Goodbye to England…

One of my favourite songs suits this evening perfectly. We’re saying goodbye to England tonight. We’ve a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

The real deal! Only £12.50 at Tesco. The Ikea tumblers add a touch of class.

Luke spilled it over the bed as the bottle had been bounced around in my backpack for an hour and I caught him on film. You’re welcome.

Be sure to catch this moment of hilarity about 6 months from now when we finally get up to finishing that episode. I think it’s only matched by the video where I managed to catch the moment Luke caught a drop of sizzling oil in his eye when we were eating street food in Vietnam. Pure gold, I’m sure you’ll agree.

So yeah, we’re done here. It’s a bit sad because I love the UK and almost everything about it (although the traffic can go die in a fire) and would happily move here if I could convince my friends and family to come with. On the other hand, winter is coming and when it’s feeling like dusk at 3:30 in the afternoon you start to think serious thoughts about flying south. Or east, which is we’re heading next. New York – the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps! We’ll be there in a little over 24 hours. Hopefully we’ll have time for a quick stop in Camden for some last minute shopping before our 5pm flight.

Thanks, England, you’ve been ace.

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Devon and Dorset

We spent a morning exploring Lyme Regis in beautiful sunshine and ate delicious Devon pasties for lunch while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach. Delightful!

Lyme Regis has one of those quintessentially English beaches that are composed of enormous pebbles. The noise they make when you walk over them is extraordinary. The beach is lined with colourful bathing boxes in lovely pastel shades and there were many people out walking dogs and only one person in the water, which we’d been assured wasn’t ‘that cold’.

Looks like a comfy surface to sunbathe on. Not.

The town is full of stores selling designer clothes, art, food that’s practically art, and the words ‘organic’, ‘locally sourced’ and ‘ethically produced’ are more the norm than the exception. Life in the south west of England is appealing indeed.

Our first evening in town was stunning calm and clear – especially for October.

Lyme Regis by night.

The lamp posts in Lyme Regis celebrate its position on the ‘Jurassic Coast’, an amazing area where frequent landslides often uncover million year old fossils.

Mid afternoon we headed over to Axminster, home of one of the fabled River Cottage Canteens. We loitered in a pub with free wifi for a while then arrived a bit early for our booking.

First in the door!

Starters were cauliflower soup with an onion bhaji in the middle for me and Luke had a plate of fresh buffalo mozzarella with an arrabiata salsa on a naan. I’ve always thought mozzarella was too bland to eat raw but this dish was amazing. The bhaji in my soup was like a giant, crunchy, spicy crouton that was the perfect compliment.

Pork belly!

For mains I had pork belly, which was excellent, and Luke had a pumpkin and almond risotto with chilli and barley. I had bitter chocolate mousse for dessert and Luke had a cheese platter. If you ever have the chance I highly recommend eating there. It was amazing value for three courses (£20 pp), the flavours were complex and perfectly balanced and the staff were very friendly and helpful.

We had also learned that the second episode of the latest River Cottage series had been shot at the pub where we were staying so we’re super keen to see it next week.

Happy Halloween from Hugh!

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed to the seaside village of Beer. Because… Beer!

I’m a sucker for towns with funny names and Beer ticks that box. We bought some postcards (obviously) and some more delicious pasties and sat in the sunshine. Pasties and ginger beer seemed a very appropriate lunch to be having by the beach. Very Enid Blyton. No mysteries to solve, however, just lots of photographs of boats and chairs and then to the Beer beer garden overlooking the beach so Luke could have a beer.

The most fiery ginger beer we’ve ever had.

Like toy boats… but big!

Beer!

Our friend Jen, who lives in Bristol and who has featured several times in this blog previously, had carelessly issued an invitation to come stay any time. We decided a free bed and good company were not to be sniffed at, so our next stop: Bristol!

Bakewell

Until Lucas, Matt and I took a drive through the countryside around Nottingham I thought that a ‘Bakewell tart’ was made by a company called ‘Bakewell’ because really, that would be an appropriate name for a company that makes pastries. Turns out it’s a place from which the eponymous delicacy originates. Lucas and I had one each and weren’t enormously impressed, but I’d certainly recommend the village as somewhere to visit if you want to see one of those perfectly picturesque English villages.

‘Lashings’ of cream were promised but not delivered. A veritable teaspoon, I say!

