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Tag: 2019 (page 2 of 3)

Lincoln, a town of many hills – UK Trip Day 9

Our next destination was York! A university town that we were informed would be lovely, and that we should spend a whole day there.

The roads were treacherous outside of King’s Lynn. Once on the highway the rain fell in sheets on the windscreen, making visibility pretty low at some points. Some areas of the road were flooded out. At one point we tried to pass a truck which had been spraying us with fine mist for a half hour, with a wide gap in the oncoming traffic lane, I made an attempt but quickly gave it up when a large lorry emerged from the mist in front of me.

Victoria choked back her heart while I re-took the left lane and continued on behind the mist-slinging transport truck. After a while it turned off while we continued on.

There was a very beautiful bridge near Hull where you could see for miles around, if not for the mist. We captured a bit of this on the GoPro while driving. We also came up to our first toll booth. It only cost 1p50 to cross, and we were amused to try it out the first time. I confirmed the price, tipped my hand into the hand of the booth attendee, and thanked him while driving off.

First we had to check out Lincoln which had some of the steepest streets in the UK. They were indeed very steep and it’s hard to show in pictures just how steep they are. I found it quite easy but on previously injured knees, Victoria may have had a hard time. She didn’t complain at all, but she was huffing lightly each time we stopped.

There are so many pretty shops in Lincoln. I took a lot of photos but if you find yourself in the UK in a similar situation, I definitely recommend stopping here.

The place is just steeped in history, with winding cobblestone roads and beautiful vistas atop the hill. The roads seemed to have each brick laid with the striations in the stones perpendicular to the slope, which helps. It didn’t feel slippery at all and it had been raining the morning when we drove in.

After exploring the hill, we headed down toward the famous house-on-a-bridge, which is a historical landmark in Lincoln. Winding through the streets we found our way there while stopping into a few shops with curiosities and delights to take in.

We continued onward and the rain picked up again. It had been raining on and off all day. I tried a few photos of the canal in the rain when we finally arrived. Turning around, we were able to see the famous house-on-a-bridge. It now contained several small businesses such as cafes and other eateries.

We passed a lady in a traditional maid outfit on the way in. This place was going to be something a little different for sure.

The houese inside was very well kept up, and included custom made brass fireplaces, and some simple chairs. The trims all painted black with light walls.

It seemed pretty posh and Vitoria and I were in the mood for a coffee. A real coffee. We suspected this place had the real goods. So we went to the top floor to order one from a delightful little cafe with a view of the canal.

Let me tell you, the coffee was fantastic. We ordered a Kenyan roast coffee served in a french press, which came with an hourglass I couldn’t help fiddling with. (Actually a 3 minute glass? What do you call an hourglass that only does 3 minutes?)

Having enjoyed our coffees, the host who was in a crisp outfit with a waiter’s apron picked out a brochure about the building from amongst the things under the cash and pointed to a picture asking us what’s remarkable about a picture inside.

Victoria and I sat for a moment or two and then I said, “It’s this room, isn’t it?”

We looked at the historical photo and the waiter told us all about the place, and how people want to buy the custom fireplaces from the owner. Also how the owner chose to polish them, which I agree with, rather than preserve the patina.

After that we had to get to our car. Our parking pass was running out and we had to make it to York before it got too dark.

The drive to York was lovely and the rain started to subside. At one point our rental car from Europcar started beeping every 5 miles.

Back at the rental counter they had told us the car had been topped up with AdBlue and it would be fine until our destination. It seems they were flat-out lying to us as the car was telling us now that it would simply not turn on in 90 miles.

So we stopped outside of Lincoln at a gas station and I asked if someone could help me with it, because I wasn’t even sure how to verify what the Europcar rental agency representative had told us. It turns out the only way to verify it is to turn on the car and actually heed the warnings on the dash. Thanks for nothing, Europcar.

I paid 10.99p or about 18.10 CAD to buy a 5 litre jug of the AdBlue and filled up the tank. The car ran much better afterward. Apparently without AdBlue, your diesel car will start to run poorly to preserve the emissions goals of the car. (Some cars apparently limit you to 20mph when you run out or turn right off!)

As we drove into York the hilly, sleepy university town revealed itself before us and it was lovely. Today we get to explore it in the daylight and I can already tell it’s going to be a nice time.

