1.            Start of our 4 week journey in London, Devon, Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland.
 
1.1          Words by travel scribe Kay and photos by Neil.
Photo album link below
https://goo.gl/photos/ioEcg8fC4gfLszs1A
 
We arrived safely at Heathrow after three flights and 29 hours of travelling. In some ways that is a surprise given the totally different results that came from the security systems used in different airports. We went through 3 sets of security with different requirements as to what had to be removed before the scanning happened but you would expect the highest, and similar , standards at each so that we are all safe in the air. In Brisbane I had a full body pat down after the bells went off. In Sydney the problem was just my shoulders. Apparently I had some strange metal there...so they massaged my shoulders only. In Dubai, the bells rang again and I suggested it could have been my artificial knees as the scanner was of an older style, so the man just smiled and waved me through. Consistency is a wonderful thing in international travel!
 
At least, most of the people involved in the scans were very polite, but not so the arrogant"lady" in Sydney who confiscated our small unopened bottles of water we had just been given by the lovely Qantas staff on our domestic flight. They knew we were going to London and gave us the water to make sure we were hydrated. We had not even looked at them as we rushed from the domestic to the international airport. Maybe they contained 101mls...we didn't look but ,if they were the wrong size, we were happy to bin them but "agrowoman" made a command performance over the two tiny bottles of water we had been given . We thought of making a complaint about her aggressive nature as she had attacked the poor young lass in front of us as well over some mystical shape on the screen. She was terrified by the performance but eventually was put through. We know she was doing her job but her attitude was disgusting. That was also the place where the body scan revealed that I had dangerous shoulders. Confusion reigned supreme.
 
On a more positive note, we flew Premium Economy and it had many benefits. Our seats were on the top deck and were wider than normal so there were only two seats side by side. They were very comfortable and no-one climbed over us during the flight. They reclined further and there was a footrest for each as well. The blankets were mini quilts and the headphones blocked out all the "plane" sounds . The meals were served on small white linen tablecloths and the drinks were served in glasses rather than plastic throwaway cups. The food from Sydney to Dubai was delicious and available at request. The service was fantastic. We still had some trouble sleeping but the whole experience was very good.
 
We breezed through the airport and were delighted when Stay City Apartments checked us in to our room even though it was only 8am when we arrived. We had asked to leave our bags here until the normal checkin time but they gave us the keys and we could go straight in and organise things before we headed of to the city. We took the train to Paddington and then took the underground to High St Kensington. In all the trains there are signs welcoming the disabled but you have to pick up your aids(wheel chairs, walkers, walking sticks) and climb stairs in most stations. It is good that they have put up the signs in anticipation of having lifts in the stations one day. We asked a railway employee about it and he said there are lifts in a few stations so maybe it will happen one day.
 
We had been quite comfortable inside the trains and stations....perhaps that was due to the extra exercise in climbing stairs...but when we started to explore Kensington, we felt the winter chill which was still in the air. The day seemed to get colder as we walked. We saw heavily armed police as we approached an area noted for foreign embassies but a few hundred yards away we were in Kensington Gardens with many tourists and people walking their dogs. It was another world with lush green grass areas, the pretty Round Pond which was teeming with ducks and swans, the blooming gardens surrounding the fountains near the orange grove and the many people who were enjoying the gardens. The trees were still trying to recover from a harsh winter as they had no leaves but by summer they would be impressive as well.
 
We had some refreshments in the cafe at Kensington Palace but decided not to join the queues for the tickets and then the queues for the. entry to the Palace as we had lots more places to see. We walked past the impressive statue of Queen Victoria which seemed to look out over the whole garden area but the most spectacular monument in the gardens is the one which Victoria had made to honour her husband Albert. We could see the gold spire at the top for ages before the whole monument came into sight. Albert is gold plated and so is the roof structure above him and even the fences around the steps surrounding the structure are decorated and tipped with gold points. The monument dominated that end of the gardens and even overshadowed the pretty peach and cherry blossoms nearby.
 
Beyond the monument was Royal Albert Hall. We had hoped to do a tour but we realised that that was not going to be possible when we saw the hundreds of school children lined up to attend a special matinee performance of classical music that lunch time in the hall. We did go in and saw some of the hall ways but we experienced a little of the atmosphere while having tea and coffee there to warm up...our hands were cold as we had left our gloves in our suitcases. We walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum (probably 2or3 kms) and had time to explore two floors which had magnificent examples of many aspects of life in England and Europe from the 1500s to the 1900s. The furniture was exquisitely  carved or inlaid with wood or artwork. There were examples of porcelain, clothing, beds, artwork, hand written notes and books, busts of important people of the time such as Shakespeare and examples of fine China used in the periods. Some rooms from houses were rebuilt using the wood and decorations that were actually used in the houses being described so it felt like you were walking into a room of the period. To see the entire Victoria and Albert Museum would take days and there are also new displays produced regularly to continue the education of people of this century about life in the past. Today there was a display about the life of Lockwood Kipling who was the father of Rudyard Kipling.
 
To round off the day, as we headed towards Knightsbridge subway to return to Hayes And Harlington, we walked to Harrods and went in for a look. It is interesting that the jewellery section, which seems to cover most of the ground floor, has few prices on or near the items. The reason is obvious. It was fun to look at the beautiful pieces of work but we didn't need to bother the shop assistants (they probably have much grander titles). We went to the toy floor and looked at huge camels and dinosaurs, the latest in lego, a huge range of books and gizmos for older kids.
We were surprised that we were still mobile at 5pm but we crashed when we returned to our apartment. After a short sleep, we jotted down these notes but it will be straight to bed now.
2              UK 2017 London Day Two Hampton Court and Wimbledon
2.1          Web Album link to today's photos below
https://goo.gl/photos/C3gmgzxb53eug3v97
 
2.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
We had two places to experience today and they were within a few stations of each other so we set off confident of completing the tour of Hampton Court followed by a visit to Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club in one day. We easily reached Paddington again and found the Wimbledon underground line as we had used some of the lines yesterday. However, while it was smooth sailing for us, the poor driver on the Wimbledon line was having problems. He was quite open about his bad day and told everyone on the train that the four stoppages we had were not his fault. The first stoppage was because another train had been permitted to enter the tunnel before us from the other direction. The second one was because the controller had allowed the train on a parallel line to go ahead of us. It seems he had protested to the controller to no avail. The third time we stopped it was because there was no power to move to the correct place beside the platform or even to open the doors.
 
