A Travellerspoint blog

Hogmanay and tales of whiskey

rain 10 °C

Well after our scheduled train was cancelled and we were put on a leter train that went to Edinburgh via Carlisle (on the other side of the island) we finally arrived into Waverly station Edinburgh at 12.00pm. We went up the escalators totally unaware of what we would find as we hit Princes Street. There were people everywhere, many with suitcases and a large amount looking lost. We had decided, due to limited time, that we would split up and go our separate ways. I jumped on a bus to Roslyn Chapel. What a wee gem of a place. The set up is great and the tour guide was lovely as she told us the stories from the chapel with her soft Scotish accent and green lazer to direct us to applicable areas of the chapel. It made me feel like reading Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code all over again.

Whilst I was at Roslyn chapel David was at the National Gallery of Scotland. He was impressesd by the quality of the renaissance collections and the collection also included a very early work, and supposedly the largest work (of the 34 known works) by Vermeer - so he was happy. There was also an impressive collection of Scottish art in the Scotland collection galleries, however these galleries were quiet compared to the International collection galleries. He also climbed Carlton hill to see views out over Edinburgh, and claimed to have needed oxygen at the top of the first set of steps.

This city grows on you. When we first arrived I wasn't too sure if I would like it but as the evening came (3ish) the lights kicked in and the festival atmosphere was there. We wandered around stalls and nibbled as we walked.

We wandered for quite a long afternoon of discovering Edinburgh before heading off to our AirBnB on the Firth of Forth in Newhaven. We caught the designated bus and waited for the right stop to get off, and found the address right on the bus stop. Angie greeted us and showed us to a great bedroom where after shedding our cold clothes we were able to spend the evening learning about Edinburugh and our host.

After a hearty breakfast the following day we headed off to catch the Hop on Hop off bus to see Edinburgh. We stopped at a variety of places during the day, seeing the Hollyrood Palace with an audio tour was very interesting. Seeing the rooms where Mary of Queen of Scots lived was a highlight, but even the rooms still used by the Royal Family were interesting. We also spent time at the Grassmarket (where most of the hangings took place in the 17th Century), walked around the base of the Castle, and lunched at the cafe where JK Rowling initiated her ideas for Harry Potter on a napkin (the 'Elephant Cafe'). Sharon was very happy to find this cafe and the best was yet to come when we went to the loo before leaving. Now Colleen will chuckle at this, but the loos were amazing. The grafitti, all Harry Potter related. There was notes to JK Rowling about introducing people to reading, 'long live magic' and even a broom stick. Unfortunately we were penless so Emma will have to graffitti for us all when she makes it to this special place. We have added new words to our vocab from this lovely place ...neeps,tatties, and dross. Pop you will know these words but for us they were new and are now addedd to our vocabulary.

Each New Years Edinburgh has a torch parade which looks quite amazing. People dress up as vikings with torches and march through the streets. David saw the streets lined with barrels of water just in case there was a need for emergency extinguishing during the festivities. Anyone can join in but we were a little concerned about getting back to our accommodation, so had to enjoy it on tv. It was still pretty good. We had decided to have a traditional New years with our hosts so at about 8 pm we were of to their local pub wandering along the waterfront of the Forth of firth. The band was great and we enjoyed singing along to tunes that linked age groups and countries. At about 11.30 we wandered home to a wee supper and to get ourselves ready for the bells (which we learned later were not bells but fireworks). We all prepared our glassess to see the New year in. Sharon holding a whiskey for the first time in honour of Pop. With a minute to go Angie's dad grabbed a bottle of whiskey and left the appartment. Apparently the first person in your door after midnight should be someone with a gift. 100 years ago you would have a piece of coal in your hand as a sign you chimney would be filled with smoke over the next 12 months. So we let Angie's dad in the house and there were hugs and the fireworks at the Castle started. The fireworks had these lovely red and green colours at the same time.

Anyway after a slow start the next day we wandered the streets, viewed Britannia, where Dvid had a black pudding buttie, and managed to see more of Edinburgh before a train back to Newcastle. Our AirBnB host Nigel insisted that he drive us to the airport where we met Emma and got ourselves ready for our next adventure, Paris.

Posted by claptonisgod 10:42 Archived in England Comments (0)


sunny 7 °C


We have a girl who lives in the north, she was once living in Newcastle but now resides in Sunderland, a hop, step and jump from Newcastle. But she still spend a lot of her time here, firstly playing netball for Northumbria in the Superleague side along with the University side, studying law at Northumbria University and working at a nightclub called Ohso. So we thought some time here would be fun. We had been told some very unflattering stories about Newcastle, but as this blog will show, we found it quite charming.

