October 10, 2010

Day Eleven

This was it... Oxford day!!! It was everything I imagined and so much more. After a really early start we decided to begin with a hop on / hop off sightseeing bus that gave an interesting overview with fascinating commentary. To quote a movie this town had me at hello.
I was in the town where literary criticism first began -- where the discipline I study found it's feet. It was beautiful, charming and bathed in history. What I study - something I find so much enjoyment in - all comes back to this amazing place.

Now I must confess I didn't manage to get exceptional photos but I did manage to snap a few. I think I was so swept up in the spirit of the place that I was slightly lax. Unfortunately my pictures simply do not do the place justice. It is magical!!!

It was awe inspiring to walk the streets shared by some of my literary heroes such as J.R.R Tolkin and C.S Lewis. The whole town had majestic sandstone buildings and imposing statues gazing at you from every angle.

I badly wanted to see inside the gigantic library (did you know that the catalog is so large it has to be stored in numerous large rooms underground and students can wait for up to 6 hours waiting for the book to be delivered via underground railway?) but unfortunately visitors may only see the library during a guided tour and none of the times fit my schedule. But just being that close to such a seat of knowledge was amazing... When I next come and visit I will be going on the guided tour for sure.

I knew that I would enjoy Oxford but I was surprised at how exceptionally taken in I became. I could have happily wandered the streets for days and days discovering the hidden gems of the town. It was simply fantastic to be in a town I have been reading about and dreaming about for so very long.

Even the vehicles are scholarly. You know you're visiting a college town when the taxi cabs are decorated with the periodic table.

I went a little crazy in one of the Oxford gift shops... My mum snapped this picture of me wearing the official Oxford hoodie. I must say I like this image - it's like I belong. It's a sign - I should go and study in Oxford. That would be fantastic!

For me this was the perfect end to this leg of my amazing journey.

Next we head to London to begin the bus trip...

October 9, 2010

Day Ten

This is the last relaxing day of my holiday and I took the opportunity to just relax!! Given that tomorrow I will by busily exploring Oxford (Yahoo!!) then off to London to meet up with the bus tour (where I will be constantly on the move) it was important to have a day off holidaying.

So after a extremely slow start to the day we set off to explore the little town of Lechlade. What a wonderful little town with little lanes and stone cottages aplenty!

We went to the local pub and ate the biggest meal I've had in a while.

The pub was located right on the banks on the famous river Thames. There we sat and watched the ducks for a while - enjoying the sunshine and the lovely little town.

We wandered through thee streets and found beautiful church that was even more beautiful inside with stunning stained glass windows and intricate stone work. It was completely peaceful.

The cottage we are staying in is so cute (sorry to use such a word but in this case it fits!). Mum calls it a Peter Rabbit sort of house and I have to agree.

It was probably the most relaxed day of the whole holiday. I am continually amazed the the deep sense of history which bathes seemingly the whole of England and Scotland. Maybe I am the most stuck by it because Australia is such a relatively young country.

Coming up next I get to explore Oxford!!

Day Nine

On day nine we needed to get from Thurstonfield to Lechlade (near Oxford) and that meant one thing: motorways. It was a long day's driving with no real availability to stop for photos. However we decided to stop about half way through the journey in Derbyshire to take in the magnificent views of Chatsworth House.

It has long been speculated that Jane Austen based Pride and Prejudice's Pemberley was based on Chatsworth House.

Looking at the stately home, gardens, and stables I really did think I was looking around Pemberley... In fact such is the resemblance that the house has been used as Pemberley in the Keira Knightly version.

This was one place I badly wanted to see. I was so very glad we were able to get to visit it because it was breath-taking. Well worth the visit and the drive to get to it. It is an amazing place. Chatsworth even has a maze on the property -- all extremely palatial. The below picture is the stables!!

Now I didn't happen to bump into a Mr Darcy who I would fall in love with and with whom I could live happily ever after... But I still love Chatsworth House. It did beg the question though - what determines if a place is called a house or a castle? Chatsworth is bigger than some of the castles we've seen.

Mum did a fantastic job at driving such a long way with me working as navigator. As I said before the motorways are a little scary with lorries everywhere making it a little hard to read the signs but we got to our destinations in the end.

Next we explore Lechlade...

October 8, 2010

Day Eight

Time to explore the lake district - because we only had a day we decided to do a highly comprehensive driving tour (which should have taken two days according to the guide book). It was such beautiful country with cascading waterfalls and wild running rivers.

The road was one lane way in parts with trucks coming towards us. Needless to say this was hair raising in parts and I got very equated with the rock walls... I was slightly terrified in places but it was heaps of fun!!

There were bridges made of stone dotting the countryside. With lovely little churches that are simply amazing!

Because I am so in love with the countryside I thought I'd share a few more photos...

I am having a blast taking photos and attempting to capture the beauty all around me. It's been an experience learning more and more about my camera and composition techniques. I am falling more and more in love with the art of photography. It has been bringing me such joy.

At the end of the journey I got to do something magical!!! I got to go and visit Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived. I got to see the chair where he composed 'I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud'!! That might not seem like much to you but as a lover and student of literature it was amazing. It was amazing!!

Next we travel to the cotswolds via Chatsworth House...

Day Seven

Day seven was the sort of day where it was fine and sunny one minute and bucketing down the next... Sounds like the perfect day for a driving adventure!!

