This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The London Log – Part 2 – A boat, a barrier & broken lifts!

Gawd, what a mouthful (insert your own smutty pun here, most of mine are not printable!). It does however fairly accurately describe our second full day in London, staying at the Caravan Clubs’ marvellously located Crystal Palace site.

Monday, and the days travelling started with a walk along Crystal Palace Parade and down the hill to the Overground station for a ride to New Cross gate. A bus then trundled the rest of the way to Greenwich. The Cutty Sark is here – the famous tea clipper beautifully (and expensively) restored following a fire a few years ago. We eschewed the opportunity to look around inside – there was a queue and I don’t like parting with money – preferring instead to admire her from outside. The whole area was looking quite smart as it happens and clearly some serious cash has been splashed here in the recent years.

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Next door is the famous Old Royal Naval College, impressive close up but the classic view meant a walk under the Thames in the Greenwich foot tunnel over to the Isle of Dogs. The tunnel is over 1200 feet long but just 11 feet wide. Lifts take you up and down to and from ground level at either end – well they would if they were working – but nevertheless the view from the other side was worth it. To the side of the old college is the Trafalgar Tavern famous for it’s whitebait suppers – and the patronage of a certain Charlie Dickens. Further on the Greenwich power station dwarves the pretty Trinity hospital.

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Back on the south side we had a wander around the grounds of the college and replenished the caffeine and sugar reserves before heading to the quay to get on a boat.

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The Thames Barrier was the destination – or at least where the boat turned around - but the hour or so on the water gave us great views of the dome and docklands area – complete with Canary Wharf and various high rise offices housing  a load of bankers. I came down here on a school trip in the early eighties when it had been flattened in readiness for development. Seeing how much it has changed is a stark reminder of how time marches on!

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On return to Greenwich food was the next item on the menu (sorry!). A well known pub chain provided both solid and liquid refreshment  - just the one mind – before we returned, on a slightly circuitous route to Patsy at Crystal Palace to enjoy the rest of the afternoon sun, although the gathering clouds gave an indication of what was to come.

Watch out for the third and final part, including a once wobbly bridge, a building site and a mechanical horse……

Monday, 27 May 2013

The London Log – Part 1 – Hills & Headstones

Yes, here we go again, this time from a sunny (but soon to be soggy) South London as Patsy returns to Crystal Palace Caravan Site – the location of our very first caravan trip a year and a bit ago.

As I start this it’s Monday night and we’ve had three glorious days of sunshine, however the prophets of doom at the Met Office are predicting a day of rain tomorrow. So, once again we’ll be in Patsy when it’s raining – normal service will be resumed in other words!

So, just to get you up to date a bit. Since my last blog – from Littlehampton back in March – plans for our European tour have moved a step closer after the Estate Agents finally found someone willing to buy our bungalow. All we have to do now is wait for the solicitors to, well, solicit, and also find somewhere to live. We’ve looked at a few flats, had a cheeky offer rejected and may well end up living in Patsy for a while until we find the right place. We managed for three months last year of course without murdering one another, and having cash on the hip (so to speak) will put us in a  stronger position when we eventually come to buy.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. We were awake and up at silly o’clock on Saturday morning, so final preparations were completed and we were on the road well ahead of schedule. Having navigated Brighton and the M23 we crossed under the M25 and paused for coffee and chocolate, mainly to try and avoid arriving at the site too early. It didn’t work though and we still arrived well before midday, but the wardens were fine about it and happy to let us on early. We got a grass pitch this time right by the reception. It’s a great little spot – particularly for nosey parkers like Trev as you can see all the comings and goings. We decided that this site is a microcosm of London as a whole – we’ve got the leafy suburb, away from the  hard standings around the corner which we’ve dubbed the council estate on account of the grey regimented layout. And kids!