The road to Colchester – UK Trip Day 7

We hit the road in the middle of London. Our goal: to make it to Colchester from London with our car, our wits, and no damage to either.

We started out just after lunch and instead of doing the sensible thing and getting lunch, we hit the road straight away.

Driving in London is obviously done on the other side of the road from what we’re used to. So that’s a thing. It’s also all listed in miles instead of kilometers. Stops for pedestrians are different. There are some differences in street signage, etc.

All of this might make you wary of driving in London, but as someone who only drives maybe twice a year when I rent a car, I can tell you now it’s no big deal. Sure, you have to reverse a lot of things. Keep left if you’re a slower vehicle (but it’s still to the outer edge of the road rather than the inner edge for faster vehicles, same as North America.)

Traffic tends to actually let you merge, which is nice. In Toronto you have to really want it. Wedging your car in between two others and hoping neither of them want the trouble of a fender bender. In London there’s none of that. First of all the congestion charge seems to keep traffic away except in some circumstances. Secondly, it seems like they’re a bit kinder to everyone on the road.

Once we were out of London, the highways to exit the city were all marked with speed limits and cars seemed to roughly stick to them. Once outside of the greater London area, it seemed to be a free-for all. When getting onto the biggest part of the major highway it said it was a speed variable zone, and I did not see a single other speed posted until I arrived at another town.

I simply did what I always do and followed the flow of traffic. It’s the safest thing to do, and I have yet to find an officer to give me grief over it.

Victoria had a message from her mother about a farm where they had stayed, so we took a little detour to go see that. It was down some single lane roads where you have to pull off to the shoulder, or back up to the next spot where you can if traffic comes the other way. Thankfully this didn’t happen, and we soon found the farm! It was just on the other side of a railway crossing. When trains cross here, it seems like they get their money’s worth for putting the sign down, about 4 trains, maybe more, passed us by before the gates came back up. At this point there was a big line of cars behind us. I pulled off left to let Victoria take some pictures. After that, we hit the highway again.

We drove for quite a few miles and went through many round-abouts. The rules seem simple. There are lights at bigger ones to tell you when to join the circle. The signs tell you which exit is which. If there are no lights, there’s a line where you wait until there’s a gap and then you join the circle, and exit whichever branch you need to.

Closer to Colchester there were tons of roundabots. Every junction was a roundabout. They must be cheaper to construct and maintain than a typical north american overpass highway crossing. Maybe not cheaper than a regular stop light, but apparently this idea is better somehow. I’m not seeing it.

That said, round-abouts are nothing to be afraid of. The one at Trafalgar square was nothing special and the ones on the distant and unknown highways seemed more daunting.

My whole day was spent driving, which is why this log is and probably will be heavily focused on driving, unless we stop for quite a while somewhere. Today it was lightly raining and there was nothing interesting to do that we knew of, except…

We had a message from Victoria’s mother about the house she lived in when she [Victoria] was 4 years old! So we had to make a detour to find out what that looks like now.

The town definitely had a slower pace than London, but still seemed built-up in some ways. We found ourselves down an increasingly narrow and precarious drive until we reached a tiny car park, where I tried to turn around.

A lady who lived there told me how difficult it was going to be to get out of there, and gave us step-by-step guidance in getting out. It was a huge help in getting out of there quickly. I would have figured it out eventually, but she knew the size of the space and exactly how to turn to get a sedan out of there. Apparently she had helped many people out of that same situation.

We told her Victoria had possibly lived in one of the houses on that street and they talked about that for a minute and we said thank-you and left, looking for a car park, which ended up being right at the end of the street. The Butt Road car park. BUTT. ROAD.

We put in 2.45 pounds and were given until 6PM to park, which we knew would be plenty of time to get something to eat. It was now just after 2 and we were getting peckish.

We found a corner store which seemed familliar to Victoria and bought a sandwich combo, just one, to share for the both of us. I’m still not really sure why we went with that when we had only had a bit of oatmeal for breakfast, and nothing for lunch, but here we are.

We then checked Victoria’s messages and her mother had clarified the street where she had lived when Victoria was 4. This was not 100% consistent with what she had said before, but it was more of an omission. We took this new information and headed for the old homestead.

It’s now painted purple and seems to be under a bit of renovation.

