Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Monday 5th November

Last full day in England and on our travels overall.

Today we walked into Windsor to visit the Castle, the home of the Queen and past Monarchs for 900 years.

There were queues waiting but we were in after about 25 minutes wait. Then around another 20 minutes to get through the security similar to what you experience in most airports ( not Berlin airport though – that had its own level of security).

The castle and all its various buildings and gardens are in fantastic condition and in a constant state of renovation and care. I understand some of the current works are still a result of the large fire in November 1992.

We received our head set to guide us through the grounds and buildings. We were able to take photos in most places but not in the State apartments where we moved through a series of special purpose rooms including –

The Waterloo chamber, the Crimson Drawing room, the Queens Drawing room, the Kings Drawing room, the Queens bedroom, Dressing room, Garter throne room and more and more.

There are apparently over 1000 rooms within the castle.

The Queen was in residence whilst we were there but we strangely did not see her.

Within the castle is also St George’s chapel where the wedding of Prince Harry and Meaghan took place. We were able to see the chapel in detail and it was amazing. We have seen many cathedrals, churches and chapels in our travels but this exceeded them all in both atmosphere and structure. Of course, it is also the burial place of so many past royalty including the Queens mother and Princess Margaret.

After 3 hours of wandering in awe we had had enough and started to find the exit and somewhere for lunch and also to rest the aching legs.

Our aim was to spend the afternoon on the Hop on Hop off bus but after waiting for some time, Mike called the company and was told it wasn’t running as the season had ended. April was the next bus. Not sure if the hundreds of tourists in town realised that since the pamphlets and posters on the bus stops advertise the off season. Anyway we wandered down to the river and decided to take a short cruise along the Thames whilst enjoying a brandy and dry and a pint of ale. This was our last day of our great adventure.

Windsor is an interesting and pretty little town but there seems to be an usually large number of people living and begging on the streets especially in the Castle area.

Whilst we have seen first hand sad homeless people in many of the places we have visited here in Windsor it was hard not to think that these people were perhaps not the genuine article.

I am writing this blog post on Tuesday morning and today we will be leaving Windsor in mid afternoon and heading to Heathrow airport (about 20 ks) ready for our Qantas flight home at 8.55pm UK time and 7.55am Melbourne time.

So no more blogs until a few days after we get back.

Hope you found our travels interesting.

We are looking forward to being home and seeing our family, friends and of course Pooki.

It will be great to feel the warmth of our summer and to soon walk on our beaches and for me (given Cath already had found work) to start looking for work in order for us to pay for the next adventure.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Sunday 4th November

We are staying in a pub called the Windsor Trooper. Our room is behind the the pub and very quiet until 6 am when the first planes start landing and taking off at Heathrow every 45 seconds or so until late in the evening. The wheels are still lowered, an indication of how close to the ground they are. Still we don’t mind as it makes us realise we are close to coming home now.

Today we had a full day in Windsor with Jai and Mike (my cousins from Stroud in the Cotswolds) and decided to explore London so travelled by train to Waterloo station.

We walked down to the Southbank along the Thames and wandered along enjoying the stalls, the street artists and the fantastic vibe that is London. We wandered around the Eye, Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and so much more. We then decided to take Jai and Mike to see Churchills war rooms, which we had visited on our last trip but it was going to be a 45 minute wait so decided not to wait. Jai and Mike will visit it without us on another trip to London.

Had a jacket potato for lunch at a pub and continued walking, ending up at Shakespeares Globe theatre which Cath had seen 2 years back with Frances and Gail, and was very keen to visit again. This was a fantastic experience. We had a great guide who explained the reason the Globe had been built and how, where it is situated was once outside of London city, as theatre at that time was considered the devils work. It was built for the common people to attend at low cost and basically enjoy themselves, drinking beer and eating whilst they watched, or more importantly listened to the various plays. Our guide described their behaviour was not unlike what you would see at a football match today.

We left the Globe theatre around 430pm to discover it was getting dark but decided to keep walking along the river to get a view of Tower Bridge. We were now a long way from Waterloo station so decided to take one of the many water ferries that plough up and down the Thames. This was great fun and for about 6 pounds each and after 4 stops along the way we reached our stop right under the London Eye and found our way back to Waterloo station. We eventually arrived in Windsor where we had a great evening meal in Zizzi’s, an Italian restaurant and fell back into rooms at 9.45 exhausted.

Tomorrow our exploring will be centred on Windsor and Elton.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Saturday 3rd November

A travel day again today ( sorry for late posting) so no pictures.

