Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I promised I'd show you our visit to the newest castle in in England; hope you didn't get too excited waiting.  If so, I apologize as the newest castle in England wasn't really worth waiting for; or visiting with one unexpected exception.

Castle Drogo is a country house / castle constructed between 1911 and 1930 for Julius Drewe a self-made millionaire.  Pretty much from the time it was built the roof leaked !   

There is scaffolding and plastic up the side of the castle hiding it from prying eye.  For the sum of around $18 each we got to climb 58 steps to gaze upon the work being done there.   I had the naive thought that once climbed I would see more than an unfinished roof.   

I certainly didn't expect a 20 minute detailed talk on the making of shingles and waterproofing of same.  Perhaps if I was an engineer I would have found it scintillating; but I'm not and I didn't.

Having wild ADD I just couldn't pay attention to the talk of tar and seals and shingles, but giggled like a naughty schoolgirl with Louise while her daughter tried to pretend she was not with us.  Those hard hats that we had to wear had a dial that you could turn and tighten on the back.  That proved to be too much of a temptation for me ...

After climbing down from the scintillating talk on the roof we did get to tour one open wing of the castle.

Inside I was impressed by this lovely piece of artwork.  

It represents the first leaking drop that fell from the leaking roof; I kid you not.

This piece of art in the basement next to the private chapel was quite touching.

It represents workers vanishing as they go off to war.


But it was the grounds and gardens that dazzled me.     After all, Spring in Nova Scotia with blooming flowers and sweet scents in the air was still a month away.

The formal gardens and stunning views were stunning to these Winter-weary eyes.

From there Phoebe and Louise took me to visit a pub located next to the ancient Fingle bridge.  Just driving around the country lanes is a feast for the eyes.   

Of course I had to follow that intriguing trail.  I wasn't disappointed.


Even the drive home along country roads was magical ...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Onward to Exmouth ...

I had bought all my train tickets before I'd ever left Canada; doing it that way can save you a lot of money.  The only catch is that the tickets are for a set day and a set time and not changeable. 

The ticket doesn't have a gate number on it.  Upon arriving at the train station passengers park themselves in front of a large board listing upcoming departures waiting for their train to arrive, get cleaned and be ready to go again.

Be warned -- you must be on the train 40 seconds prior to the departure time as the doors will be locked.   And yes, the trains do run on time.

The train ride from London to Exmouth was just over three hours with a couple of changes


Exmouth is toward the bottom left of England situated at the mouth of the tidal River Exe on the Atlantic.  

Walking from the train station to the guest house where I would be staying, I took photo after photo to help me recall  first impressions of cross walks ...

of roof lines, 

and wisteria,

and flowers growing in impossible places.

Once at the guest house I was in for a bit of a surprise; my en-suite bathroom didn't include a toilet !  Apparently in England "bathroom" does not equal "toilet".  The toilet was down the hall.

After I settled in,  I met up with my Exmouth family and they took me to the shore of the River Exe for the quintessential  English welcome dinner;  

Phoebe, Louise and Kieran

fish and chips by the sea !

It was a wonderful start to the visit.

My cousin Louise and her daughter Phoebe both had taken time off work to show me around.  

Visiting a castle was #1 on my go-to list.   This is Powderham Castle and it fit the bill quite nicely.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside as it is a private home.  Well lah-dee-dah !

I love castles but am coming to understand that they are emblematic of a very well-defined class system that exists to this day.

The Earl of Devon, his wife (a former "Baywatch" babe) and their adorable entitled children live in another building on the 9,000 acre estate so that we commoners can tour the castle and help them cover the cost of keeping up appearances.   

The map of the grounds was a bit ambiguous and the trail I went to explore proved to be much longer than I expected.

Nevertheless the scenery was stunning; birds chirped, butterflies flitted and the scent of Spring was heavy in the air.

These roots on an old wall look like they could be hiding a Hobbit hole.

Hard not to just walk and walk and walk ... heck there weren't even any mosquitoes to spoil the day.  

Even the drive back to town on one of England's typical country roads was an adventure;

with barely enough room for two cars to pass.

Our next outing was to visit was the newest castle in England.   But that story is for another day.

Monday, June 11, 2018

England in the rear view mirror ...

I went to England last year and so I was surprised to find myself heading back again this year; but how could I not go back for my Aunt Audrey's 90th birthday ?

I find flying quite magical.    And was amazed to see Windsor Castle passing below the plane; three days before the royal wedding.

My cousin Steve once more offered his lovely apartment for me to crash in.  Last visit I tried to "tough it out" and not waste my first day in England and ended with a headache.  This time I immediately settled onto his couch for a lovely nap.  "Wake me in two hours", I asked.  Instead I woke on my own to the aroma of dinner four hours later.   

From Steve's I headed to Limehouse to stay with my nephew Andrew and his wonderful wife, Jess.

I was so glad to finally meet Jess and we had a marvellous wander around the nearby marina and beside the ever changing Thames. 

Folk have to manage the locks themselves

While Andrew and Jess worked, I happily explored London on my own.

Tours were offered of the inner workings of Tower Bridge; including a walk across a glass floor looking down on the river and road below.  Wowsa.   I couldn't resist that.

Even better, one section of the glass walkway had a mirrored ceiling above it making for some interesting photo opportunities.

The monument to the Great Fire of London (1666) is a narrow column built in 1671 which once-climbed affords marvellous views of the city.  

What had to be impressed upon me was the fact that it was 311 steps to reach that amazing view.

However I did get an official certificate when I reached the bottom. I was amazed that it had only been 311 steps; my guesstimate was more around the 5,000 mark !

London is a feast for the eyes; even derelict buildings have a certain beauty.  I marvelled at the Butterfly bushes growing all over this place.

These ruins of St. Dunston in the East is a church that was bombed in WWII.

Notice the palm tree; this is in London.
In Greenwich I visited the Cutty Sark built in 1869.  Unlike our own famous Blue Nose it is no longer in the water but instead perched like a stranded creature caught in a trap.

London is so chock a block full of amazing things to see.  Standing on the deck of the Cutty Sark with the Thames in the background and a domed structure on the left.  What do you suppose it is ?   Ladies and Gents toilets ?  Want to guess again ?

It's the entrance to a 1,300 foot walking tunnel under the Thames that was opened in 1843 !

Of course I had to follow it, not realizing that where I wanted to go was in the opposite direction.  So, once I reached the other end, I walked back ... wondering just a teeny bit about the ceiling leaks ...

Since I was in Greenwich I went for a lovely stroll through Royal Park and up the hill to the spot where the Eastern and Western hemispheres meet.

And once there, I stood with my feet straddling the time line.

Back to the other side of the Thames.  

Canary Wharf

How do you feel about driver-less trains ?

Would you believe I did all this and more in my first two full days in England !

Times to head to Exmouth.