The cute little street seemed like a nice place to live with a young kid. We were satisfied with our photos so we headed for the town centre to see what that was like and find a place to eat our sandwich.

Once in the town square, we found many cute little shops, and a larger area with some name brand stores. Here there was also a Crepe stand.

We had our sandwich and decided that was clearly not going to be enough, so what else to do but buy crepes!

They were delicious and probably not the most nutritious choice, but we’re on vacation so we get to indulge, okay!

We took our crepes and walked along the streets and admired the stores when it began to rain. I had a hooded rain jacket from Muji with me, so I flipped up the hood and kept mostly dry until the rain picked up. Then my jeans started to get a little damp, but not much. Victoria only had a hoodie on, but since we had a car, we just returned to the car and were able to be dry again.

This is where the trip gets a little freaky. The roads as we neared our cabin got windier, stranger, and narrower. Each turn seemed to bring a new challenge and the distance to our next stop was actually about as much as the distance between the edge of London and Colchester. Maybe more. We seemed to go on so many winding paths through round-abouts and wavy roads, over a huge bridge, it seemed to never end!

We finally arrived at the cabin, where I sit now, and Victoria decided we had better go out and get dinner. I think she was getting hangry. I was ready to just relax. I had been driving all day in a foreign country, on tiny rain-slick roads, and I just wanted to have whatever we had on hand to eat and rest.

We walked about a mile down the road before we realised there was no sidewalk and the cars were passing awfully quickly. The walking was my idea, but I didn’t fully grok what 1.8 miles on a strange country road with no shoulder looked like.

We would have had to walk basically on the road so we turned back.

Along the way we had found many neat little bits and bobs, and many blackberries which were ripe and ready for the picking. Victoria picked them as we walked along. Some of them were very sweet.

When we finally had walked the mile again back to the car we were ready to go inside and cook soup or something because we still had some from the grocer in London, but I headed for the car. I gave in and drove us back along the road we had used to get to the cabin to Halesworth. We found some public parking and right beside it was a pub called the White Hart with wonderful food.

I had sausage and mashed potatoes and Victoria had fish and chips. Her meal was huge and mine was pretty big, but the right amount it seemed. We had a half pint each of a Southwold cider that was quite sweet and tasty and their stout.

Once we had sat and talked a while and had our dinner, we headed back to the cabin. A shower under the rain shower head was wonderful and we’re now both tapping away our adventures and relaxing. A rest well earned, I think.

Lazy Saturday – UK Trip Day 6

Saturday was a more relaxed day than the others. Victoria woke up feeling under the weather and I had felt a bit achey from all of the walking we had been doing, so we decided to take it easy.

We left the hotel and went for a short walk to check out the laundry facilities we could find. There are actually quite a few along Shepherds Bush road. We stopped into one to see that it’s actually quite expensive to do your own laundry here.

After that, we dropped by Spice Grill’s Curries & Grill’s (sic).

“Do you want the basic service, or the deluxe service where we spell check it for you?”

A certain joke by David Mitchell about sign painters comes to mind. Anyway…

Having experienced a “medium” piri piri in Britain I asked the owner if he could give me a medium spice according to him, not Britain. He obliged and it was delicious. It matched about what you’d find in Toronto for medium spice level at a good curry restaurant, and was full of flavour.

Delicious! We shared this plate as well.

We nipped into the Costa for a quick coffee and to share a square with each other, and beside it was a Superdrug where we picked up some insoles for me as I had neglected to add them to my Blundstones before leaving Canada.

After that, we headed to the park again. It was such a lovely day, we took a slow walk through the tiny park and then sat at the far end for a while.

We took it all in and watched people pass by. One man’s dog was a big fluffy malamute and seemed especially sad that he was not allowed to play with the other dogs. He circled the area where we were so I saw him twice huff, dejected, that he was not allowed to play. I smiled, and the man taking him for a walk kept his same, unimpressed expression.

One thing London has no shortage of are these bicycle share services. This one appears to be the leave-anywhere kind of service, except that there are actually proper parking zones for them. The bicyles all had red tags hanging fromm them saying you had to park in a proper zone to avoid a fine of 20 pounds!

Having our fill of sun, we headed back to the hotel to rest again. Victoria was a little better but still not feeling 100%. I took our clothes across to one of the laundry facilities—for only a pound or two more we could have them do the laundry for us—and we both relaxed for a bit.

