A Travellerspoint blog

In Richmond, last two days of our trip

June 21, 22

This is our last entry in this blog before going back to Australia. We booked the Hotel Petersham in Richmond for one night. Our flight back home in on June 22, at 10:15PM. We decided to go to the hotel and check in as early as possible. That way we can use it as a base to explore London. We also missed visiting Windsor castle though we were in Windsor for two days. If we get enough free time, we could consider visiting it on the 22nd morning, before returning the vehicle at the airport.

We left Stratford-Upon-Avon after an early breakfast and arrived at the Petersham Hotel in Richmond at 10:30AM. We could have come early, but the city bound traffic delayed our arrival. We knew we were too early, because the agreed check in time was 2:00PM. We left the car and our luggage at the hotel and told the reception that we will be back in the evening to check in. We got a taxi down to go to the Richmond station.

Petersham Hotel in Richmond

Petersham Hotel in Richmond

We bought day tickets for the train. That ticket is valid for all services for one full day. We could change trains and buses anywhere in London and get off anywhere we liked. We had three places to visit which we have not done earlier. The important one was the Tower of London. We decided to see it first and then think of other places.

Mala with London Bridge in the background

Mala with London Bridge in the background

Tower of London is the place where the crown jewels are kept. It is an old palace and one of the main tourist attractions in London. The place was packed with tourists. We bought tickets including self tour guides and went inside building. There was a very long queue to visit the crown jewels. There is very high security and your bags are checked before you enter the building where the jewels are kept. We waited nearly one hour to get into that building. Unfortunately, we cannot take photos inside the building. It is well worth visiting this place and look at the actual crown jewels used by the royal family.

Mala selecting chocolates in Harrods

Mala selecting chocolates in Harrods

We spent nearly three hours in this place and then left to visit Harrods. All visitors to London invariably visit the prestige department store Harrods. We saw many visitors buying small souvenirs just to say they bought something from Harrods. We visited most of the departments including the food section and had coffee in one of the Harrods restaurants. We bought a few items including some chocolates and hand bags. There are some luxury items which are extremely expensive, at the same time there are some items which are reasonably priced. We compared the prices of crystal lamps and dinnerware we found in the Waterford factory and Harrods. They were the same in both places.
We then decided to visit the last place we had in mind. That was the Hamleys Toy Store. It was alright, but not impressive as we thought it would be. In the evening we came back to the hotel to have dinner in the hotel restaurant. Petersham is an old colonial hotel which was first established nearly 150 years ago. It is still regarded as one of the best hotels in the area. You can see the river Thames from the hotel restaurant. We selected this hotel because its location Richmond is closer to the airport and Windsor castle and also has transport links to London.

Mala and Andrew near Windsor Castle

Mala and Andrew near Windsor Castle

Next morning we brought all our bags into the room and packed properly to take them to the airport. We spent the morning in the hotel and checked out at 12:00 Noon. Our plan was to go directly to Windsor and see the castle and then proceed to the airport. It was raining when we left the hotel, but it cleared up later. It was hard to find parking near the castle, but we circled the area twice and finally found a good parking spot close to the castle. We would have regretted if we did not see this castle. It is the biggest and the best castle we have seen so far. It is a working castle and the queen uses it regularly. In fact we were told that on that day, the queen was coming there at 4:00PM. She is in an area which is not open to public. We found the castle a fascinating place. There are some extremely valuable items and art collections in the castle. Most of the items are gifts to the royal family which they received from various world leaders and rulers of other countries. Some items were items captured while conquering those countries during various wars. There were some items taken from Napoleon Bonaparte when he was finally defeated by England. Based on present day values, it is arguable whether they have a right to keep those items with them. My feeling is that those items, specially the looted items should be returned to those countries, the rightful owners. Once again we were not allowed to take photos inside the building. We had cream tea and some scones in a restaurant in Windsor.

Mala having Scones and cream tea in Windsor

Mala having Scones and cream tea in Windsor

Then we drove to the car rental place near the airport. The flight home was uneventful. We did not buy anything in Dubai. The flights were on time and we are back in Sydney now.

We will try to add more photos to the blog when we get time. I was limited by the amount of time we had in the hotels and the speed of the WiFi connections to the internet. In some places it worked very slow and uploading photos was almost impossible.

