Three Plays, and High Tea On A London Bus

While in London Jess, Luke and I stayed at a flat in Camden that was in an excellent location for two reasons: first, it was only a block away from Camden tube station and second, because it had a huge glass window that overlooked a narrow street where van played dodgem cars – literally ramming each other to make parking spaces. As we watched I couldn’t help thinking how much my dad would enjoy sitting 5ere and watching the mayhem play out below.

The apartment, like all AirBnb places under a certain price, had its oddities. Like 18 halogen downlights in the small lounge/kitchen space and a bathroom fan switch that was so high up it almost touched the ceiling. Weird.

While in London we did a bunch of things! Here they are in a roughly chronological list.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Andrew and Lila came down from Cambridge with us and we bought them tickets as a thank you present for letting us use their house as a backpackers hostel.

We had seen a bit of the play on YouTube and it didn’t disappoint live. Much hilarity, both slapstick and more clever humour. Well worth the ticket price.

High Tea On A London Routemaster Bus

My friend Lorraine and her daughter Rosie were in London at the same time as us so Jess and I joined them for a lovely afternoon tea on a bus!

We arrived a little early and had a chat to the bus driver who was a proper cockney.

I booked an upstairs table and we had a lovely time! They catered for vegetarian and gluten intolerances (Jess and Lorraine) and the food was good!

After we’d eaten the food pictured above the scones were brought out and these were the first warm scones we’d been served in all our UK afternoon tea experiences. We were very pleased!

I will admit that we didn’t pay all that much attention to the commentary and the only thing I really remember is passing the ship front from the movie Kingsman.

Not a cheap experience, at £45 each but worth it for the special treat.

Cereal Killer Cafe

Jess’ friend Erin joined us for the next few days and we all made an early trip to Cereal Killer cafe to see what the fuss was about.

Although not all he ones pictured above were for sale. I had Oreo and a peanut butter cereal mixed together. It was delicious but tasted more like dessert than breakfast. There was literally nothing healthy on the menu.

The decor was neat – very 90s bedroom chic.

A Comedy About A Bank Robbery

At the end of the first play we saw they announced that the same production company was putting on another play in the West End so we went to see that too.

This time it was just Luke and I – Erin and Jess went to see The Lion King – and we LOVED it. It was funny and clever and they set design was fantastic. Go see it if you get a chance! We bought tickets on the day and still managed really good seats. The theatre itself was beautiful- like a wedding cake turned inside out.

My photo doesn’t really do it justice.

The Importance of Being Ernest

We saw this production on our last day and it wasn’t bad. I’ve seen it before many years ago and I like all the Oscar Wilde I’ve read but I wasn’t thrilled by this interpretation. It felt rushed and the two male leads seemed to be shouting most of the way through.

Camden

We all did quite a lot of walking around Camden. We looked at street art.

And I went with Jess and Erin super early to take a photo at… well, you can guess where.

On our last day Luke and I took a walk around Hampstead Heath and looked at all the dogs. I’ve tried to go to HH a number of times previously but my hay fever has always flared up. Autumn was definitely in the air this time so I was safe.

Our last meal in London was a return to Five Guys, a burger chain Luke’s Aunt Sue had recommended. We enjoyed it a lot more this time as we’d been able to read the menu, unlike our attempt in France;-).

Also Oreo shakes are amazing!

So that ends the European part of this trip! We packed our bags and boarded our Thai Airways flight for Bangkok. I spent most of my awake hours on the flight thinking about how I could manage to come back next year to do more hiking in the north of England. We’ll see!

Here Comes The Planet 80 – Amalfi Coast (2018)

In this episode we take in the sights of the Amalfi Coast. First we stop in Amalfi to check out the medieval Roman Catholic cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, and then head up to Ravello, a resort town set 365 meters above the Tyrrhenian Sea. Stunning views all across the board!

Click here to read Amanda’s blog entry about the Amalfi Coast!

Ireland: Dublin

We only spent a day and a half in Dublin but we did a bunch of stuff!

We stayed at a pub/hostel that was a bit grotty but the location was great.

We visited the National Portrait Gallery.

Luke met an American lady who’d come to Dublin just to see this Caravaggio.

Jess went on a Viking bus/boat tour and a walking tour while Luke and I walked around town and then sat in a pub (just for something different). We did see the statue of Molly Malone.