At dinner time we decided to try the nearby Thai food place. We shared a pad-see-ew and spring rolls with a mixed berry cider. The whole meal was a bit pricey, about $36 CAD, but that was only really one meal we payed for.

The ambiance was worth the price of admission at least once. It was a cute restaurant.

In the evening we took a little walk south to the other park, Brook Green.

This park was also quite nice, and the same huge trees we sall all over London were here too. We sat in a fenced large open space where some man was playing kick-ball with presumably his children as well as any of the neighbourhood kids who wanted to join.

We played a little bit of Pokemon Go here as Victoria had dropped a lure and she noticed one of the stops was a composer’s old stomping grounds.

Then we stood outside this pub and beat the Blissey out of a yellow gym. Take that, paste-eaters!

When we finished up with that, we walked the diagonal path through Brook Green home having noticed that our friends in cosplay were sword fighting with light sabers again. Apparently they are a club, whom you can find here!

Satisfied with our sleepy day adventures, we retired to the hotel. Instead of watching something we brought with us, we took in British TV and they were showing the story of Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper from the 1988 Olympics. It was a real life wild story shoehorned into a save-the-cat adventure formula, changing bits of history to make it fit. This actually made it… worse than it could have been. The real life story of Eddie the Eagle is worth a read.

Sunday we start our first road adventure ending in a farm-house cabin! See you then!

Climate Protest, Tate Modern, and the Thames – UK Trip Day 5

We started out by heading toward the climate change protest. Since we were headed via the Victoria line, we took a few photos of Victoria in front of her line sign.

On the way to the protest we found Penguin Random House UK, which was a nice surprise for Victoria. She’s trying to get published and she’s always been an avid reader.

One nice thing I noticed is that there are some raised and separated bicycle lanes. That seems much safer than just a line painted on the road, and pylons which drivers seem to enjoy running over.

I didn’t know this but we were headed for the Thames, so I was able to see it too for the first time. It is very brown, with many impressive buildings surrounding it.

We didn’t have to use the map as there were already swarms of people making it toward the protest site. We passed the Tate Britain along the way, but didn’t go inside as we had a mission.

Victoria pointed out more palm trees, which would never work in Toronto, so that was novel. We had finally arrived at the site and this was much bigger than we had anticipated. Protests in Toronto are not typically even close to this scale.

There were a lot of good signs and the protest took over a street and the adjacent park. There was a giant stage where the leaders of the protest said their piece, followed by a live band, which was a bit different from how the protests we had been to happened.

We were standing directly in the sun and after we had enough of that we made our way back, stopping for a walk along the banks of the Thames along the way. Victoria and I found quite a few interesting bits and pieces including a large black molar! Maybe from a cow?

Fully exhausted, we had planned to go back to the hotel for a nap, but London had other plans. A jumper cancelled all of the subway trains between ourselves and our hotel. We didn’t know this at the time, so we spent 10 or 15 minutes waiting on the sweltering tube station platform and took the train 1 stop before exiting onto the street.

We tried to find somewhere to go to the loo, and maybe have lunch, but there was really nowhere good/inexpensive. We found out that the bus on the surface went our way anyway, so we finally had a ride on a double-decker bus!

Lots of traffic and police sirens. We could have walked quicker, but were exhausted and enjoyed the sit. The bus was very slow, so I took some photos of Hyde Park, which we had also not seen yet.

After a brief nap, and Victoria with practically no rest at all, we had to head back out to meet Victoria’s friend Nick!

They had not seen each other in about 20 years, so even when we were standing about 10 feet away from each other it took a few minutes for them to recognize each other.

When we had said our hellos, we made a plan and walked over to the bust of Joseph Bazalgette, an engineer who is notable for finishing probably the first and last London public works project on time. He was responsible for the first major sewer system in London, and it was no small feat. We of course took nerdy appreciation selfies in front of the monument.

Nick’s next suggestion was a cafe in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields. It was very crisp and clean for a crypt. There were interesting curved ceilings which lead into the columns. The floor had a few plaques which were completely unprotected, worn away under foot from years of foot traffic.

We crossed the foot bridge at Embankment station which was wavy and seemed to sway with the foot traffic. Nick suggested we take some touristy photos in front of the eye of London, which we did, as well as capturing a few photos of Big Ben during its face-lift. We all need a little care sometimes, it’s okay.

