Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Right south & well north.

With a perfectly timed transfer from Southampton Central to the fast ferry terminal on a free bus, I got a ticket & boarded the fast ferry to Cowes with not a moment to spare. It worked out even better, as the ferry landed just as Ben was getting home from work & was able to walk down to the terminal & show me the short route to their house. The centre of Cowes is a cute little village with cobbled twisty streets, a fair percentage of sailing & boutique shops & their flat is only about fifty metres walk off the main street - fantastic location. I had however missed the chaos of Cowes Week a week or so before - when the place is one big sailing festival.

Gina had to work a little late, so we were charged with tea. Of course a scaled down version of one of the many Wellington St barbecues was in order. Scaled down because it was a very small charcoal burner & we were a little short of charcoal - with only three more weeks left in the country for Ben & Gina, there was little point of getting more. A short walk (1oo metres) to the supermarket topped us with essentials - Ben was particularly pleased at getting the small keg of Heineken that he had his eye on for a while. Eventually we were able to pour a glass of beer that wasn't all head! The rest of the night was spent eating & catching up & sharing travel stories - I was even more surprised to find a second group of people to sit through the best of my American photos in less than a week.

After a fitful night's sleep in the attic (no curtains & a pub just over the road & springs that felt they were coming out of the mattress to make the acquaintance of innards), I was happy to doze until much too late & got up well after Ben & Gina had gone off to work. What remained of my morning I strolled around Cowes & some surrounding areas & enjoyed the sunshine. After a bit for a late lunch I took the chain ferry across the river to East Cowes. One of five left in Britain it drags itself the hundred-odd metres back & forth the river all day on two rather large chains. Also called a floating bridge, it was free for pedestrians & after the very short voyage I was off walking up the hill to visit Osborne House. Osborne house was built by Victoria & Albert & was a favourite residence of theirs to spend time in with their family & away from the public eye. The tour of the house was extensive (no photos inside unfortunately) - as well as the state apartments & the family's living area, I found the table dresser's room in the basement interesting. This is where the elaborate table settings were designed & made. I had wondered why we never saw the kitchen - Gina told me later that Victoria did not like food being cooked in the house (to do with the smell I think), so it was all done in a building not far away from the house. The grounds & gardens were extensive & I enjoyed the remainder of the afternoon strolling around these & checking out the old ice store & the little fort that Albert had made for his children. I arrived home just after Ben & Gina had got home - it was soon off to a pub for dinner & then an early night as we were off to Cornwall early the next morning. We had a 4.30 sailing to Lymington, so the alarm was due to go off at 3.30 (it is a little drive through small IOW streets to Yarmouth).

So, up early & fed - it was off to catch an uneventful ferry (who wants eventful at half past four in the morning) to Lymington & Ben heroically drove us all the way to Cornwall & the Eden Project. I dozed a little in the back & was pleased when we got past all the caravans & arrived by nine o'clock. The Eden Project, with its two big Biomes (biological domes I assume) was quite interesting. The bigger of the biomes was plants & climate of rainforest from around the world - thankfully it wasn't too hot & only slightly humid. The smaller of the biomes was dedicated to plants from Mediterranean-like climates - the Mediterranean obviously, California & South Africa spring to mind. I'm not much of a horticulurist, but it was all pretty interesting - the stand out being the plant that curled its leaves up or drooped its stalks the instant you touched it, we spent quite awhile prodding it just to see it curl up in defence. Gina was quite disappointed that she could buy one to take home to NZ.
In another building they had some big contraptions (overly complicated machines) made from all sorts of used steel products that went through a very elaborate process to crush hazelnuts - a bit like a machine you would expect to find in Wallace & Gromit. Also in this building was a massive sculpture of a pine cone made out of a huge piece of Cornwall stone.We were pleased to have missed most of the crowds & left slightly after noon to try & find somewhere to stay the night. One of Ben's workmates had recommended Fowey as a nice little place. So we headed off there & parked well above the centre of town as we had to walk down a steep hill down some very narrow twisty streets (one way only & no parking). It turned out that a week long regatta was starting the next day & consequently, the town was packed. Somehow we managed to find beds for the night - so we climbed up the hill again & I think we passed a bit of the afternoon napping after the early start. Much of the rest of the day was spent walking around the town, sitting next to the harbour, eating & drinking - early night for all.