Newcastle is not full of tourists like London but people here still get about their business and the streets after christmas were full of seasonal shoppers and people just experiencing the shops and retail experiences. The weather (which we had been led to believe would be cold and inclement), was actually quite mild, although on the last couple of days there was a hard frost on the streets and Sharon, in particular, had to watch her footing on the cobbled streets. An afternoon at the beach of Tynemouth had weather which changed from cold and windy to mild and calm within an hour, making us feel like we had too many clothes on. The beach was probably the first one we had ever seen with frost on the sand, but even then it wasn't cold enough to disuade a few surfers from chasing waves. And Sharon was still waiting for snow!

We arrived in Newcastle from Sunderland with directions to our first AirBnB which we had booked before we left NZ, managing to get lost off the Metro and knocking on the wrong door of a house in South Gosforth in the dark. The people were so understanding of our error and ended up persuading us to get in the car with our bags, after also asking us to come inside for mulled wine, and then delivering us to the end of a cobbled lane we must have passed on our walk. The kindness was unexpected, and we dropped off a card and a bottle of port a couple of days later in thanks. The AirBnB was great, a loft with an ensuite, and after dropping our bags our host provided wine and christmas cake as we chatted. Turned out that he had spent sometime in Kaitaia and had travelled some of NZ, also transpired that he and the family were off to London the following day, early, for 3 days and the house would be ours. An introduction to the washing machine would result in some clean clothes, which would be great.

We arranged to meet Emma on our first full day and got a tour of all of her university haunts and training and playing venues, so that we could imagine her there when we spoke from the other side of the world. The facilities are first class and the architecture of some of the new university buildings would look inspired in a rather drab Christchurch rebuild. We even got to meet one of Emma's fitness trainers. It was quite a hike around all the buildings and venues, and she wasn't finished taking us on a loop of the city around the river, across a couple of the bridges to see the view from the Hilton where she works occasionally, before getting back to the city for dinner.

One thing that we were warned about before getting to Newcastle was the dress code for young girls going out on the town, and we were not dissapointed to find the tight dress, tall stiletto shoe dress code still in place. The number of young women hitting the town looking one stage short of 'a women in red' was quite unbelievable. Firstly for the mode of attire and secondly for the temperatures they endure for this look.

After a day of looking around Newcastle by ourselves we met up again with Emma on our last touring day to head to the beach. We took the Metro to Tynemouth where we had lunch and walked the beach front where Emma has on ocassion trained for Northumbria. There were keen people surfing on a day when we really felt the wind chill factor. It was cold, i think especially because of the breeze coming off the North Sea. We walked along the breakwater to the lighthouse and watched the fishing boats return, shrouded by seagulls, approach the port entry. After an afternoon at the beach we returned to Newcastle to Dine with Emma and Antony at their friends restaurant next to Ohso. It was a fantastic Italian restaurant and the meal devine and sort of ended our trip to Newcastle as the following day we caught the early train to Edinburgh.

In Fact the early train was cancelled, due to line issues in Edinburgh, and we were advised that we would have to take the 8.42am train which would be redirected via Carlisle (an hour and a half trip now scheduled to take 3 hours).

Newcastle for Hogmanay next.

Posted by claptonisgod 12:20 Archived in England Comments (0)

Sunderland 1 Hull City 3

overcast 5 °C

Having caught up with Emma in York we then returned to Sunderland with her to spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day with her and her boyfriend.

Christmas Day was a very restful one, started as is now customary with champagne and strawberries. This was followed with a brunch of bacon and eggs, black pudding and kumara patties. The afternoon, a very quiet one watching 'The Sound of Music' and 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' on UK television (so much like NZ xmas television).

Boxing Day started with a suburban walk to see what the town looked like, then back for breakfast. We had arranged to get tickets for the Sunderland V Hull City football match at 3pm and after dressing warmly for the Stadium of Light (as it was only 6 degrees), we headed out for a drink at the Sports Bar on the way to the match. This led to the first of the match day experiences we had hoped for with loud singing and chanting in the bar. Red and white colours could be seen everywhere. All the fans were in a boyant mood as a week earlier Sunderland had beaten Newcastle in the 'local derby' one nil.

We joined the walk to the park after our beers were finished, a 15 minute walk with an ever increasing throng of supporters, then a queue to get through the turnstyles, and a rush to our excellent seats on the front row of the second tier with an unobstructed view of the game. We were fortunate to see Sunderland score in the first 30 seconds, actually before we took our seats, but after that, to be honest, they showed little attacking ability and went down 3 - 1. Even the refereeing was average with a couple of hand balls allowed to go unpunished. Watching the lights come on at around 3.30pm and the sky go dark was a wonderful sight.