At least those stoppages were short but the fourth one was more substantial. The train had no traction with the track due to no power reaching the undercarriage of the train and that fault was spread from our previous stop to Wimbledon. The whole section of line was out and they would have to solve the whole problem before we could move. Many people left the train to use buses etc to reach the destination but we had no other knowledge of the area so we stayed on the train with a handful of locals. After about ten minutes, the lights came on, the doors closed and we started our journey again. I hope the day improved for the driver but we just found it funny that the driver let us know what was happening all the time. How would Qld Rail tackle that kind of morning? Probably the driver 's updates helped reduce tension and many people smiled like we did rather than becoming annoyed with the service.
 
At Wimbledon we changed trains and platforms to go to Hampton Court. We cleverly found the lift sign and pushed the button to enter the lift to avoid climbing another set of stairs. The lift seemed to be taking a long time to come but then we read the electronic sign above the door and realised that that lift was out of order......back to the stairs.Anyway, it was well worth the effort to see Hampton Court. It was originally a manor house which was bought by Cardinal Wolsey for the Catholic Church but he later "gave" it to Henry VIII after their disagreement in relation to Henry's need to change wives for a variety of reasons. It has been used as a royal residence by many kings and queens since and many of them added to the original building.
Henry VIII used it as his main residence and could easily go to London when necessary by using the Thames which is beside the estate. He was famous for the entertainment he provided and his kitchens were big and numerous. As we walked through them, we could imagine the tension as the staff prepared the lavish banquets which Henry loved. The main hall could seat over 100 people and there was also another smaller dining area where Henry entertained foreign heads of state. The walls were covered with full length tapestries and the ceilings were elaborate with the one in his dining room having gold throughout it. The wine cellar was also huge to house the wine needed for his parties and there were two chocolate kitchens to make fine chocolate both for drinking and eating for the gentry and there was another room for decorating the chocolate before it was given to the king.
We walked through the base court, the great fountain garden with its beautifully pruned yew trees, the clock Court, Henry VIIIs apartments, William IIIs apartments and we saw a video about the wives of Henry explaining the reasons for their fates and the interesting comment at the end was that Henry always acted in the best interests of England. He had two daughters with whom he was eventually reunited but Jane Seymour gave him the son he wanted and he was christened in the chapel just days before Jane Seymour died after childbirth. Henry was devastated and waited two years before he married again. Hampton Court was very interesting and full of history as well as natural beauty with the gardens and its location.
We headed back by train to Wimbledon Station and then caught a bus to the tennis centre. It was huge. We were escorted to Centre Court and we heard many stories about finals and players as we took in the feeling of the event. The scores from last year's finals were still on the two score boards because the court is only used for two weeks each year. After the finals are finished, centre court is dug up and reseeded so that the grass is exactly the right length for the matches the following year. It is not used at all during the year. Members are allowed to play on the outside courts during the year but not on the centre court.
We went through the museum and learned the history of the game, the racquet development, the ball development, the clothes used over the years, famous matches, famous players and their achievements and the pressures and lifestyles of today's players. We also did a virtual reality session which let us feel as though we were in centre court watching a variety of final matches including last year's final in 360 degrees. It was great to go to Wimbledon because it means I only have one grand slam complex left to see. I have watched matches at the Australian Open, walked through Flushing Meadow in December and sat at centre court in Wimbledon so maybe we will have to go back to Paris to see Roland Garros to complete the set.
We returned home with sore feet after buying our microwave dinner at Tesco. After another big day, it will be an early night again I hope.
3              UK 2017 London Day 3
3.1          Web Album link to today's photos below
https://goo.gl/photos/UG15PYiCP29qCqQH9
 
3.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
We had intended to go to Greenwich today but the trains were not working on part of the line so we decided to go to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard. We arrived at Victoria Station and asked directions for the Palace but we took no notice of the response. The man told us it was a very long walk and that we would be advised to take a cab. He obviously didn't realise that we had been "in training" for the past two months doing a walk every night with the help of my walker and we were close to being finely tuned athletes for this trip??. We only walked for about ten minutes and we were there. It was two hours before the ceremony started but we lined up immediately outside the gate near the main entrance in preparation for the show. Other people started to do the same and within 15minutesthe crowd was two layers deep around the fence. Then people started to line the road to watch the guards arrive.
There were already two guards in front of the palace and every now and then they marched about twenty metres each way in the area of their boxes. We weren't sure whether it was to keep them awake or to entertain us but it looked good as a warm up event. All the guards were wearing long grey coats with white gloves and belts along with the tall black hats. The coats looked immaculate and would be needed in winter for the warmth they obviously provided. It was a little chilly today so they still needed the coats.
 
We thought the parade would start at 11am but the new guards arrived at 10.45 and started the process to change the guards. The marching was very precise and we were in a great position as the head guards who marched in the opposite direction across the quad were directly in line with us and turned within a metre of us each time as they raised their swords. We were surprised that they were chatting as they walked across the middle part of the walk but they were very focussed as they turned. The old guards and the new guards marched in time but the real guards stood carefully watching the crowd with automatic weapons at the ready should they be needed...they were the police wearing bullet proof vests.
 