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Bizarrely, for a site that sits just a few yards from one of the biggest and most powerful TV transmitters in the country, getting the TV tuned in proved problematic – no amount of retuning or fiddling with the aerial lead would produce a picture. It wasn’t until later, having read the site bumpf – and particularly the bit about turning OFF the aerial booster – that the issue was resolved and we now have 130 or so channels to chose from. Plenty of alternative’s to Britains Got Talent and Corrie then…

We weren’t actually meant to be on this site at all. Way back in March when we decided to book, the Caravan Clubs’ (unreliable – as it turned out) online availability and booking service indicated that Crystal Palace would be full – hardly surprising considering it was half term and a bank holiday. We booked instead for Alderstead Heath – just off the M23 and inside the just inside the M25. London would still be accessible although obviously further away. However, advice from a friend who knows better (thanks Graham!) to pick up the phone and actually talk to someone proved fruitful, so here we are.

The small awning went up without any drama, then we headed off to the local supermarket for grog & grub and with lunch skipped we fired up the bbq as soon as we returned. It was so nice to be outside in the warm with the sunshine I was on my second beer before I knew it…..

Dusk brought with it a first real look a couple of new additions to Patsy – lava lamps kindly bought for us by our dear friend and former neighbour Jackie. They looked great and attracted a fair bit of attention from fellow caravanners returning from their wanderings.

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Sunday, and we woke – early again – to what promised to be another lovely day. With morning ablutions and breakfast completed we headed out of the site and to the bus stop, Trev dressed appropriately for the weather in brightly coloured shorts and short sleeved shirt. I made allowances for the weather too by leaving my coat off…….

First destination was to be Primrose Hill – up in North London. The number three bus was to be the method of transportation for the first leg of the journey – to Brixton – but we came to a rather sudden halt soon after getting on. There had been a collision between a cyclist and a car and the bus ahead of us may have been involved too. The car was in the middle of the road and the cyclist probe beside it with a large indentation in the car door. We sat for half an hour so until it was decided it was safe to move him – I just hope he’s ok.

Brixton was buzzing as we alighted from the bus and crossed to the the Underground for the second leg of the journey north, but nothing compared to Camden Town which was heaving. I passed, somewhat reluctantly, the shops displaying their gothic and leather gear as we headed for another bus.

We approached Primrose Hill from the northern side which, handily, negated climbing the full height of it. The park was full of people making the most of the stunning weather – and who could blame them? And that’s the great thing about London – there are lots of open green spaces to get away from the noise, the traffic and the fumes when you need to. The views from the top are great – a wonderful snapshot of the famous landmarks in London’s skyline – even the Crystal Palace transmitter could be seen in the distance. It gave us a chance to try out our new toy as well – we’ve bought a new camera, something we’ve promised ourselves for over a year now. The ageing Olympus, at eight years old, in electronics terms positively antique has taken well over 15,000 pictures and some quite good ones too considering the clumsy fumblings of it’s operator (me!). For those that are interested we now have a Nikon D5100 DSLR – so far I’m pleased with the results but there’s a lot to learn and it will be a while before the selection dial is moved away from ‘Auto’!

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We descended the southern side of the park and, having paused for coffee headed for Regents Canal for the walk back to Camden. The zoo in Regents Park backs on to the canal and punts and narrow boats carry tourists backwards and forwards. It was a delightful walk and relatively peaceful at least until we got back to Camden Lock.

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Another trip on the underground was required in order to reach our next destination but with Camden Station closed a short walk was required to Mornington Crescent. Another bus journey brought us to the edge of Waterlow park and we walked through to Highgate Cemetery on the other side. There are some pretty famous ‘residents’ here – Karl Marx is without doubt the most prominent, but there are many others too. Philip Gould – the architect of New Labour - is a fairly recent addition. Others we spotted include Douglas Adams; author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Malcolm McLaren and Jeremy Beadle. It may seem an odd place to visit but is extremely popular with tourists and apparently essential for any goth although there were none around today – a damp, misty day would be far more atmospheric.

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Plan to return via the London Overground were thwarted by engineering works so we ended up on a combination of buses, stopping at London Bridge for some photo’s of Tower Bridge and the Shard. The bbq was fired up again on our return to the site as we enjoyed the most of the evening sun.

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Right, that’s it for now. Stand by for another blog soon – and by the way – the weathermen got it right – it’s now Tuesday morning – and it’s raining!