Checked out of Molloys Pub at 930am dragging our cases down to the taxi rank we had spotted the day before, for our trip to the airport. Like the taxi driver who had brought us from the airport on Wednesday, this driver was great and spoke to us about his home town of Dublin and his travel adventures.

We were travelling Air Lingus (on a BA ticket) back to London and were relieved when we checked in our cases and had no issues with the weight.

We landed at Heathrow at 130pm. We had researched the trip from Heathrow to Windsor by train or bus, however, after walking about 2 k’s around the airport, this was clearly not going to be easy. It was going to take 3 trains or 2 buses and several changes to get us where we needed to be and it would cost us about 30 pounds.

So, we tried the conventional taxis and found they had a flat rate of 40 pounds but that avoided all the changes and took us to the hotel door. We took advantage of this service and were here by 4 in the afternoon.

Jai and Mike arrived about 30 minutes later so we had a great catch up in the bar for a while before sorting out our rooms and coming back to the bar for dinner.

Food was good but it turned out to be Karaoke night and after witnessing one guy sing one song we retired to bed as soon as we could.

We are planning to visit London tomorrow on the train.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Friday 2nd November

Second full day in Dublin.

We walked to Trinity College from our accommodation to arrive about 930. Amazing place with what appeared to be a student graduation with students in their gowns and parents looking proud and taking pictures.

We found the library and after a few minutes in a queue we were in to see the Book of Kells from the year 800 together with many other ancient books and documents together with some amazing documents and personal letters from WW1 visible only under glass.

Then up the steps to the library proper and the ‘long room’ which has 200,000 books shelved to the roof and only accessible by long ladders.

Our second aim today was to visit the Irish Emigration museum close to the Dublin docks. Again another great and interesting place to visit covering the amazing history of the Irish, their troubles, the potato famine and the various economic and political ups and downs. Of course all of these issues have led to millions of Irish travelling and settling in so many parts of the world and there was a mine of information about the effect this had on the destination countries.

We finished the visit with lunch in one of the adjacent cafes along with hundreds of local office workers.

We then jumped on our faithful bus to get to Temple Bar to visit the famous bars and Irish shops. We managed to get into the Temple bar pub and get a little video and some pictures. We had no hope of getting a seat or even getting to the bar to get a drink but the atmosphere was great. Next stop was Quays pub another 20 metres down the street where another band was playing and we managed to get a seat so had a drink and enjoyed the music for a while.

We then walked the rest of the way back to base and waited to have dinner downstairs in Molloys bar where a live band was playing Irish music at 7. We had our fish and chips, another drink and tried to listen to the music but had to give up after 3 songs as the crowd was too loud (mostly office workers having their Friday night drinks). We went back to our room to prepare for our return to London, where we are catching up with my cousin Jai and her husband Mike for a couple of days before flying home on Tuesday evening.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Thursday 1st November

First full day in Dublin.

Walked about 2 ks to stop 1 of the Hop on Hop off bus routes.

Passed a nice little bakery and coffee shop whilst walking so had a nice breakfast of coffee/ hot chocolate and porridge. It’s was cold again this morning.

We jumped on the red route which took us past all the places we hope to visit over the next 2 days. Today we had booked tickets on line for our visit to the Guinness storehouse at St James Gate. A huge unused site that initially Arthur Guinness paid a 100 pound deposit for, and then 45 pounds per month until December 1759 when he managed to negotiate a 9,000 year lease, setting the same arrangements in stone. He was a forward thinking guy.

St James church is next door to the Guinness site and has always been the official starting point of the Camino from Ireland.

The visit was fantastic and much more than we expected. Apart from learning the brewery process and all that it entails we were lucky enough to be there on International Stout day (at least that is what we were told) and some of the staff produced a great show of Irish dancing. This all happened as we were drinking our pints of Guinness received as part of our entry. What could be better?

We then jumped back on the bus to get back to the city centre. Seems we hit the jackpot again as this particular bus driver didn’t play the standard recorded description of all the landmarks. Rather, he did it all himself intertwined with many jokes and songs at each red light of which there were many. It was the most entertaining bus trip we have experienced on this holiday to be sure to be sure.

Arriving back in the city centre we managed to find our way back to our apartment on foot and without referring to a map which was a first.

Tomorrow we hope to get to Trinity College and the Temple bar area.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Wednesday 31st October

Travel day today so no pictures I am afraid.

We took a taxi from the Hotel Bristol in Berlin at 9.15 to the Berlin Tegal airport. All very simple this morning and we were there in 30 minutes for 25 euros.