Two bands marched in to provide the beat of the rest of the changeover and they took turns in playing traditional and more modern brass band music. The whole ceremony took almost an hour and was similar to the one we saw at Windsor Castle last year as the Queen was at Windsor preparing for her birthday celebrations in April then. Afterwards we joined the crowds leaving the palace foregrounds, and that was not easy. The police allowed the traffic to use the roads in front of the palace while the people were still leaving so there was an unpredictable mix of people and cars jostling for position on the road heading towards St James' park. The park had beautiful peach blossoms and daffodils everywhere and many families were having picnics and enjoying Sunday in the park.
We saw soldiers marching with a band in front of Wellington Barracks as we headed towards the Guards Museum. We tried to enter the museum but couldn't rouse anyone to answer the door for the lift so we continued past Churchill's war rooms becoming colder as we walked. We decided to lash out and have a hot lunch at the Central Methodist Church cafe as it was cold and windy out on the street.
After lunch we headed across the street to Westminster Abbey where we planned to do a tour but it was Sunday so the main part of the Abbey was being used for services. Still we could explore the cloisters which, in conjunction with the outside structure, gave us an understanding of the architectural skills of Christopher Wren who designed many of London's most famous buildings. It was built in 960 and has been helping people in many ways for over a thousand years. We saw the graves of any people who had worked hard for the church or society, served the country in times of military conflict or who had made generous donations to the work of the Abbey.
Across the road, in a park which faced Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, stood the statues of many famous politicians such as Beaconsfield, Mandela, Peel, Gandhi, Palmerston and Churchill. Just as we reached Big Ben, the bells rang out for 2pm. We continued along Bridge Road to Westminster Bridge(over the Thames) to find a good place to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye and the statue of Boadecia commanding her horses. No one seemed to worry about waiting for green walk signals to cross the roads because the traffic was almost in grid lock so the people walked between the cabs, red buses and tour buses. Adding to the confusion was a big terrorist practice event that the police were involved in controlling on the Thames. There were police cars, vans and helicopters everywhere. They say that an attack on London is highly likely so they are preparing.....good to know.
 
We walked back towards the Treasury and turned into Whitehall St to go to 10 Downing St. Unfortunately Downing St was gated and the gates were locked so we headed further up the street to investigate a very loud St Patrick's Day party which seemed to stretch from Downing St to Trafalgar Square at the end of the street. On the way we passed the House Guards and two guards were available for photos with their beautifully groomed horses. We walked through the Admiralty to Nelson's Column and Trafalgar Square before we descended into an equally noisy Charing Cross Station to return home to Hayes and Harlington. Between those who had had too much alcohol at the St Patrick's Day party and those retuning home from football matches, the noise underground was very, very loud. What a day! I don't know how far we walked but there was so much to see that we just kept going.
4              London Day 4
4.1          Web Album link to today's photos below
No sunshine today therefore you can only work with what light you are given.
https://goo.gl/photos/kJddcdjxjBbUU79E9
 
4.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
After studying the train/subway/light rail system in depth, Neil decided on the most direct way of arriving at our destination, Greenwich. We had to travel to the opposite side of town. We are staying in the west and Greenwich is on the eastern side of the rail system. Instead of going into Paddington, we changed trains just down the road at Ealing Broadway and took the Central line to Bank. It was the last 30 minutes or so of rush hour so there were people everywhere. At Bank, we changed to the DLR (light rail) . What a challenge. We seemed to go up stairs and down stairs for ages before we reached the opposite side of the station and caught the DLR. (Luckily on the way back, we walked straight onto a platform without any stair issues at all). The scenery changed dramatically with many new high rise office buildings, new apartment buildings and more going up, pleasure and house boats moored in the river and the whole area seemed fresh. Apparently, the new buildings had replaced the old docks area over the past ten to fifteen years.
At Greenwich, the first monument we investigated was the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. It was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie, being 370 metres long and 15 metres below the waters of the Thames River. The tunnel ,which was dug by hand, was started in 1899 and was opened on 4th August 1902. Lifts were installed in 1904. I was amazed at that because they haven't worked out how to put lifts in most of their train stations in the past 113 years. The underriver tunnel connects Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich (south) with Island Gardens in Tower Hamlets(north). The tunnel replaced a very unreliable ferry service which the dock workers used to get to work on the docks and in the shipyards. At one stage the docks employed over 100,000 workers so they had to be able to get to work.
Then we entered the impressive Cutty Sark. It was once the fastest ship in the world. It was built in 1869 by John Willis and it was designed for speed because the fresher the tea was when it was brought to England, the more the cargo was worth. Tea was introduced to England in the 1650s and was at first brought to England from China by land. The Cutty Sack could carry 10,000 tea chests which was worth about £18,500,000 in today's money in each voyage. She made many tea runs before losing the rich trade to the faster steam ships when they came on the scene. Then, she helped the Australian wool trade by bringing wool home to England from 1883. The quickest journey took only 73 days with the ship covering up to 300miles per day. The Cutty Sack also carried tin, pianos, paper, shoes and shark bones and travelled 957,995nautical miles in her 52 year career.. Then it became a naval training ship.It has been open to the public here since 1957.
Then we went to the Maritime Museum. Some displays were being redone or developed but we saw the story of Nelson's Navy, the battle of Trafalgar and Nelson's untimely death and the history of maritime London from 1700until now. We asked why Captain Cook barely rated a mention and the supervisor was surprised. She said there was one photo on the wall and said a new display about explorers was in the process of being developed. Also, if we wanted to learn about Cook, we should go to the Queens' House. We had already planned to go there so we set off. We knew which building it was by the map but the English are not big on signs especially when there has been a change in circumstances. Along with lots of other tourists were walked around various paths and eventually went back to the beginning near the Maritime Museum and followed our maps instead.
Apparently, the House was built for Queen Anne but she died before it was finished and, amazingly, no kitchens were ever built in the house. It was used by Queens over 100years from the late 1600s until the late 1700s mainly as a resting place or summer retreat in hot weather. Then it became part of the Greenwich hospital school and some of the rooms have explanations as to their uses in that period. There was a headmaster' s retreat and an area for the Assistant Headmaster to have meals and read books. Now it seems to be an art gallery with the walls covered with paintings of famous people of the time.
We looked out one window and were amazed that the Observatory was quite a walk away and that walk was all uphill with some very steep paths. We were told that there were no buses for the return trip either. Neil took up the challenge late in the afternoon in the rain and after our busy morning. Greenwich Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean time and times all around the world relate to it. The Prime Meridian is a line on the ground there. The Royal Observatory which was built by Christopher Wren in 1675 is actually called Flamsteed  House.
We returned to the station in misty rain but we believe that the skies will be blue tomorrow so we are hoping to go to St Paul's Cathedral.
5              London Day 5
5.1          Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/ue7rHRssU11xmwoh9
 