Sunday afforded us a nice sleep in - almost five hours on the previous day - & a large English breakfast to get us going (or slow us down). We were particularly impressed by all the local produce in the breakfast (all from less than ten miles away) - the mushrooms were easily the best I have had in a long time. We had to make our way back to Southampton by 7pm for Ben & Gina to catch a ferry back to IOW & me to train back up to London. I'm not sure how we settled on where to go for a walk, but we were keen to get out & stretch our legs (Ben & Gina need all the leg-stretching they can get - they are shortly off to Macchu Picchu) & headed off to Castle Drogo in Dartmoor National Park. Along the way we passed dozens & dozens of caravans & became proficient at identifying each make & model from a distance. The English also seem to like buying small cars & then realising they don't have enough space for fitting everything in, so buy poxy little box trailers that have wheels the size of dinner plates & tow them along - it looks ridiculous. Although, kudos to the slightly large ones with bikes on top.
Arriving at Castle Drogo, we decided not to fork out the entry fee as Ben & Gina had seen too many castles already, & it was only built in the early twentieth century & didn't look all that impressive. Instead we walked down Teign Gorge for a couple of miles admiring the view & getting to Fingle Bridge - a nice skinny bridge (we saw a Corolla find that it was much too skinny & leave a deposit of red paint on the walls of the bridge) & river & an inn & nothing much else apart from walkers & those out for Sunday lunch. Completing a loop of a extra mile or so, we walked along beside the river for a while & then climbed out of the valley & back to the car to head off to Southampton. Along the way Gina managed to tick Devonshire tea & scones off her list as we stopped at a small B&B serving such wonderful homemade delights. Yum.
Got back in time for a earlier ferry for Ben & Gina; I missed a train by about twenty seconds & had to wait another half an hour, but I was home in Sidcup before 8.30, so that was good. The rest of that night & the next morning was spent organising enough clean clothes & good clothes for a funeral & two or three weeks in Edinburgh.

More trains in to London, across London & up to Retford, I was met by Mum's only maternal cousin Tony & we were back to his house to prepare for his father's funeral. Although not the best occasion for it, it was great to catch up with family - somehow I think I became a Spurs supporter (family allegiance & all that). Thankfully, I'm not much of an expert on funerals, but I think it went OK. I was surprised to see the limo we rode in was a big stretched Aussie LTD sedan & the hearse was a flashed up Falcon with a lot of glass & higher ceiling.

Tuesday afternoon saw me on another train - now I'm in Edinburgh & it's nice to be back & especially during the festival - the weather is much as I remember it for summer, mostly cloudy & drizzling, with patches of sun. I haven't quite worked out why (unsure if it's just the festival time) but there is so much trash around on the street - I'm not sure I've seen anything like it outside of Asia. They seem to have small wheeled skips on the residential streets for depositing household trash & recycling in - only problem is they must get overfilled, as a lot of it is on the ground. I'm staying with a guy that Mum used to nanny a fair few years ago. Thomas has a flat about twenty minutes walk from the centre of everything, so it's really convenient. Haven't done too much, just getting settled & have seen a couple of street shows - & finally saw the Half-Blood Prince (where were you Elizabeth?), it was OK - mostly a lot of development, like the book really.

A curious anomaly in NZ English - we say 'route' as the English do, pronounced 'root'; yet we say 'router' (as in a networking device) as Americans do, pronounced 'rowt-er', but laugh at them for pronouncing 'route' as 'rowt'. I'm not sure if that makes sense or not, but I thought it amusing. While I'm on differences, it's pleasing to be in a country where there are lights installed in ceilings in living areas & you don't have to rely on lamps; also, I'm back in a country where switches (lights, power etc) are off at the top & on at the bottome - I never really worked out why the Americans would do this the opposite way around - units & driving I can understand, but this just seems so contary to every way I've ever know. It's also nice having pound coins & no dollar bills.

1 comment:

  1. Half those photos are of you filling your face big brother!!!!