Passing through security was the most thorough we have experienced and Cath had a fairly personal check out by a female officer. Clearly Cath looked suspicious this morning.

On the plane for a punctual take off and we landed at London city airport on time at 12.30 where we were transiting to Dublin.

Even though it was a transit stop over we had to fill in the arrival card and go through the passport checks etc. I was chastised for spelling Cheltenham incorrectly on the card as I missed out the ‘e’. Pretty sure the guy was having a joke with me.

Then back through the carry on baggage security scanner where Cath was again pulled aside for having a suspicious something in her small carry case. They emptied it out and couldn’t find what had showed up on the screen and were getting pretty frustrated. I started to imagine this being all over the UK Border patrol tv show. In the end, with Cath now starting to help them with their search, they found a small bottle of hair conditioner that we had rolled up inside one of our travel towels. Eventually we were free to continue, with the security officer apologising for the mess as we repacked the bag.

This delay meant no waiting time for the next plane so we were on our way to Dublin, arriving in 55 minutes.

Another taxi to our apartment at Molloy’s Pub in Talbot lane. The taxi driver was a great lady and pointed us in the right direction for the best music pubs and recommending a restaurant in Dame Street.

We had to walk through the bar to check in to our apartment and this meant we were welcomed by an old guy at the bar welcoming us to Ireland and telling some jokes about kangaroos.

Our apartment is very clean and new and above the lounge bar downstairs so hopefully we will not get too much late night noise.

We ventured down for a dinner of fish and chips / bangers and mash and of course wine and a Guinness.

We’ll take the Hop on Hop off bus tomorrow and have the Guinness tour booked at midday.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Tuesday 30th October

Today we decided to just walk around the region of our hotel.

So after breakfast in Starbucks we wandered along the Kurfürstendamm Boulevard which is a dual carriageway full of shopping centres and lots of quirky little shops. We bought a few interesting things to remind us of our visit to this amazing city.

A few kilometres down we came across the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This had been damaged during the bombing in WW2 and was now a memorial, although a very modern replacement church and seperate bell tower had been constructed in 1961. See picture of this below.

We discovered there was a concert being held in the new church section this evening so bought ourselves tickets before continuing to wander through the streets and shops.

We returned to our hotel around 2 and used the afternoon to prepare for our flight to Dublin tomorrow. We were worried about out check in weight of 23 kilos so packed the cases and took them down to the reception staff who were able to weigh them. They were 16 and 17 kilos each so we were worrying for no reason.

Had a late lunch / early dinner in the hotel bar before leaving to see the concert at 7pm.

We don’t normally go to this type of concert but it was an amazing atmosphere and some very talented musicians. It was the Berlin Chamber Orchestra playing well known pieces by several of the most famous composers. We recognised 3 of the pieces that were played. See picture of the list.

We were back in our room by 930pm to feast on what little food there was in the bar fridge as by now we were hungry but it was warm inside and very cold outside, so we weren’t going anywhere.

Looking forward to catching the flight to Dublin at midday tomorrow.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Monday 29th October

Another full day in Berlin.

Very cold again. About 6 degrees was the forecast top today. Had to buy another thicker beanie so was able to give Cath my old one so she had 2 beanie layers on today.

On the bus for an hour and got off in the central area near the Museums, Cathedral and Riechstag Parliament building. Plenty to look at as long as you could keep out of the wind.

We checked out multiple key sites over about a kilometre stretch but to be honest we have probably had enough of these big impressive buildings now so decided to visit the river.

Once there we discovered there were boat tours so we signed on for the one hour session to get out of the icy wind and inside the boat that had heating. We got our seniors discount of 3 euros each and then spent the savings on some mulled wine advertised as mullet wine on the boat. Who knows? It warmed us up.

Was interesting seeing many of the major buildings from the perspective of the river . The boat was then stopped on the way to the starting point by a police boat in the river. Seems something was going on in Berlin today with roads blocked off as well as the river. The bus drivers were getting very frustrated but we were happy to stay in the warm vehicles.

Had pizza and soup for lunch and then found a great bookshop with a whole floor full of English language books so of course bought a couple. Cath bought me the Tim Winton latest.

We eventually got back to our room about 430 this afternoon after our final bus trip as our 3 day pass is now up.

Overall an easier day today with less interpretation to absorb but more wind and cold than we liked.