5.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
We awoke to beautiful blue skies and stood at the window watching planes land at Heathrow every thirty seconds. As one touched down the next one appeared in descent and we wondered if there was a traffic jam at the end of the runway. The news gave us advice to wear warm clothes today as the wind would be cold and from Canada. We agreed when we headed to the local shops for some milk and cereal....it was freezing in the wind. Neil decided to warm up with a cup of coffee while we waited for "Iceland" to open. He ordered his coffee at "Greggs" and the lady pointed out that he was entitled to a donut for only 10pence. I asked if they were all low calorie (a very old joke for us) but the lady could not stop laughing. We made her day!
 
After the peak hour workers were on their way to town, we headed off to St Paul's Cathedral. The St Paul's community has been active for over 1000 years, but the current Cathedral was built by Christopher Wren to replace the one which was destroyed by the great fire which swept through London in 1666. Wren wanted bright colours used in the decorations but church elders disagreed and decided that the artist depicting stages of Paul's life on the dome had to be a Protestant and an Englishman.
The pulpit which is used each day is in front of the quire and is attached to the wall on an angle so the preacher can talk to the choir as well as the congregation. The current one was built in the 1960s and replaced a marble one from the Victorian period. Each day a preacher talks to visitors about the Christian faith and encourages people to pray for the sick. Over time many people have preached from that pulpit including Martin Luther King who did so on his way to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. His wife was the first woman to have preached there after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
In addition there is a normal service held every day of the year in the church and there are three every Sunday. Each service is different so the choir must prepare many different repertoires
They sing with the church organ . It was built in 1697 by Father Bernard Smith. In 1872, Father Henry Willis chopped the organ in half so that each side of the quire had part of the organ and the organ halves have been gradually increasing in size ever since. It now has 5manual keyboards, 1 paddle board and 7246 pipes. The quire is between the pulpit and the high altar where Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married.
The stairs in the cathedral climb to three different levels but only one level was open today. Neil took the challenge to climb the "secret staircase" which has 164 deep steps and is said to be harder than the staircase which has 257 shallow steps. He thought he might be able to get a photo of the view but there was no access to the outside area.
We went down to the crypt to learn about the many people who have been buried there. Now only ashes are accepted due to space constraints but in the early days individuals had huge memorials built for them, the most famous being Nelson and Wellington. More recent memorials pay tribute to many people involved in the same causes eg soldiers who died in wars. The area for the tombs and plaques was huge.
We had lunch at the Cathedral and then walked past the London Stock Exchange on the way to the Old Bailey and the Central Criminal Court. From there we headed for Temple Chambers and the other Inns of Court where the legal practioners work and rest between appearances in court. That took us down to Victoria Embankment beside the Thames. There were many people using the strip for exercise, running in pairs along the flat paths. We set off after them, at a much slower pace, and caught the tube back to South Kensington and then changed tracks to go to Knightsbridge. Yes, we decided to go back to Harrods because we had only looked at two floors before. We were told we must look at the food section. It looked beautiful but the prices were also from another world. For those with no budget restrictions, there was an Easter egg with a few smaller ones around it for £800....any takers? We passed the section upstairs which was for millionaires and found an elephant statue for only £19,000. For the second time we realised Harrods is a window shopping kind of shop.
We are starting to feel comfortable about the various tracks on the train lines so we are looking forward to our full day trip to the Isle of Wight on Friday using trains and ferries.
6              London Day 6
6.1          Web Album link to today's photos below.
Lots of Lord's Cricket so apologies to those who do not follow cricket. But for the non cricket followers towards the end of the Lord's photos you will see a photo of something not to forget. The hint is that it is heritage listed and would be an interesting photo when all of the stalls are in use.
https://goo.gl/photos/pPPBZymjYLkTKLeG9
6.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
We awoke to typical English weather so we were told by some locals. It was misty rain and there was a cold wind blowing. We decided to avoid the early crowded trains and went to the local shops again. We met a lovely lady who was born in the local hospital 83years ago and had always lived here. She was doing her shopping and stood happily in the queue to go through the checkout. Her only complaint was about the weather...she hates the cold and wanted summer to come soon. She was the last of her family of 11 siblings alive. However she had lots of nieces, one of whom lives, in retirement, on the Gold Coast.
We caught one of the new Great Western Railway trains to Ealing Broadway when we had dropped the groceries back to the apartment. The train had beautiful seats and tables and there were disabled spaces and even a disabled toilet and yet it was running on a normal line. It was 16 stations to Westminster which is a beautiful station having been renovated with escalators and lifts. Luckily we didn't return through that station as it was in shut down for hours after the sad incident on the bridge this afternoon. We took the lift to the Jubilee line and travelled to StJohns Wood, a very upmarket area. We walked 400+metres to one side of Lords and then continued to the opposite side of the grounds as the tour entry was there. We warmed up with tea and coffee in Lords Tavern and were impressed with the complementary Lords after dinner mints we were given.
 