Posted by fernando65 14:02 Comments (0)

Stratford-Upon-Evon, Shakespeare’s birthplace

June 18,19,20

We left Edinburgh after lunch. We got late because we had to see Holyrood House in the morning. We had only one night in York, but it was only a stop over. We were not planning to see things in York. We have booked Holiday Inn hotel, once again in a quiet area just outside the city. Holiday Inn hotels in UK are mainly used by business travellers. They are better than other common chain hotels. Most Holiday Inn hotels have free parking, free breakfast, but you have to pay for Wi-Fi. Breakfast is the same in every hotel. In Ireland we had Full Irish Breakfast, in Scotland and England we were having Full English Breakfast. Mala and I started eating more serials, fruits and yoghurt and reduced the amount of bacon and sausages to avoid extra calories.
We did not have time to see anything in York. The hotel restaurant had a good menu and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. The next morning we had an early start to drive towards Stratford-Upon-Evon. We had a full schedule for this city. Stratford Upon Evon is the birth town of the great poet Shakespeare. He and his family including children lived there and all those houses have been preserved very well.

Mala and Andrew near Anna's garden

Mala and Andrew near Anna's garden

The beauty of the small but attractive city is enriched by the Evon river that flows through the town centre. This place is only 150 kilometres from London and has become a major tourist attraction for short visits. You can see tour buses everywhere bringing tourists and school children to see Shakespeare plays.
While in Australia, long before coming to this city, I booked tickets for Shakespeare’s play "As You Like It". In addition to this city, we were also planning to visit the Cotswolds a collection of small villages and an area of outstanding natural beauty. Cotswolds has some pretty little towns where you can find antiques, souvenirs, tea and coffee rooms.
We first visited Shakespeare’s birth place. It is not a palace, but an average house with several bed rooms. He spent his young days with his family in this house. This house is in the city centre. We then visited his tomb or the place where he was buried.
The next place was his son-in-laws house known as Halls Croft.

Andrew and Mala in Anna Heathzway's graden

Andrew and Mala in Anna Heathzway's graden

The next day, we visited Anna Heathaway’s house. Anna was his wife and had her own place before she married Shakespeare. We talked to one of the guides, a very pleasant elderly lady and asked her a few questions about Shakespeare. She was very happy to explain the story of Shakespeare’s family life. Shakespeare came from a good family, but their family businesses did not work out well. He did not have any money. On the other hand Anna Heathaway had collected quite a bit of money. Her mother died when she was eight and her father got married again. Anna at a tender age had the added responsibility of running the house. She grew up to become quite independent and earned her own money. Her father died when she was twenty five and she inherited his fortune. At the age of twenty six , she was still unmarried whn she met Shakespeare. Shakespeare was only eighteen years old at that time. He had no money, but he was full of words. The belief is that he charmed this independent young and rich girl with his poetic words. She was three months pregnant when they had to rush and get married in a hurry.

Shajkespeare's Buriel Place

Shajkespeare's Buriel Place

Shakespeare moved in with his wife to her place and lived there for some time. Then he moved to London to continue his work as a play writer and a producer. He became very famous within a few years. Later he retired to his birth town and died in his fifties. Anna outlived him.
On the second day, we visited Cotswolds. We drove from village to village and spent some time in each village, These villages get very crowded when the tourist season starts . You find all the small restaurants full and sometimes it is difficult to find a paking place. Cotswolds is famous for fruits and in June and July you find street vendors selling fresh fruits. Unfortunately, the fruit season has got late and they ere still not ripe eough to come to the market.

Farm land full of flowers like a yellow carpet

Farm land full of flowers like a yellow carpet

In the night at 7:30PM, we had to attend Shakespeare’s play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We parked the car close to the theatre and looked for a place to have early dinner. There is a row of restaurants close to the theatre who have special pre-theatre dinners. They serve your dinner early, on time, to be able to leave and take your seat for the show.
I enjoyed the show, but was not impressed with the acting or production. “As You Like It” is romantic story that has a happy ending. There are four couples and all of them get married at the end of it and they all get their lost fortunes. The first part of the story before the intermission was slow moving and the story was built nicely. In the second part, the story was rushed and the ending very abrupt. The clothes worn by the actors do not fit into that age. They pull our present day drink cans from a box on the stage to quench their thirst. They are wearing modern clothes. They used good theatrics, but in Shakepeare’s time this play would have been presented very differently.