It was a long walk back to town for a dissapointed fan base. The mumblings and mumerings about the team very funny to listen to. Funnier still for me was the chant, I had listened to the fans practicing at the pub about the Hull City Manager being sacked on Monday, never getting an airing during the game.

It was now time to leave Sunderland for Newcastle.

Posted by claptonisgod 14:53 Archived in England Tagged sunderland Comments (0)

C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien, and other wonders

overcast 3 °C

C.S Lewis JRR Tolkien and other wonders

We arrived in Oxford and were picked up by friends Tony and Jo. We decided to have a down day so spent the day with them eating Jo's amazing creations and enjoying music, guitar lessons and great stories. The next day we caught the village bus from Deddington through all the wee villages to Oxford. There was only enough room on this country road for the bus! It was a lovely 45 min trip through the English countryside. We arrived in Oxford on the last day of the christmas markets. The Town Cryer was busy proclaƬming and keeping everyone notified of the things they needed to know. This place has wonderful buildings as many of you know, however there is so much more to Oxford than these stunning buldings. This is a place of learning and creativity. We were excited to find the Eagle and Child pub reknowned for being the pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien met to discuss characters, story lines and life in general. Locally the pub is called the Bird and Baby and is still a pub with a difference today. Although on one level, it has stone, brick and wooden floors at various floor heights. People play chess , read and talk in some of the tiniest snugs I have ever seen and on the walls are photos of Lewis and drawings from the Hobbit. Difinitely a place of mystique and intrigue.

Although the days are short, by lnchtime this place was humming. Listening carefully you could hear languages being spoken from all corners of he world. We took many photos but nothing surpasses the ability to walk down these streets and soak up the atmosphere. I have been collecting christmas decorations at each place we visit and this was no exception with so many things to connect with here, Oxford may have given us three more for our collection. The markets were filled with great cheeses, roasted nuts and mulled wine. I really enjoyed the apple and cinnoman hot drink and have decided to put my crock pot into action creating this next winter.

After a long day of again walking for hours and thorughly enjoying the experience we jumped back on our bus to Deddington. We arrived home to a quiet house and put on the telly while we had a cuppa...much to our delight and amusemnt Lewis was on and we oohed and ahed as he walked on the same streets and areas that we had only hours before. A great day had been had and we crawled into bed weary and satisfied. Next time we come we will do the university tour for sure.

Posted by claptonisgod 14:43 Archived in England Tagged oxford Comments (0)

Canterbury the quaint

overcast 3 °C
View To the shoe factory on claptonisgod's travel map.

Canterbury the quaint

As you may have noticed we have missed out a few parts of our trip as we have been a little busy doing. However a place as cute as Canterbury needs to be recognised in our scribbles. London life was full on and we loved it as it is a place that totally engulfs you. As the train ride to Canterbury continued the pressure of city life disappeared in the flat land we saw all around us. We jumped off the train expecting to race up the stairs with the crowd .....we even had out tickets ready. There was no need. Everything was slower from that instant.
Pat met us at the train... . Isn't it great when friendships can pick up from where they left off even when it was a decade ago. The cobbled streets of Canterbury were like something plucked from our childhood story books. In the practical world not the easiest to walk on,but we were happy to put up with the small inconvienence to be in such a pretty place. The subtle christmas lights emphasised the facimating building shapes. Their doors, as you would expect, were quite low for 20th Century giants. The most facinating door was one that was so crooked it looked worse than anything in Christchurch NZ and the question was posed "how does it open at all? "
On Dusk (3.30pm) we remembered we had not yet been to the Cathedral. It was easy to find as it dominated the sky line. As we entered we found it surprising welcoming. Volunteers were there to ensure things were done correctly but in a very British and subtle way. It made you feel comfortable exploring. Again the subtle lighting and simple tree just added to the ombience of the the whole experience . This is a magnificent building and we sat wondering abut the lives of the people who built it with their limited tools and health and safety . We were sure lives would have been given in the making of what we saw before us. The most amazing thing for me was that although the building was well populated with volunteers and tourists you could easily find a spot to consider the meaning to life the universe and everythign after (42).

After our quiet thoughtful moment we were off to dinner at the Parrot (the oldest pub in town...) great meal, great friends great conversations...these memories will stay with us always thanks Pat and Rae xxx

Posted by claptonisgod 04:23 Comments (0)

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