About twenty minutes before our tour started, we were allowed to enter the grounds and begin our tour of the museum. Apparently the displays in the museum change regularly. Today there were displays about the players who had been chosen as international players of the years through time, detailed histories of the teams who would visit Lords this year ie West Indies and South Africa and, of course, the original ashes and urn and the crystal trophies were on display. When our guide for the tour arrived, he pointed out that the urn never leaves Lords as it is cracked and , instead, the country which holds the ashes has possession of the crystal trophy.
We started our formal tour in the long room of the main pavilion. That is where 90 members can sit and watch any game of cricket at Lords. There are 18,500 members who pay £850 per year to be members but, given that entry for a test match is £100 per day, they get very good value for money. Other members can watch the cricket from the long room but they have to stand. Of course, they can also sit outside in the members stand. It takes 29 years to become a member but you can become a member much more quickly if you play for Marlebone Cricket Club. Ladies were allowed to become members in 1999, but due to the 29 year wait, only lady players are actually members at this stage.
As part of the tour we went to the players' change rooms, both English and opposition sides, and saw the honour boards and the special seats some players demanded. We went to the players' writing room which has the largest sash window in the world and then went to the top of one of the stands from where we could see the building projects for the next 20 years which involve new stands around the ground, except for the heritage listed main pavilion. One stand is already finished. We could also see the slope on the ground. There is a drop of more than 7feet from one side of the field to the other. It has always been there and won't be changed. We could also see the telescopic light towers which were in the winter position because people living near Lords don't like the unsightly light towers so they are only fully extended in the cricket season. From there we went to the back of the stand to look at the practice ground and the crickey academy.
The tour went for nearly two hours and was excellent. One of the tour leaders even gave us directions to Abbey Road so we went there after the tour. The famous crossing which the Beatles used for their album cover is still used as a crossing so we used it to cross the road to the Abbey Road Studios which are still there and are still used by recording artists. The locals get upset if you spend too long crossing the road but some tourists ignored the horn blowing until they had their photos.
At St Johns Wood Station, we were surprised to find police manning both sides of the entry but discovered later that there had been an incident near the Houses of Parliament just over an hour earlier and the police response had been very quick. Luckily we had planned to go to a shopping centre near our apartment, so we took a different train on the Metropolitan line after alighting at Wembley Park. We were interested in seeing a bigger shopping area than that around Hayes and Harlington so we went to Uxbridge. There were street shops and an enclosed shopping centre with a department store and smaller specialty shops.
We took the bus back to our apartment and it was interesting to see the variety of houses in one borough. There were single houses, duplexes, existing apartment blocks and new developments of apartments and whole living communities. The roads were still narrow and there were two near misses with our double decker red bus when cars went around buses coming from the other direction and found themselves looking directly at us.
We plan to go to the British Museum tomorrow but we will see what is happening in the morning both in terms of the weather and the safety issues.
7              London Day 7
7.1          Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/6iMErvaEpr9xTjzQ9
 
7.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
The train we caught from Hayes and Harlington today was one of the new ones again, in fact it is only about two months old. We boarded the train about 10 minutes before it was due to leave and other people did the same but they had no intention of travelling on the train. The others were just keeping warm. They watched the people who were standing on the cold platform and as soon as they moved towards the yellow line, the doors on our train opened and the people rushed across the platform to catch the train they needed. A young lad near us said it works everyday as they have a total of 4minutes usually to change trains.
Our train left shortly after the platform dash and we travelled very comfortably on the quiet smooth train to Ealing Broadway. There we changed to the Central Line and travelled to Tottenham Court Road to go to the British Museum. After a short walk from the station, the stately rectangular building came into view. There were guards on the gate and we had to have all bags inspected. This was normal practice at many London sites but, after yesterday, it was paramount. City leaders had urged Londoners to go out and about and not let terrorists affect their lives. I think most of the Londoners went to the museum. It was very very crowded with school children, high school children, university students, tourists and locals.
When we went through the entry area, we were very surprised to see a marble courtyard with a circular building in the middle of it and an iron framed roof which allowed light to shine on everyone. In reality, it would take many trips to the museum to see all of it. Today we explored the history of Europe and England from 3000BC until now from archeological specimens and artefacts. There were beautiful pottery exhibits, parts of tools used by people and even credit cards as part of the history of money. We saw artefacts from the Byzantium period, the Roman Empire, the Vikings and early Greek civilisations. In the Egyptian area, there were many mummies each with their own decorative coverings and offerings  but we were amazed to see Cleopatra's mummy with an X-ray showing us the position of her body within the wrapping.
It seems that many artefacts have been donated to the museum by private collectors or other museums but some have been purchased as well. Some of the scenes had been recreated by skilled workmen and they looked exactly the same as the photos of the originals. It is an impressive collection but there are also special displays mounted during the year. In May there will be one on the woodblock prints of Hokusai in Japan.
 
We walked back to Oxford Circus to get an idea of the famous Oxford Street with its expensive shopping precinct. We walked with some trepidation after hearing police sirens and watching the speeding police cars and the overhead helicopter . Most of Oxford Street was very dark and dirty and many shops were being rebuilt but there were a few high end shops near the Circus intersection. The police incident involved a young woman who seemed to be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. Police were out in numbers all over the city today after the incident yesterday so any threat to the public was being dealt with swiftly and effectively.
We had been told of a Westfield shopping centre near Shepherd's Bush station so we thought we would go there for a short while on the way home. We found where all the high end shops had moved to from Oxford Street. There were 35 luxury stores including..Bentley Studio, Boss, Gucci, Burberry, Victoria's Secret, Versace, Tiffany, Laura Ashley and Louis Vuitton. They must make a profit but not many people were in the stores, most were having tea and coffee but the stores are open until 10pm each day so maybe the rush came in  after we left.
For the past seven days we have been using our seven day travel card. We bought it before we left home and it covered six zones in London for all trains and buses. As well as being very convenient in that we did not have to constantly go to ticket machines to continue our journeys, the tickets had paid for themselves after three days. Tomorrow we have purchased tickets to go to the Isle of White. The tickets cover two trains, a bus and a ferry ride to get there and the same to return. It is a long distance train trip and it will be a big day but we will see the English countryside from here to Southampton and on the Isle of White.
8              Day 8 Isle of Wight
8.1          Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/zQmCQ7C5KvLBFcfm7
 
