Vern has got the B’s down to a fine art including packing up the bags like he has written a computer program to sort it (even though you may think “packing” is in my job description it isn’t!) I am not allowed near the cases when he is in packing mode – he has a system and it works so my job is to stay away!! All good by me because we may be in a pickle getting everything in the blimmin cases if it came under my job description.
From Edinburgh we got the fast train to York which meant we did not have a 5-hour bus journey. Our Irish gem of a coachdriver, Ryan, went on with all the baggage and it was sitting waiting in our rooms when we arrived in York – now that is where the Grand Old Duke marched 10,000 men to the top of the hill wasn’t it? And what happened to Dick Turpin? Nana used to talk about Dick Turpin’s ride to York and it turns out he was hanged here! We were staying at the Grand York Hotel which was the HQ of the Railways here. In fact everything in York is about horse racing and the railways and after our orientation tour with a local guide we walked to the Train Museum which was remarkable.
After departing York we drove on to Stratford on Avon through Nottingham, Leicester and Coventry and visited the absolutely stunning Chatsworth House – a stately home and estate in Derbyshire and occupied by the Duke and Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. We spent a few hours here going through the house with its amazing collection of artwork, ornaments, china, ceiling frescos and furniture. We then did a walk around the magnificent gardens and had lunch and, of course, Devonshire teas are a feature as are delicious Cornish pasties. This estate and house was where “Pride and Prejudice” was filmed and some parts of “The Crown.”
We arrive in Stratford-on-Avon on a very hot afternoon and have time for a walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace and around the busy little village. A nice farewell dinner rounded off the tour with just one day to go and we travelled on to Oxford where we had some time to explore this university town with its lovely buildings and, sadly, the largest number of people living on the street that we have seen in any village around the UK. On it was to London to end this tour and quickly farewell our travelling mates.
So it was on to Greenwich to have a few days rest and to catch up with Richard Burgess, Kirsty and the boys before leaving for home. Greenwich has given us the opportunity to do some walks around the lovely parks and along the Thames as well as walking the tunnel under the Thames to get to the island on the other side, and to do a boat trip up to the Thames Barrier – the flood protection system, visit the wonderful Maritime Museum, The Painted Hall and the Cutty Sark and a visit to Wimbledon and The Borough Market.
We have had a quiet dinner sitting on a terrace beside the Thames at a local Tavern with Kirsty and Richard on a rare still, warm evening and a dinner at their local pub with the family. Then it was off to a 20/20 cricket game at The Oval with them all to round off the two months away and meeting up with Kirsty and the boys on the last day.
So we are almost homeward bound and have had a few minutes to reflect on the past two amazing months – and the grand totals for the last two months are:
We have travelled on five riverboats, two ferries, a coach and the London tube – squashed like sardines and off-loaded at a busy tube station; stayed at 20 hotels; visited 11 countries; travelled 5800 km on land and 1400 km on rivers; gone through 72 lochs on riverboats; eaten too many 3-course meals and drowned in wine and beer; seen the most beautiful scenery and visited unforgettable places; managed (mostly) to work out the most complicated shower systems in Europe; walked hundreds of kms on cobbles and climbed literally thousands of stairs; had fun and made the most of every single day and have golden memories galore.
We are thankful we got here (good doctors!) and blessed to have shared new experiences. My job of looking after the P’s – people, paperwork, passports, Pinot Grigio, payments, pens, iPads, pressing and washing, pills, photos, pillows, purses, purchasing, presents, plugs, problems, phone calls will now be rearranged so we share it! We go home to the family having missed everyone immensely but so thankful we have had this absolutely wonderful adventure. We also will appreciate the washing machine, the car, nice wide concrete footpaths, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, one course meals, sleeping in the same bed with the same pillows and showers we can operate with great ease!
And so this amazing two months comes to a close with a little tourist’s prayer:
Oh Heavenly Father look down on us, your humble obedient servants doomed to travel this earth taking photographs, writing blogs and walking around in quick dry clothing.
We pray oh Jesus to see that our plane is not delayed, our luggage not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.
Protect us from crooked taxi drivers, porters, and unlicensed tour guides.
Give us this day divine guidance in the selections of our hotels, where we may find our reservation honoured, our rooms made up and showers that work.
We pray that the iPhone works and Vodafone doesn’t rob us when we return and that there is no mail waiting for us from loved ones needing money.
Lead us oh God to nice inexpensive restaurants where the food is good, the waiters are friendly and the wine is included in the price.
Give us wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we don’t understand and forgive us for under tipping out of ignorance and overtipping out of fear.
Give us strength to visit museums, cathedrals, temples and palaces listed as a must by the tour guide. And if, perchance, we take a nap after lunch or skip an historic monument, have mercy on us for our flesh is week.
Please God, keep our wives from spending sprees and protect them from bargains they do not need nor can afford. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.
Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. Save them from making a fool of themselves in cafes and nightclubs. Above all do not forgive them their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.
And when our travels are over and we return to our loved ones, grant us the favour that someone will look at our videos and listen to our stories so that our lives as tourists will not have been in vain.
Heaven is where the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the police are British, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss.
Hell is where the mechanics are French, the police are German, the British are the cooks, the Swiss are the lovers and it is all organised by the Italians.
Oh almighty please make sure we go to heaven.
I wonder where to next? Meanwhile, it is back to Pauanui after a wonderful welcome home from the family. It’s great to be back after nine weeks away.