We walked along the other side of the Thames, past the National Theatre for a great view of the variety of modern buildings London has to offer. We were set on seeing the Tate Modern, which is free to enter and has some interesting displays.

Once we had our fill of culture, we headed for the Founder’s Arms pub nearby. We each had 1 pint and a very good chat. It was a great spot to take some night shots of the skyline, so Victoria grabbed my camera and took a few.

Nick had to get home to his family, and was taking a train from Paddington station. We were under the misapprehension that we had seen Paddington, but we had not. We had seen a tiny section of the tube station attached to it. Paddington station is huge. Nick insisted we take a photo with the real statue of Paddington if we were to take any at all.

We all wanted chips, but the nearby options were slim, and we headed into the McDonalds for some fries. There was no gravy and cheese curds, however. No poutine for us!

We spoke with Nick awhile until he had to get onto his train, said our goodbyes and headed home. What a nice day. Thank-you Nick for showing us around.

Day at the Library : UK Trip Day 3

Today we headed out to see the British Library. On the way we stopped by a local market to see what it had to offer.

It reminded us of the market in Japan because both are right beside a transit line and curve along the length of the track, and both have small booth sellers. There really isn’t anything like it in Toronto. It was novel to us.

We had a very good iced coffee at The Italian Coffee Club while we waited for the man at the momos booth to cook some up fresh for us. They were also delicious.

A pleasant lunch in our bellies, we headed for the tube station. There were two police officers and staff at the door today. Strange.

I was a little freaked out, as I always am with police officers around, especially when they usually aren’t there, but I strode by passing my wallet over the gate and it let me in fine.

I continued to walk and turned to see if Toria were behind me. She was having trouble scanning her card momentarily. Then the transit staff lady told her to step back.

“It’s like I’m talking to myself…” she muttered. Is this some kind of British passive aggression? Seemed pretty odd.

The ride itself was uneventful. We rode the circle line around to the north end of it arriving at Euston Square. Here we exited and made a right and walked in a big circle around the next block or so to arrive at Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe!

Not familiar? I wasn’t either but I had been informed that it was the filming location for the newer Sherlock TV series. We took a series of photos and went inside.

Inside were more photos up on the wall and a drawing in the corner. A small display case was on the left and some very 20th century diner tables.

The food was passable but bland. Something we expected to find in Britain, but this place was particularly inoffensive. It hit the spot though, and that’s all that really mattered. We also had a pretty good ginger beer. Maybe not good to people who like a lot of ginger, but it was one which Victoria would actually drink. It was watered down and sweet.

Then we exited and headed back north and then west toward the library. There was quite a bit to see in here and I think you could spend a lot of time just exploring the library alone.

We happened upon the rare books display, which was kept dim and cool to preserve the aged and delicate tomes. Some were more delicate than others. I saw some people taking photos at some booths surprisingly some with flash as well, despite the message at the front about light damaging the books.

Kids were using phones, but some old guy with a standard point and click camera was using the autofocus complete with a visible light range finder shinning on the book. Oops!

I decided I could get away with at least one shot without any kind of light emitting from my camera, so I took this one to show off the pretty illustrated books seen below.

We took a look in the book store and the gift shop, didn’t find anything of interest and headed outside for a coffee. We were both quite tired at this point. Perhaps jet lag. Perhaps it was the 25000+ steps we took yesterday.

Victoria had asked me on our way over if I wanted to stop at Paddington station since I had made note of it on the way over.

I said that it wasn’t that important to me, because I was pretty tired, but we stopped over anyway to see what was there.

I did end up taking a lot of photos here. It turns out it’s at the eastern part of Little Venice, which we had previously intended to explore!

There was a great little art show here showcasing art that combines electronics and physical media such as metal, resin, plastics, and lights. I took a few neat looking videos of the pieces exploiting the depth of field control of my DSLR.

We did get video of some water fowl for Natalie. There, I hope you like it!

A duck, for Nat. (I think)

I saw this sign both misspelled and silly and decided to pose beside it with the shirt that Victoria had given me. (She decided she does not like graphic Ts anymore, and it was previously hers.)

Then we returned to the tube station and headed back home. We were very tired at this point, so we took in some UK television and headed for bed.

Goodnight!

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