Having a Bakewell tart in Bakewell was something of a consolation after driving an hour through the rain to the enormous Chatsworth House in the hope of seeing something interesting that was out of the miserable weather and then finding it was nearly 20 pounds to get in. It was a real shame as there was a sculpture exhibition on in the gardens that would’ve been great to see if the weather has been better or we’d had golf umbrellas and gumboots. Still, the drive through the Derbyshire countryside was pretty (when the driving rain subsided) with the trees starting to show their Autumn colours.

I found a craft shop in Bakewell and bought some wool and needles to knit myself a Winter hat and successfully resisted buying a cross stitch kit or some beads (it was a mighty effort –  I’m addicted to craft supplies) then returned to Matt’s place where he cooked us a delicious roast dinner. The boys went to the pub and I stayed home and watched stuff on youtube and knitted for several hours. It was so nice to be by myself for the first time in a long time. Solitude is such a luxury!

Here Comes The Planet 35 – England 09

We meet up with our friend Justin in Saltburn-By-The-Sea, in my personal favourite episode of Here Comes The Planet thus far!

Justin was the first Couchsurfer Amanda hosted, and whilst in Melbourne he also came along to our Samsara 2012 party (although I have no footage of that, here’s some footage from Samsara 2011). He was keen to return the hospitality, and did so in spades! We had a fantastic time with him and his mates, as you’ll no doubt be able to tell from the video. Apart from a great tour of Saltburn, he took us out to an excellent club night being run by a mate of his, as well as a joint birthday party where there were tasty noms, numerous games (some of which no one knew how to win, especially not the person making the game up as they went) and a lot of padded wrestling. We’re already looking forward to the time we can all catch up again. 🙂

Also, if you’ve never considered taking up dinghying as a hobby, Burno makes a compelling case.

Here Comes The Planet 34 – England 08

Our UK camping and road trip special! We buy a whole heap of camping gear and take Van Failen through the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and all manner of places in between.

Also, BABY WEASELS! 😀 😀

(Baby Weasels… baby weasels… hiding in a wall, baby weasels…)

Here Comes The Planet 25 – England 01

We finally reach the United Kingdom! During this episode we catch up with Amanda’s old housemate Andrew, and he takes us down to his local pub as well as his local Tesco – Britain’s third largest in fact, and just behind his house! We also catch up with friends from Australia while exploring Camden Market, and our good friend Matt takes us sight-seeing in London.

Also, DICK TURPIN.

Windermere

The weather was still miserable for our last couple of days in the Lakes and we realised that, with only a few days til we were off to Iceland, we really needed to sort out the last major leg of our trip – the 6 weeks in the USA. So we holed up in a cosy B&B just a block back from the main street in Windermere.

We did get out a little bit – we did a 5km walk from our place to Orrest Head, the first walk Alfred Wainwright (who is famous for promoting the Lake District as a walking destination) did in the area. It is a short walk uphill from the middle of Windermere to a hill top from which you can see almost the whole length of Lake Windermere and many rolling hills and patchworked fields. Photos do not do it justice at all.

The path up the hill was gorgeous – all moss and gnarled tree trunks.

We then walked down to the lake and along the bank, through a forest that looked very Robin-Hood-ish and back to the B&B.

The rest of our stay was spent in bed working on our trip. Exciting stuff! I do feel better now that we’ve at least got our New York accommodation booked – and through Airbnb, for the first time. I’ve tried to book with them before but had difficulty finding places that are free for the dates we wanted, or just not hearing back from property owners. This time we’ve managed to score a room in Greenwich Village for $80 a night and sharing with a guy who gets great reviews as a host. We have also, coincidentally, planned our NY stay during Halloween and have been told that Greenwich is where the best action will be… fingers crossed!

During our breakfasts at the B&B we met a lovely family from the US who gave us some great advice on visiting theme parks and their teenage daughter even offered to accompany Luke and I to Magic Mountain, which is right near their home, so Luke wouldn’t have to go on everything by himself – what with me being the world’s biggest chicken when it comes to any ride more energetic than a ferris wheel.

Travel really does impress on you the generosity and kindness of people everywhere – it seems that everyone we meet has a word of advice or an offer or meeting up with us somewhere or a helping hand. I do hope that we have many opportunities to return all this good karma when we can.

Howgill Fells, a view along our route when we left the Lakes.