8.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
Today we headed to the Isle of Wight for the day. Altogether we took 13 transportation units over 13 hours but we had a great day. From Hayes and Harlington, we went through Slough, where we changed trains last year to go to the beautiful Windsor Castle, and continued through factory areas and farmlands to Reading where we boarded the Cross Country train to go to Southampton.
We saw small villages in between farm areas with cows, sheep and llamas as well as crops. There were some industrial areas near some of the stations but it was mostly a rural environment until we saw the massive rail yards near Eastleigh Station, the airport at Southampton Airport Parkway and the city life of Southampton. The lifts at Southampton station were huge to cater for the luggage belonging to the people joining or returning from cruises but we were just happy to see the lifts rather than steps.
We took a Quayconnect bus from the station to the dock and boarded the high speed red jet ferry service to West Cowes on the Isle of Wight. While we waited for the ferry, we met a man with a brown cockerdoodle. It was a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle and was very friendly and definitely used to travelling on the ferry. A lady was also talking to the man and his dog and she told us she was just going to visit a friend on the island. That sounds boring until we watched her leave the bus on the island at Her Majesty's Isle of Wight Prison. The red jet boat took only 25 minutes to get to the island through the busy waterways of the port area. We saw the P&O Britannia, cruising vessels, cargo ships and tall sailing boats. Imagine the area in summer when the locals are all out there in their boats as well!
We arrived at West Cowes and took the first of six bus rides. It was £10 to ride the buses all day. The first bus took us to Newport in the centre of the island. The houses were mainly duplexes but there were also many detached homes as well as the apartments favoured by the summer visitors. There were many farms and a big hospital near the prison. As the Isle is popular with retirees, the hospital's proximity must be reassuring. From Newport we caught a bus to Yarmouth. There were pretty views over the farmlands from the high road and we saw the remains of Castle Carisbrooke before the thatched roof houses dominated the scenery. Then we were amazed to see the ocean beside the road.
When we arrived at Yarmouth, the Needlebreezer bus was waiting for us. It boasts that it has the most beautiful tour in England for visitors and the scenery was spectacular. We started in the historic Celtic town of Yarmouth which was attacked twice by the French before Henry VIII built Carisbrooke Castle after which there were no more attacks. We went along the coast again at Thornley through an area which Charles Dickens liked. It is also where the Isle of Wight festival was held in August 1970 with about 600,000people attending over the four days of the festival. It was the last concert at which Jimmy Hendricks performed live. He died 9days later.
We passed Freshwater Bay which was used by smugglers when they hid and traded their goods in the caves along the cliffs or at Highdown Inn, a little further down the road. At the top of the cliffs there is a cross celebrating the life of Alfred Tennyson. He and his wife lived at Farringford Estate and he wrote many of his famous works on those secluded grounds. Near Farmington Estate is StAgnes church which is the only thatched roof church on the island and it was built by Tennyson's son.
 
The island is also famous as being the place where Marconi first tested wireless transmissions. All of this history is very interesting but the tour became even more exciting as we followed the coastal cliffs and wound our way to an entertainment area called "The Neddles" which was due to open for the summer on Sunday with rides and activities to entertain the whole family. However, the double decker bus continued up the narrow cliff edge roads to the top so we could see the naturally occurring coloured sands and the needle rock formations which are visible at low tide. The coloured sands of Alun Bay come in 21colours due to the varying amounts of quartz in each. We could also see the buildings of Hurst Castle which is now used as luxury accommodation. Going back down those scary roads was also a challenge but our female bus driver had no problems and was laughing at our gasps.
To return to Hayes and Harlington we had to catch three more buses on the Isle, the red jet ferry and the bus and two trains on the mainland. It was a long day but we learned a lot about the Isle of Wight and the lives of people who talk loudly in the trains either on their phones or to each other....but that's another story!!!!!
9              Day 9 London to Plymouth
9.1          Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/RkQVgp9U9h4bc871A
 
9.2          Kay's Travel Blog below
We decided to get a cab(Station Cab) to the airport to collect our hire car despite last year's rip off as it was easier with the bags than trying to negotiate two flights of stairs with the bags and my walker. This time we had a lovely driver who insisted on taking us right inside the Hertz precinct. We asked him if he would have problems leaving but he assured us that everything would be okay. When we unloaded the bags from his "taxi", the driver even joined in with Neil in taking photos of the upgrade that was available today. It was a Ferrari, red and obviously fast. We thanked the driver and he left while we went into the building to sort out our car. Suddenly the driver reappeared to talk with staff from Hertz. He had tried to leave the area by going through the security bollard straight after a hire car and it didn't work. The bollard came up and damaged the front of his car. When Neil had finished with the never ending list of hire car questions, we went through the same exit but the "taxi" had gone. It must have been drivable.
Our car is a new Fiat Tipo with only 600 miles on it. It is midnight blue in colour and diesel. It's a beautiful car but an upgrade from the one Neil hired. It was a beautiful day for a drive with blue skies and an outside temperature of 13 degrees....positively balmy. From Heathrow to Bath we used the M4 and the historic A4, driving through farmlands of lush green pastures and cattle, sheep and horses and we were regularly reminded that deer might run across the highways at anytime. That didn't happen but we did see three huge farms of solar panels. It would be good for power generation but many people here are saying that England needs to produce more food rather than importing almost 50%of the food required to feed the nation. In that case, the thousands of solar panels are taking up valuable arable land.
 