Final day in Berlin tomorrow so we will do some shopping and prepare for the flight to Dublin on Wednesday. We have a 23 kilo allowance each at check in so hope we can get away with that and our hand luggage as well. Our gear seems to grow each day with more souvenirs, books and clothes.

I can’t believe we are back on the plane to Melbourne tomorrow week.

The last 2 photos are taken from our hotel window.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Sunday 28th October

Started the day early and found it very quiet in the streets. It was a Sunday I suppose plus the clocks had been turned back overnight and it was very cold.

We jumped on the bus again and it took one bus change and about 90 minutes to get to the area where the wall still exists for a few hundred metres and there are remaining concrete structures, remnants of churches, grave yards and a fantastic amount of interpretative signage, photography, sculptures, plaques and video and audio outlets to experience.

There are lines of steel in the ground indicating where tunnels had been dug in efforts to escape from the East to the West.

The more information you absorb, the more ridiculous this situation seemed. And to think this was all in our lifetimes.

So the war ended and Germany was dissected into 4 sections for the allies to “manage” (ie Russia, US, UK and France).

Likewise this was how Berlin was broken up. However Berlin as a whole was geographically in the middle of the Russian managed section of the east.

This presented many issues and as the US pumped money into repairing the western section of Berlin this was not reflected in the east or Russian section so clearly it was a better life in the west. This resulted in more and more Berliners moving to the west to live and much to the disappointment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), working under the direction of Russia as it was the more skilled, educated and young that made this change. So in 1961 the GDR determined this had to stop and created a wall. Initially this was a wire fence but over a short period of time became multiple high concrete walls complete with watch towers, flood lighting and the space between parallel walls known as the death strip. Up to 11000 armed guards patrolled the area. where around 140 people lost their lives trying to breach these walls.

I imagine people would be feeling their lives would be better when the war ended in 1945 but then found themselves living under more fear for decades.

It was another very solemn experience for us today but again so very important to see and to share in the hope that this sort of simply stupid human behaviour is never repeated. (Mexico?)

It was a long day today but we arrived back to base around 3 and had a fantastic lunch / dinner in a restaurant near our hotel. We will be going there again before we leave Berlin.

Tomorrow we will be back on the bus to spend the day in the city centre.

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Cath and Ian’s travels 2018

Saturday 27th October

Our first full day in Berlin.

What a big place this is. So many relatively new buildings, squares, monuments and spectacular infrastructure. Obviously much of Berlin was flattened in WW2 hence the ‘newness’ of so much.

Cath was not well today with heavy cold so she filled up with some antibiotics and we ventured out to see the bigger picture on the Hop on Hop off bus.

First we had breakfast at Starbucks over the road from our hotel. Total cost 13 euros, better than paying 19 euros each for the hotel breakfast.

We purchased a 3 day and 2 route pass which means we can now visit most of the key locations as often as we want over next 3 days. We are here for 4 days so hopefully we can do a walking tour on that spare day on Thursday.

Total cost for the 3 day pass for us both was 72 euros. A bit high but we now have all our transport covered for our time in Berlin.

Most of today’s pictures were from the bus apart from the Brandenburg Gate (the gateway to the city since the mid eighteenth century) where we hopped off the bus and had some lunch. We also ran into a demonstration at the gate which we think was about organic farming rather than the use of pesticides. If that is what it was then I guess they were my people. Not sure, but we had potato soup and spaghetti anyway.

Berlin has about 3.5 million people and about 5.8 million spread over the full metropolitan area. It’s big. Having said that, it seems very clean and ordered and does not have the frenzy of Paris, London or even Budapest.

We passed into what was once Eastern Berlin behind the infamous wall built in 1961 by the GDR (German Democratic Republic). In this area there still remains many concrete buildings of all sizes. As we have seen in other cities on this trip these buildings reflect the communist period and were built for efficiency with no real beauty or character. We have heard guides call this style of architecture as Communist Realism or Brutalism.

We also witnessed several remaining sections of the Berlin Wall which separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. I have included several pictures of the wall below including in some cases just the remaining steel reinforcing rods protruding from the concrete footings. In many areas the remaining wall is covered with graffiti, but a long section has been used as a canvas for artists who were invited to reflect the wall, its original purpose and the celebration of its destruction.

Cath and I hope to visit this area again tomorrow to understand more of the detail including the apparent cruelty of its original purpose and some of the stories (good and bad) of those trying to get over or under it during its 28 year life. After all, this all took place after the end of WW2.

See Checkpoint Charlie, with McDonald’s in the background in first picture. Hmmmm.

We finished our day back at the hotel about 3 pm, knackered.

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