Limes Hotel in Stratford Upon Evon

Limes Hotel in Stratford Upon Evon



Our hotel in Stratford was a small hotel run by a couple. Both of them were very nice and gave good advice about the places we could visit and the restaurants in the city.

We left Stratford in the morning to go to Richmond. This is our last hotel before leaving England. We will write bout it in our last entry before leaving.

Posted by fernando65 23:50 Comments (0)

Exploring Edinburgh, Capital of Scotland

June 16,17 (Sunday,Monday)

Scotland in not second to Ireland in natural beauty. Some of the sceneries are breathtaking. On our way, we were more interested in spending time in small towns and villages than in big cities. We wanted to see the country side as much as we could. From Inverness to Edinburgh, we took the longer route along A82. This road borders the Loch Ness lake along its entire length. We stopped at several places to take photos.
After passing the Loch Ness lake, we came across another long lake Loch Lochy. We had a brief stop at Fort William and then a longer break at Stirling.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotlsnd. It is a big city, but it is one place you need to visit and spend several days. We were planning to spend two nights in Edinburgh. It is listed as one of the most liveable cities in the world. It has a long history starting from Roman time. In terms of tourist arrivals in UK, it is only second to London. There are many tourist attractions in the city. The best three are: The Edinburgh castle, Royal ship Britannia and the Holyrood House. We knew we cannot see everything in two days. So we decided to see the above three attractions and then if there is free time, see additional things.
We have booked Holiday Inn hotel just outside the city of Edinburgh for two days. The hotel is in a very convenient place, on one of the main roads approaching the city. After checking in, we asked with the reception whether it is feasible to drive our car to these attractions. They told us that it is almost impossible to drive in the city. There are many streets that are closed and some only open to buses. Most of the open roads are one way streets. It is also difficult to find parking places in the city. There were two options to see the attractions in thr city. One is to use the Hop On – Hop Off buses. Secoind is to use the ordinary buses. There are several companies running the bus network. There ius one company who gives a day ticket for only 3.50 pounds. This ticket is valid for one day. You can travel any number of times , but you have to know the correct bus numbers and their routes. There was a manager in the hotel who was very helpful and he gave us all the bus numbers we need to take to visit the above three attractions.

Edinburgh Castle on top of a mountain, above the city streets

Edinburgh Castle on top of a mountain, above the city streets

We took the first bus near our hotel and got down near Edinburgh Castle which was our first selected attraction. The castle has been built on a rock called Castle Rock . It rises above all the other buildings in the city. Castle Rock had been a military base and royal residence for centuries. However, the Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland. When English and Scottish kings had wars, castle became the centre of power.

Mala and Andrew in the company of a guard of Edinburgh Castle

Mala and Andrew in the company of a guard of Edinburgh Castle

The castle changed hands several times. In 1571, English forces laid siege to the city of Edinburgh in an attempt to capture Mary, Queen of Scots. The siege, which lasted for two years, became known as the “long” siege. By February of 1573, all of Mary’s supporters had surrendered to the English. During the period 1688 to 1746, the Scots attempted, several times, to recapture their castle. Unfortunately, they were never able to overpower the English. The final attempt was in 1745 when the Jacobite army was led by Charles Edward Stuart . Although the Scots were able to capture the city, they were never able to lay siege to the castle.
Edinburgh Castle is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland. There are more than one million people who visit the castle each year to witness military ceremonies, historical re-enactments etc. The public can visit sites such as St. Margaret’s Chapel and the Great Hall of King James IV.

Andrew sitting on a cannon at Edinburgh Castle

Andrew sitting on a cannon at Edinburgh Castle

After taking a self guided tour in the castle, we took a bus and went to see the Royal ship Britannia. This ship was used exclusively by the royal family and has been decommissioned in 1997. Diana and Charles had their honeymoon on this ship.