The A4 road was the old London to Bath Rd so there were many remains of stone walls, stone houses and old churches. In places like Pickwick and Box even the new housing areas used the older style of bricks so that the town was authentic in its visual concepts. Some modern retailers like petrol stations and car sales yards looked different but they were from a different era. The farms often had manors which were impressive in their size and they seemed to gaze over the fields around them.
Bath is a world heritage city and is the home of Iron Art many examples of which are visible on homes, businesses and other structures in city. There are many many old houses especially along the main roads in the city, many of them dating from roman times. We came face to face with a horse and cart in one of the streets. The whole town was very busy today and the streets could not cope with the volume of traffic possibly due to the great weather , the fact that it is the mothers' day weekend here and also university students are on a break this week. Anyway we drove through some of the suburbs before deciding to explore Midsomer Norton, Midsomer Green and the site where Midsomer Choir rehearses....no sign of a Midsomer Murder though, thankfully. With such brilliant weather it seemed that all the convertible owners were out for a drive. We saw mx5s, two lotus super sevens and some vintage cars. In addition, motorbikes were plentiful.
We headed to Exeter and drove through valleys and hills full of green pastures and sheep. There were still lots of hay bales available so last summer must have been very productive. The A303 becomes the M5 from time to time but sometimes it is a divided two way carriageway, sometimes a two way road and on one occasion it was a new wide highway just after we passed through a roundabout on it. It was exciting driving given the range of conditions but at least the driver doesn't become bored. However, Neil had a "faraway" time as we went through Ilminster which is an historic town. Neil loves going down side streets to see the real places we visit so he headed down "Love Lane". The road was barely wide enough for one car and there were cars parked on some footpaths and bends and then the lane ended....it was a dead end. Neil did a uturn while the people watched and we eventually reappeared on the relatively wide streets of the town.
 
We drove through the Blackdown Hills with the neat farms, hedge fences and otter retreats. There was even a town called"Ottery" about 15 minutes from Exeter. Exeter lies on the Exe River and has universities, a famous cathedral and an historical quay area. It seemed very interesting but it was also crowded so we continued on our way to Plymouth. We took the Devon Expressway which, in some areas, bordered the Haldon Forest Park with its deer. Luckily, we had a Garmin to help us find our accommodation for the next four nights. We drove all the way through Plymouth to the waterfront and an area called, Royal William Yard. The building we are in is called Clarence and it is on the waterfront. It was built in 1820 by French prisoners captured by the British in the Napoleonic wars. They have been modernised inside but original beams are displayed through the rooms and the hallway. Our apartment has three living areas as well as the bathroom. It is huge for two people.
Tomorrow we hope to explore the city of Plymouth.
10           Day 10 Exploring Plymouth
10.1        Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/nZ29RvmzE2pCd71U7
 
10.2        Kay's Travel Blog below
We started on English Summer Time this morning so everyone had to put their clocks forward an hour for the equivalent of daylight saving time. The forecast for today which was Mothers' Day was for fine weather with a top of 13 degrees. It was a beautiful blue sky day but the wind was freezing and howled through corridors, narrow streets and even in open areas near the water. However, most people took advantage of the conditions to take their mothers out for lunch. In fact, Royal William Yard where we are staying was a popular place for lunch with mums with its many restaurants and historical significance. The buildings were built in the 1820s and were used as a brewery for the British forces. The buildings are said to be one of the most important groups of historic military buildings in Britain. The huge rock walls behind the buildings also formed part of the defence strategy of Britain when under attack. While Exeter is the capital of Devon, the biggest city is Plymouth.
Neil's great grandmother was born in 1853 at 53 Monument Street in Devonport which is now part of Plymouth but was once its own town. We drove to the site but there are new houses there so we couldn't find the exact house. Devonport was a major part of the Royal Dockyard and Neil's great great grandfather worked there.Above Monument Street is the Column Monument and the Guild Hall both of which host heritage days for the district. The old shipyards are still near the water down below at Mutton Cove and people are warned not to swim in the mouth of the Tamar River there due to the strong currents...today there were white tips on the waves.
 