Guess which bit you rub for luck?

Dublin has some shops with funny names. Also people in Ireland really love knitwear.

We also went to a comedy night – there is so much comedy in Dublin! If we’d known we might’ve booked tickets to something decent. As it was we saw three guys in a basement and they were ok. In the same pub there was a ukulele jam happening. People brought ukuleles and were given music books and all played along together. It was funny to watch.

Hrm… actually, we didn’t actually do all that much as there wasn’t much time. We enjoyed Dublin though and were looking forward to another fun ride on the ferry back. We ended up with the same kitchen crew as the way over and they remembered Jess was a vegetarian, which was pretty impressive. We slept a lot better as the sea was not as rough.

Next: driving through the Cotswolds and staying at Makeney Hall.

Ireland: Sligo and Galway

Luke, Jess and I caught the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and slept from about 10:30pm until 4:30am. It was a rough crossing, which made it more fun (for me anyhow), feeling the boat crashing up and down, but it also meant less sleep. Luke had a room to himself and somehow managed to sleep through all of it, lucky him!

Getting our stuff out of the boot after driving onto the ferry.

We drove off the ferry at about 5:30am, which meant very little traffic to contend with around Dublin. I felt the most awake so I drove up to Sligo. Here’s a map I have prepared to show our trip around Ireland. Please admire my use of lines and arrows and the star to denote our start and end point. Pretty good, huh?

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We stayed in Galway, Dingle and Wexford.

We’d decided on a stop in Sligo as Jess will be performing in an historical musical set in Sligo so she wanted to have a look. Also we had an enormous number of hours to kill before we could check into our accommodation in Galway.

Sligo is a medium sized town and it’s pronounced SLY-go, not Slee-go as I’d first thought and which, if I could make a suggestion to the local people, sounds nicer. Sligo sounds a bit like something you’d find if you hadn’t cleaned your drains for a while.

Anyhow, Sligo the town was actually quite nice. It didn’t feel too touristy and didn’t give us any indication of the startling numbers of American tourists we’d encounter everywhere else. I mean, there were still lots but not impenetrable scrums blocking every doorway.

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We signed up for a walking tour (actually Jess did almost all the Ireland booking and organising of everything, partially because she was the one who’d wanted to go there and partially because Luke and I were reaching booking-fatigue after months of travel). The tour started in the Information Office and the guy taking the tour had a pleasingly loud and deep voice and looked rather like the BFG.

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A statue of Yeats and our tour group in which I managed to photograph one hand of our very knowledgeable host.

The tour went for about 3 hours, which was on the long side for a walking tour, but I can honestly say that, when it finished, that I had learned a lot about Sligo and it turns out that Sligo has had quite a few interesting things happen in its history.

Sligo’s (and perhaps Ireland’s) favourite son was WB Yeats. Neither Luke, Jess nor myself are particularly into poetry and even though I’d heard of Yeats previously I knew almost nothing about him. Throughout our stay in Ireland his name came up over and over again and nearly everywhere we went there were exhibitions and memorials to his life, everyone and everywhere claiming to have had something significant to do with him. I almost wished I’d read up on him beforehand because he was such a recurring theme.

Sligo has a tiny museum that doesn’t have much in it. Currently there’s an exhibition on a woman who led the suffragettes, which was interesting, but the thing I liked most was a huge brown lump with a placard that said ‘BOG BUTTER’.

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Apparently people used to store huge (the size of a decent foot stool) chunks of butter in bogs. Bogs have a highly acidic, cool, oxygen-free environment that perfectly preserves all kinds of things. We’ve all heard of ancient people being exhumed from bogs but butter? It made me wonder whether they had forgotten where they put it or left town without it. The butter that has been found can be hundreds of years old and modern people have been experimenting and found that peat bogs can preserve food just as well as a modern freezer for periods of up to two years! Fascinating, I say.

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Because I’ve left my blog updates for over a week I now can’t remember a huge amount of what we did in Sligo (obviously the bog butter stuck in my mind) but I assure you it was a nice town. We spent our afternoon taking a drive up the coast (the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’) looking at the scenery, which was lovely, and then our last stop was the huge Glen Car waterfall. We caught a bit of rain that day but were all equiped with decent raincoats and the sun did come out here and there.

