A Travellerspoint blog

Two days in Exeter

May 27,28

We left Southampton on 27th Monday morning. Monday was a public holiday in UK. We decided to drive along back roads and visit some of the coastal towns on our way to Exeter. We stopped at a small country fair, then in a small tourist town with food stalls and tourist shops. Mala bought some home made cheese, a packet of home made ginger biscuits and an icecream to eat on our way while driving.

Mala waiting for her special icecream

Mala waiting for her special icecream

We drove through a national park and then through some beautiful valleys. In some areas we drove through miles and miles of tree lined roads that gave the feeling of driving through a never ending arch.

Free roaming horses in the park

Free roaming horses in the park

The day started with sunshine, but as the day progressed, the sky became clouded. When we arrived at the Holiday inn express in Exeter, it was very cold. We visited a few shops in the area, one selling home appliances and cooking utencils. Mala spent quite some time in that shop and ended up buying a few items which are easy to carry in our baggage.
The hotel is a typical holiday Inn express with basic facilities. The reception is very helpful and polite. Free parking, free breakfast and free WiFi make them very attractive to travellers. We were spending two days in Exeter. We had a very light dinner in the hotel and decided to sleep early to explore the city next day.

Exeter Cathedral from a distance

Exeter Cathedral from a distance

The main tourist attraction in Exeter is the Exeter Cathedral. It opens to public from 9:00 AM, but the first guided tour starts at 11:00AM. We decided to go there around 10:00 AM and then join the guided tour at 11:00AM. The construction of the cathedral started in 1112. It was initially built in the Norman style, but later from 1270 to 1350, major rebuilding projects in decorated Gothic style were undertaken by six bishops. The tour guide, a very gentle soft spoken lady, took nearly two ours taking us through the intricate details of the cathedral structure.

Our tour guide explianing intricate details of the cathedral

Our tour guide explianing intricate details of the cathedral

The ceiling or vault of the cathedral has been created as a vision of heaven. Some of the main features are 1. The Minstrels’ Gallery added in 1360, 2. The Martyrs Pulpit added in 1870 3. Exeter Astronomical Clock 4. The Organ 5. The magnificent Bishops Throne 6. The great East Window .
Exeter is one of the main towns in Devon. We did a fair amount of research to find the best restaurant to have Devonshire tea. The most popular restaurant seemed to be “Tea on The Green“. We talked to a lady and found this restaurant is in a building quite close to the cathedral. She is from the area and knew the location of the restaurant, but did not know it is so well known. We went there after visiting the cathedral, but were told that they start serving afternoon tea only at 2:30PM. We decided to do some window shopping in the main shopping area and then come back for tea at 2:30PM.

Savoury Scones served with devonshire Tea

Savoury Scones served with devonshire Tea

On the main street, Mala found a Mark and Spencer shop and ended up buying a few items. I resisted the idea of buying a shirt, though they were comparatively cheap. We walked along the busy pavements looking at things, but the air was getting colder and we headed back to the restaurant for our cup of Devonshire tea. Devonshire tea or cream tea is served with scones. There were many versions of the scones and we ordered two different kinds just to try out. One is plain scones served with clotted cream and jam, and the other savoury scones served with three types of cheese and two different hot chutneys.
When we came back to the hotel, it was about 5:00PM and we were in no mood to have dinner again.
Tomorrow we are leaving Exeter and planning to spend one night in Bath which is famous for Roman Baths.

Posted by fernando65 07:55 Comments (0)

Our time in Windsor and Southampton

May 24th to 26th

It was raining when we landed in Heathrow airport around 1:30PM. The outside temperature was only 9 C. London weather is so unpredictable. The car given to us by Europcar was too small to put our bags in the boot. We got thoroughly wet trying to load the bags and then looking at alternative cars. All the cars are parked in an uncovered area and you have to walk there in the rain to load your bags. We looked at several cars including a Peugeot 508 wagon, but ended up upgrading the car to a Benz 180.

Mala with our rented car

Mala with our rented car

Finally we collected the car and drove to our hotel, The Oakley Court in Windsor. We were very tired after the long journey and needed a good rest.
The Oakley Court Hotel is on a thirty seven acre property and has the appearance of an old castle. We were lucky to get a room with a view and we could see the well manicured garden and the Thames river from our room. Oakley Court is probably one of the best hotels in Windsor.
We selected this hotel for several reasons. It is very close to the airport, had the best reviews on the internet and close to the Windsor castle.

Mala with Oaklet court

Mala with Oaklet court

We were planning to meet some of our friends whom we have not met for many years. First one was Jayalath. I have not seen for nearly 25 years. He came to the hotel in the evening with his whole family including the two grand children. We were glad to see him and talk about the old days and our common friends in Sri Lanka. We wanted to go out and see some places, but cold weather and rain prevented us from going out and we decided to have dinner in the hotel.