We went from the dockyards to Paradise Place where Neil's great grandmother, Harriet Coram, worked as a domestic in 1871 before she headed to Australia in 1878. Neil was taking photos when a man who was waiting in front of the building for his son to arrive struck up conversation. Apparently the terrace house where Harriet Coram worked is now a probation house called Lawson House. Men who are released from prison spend some time there before going into the general community. The man who talked to Neil was from Cornwall and had worked in tin mining.
Next we went to Stoke Damerel Parish church where Harriet's birth was registered in 1853. Neil spoke with some ladies in the church who told him that the church in the mid 1800s had two vicars named St. Aubyn's. The second one would have baptised Harriet.  There were two generations of younger sons of the lord of the manor at St Michael's Mount Parish. Traditionally in the lord of the manor / parish family the oldest son inherited the title and lands and manor and the youngest son always goes into the church of the manor / parish as a vicar. For those who watch the British TV series Grandchester will know this. As one of the ladies of the parish told him the aim was to keep the children away from the world of work and manual labour.
We tried to visit the Barbican and Sutton Harbour as we had heard of the cobbled streets and the Mayflower steps. Technically we went there by car but it was more than crowded with people and cars and there was nowhere to park, even in the one designated parking area. So we went back to our unit, had lunch and went to the dock in our complex to catch a ferry back to the Barbican. The ferry trip was fantastic, we even entered Plymouth Sound. We passed the moored naval ship and the island which Queen Elizabeth 1 gave to Sir Francis Drake when he returned victorious from the Spanish Armarda battles. It was previously owned by the church as a monastery called St Nicholas. Later it became a prison, naval fortification during the wars and most recently an application has been placed to turn it into a five star hotel.
We arrived at the dock very close to the Mayflower Steps. The steps led to the place from which the Mayflower sailed to the Brave New World in the Americas. The first voyage was in 1620 and there are plaques commemorating that trip and others. There are also ones referring to the 350 th anniversary of that sailing. The only mention of Australia was in a statement about a number of convicts who returned to that wharf after serving their time in the colonies in Australia.
We went to the information office and the museum but they were both closed. The rest of the shops only offered food or souvenirs so we went back to the wharf to make sure we caught the last ferry back to Royal William Yard. I though the ferry would be full but we were the only passengers so the captain told us about the Ocean City of Plymouth and the history of Drake Island.
Tomorrow we will head for Exmouth taking in the coastal scenery to the east of Plymouth.
11           Day 11 The A379 from Plymouth to Dawlish
11.1        Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/RLbJcx5QTc1hwdFYA
11.2        Kay's Travel Blog below
We set out with another blue sky day but it remained hazy all day so the true ocean colours were a little blurred but the scenery was excellent. We started on the A379 to Exeter. It is an A class road but not a motorway by the description, A379. However, this road was, at one stage,  a toll road for horses and carts and that would have been suitable for the width of the coast road as well. In many places, one side of the road had hedges and the other side had either brick walls or brick house walls. It was fine as long as everyone was going our way but sometimes we faced cars, trucks or double decker buses....the excitement continues.
The cattle and sheep farmland we drove through was picturesque with traditional manor houses looking stunning and, even new housing areas in towns like Modbury, seemed to be part of an historical ethos. The town of Churchstow had a beautiful thatched roof house and historic churches but the view of the ocean as we approached the riverside resort of Knightsbridge was inviting. It is a big town with most of the essential supports required by holiday makers, residents and retirees alike. We saw hill after hill of terrace houses which overlooked the pleasure boats on the river below. The town is popular as a weekend getaway but they don't see many foreign visitors.
Between West Charlton and East Charlton we negotiated some of the narrowest roads of the journey with the worst being single lane width roads on the crest of hills. At one stage a lady was leading her horse on the road as well. At Torcross, the residents had the best of both worlds with the road and the houses forming the division between the inlet and the ocean. The beach was mainly brown shell grit and there was a warning sign which said:" Warning. Buried steel pile wall in beach may become exposed in adverse weather."  However, South Hams Council named it the best kept beach in 1993. Maybe that was because you can take free poo bags when you walk your dog there. The view was fantastic with blue water all the way to the horizon.
Further along the coastal road, we stopped at Blackpool Sands. We were surprised to see a large car park but as we turned into it a man came over to us to ask us for the £3 parking fee. When he heard the we just wanted a few photos, he said we could stay for 5minutes. It seems the beach had just opened for summer. At Stoke Fleming, as well as the narrow roads, people, dogs and buses, farm equipment was being driven along the main road....excitement plus. Not long after the tractor waltz, we arrived in Dartmouth. We passed the Britannia Royal Naval College and some pretty pastel terrace houses before we joined a queue of cars. We wondered why we were stopped and soon realised we were in a queue to catch a ferry. We did intend to catch one later but we wanted to look around the town centre first. Neil somehow exited the queue sideways and we parked. Neil and a Scotsman between them worked out the paytopark machine and we were set. We tried a Cornish pastie and then talked for a while with a couple from London who had been to Australia three times. We just made it back to the car in time and then took the £5.60 ferry to the other side of the Dart River and climbed up the steep, windy road to Hillhead where there was a sign which said one of the lanes was not suitable for motor vehicles. Imagine how narrow those roads must have been.
Brixton and Paignton were both seaside towns with lots of holiday accommodation but Paignton also has a huge entertainment area on the pier. Torquay was even bigger and boasted a big conference centre as well as the usual seaside attractions. We stopped at Labrador Bay just because of the name and ate ice creams while we watch people hang gliding over the cliff. We crossed the Teign River to enter a port town which could accommodate big ships even at low tide as they had deep channels on one side.
Finally we stopped at Dawlish which is the home of the Black Swan. We sat in a park and watched many pretty types of ducks interact with each other and observe the beautiful black swans who were nesting and preening both in the water and on the grass. There was also a nursery area for the babies so they could get a solid start. We were not allowed to feed any of them as they only ate healthy food like grass. They were very interesting.
We returned to Plymouth on the main highway and hoped we have similar weather tomorrow for our trip to Dartmoor.
12           Dartmoor National Park
12.1        Web Album link to today's photos below.
https://goo.gl/photos/PFG247VdSHFoPcBn7
12.2        Kay's Travel Blog below
We couldn't have chosen a better day to experience the "moors" of Dartmoor National Park. The skies were grey when we set off and the mist gradually rolled in reducing the outside temperature accordingly. When you add a biting breeze to that, the atmosphere is perfect for the moors, given that our prior knowledge of that type of terrain was based on murder mysteries with bodies being found "on the moors".
After filling the tank for the first time, (£35.70 for 30litres of diesel), we followed A386 from West Devon into Cornwall and almost as soon as we left the roadworks and traffic we saw the start of patches of moorland but there was also a golf course so players crossed the main road to complete 18 holes. There were also some farms with sheep and horses but the less fertile areas had rocky outcrops and tufts of dry grass and shrubs.
At Yalverton, we took B3212 which, compared with yesterday's A grade road, is a B grade road with even more narrow sections and roadworks in addition to the "Slow animals on the road" sign erected due to the fact that there was no fencing along many miles of the road so the sheep in particular took the opportunity to graze on the side of the road or to walk to the greener pastures on the other side. The sheep were branded with either pink or blue dyes so we suppose the owners eventually rounded them all together when necessary. Even when the moors covered the whole landscape, the sheep and horses often appeared nowhere near the farms to which they belonged.
There were also empty cars parked in bays beside the moors. The drivers and their passengers were walking on the moors. We talked with a couple who were just starting their walk. They commented that it is much better on a sunny day because if the mist rolls in on a grey day, sometimes it is hard to see the path to follow back to the car. One of the most popular walking areas in the Dartmoor National Park is the one leading up to Hayton Rocks, which we saw in the afternoon. The area is covered with low shrubs and grass and as well as the big rocks on the horizon, there were many small rocky outcrops where the people were walking. It looked desolate so, I suppose, if a use has been found for such barren land, it is good that people like to walk there.
Princetown is an old town of aged terrace houses and duplexes with high stone walls as fences and beside the road but it is most famous as the location of Her Majesty's Dartmoor Prison. It is a very old prison, having housed prisoners of the Napoleonic wars and American prisoners from the civil war there. Those prisoners were used to build the historic church a few metres from the jail. St Michael's was built in 1812. The stained glass window in the main window of the Church commemorates the American prisoners who died in Dartmoor. The French and American prisoners were originally held in prison hulks in Plymouth but were moved to Dartmoor when rioting caused problems for the authorities. St Michael's is the only church in England built by French and American prisoners.
We came across a pretty village called "Two Bridges". The main highlight was the hotel there where they had developed a grass park area near a waterway which was popular with ducks and the border of the park was made of daffodils. It looked like Spring was here but as soon as the<