Mala in the captains control room of Royal ship, Britannia

Mala in the captains control room of Royal ship, Britannia

Andrew and Mala sitting on the top deck of Britannia

Andrew and Mala sitting on the top deck of Britannia

The ship is now permanently anchored in Edinburgh and open to public . We again bought tickets for a self guided tour. For self guided tours, you receive a mobile phone like instrument. All you have to do is to take it with you and when you see a numbered place, press that number on the instrument and hold it to your ears. We could hear a full explanation about that place. We visited all the floors of the ship and had tea in the tearoom before coming out.

Andrew, posing as Captain of the ship, Britannia

Andrew, posing as Captain of the ship, Britannia

Mala posing as having a beer on Britannia

Mala posing as having a beer on Britannia

Having tea on Royal ship Britannia

Having tea on Royal ship Britannia

The next day morning we were leaving Edniburgh. We still have not visited the Holyrood house. We decided to see it first and then drive to York. Holyrood house is another royal recidence. When any member of the royal family including queen Elizebeth comes to Edinburgh for official duties, they reside in the Holyrood house.

Photo of Charles and Diana, ready to leave for their honeymoon

Photo of Charles and Diana, ready to leave for their honeymoon



We were not allowed to take photos inside the building.

Our next destination is York and Stratford Upon Evon. We will write about our experience in our next topic.

Posted by fernando65 21:30 Comments (0)

Inverness the city of Loch Ness monster

June 14, 15 (Friday, Saturday)

We left Glasgow and drove to Inverness. We selected back roads and drove slowly along very beautiful farm lands in Scotland. Inverness is the home to Loch Ness monster. Ness River flows through the city of Inverness and connects to Loch Ness Lake. Loch Ness Lake is a thirty seven mile long lake. It is considered the most famous lake in the world. Many people in the past have claimed they have seen the prehistoric Loch Ness monster in this lake. Apart from these stories, the Loch Ness Lake is a very beautiful lake. The area surrounding the lake has become very attractive to holiday makers.

Blair Castle from a distance

Blair Castle from a distance

On our way to Inverness, we stopped at Blair Atholl , a small village. This village is well known for the Blair castle. We decided to take a brek and do a castle tour.
Blair castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, and was historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl. The current (12th) Duke, Bruce Murray, lives in South Africa.
The oldest part of the castle is the six-storey Cummings Tower, which has some 13th-century character, though it was largely built in the 15th century. The extensions which now form the central part of the castle were first added in the 16th century. The apartments to the south were added in the mid-18th century to designs by architects John Douglas and James Winter. The south-east range, incorporating the clock tower, was rebuilt by Archibald Elliot after a fire in 1814. Finally, the castle arrived at its present form in the 1870s, when David Bryce renovated the whole building in a Scots Baronial style, and added the ballroom.

Mala posing as a queen inside Blair Castle

Mala posing as a queen inside Blair Castle

The castle has been open to the public since 1936. Its many rooms feature important collections of weapons, hunting trophies, souvenirs of the Murray clan, paintings, furniture, and needlework collected by the Murray family over many generations.
The castle also provides the garrison for the Atholl Highlanders, the private army of the Duke of Atholl, noted as the only legal private army in Europe. The Castle and the Atholl Estates were used in the 2008 reality television series “Conquer the Castle”. We spent nearly two hours going through various rooms of the castle. We were not allowed to take photographs, except in the ballroom.

Andrew posing as a king inside Blair Castle

Andrew posing as a king inside Blair Castle

We arrived in Inverness in the late afternoon and booked into a smaller hotel outside the city. The city was much smaller compared to Liverpool and Glasgow. Scotland is famous for its Scotch whisky industry. There are many distilleries producing single malt whisky which are world famous. We were planning to visit one or two distilleries. There are three distilleries closer to Inverness. On the second day, we visited the Glen Ord distillery and did a tour of the distillery. Again we were not allowed take photos inside the Distillery. The tour included a free tasting of whisky samples. We bought a few small bottles of whisky as souvenirs, but these bottles are available in every whisky shop in Scotland and every Scottish town has one or more whisky shops.
We learned that all the distilleries are owned by a big company and they are connected to each other. Each distillery has its own technique of making or distilling whisky. Glen Ord creates its own brand of Whisky, but we came to know that Johnny Walker also uses some of the whisky products made in Glen Ord.