We left late afternoon to head to our Airbnb accommodation just outside Galway near the tiny village of Gort. Another terrible name for place that looked fairly inoffensive.

The next day we headed into Galway, after hiding in our Airbnb all morning watching the gale force winds of Storm Ali. The winds were so strong that they blew an unfortunate woman off the side of a cliff while she was in her caravan.

Galway is a pretty town. Many Irish towns are very pretty and colourful because of a government initiative in the 1050’s called ‘TidyTowns’. We have something similar in Australia but ours is mostly focused on reducing litter. In Ireland it is much more broad and encourages people to keep their towns appealing on every level. Part of the initiative was to encourage people to paint their towns bright colours.

While in Galway we did a number of things and if you go to Galway I recommend you do them too!

Shopping

We had  a walk around and Jess bought a tin whistle. Also we noticed how very many book shops there are in Galway – an impressive number!

Music

We spent a few hours in various pubs listening to trad music and also watching buskers deal with drunk people who then came into the pub and got told off by the bar tender.

The Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher

Early on our last day we drove to Doolin, where the ferries to the Aran Islands leave. There are three main Aran Islands and we chose to go to the furthest, which is also the largest. It took two ferries to get there. The first looked like a normal ferry and the second one looked like a a fishing trawler. The weather wasn’t great, which meant sitting inside the stinky ship rather than out in the breeze.

On Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands we took a bus tour to see the sights. Our bus was small and there were only five of us on it. Our driver was a local who spoke Irish first and learned English at school. He had obviously had issues with people not understanding his astonishingly thick accent because he repeated everything four or more times. Also there wasn’t actually all that much to see. There were lots and lots and lots of stone walls surrounding tiny fields. Any areas that hadn’t been laboriously cleared of rocks were knee-deep in them. It was truly astonishing that anyone continued to live there, it was such a harsh and barren place.

After returning to the mainland we took a quick boat ride along the coast to see the towering cliffs of Moher. I had not realised they were the ‘cliffs of insanity’ from The Princess Bride. What with the rain and spray we didn’t end up with much of a view or any decent photos, I think I’d prefer to do the walk along the top on a sunny day.

Bunratty Castle

On our last night we attended medieval banquet and performance at Bunratty Castle. We went to the late sitting at 8:45, making it quite a long day but the show was great and the food was plentiful. Lovely singing and music with humorous interludes in a genuinely ancient castle.

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Next: Dingle!

One Night In York

We caught a 5pm train from Edinburgh to York, which only takes about two hours, and arrived just as it was getting dark. I’d booked us a three person room at a place that was surprisingly cheap given how fancy the photos looked.

We soon found out why. Apart from our room being somewhat cramped and pokey, the floors out-creaked any nightingale floor I could imagine any ancient Chinese palace architect considering necessary. The whole place had a kind of shabby air but without the Fawlty Towers-ness that would’ve made it memorable. So when in York, avoid the Elmbank Hotel! Unless you’re on your own in which case creaky floors won’t be so much of an issue.

The following day we had to pick up our hire car but first we had time for a walk around York. First breakfast in a very cute and very old little tower by the river.

Apparently the building was first used as a place where dead bodies were hauled out of the river. This raised a lot of questions when I thought about it later.

Next was a bit of window shopping and actual shopping. This show shop was shut but it was amazing!

York is a university town so there was a plethora of hipster cafes and whatnot. York also has a famous cathedral and an area called The Shambles. Another one of those ‘Harry Potter inspiration’ stops. The Shambles and Diagon Alley look very similar.

We went early to get uncrowded photos. By lunchtime on Saturday there was barely room to move.

Speaking of lunch, we couldn’t eat in York without having Yorkshire puddings! Luke and I tried the newfangled Yorkshire pudding wraps.

Jess had the more traditional version.

Both were excellent.

A few last photos of York!

A yorkie in York!

A pretty mural in the hipster part of town .

luke appreciated the birthday gift Jess thoughtfully bought him.

Jess has a homing instinct for tea.

This shop looked cool but didn’t have anything good.

So old and wonky!

All in all, York is a pretty town with a few interesting bits. I’d been before and gone into Clifford’s tower etc so didn’t feel the need to go again. Next – we visit Harrogate!