) and then return the car, but at 10pm I didn’t want to try and find Heathrow (the only National/Alamo car place open on Sunday). So I just parked, we checked in, and then walked down the street to have dinner. Had a nice dinner at Bella Italia on Queensway, around the corner from the hotel. I had “Cassereci Salsiccia Piccante (Spicy Napoli Sausage, roasted peppers, red onion, garlic, and fresh chillies on penne pasta).

BUT, the night did NOT end well. We got up to leave, and my camera bag (which had been hanging on the chair I was sitting in) was GONE. STOLEN! What a bummer. My renter’s insurance will cover it (I hope), but the whole day’s pictures were gone. I had fortunately copied previous days’ pictures to my laptop). I think I had some really nice ones of Conwy and the Castle there.

Scumbags are everywhere. Naturally, *after* I had my bag pinched I started noticing all the signs, seemingly everywhere, saying to “Beware of Pickpockets and Bag Snatchers. You may be being watched as a mark right now” (or something to that effect).

UK Trip Day Four (8/21/2004)

Got up in time (7am) and out the door (8am) to make the ferry to Dublin (the ferry is about an hour’s drive from the B+B). However, the Lady forgot her passport, so by the time we drove back to the B+B, we didn’t have time to make the ferry. At least it wasn’t my fault this time. :)

Back in Conwy, the Lady was able to setup a later ferry crossing (at 3), so we walked around Conwy, Wales. Castle Conwy still includes the castle walls around the city (it’s the most complete remaining “walled city” in the UK, I believe). Impressive. Saw the Smallest House In Great Britain (about the size of a large closet). Someone was living in it from the 1600’s until sometime ~1960?

Lunch was fish and chips at a place in Conwy that Rick Steves recommended in his Great Britain guide. It was ok, but I like more fish and less batter in my Fish and Chips. :)

Drove to the ferry and made it with time to spare. Ferry ride was smooth, taking about 2 hours (we used the Irish Ferry’s “Jonathan Swift” ferry).

Got to Dublin and took a cab to the Guinness Brewery. Couldn’t take a tour of the actual brewery or building (it was almost 6 on a Saturday), but were able to get into the new Guinness Storehouse (museum). A pint of Guinness is included with admission (a self-guided tour). The top floor (9th?) is a pub with a panoramic view of Dublin. Nice place to enjoy a pint (or two) of Guinness! Dublin isn’t as picturesque as Bath or London -at least from that viewpoint. Looked mostly like a factory town (guess it is). We didn’t have time to do much else after the Guinness store other than go back to the ferry. Next time I’m going to spend a night and drink a pint in a real Irish pub.

The last ferry back (the one we caught) was the “cruise” ferry, so it took 4 hours to return. We were tired, so we got a cabin. Grabbed a bit of dinner on the boat and took a nap. Long day for what amounted to just a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. But at least I was there! The cab *did* drive right past the actual brewery. :)

UK Trip Day Three (8/20/2004)

Got up a little late, and got a late start (we made breakfast at 9:30, but didn’t get on the road until 11). I caught hell from the Lady for being “late”. I’ll do better.

Drove to Hay-on-Wye, the “town of books”. Took about 3 hours from Bath. The roads to Hay are “B” roads, and would be really fun on a motorcycle! The Lady and I split up (after having lunch at a cafe) and met back up at the cafe around 6.

Hay-on-wye has something like 40 bookstores in the small (~1500person) town. Richard Booth is the person who years ago bought Hay castle and decided to turn hay into the “Town of Books”. He has succeeded. :)

I didn’t really find anything there I wanted –> I visited the Bookstore in the Castle, Booth Books, and a number of others in the ~ 3 hours we were there. The vast majority of what I saw were either paperbacks or poor-quality hardcovers. I did ask about James Boswell and Thorne Smith in each store, but no one had any. Hay is the type of place you have to spend hours in any given store, hoping to find a jewel among the crap.

I didn’t.

I brought along an extra bag on this trip (empty) since I expected to be buying a lot of books. Ended up not buying a single book in Hay!

After Hay, we drove for about 4 hours to the BB in North Wales. Whoah! Quite a trip. I drove way too fast for the Lady, and she didn’t hesitate to let me know. Driving on the left is weird, but the Lady is my own Early Warning System, so we didn’t hit anything. When we got to Conwy (in Wales), we had dinner at “Alfredo’s Italian” restaurant. It was either that or an Indian place since everything else seemed to be done serving dinner. We made it “intact” (well, the vehicle did anyway) to the B+B about 10:30pm. Night Night.

UK Trip Day Two (8/19/2004)

Went to Stonehenge in the morning. It’s about an hour or so from Bath via car. It’s quite impressive, and they have roped it off so you can view it withough people climbing all over the stones. – the downside is that you can only get so close. It’s only a little 1-foot high rope surrounding the monument, so you are just on the honor system to not run up to the stones. There were a fair number of visitors when we got there, but all were behind the ropes. :)

After Stonehenge, we went down to Salisbury – by way of Amesbury. We stopped in Amesbury by accident, believing we’d reached Salisbury. Ooops. But since we were there, we went in and toured the Cathedral in Amesbury. Eventually we got to Salisbury and toured the Cathedral. We saw one of the 4 surviving copies of the Magna Carta (and the best preserved). It was written on a single sheet of vellum in Latin in 1215 AD. On the way back to Bath, we stopped by Avesbury to see the stone circle there. It’s much bigger (spread out over more area), and totally accessible – kids were climbing all over the stones and people were picnicing. Fun. Had a nice dinner at a pub in Amesbury (I had venison pie – yum!). When we got to Bath (~8pm) we went to the Roman Baths again to see them lit via torchlight. After the baths we stopped at “Lambergetta” pub (its theme being the Lambergetta scooter). Younger (good) crowd (20-30’s) there. Nice comfy leather couch to enjoy Guinness. Pubs tend to close at 11:00, so we trotted back to the BB and called it a night.

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