Looking for Loch Ness Monster in the Loch Ness Lake

Looking for Loch Ness Monster in the Loch Ness Lake

We made a brief visit to the Loch Ness lake to take a few photographs and see whether we can find the monster emerging from the waters. There are many boat cruises on the lake and looking for the monster has become a big tourist attraction.

When we left Inverness, we took the longer route along the lake and drove for nearly one hour stopping at different places along the lake.

Our next destination is Edinburgh. We will write about it in our next entry.

Posted by fernando65 22:59 Comments (0)

Dublin to Holyhead in the Ferry, then Liverpool and Glasgow

June 12,13

Our time in Ireland has come to an end. We have spent twelve days in Ireland. It is one of the most beautiful countries we have visited. We are not trying to compare it with what we have seen or experienced in Canada and Alaska. Each country is unique in its own way. Ireland has a very long history starting from prehistoric times. It has a unique culture very different from England. More than anything, the people are so friendly, hospitable and helpful. In the hotels, we tried the Full Irish Breakfast which was totally different from Full English breakfast. Their bacon served for breakfast is very salty and their black and white pudding needs getting used to. We ate dinners in their pubs and restaurants where they serve steaks with boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes and potato wedges. We never managed to get a medium rare steak. They take your order for a medium rare steak, but always serve a well done steak. We never tried or asked for a well done steak knowing we could end up with a totally burnt chunk of meat. We were leaving this beautiful and hospitable country and going back to UK. From Dublin, we were catching the Ferry and crossing over to Holyhead. In the morning we had a Full Irish Breakfast in the hotel for the last time and drove to the ferry terminal. The terminal was only about twenty minutes from our hotel. This time there was no delay at all. The Ferry came at the right time and we boarded it sharp on time. The sea was rough unlike the previous occasion, so we did not order any food.
From Holyhead, we still had to drive another 150 kilometres to our hotel in Liverpool.
We drove slowly taking our time. Our hotel was in an area similar to a business park outside the city. We did not have time to visit the city. Liverpool is an industrial city and we had little time to explore the city. We were using this hotel merely as a stop over. There were not many restaurants in the area. I am sure we could find many good restaurants in the city centre. We wanted to have a quick dinner and take a rest. There was an Indian restaurant on the same building as our hotel. We went there for dinner and found the food to be different from normal Indian food. They serve over sized pappadams bigger than the plate. They serve a huge Naan hanging from a hook of a hanger on wheels which the waiter pushes along to your table. One is enough for a table of six or eight people.

A church in Glasgow

A church in Glasgow



We left Liverpool in the morning after breakfast in the hotel restaurant and headed towards Glasgow. While travelling to Glasgow, we have crossed the boreder and come to Scotland. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland. It is well known for the University of Glasgow which was established in the 15th century. It is also one of the largest seaports in UK.
We had only one night in Glasgow. We have booked a Premier Inn hotel which was outside the main city. The hotel was in a quiet area. We drove to the city centre and did some shopping. Mala did not have a chance to do any shopping while in Ireland. Glasgow had several shopping centres and the hotel reception gave us directions to go to one of the biggest shopping centres in the city. We spent the whole afternoon in the shops and Mala managed to buy a few items. I was not interested in buying anything for myself. We decided to have dinner in one of the restaurants in the shopping centre. There was a big restaurant made in American style. It was surprisingly full of people. We had to give our names and wait for more than thirty minutes to get a table. We tried their steaks and they were quite soft, juicy and tasty. We understood why the place was always full.

A Busy Street view in Glasgow city centre

A Busy Street view in Glasgow city centre



Our hotel, had a Costas restaurant attached to it. Costas is a well known chain restaurant in UK. The hotel has arranged for us to have breakfast in this restaurant.
There was no set menu, you can select whatever you want and serve yourself or order what you want.
In both Ireland and England, we drove through miles and miles of farmland. We found cattle and lamb to be the main animals in the farms. We did not see many other animals in the parks or even national parks. In some areas, they have Deer signs to alert drivers, but we did not see any of them while driving. Normally the lamb is white in colour. We saw a few black lamb and some white ones with black heads. I am not sure whether these colours are common in Australia.

Rare specimen of black sheep

Rare specimen of black sheep



We left the hotel after breakfast and headed towards Inverness which is in Scotland. We will write about it in our next topic.

Posted by fernando65 21:38 Comments (0)

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