In our room with Jayalath and family

In our room with Jayalath and family

The next day, Saturday turned out to be a sunny day with a clear sky. We had a good English breakfast in the hotel. We would be lucky if we get similar food in other hotels. My friend Gerald Alwis came to see us in the hotel. I was meeting him after nearly 50 years. He was with me at the university and I had a mental picture of a handsome young man of 20 years. He has not changed much, same sharp features, but unruly overgrown grey hair. He has volunteered to take us to the city to see another friend. This friend Navaratne, is partially paralysed after a stroke and now living in a community care centre in London. He was a brilliant student when he was young. You can write a book about his academic achievements. He had a very colourful character including several wives. They all left him for different reasons and now he leads a solitary life confined to a wheel chair. He was very happy to see me, but I was feeling sad to see him in his present state. I was the bestman when he got married to his first wife nearly 45 years ago. We went through his photo album to see what we looked like in our young days. On our way back to the hotel, we passed the Chelsey Flower show and several historical buildings in London. Being a long week-end and a Saturday, the roads were full of traffic.

Andrew with Gerald and Navaratne

Andrew with Gerald and Navaratne

We came back to the hotel around 6:00PM. My friend Gerald joined us for an early dinner at the hotel.
Our plan was to visit the Windsor castle on Sunday and then proceed to Southampton.
It turned out that our friends Peter and Quinta live in Reading which is on our way to Southampton. They invited us for lunch.

Andrew with Peter and Quinta

Andrew with Peter and Quinta

We have already planned to visit Dharini, my friend Navaratne’s first wife in Southampton. She was preparing dinner for us. We felt these social engagements are more important than visiting places. We skipped our visit to the Castle and headed to Reading to have lunch with Peter and Quinta. Peter is from my home town Kandana in Sri Lanka. He was with me in school and then in the same university doing a parallel course. I also knew Quinta very well, first as Peter’s girl friend, but also as my student. We spent lot of time talking about our old days and our common friends, back in Sri Lanka. When you are young, you look to the future and when you are middle aged, you live very much in the present time. But when you grow old, you start looking back at the past, trying to remember your past achievements.
We left Peter’s place around 4:00PM and drove to Southampton. We booked into one of the Holiday Inn Express hotels in Southampton. We had dinner at Dharini’s place.
I would have liked to meet Navaratne’s daughter Anjeline and his grand children. They have gone on a holiday.
Our next destination is Exeter. We plan to start early and visit some of the coastal towns on our way.

Posted by fernando65 22:31 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Planning the Trip to UK

From May 24 to June 22

We begin our trip to UK on May 23. Mala and I will be flying from Sydney to Heathrow Airport and then driving around UK for nearly one month before coming back to Sydney. We have already bought the air tickets from Sydney to London and back on Emirates air line. We have made a reservation for a medium sized car from Europcar to pickup from the airport. You can ask why we do not join a group tour. The main reason is that. we enjoy driving and meeting people in small towns. Secondly, we want to be in control and plan the route the way we like. We want to read the reviews and select our own hotels. We also want to avoid highways and drive along scenic routes. Our plan is to do these driving trips while we can and then take part in group tours when we become older and weaker.

We like to travel all over the world and visit historical cities and places of natural beauty. We also like to visit places like farmers markets and mix with local people, buy fresh fruits from road side stalls, buy souvenirs from tourist shops and visit wineries. Before we start the trip, we plan our destinations and places to stay. I think that makes sense. We do not want to take a chance and stay in a hotel which is not upto our expectations. We are not looking for five star hotels, but we want to have a comfortable place to sleep and get reasonable service for the money we spend. We are doing a fair amount of research by looking at the reviews before selecting a hotel. We look for the following things before booking a hotel. 1. Is the hotel in a quiet area or a busy area ? 2. Does it have basic facilities like TV, Telephone and Internet connections ? 3. Is there enough parking ? 4. Are the hotel staff friendly ? 5. Do you find good restaurants closer to the hotel ? 5. Are there any hidden charges other than the quoted price ?

We have been to England in the past, but our visit was limited to exploring London. We drove to Paris and back, visited all the important places in London, that was all. This is the first time, we are visiting Ireland, Wales and Scotland and places in England outside London. We know that we will not be able to cover all the important places in one month. Each city has so many historical landmarks that you need several days to cover all of them. But we have to draw the line somewhere and pick the most important places and historical monuments to visit.

I have several friends in England whom I have not seen for many years. I need to meet them for the old times sake. Then there are some activities which I do not want to miss. One is to watch a Shakespeare's play in his home town. I booked two tickets for "As You Like It" at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Evon. We plan to spend two days in this town. Another is to attend an Irish cultural show. We booked tickets for "Trad on the Prom" in Galway.

I will update this blog as we go along and add entries for each town we stay. I will also contribute to Trip Advisor reviews on all the hotels and the good restaurants we come across while travelling. Our trip starts on Thursday night Friday, May 23rd.

Posted by fernando65 14:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged buildings Comments (0)

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