So we drove along the line of Hadrian's Wall -- stopping for the occasional photo at Roman ruins and because I was feeling quiet comfortable in my appearance a few happy snaps of me. Unfortunately I couldn't get a better picture of the ruins - I was faced with the decision of trying to take a full encompassing shot trying to capture the largess of the ruins or taking detail shots which unfortunately just looked like a pile of rocks. As I am continuing in my adventures I have noticed my composition skills improving slightly (this is not a good example!!) so hopefully by the time I get to Paris I will be able to do it justice!

One thing that I have noticed is that you have to pay for everything - pay for parking, pay for entry into this part, pay for separate entry into that particular part. And while I understand the necessity of fees in stately homes where a lot of upkeep would be required -- but these are ruins!! There's sheep running all over the land and throughout the ruins -- why the need to pay so much to see something that is essentially falling down? Now before you go getting all uptight bear in mind I'm trying to work to a budget and that I love history, truly I do and I find it all very fascinating that the structures and the wall has been there for thousands of years. I'd just like it to be a little more affordable! Having said that it was amazing to see something that had been there so very, very long.

We drove back to our cottage and while mum was having a nap I explored the back garden (it had turned sunny again) and had great fun experimenting with my Joby tripod, hanging my camera upside down, setting the manual focus and the self timer, then running around to get myself in position. I must say I'm pretty pleased with the results!

This was a lovely relaxed day to balance all the huge amount of driving we had done previous. As a side note I am amazed at how well my camera is holding up considering how many photos I have taken in the pouring rain!!

Coming up next exploring the lower lake district...

October 6, 2010

Day Six

In the morning we explored the town of Stirling enjoying a bit of shopping. We caught a cab up to the Stirling castle - taking photos of the magnificent views it provided and marveling at this structure set into the rock that had been there for many, many years.

I was blown away by the iron work. I wonder how long if would have taken the workers to build such a structure.

We saw statues built to commemorate Robert the Bruce and saw the church where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned... Talk about making history come alive.

Leaving Stirling mum and I both agreed that it was the perfect end of our tour of Scotland. We found that one the whole people are so polite and agreeable - not showing any frustration when we accidentally change lanes and when we're catching public transport there is always someone willing to tell up which stop we should take and what we should see in any particular area.

It was time to say farewell to Scotland and make our way to the Lake District. Since we were driving along the motorway we couldn't stop for picture which was such a shame because the countryside is so breathtaking. But after a brief stop at Tesco we made our way to our stop for the night to the little village of Thurstonfield.

Next we explore Hadrian's Wall.

October 4, 2010

Day Five

On day five we set off through Inverness to drive along the road beside Loch Ness. We were in search of the monster.

Didn't see it unfortunately but that's okay... I took photos and I can always photoshop the monster in later!

We set our course west towards the castle called Eliean Donan - for no other reason that we wanted to take photos of the castle. I am very glad we made the journey.

Now we were on our way to Stirling through spectacular country side. With a photo opportunity seeming to occur every 2 minutes we had to pace ourselves.

There was water everywhere!! Leaking through mountain gradually cutting ravines. The tress, the grass, the rocks everything was laden with water. It is truly a spectacular countryside with beauty abounding everywhere you look. It is a world away from the climate and scenery of Australia. I wondered if the locals took it for granted because they see it everyday. I certainly hope they don't loose the sense of wonder at the spectacular countryside for that would be heartbreaking.

The road wove and wound around the bottom of the mountain - mum had great fun with the corners while I hung on for dear life.

After a long driving day we finally made it to our destination of Stirling.

Next up... Adventures in Stirling and driving to the lake district.

Day Four

Day four saw us bid a fond farewell to the lovely Edinburgh driving north to Inverness (well Culbokie actually... but more on that later)

One thing I am stuck by time and again is the absolute picturesque nature of everything! The scenery is completely breath-taking and as an avid photographer I feel like I'm begging mum to stop every 5 min so I can try and capture the majesty of any given area. Unfortunately my pictures barely do it justice.

On the road up I marveled at the low level cloud which seemed within arms reach at times.

I was captivated by the old stone buildings which have been there for hundreds of years. Everything is just so GREEN and there seems to be water everywhere - the complete opposite to Australia.

We stopped along the way and I went for a walk for a while in what I would describe as a national parks. I found it to be so relaxing to just meander along, taking photos where I may - simply enjoy the freshness - and there is no other word for it - of all around me.

There is something marvelous and majestic about Scotland. It's in the air, it's in the rain - there is a deep sense of history and of place unlike anywhere else I have ever been to. It has captured my imagination and soothed my world weary heart.

We made our way up past Inverness to the town of Culbokie to our rest stop for the night - a charming Bed and Breakfast called Still Waters.

I simply MUST return for it is a place of peace. Mum knows the owners for years gone by and it was lovely for me to meet them. They are simply fantastic people with warm, hospitable natures. They are lovely and welcoming and you can just tell that they want the best for you. It was the first place we've been to that I felt truly comfortable, free to sit in front of the fire and flick through a magazine or have a chat. Found in a secluded spot, surrounded by lush, green grass and trees it is a place of rest. I'm not just talking about physical rest - I'm talking rest for a weary soul.

So if you are ever in the area and are looking for a getaway from it all I can strongly recommend Still Waters.

Next we travel to Stirling via what felt like the most indirect route possible.

October 3, 2010

Day Three

This brings us to the second day in the wonderful city of Edinburgh. And to another day of wind, rain and cold.

But even the inclement weather couldn't color my view of the beautiful city. We explored the castle, shopped and Marks and Spencer and Topshop. We wandered around the 'old town' climbing down to the closes. And took pictures whenever the weather would permit.

I found such a deep sense of history and of peace there. I could have happily wandered the streets investigating the area hour after hour day after day. There is something magical about the city that took my breath away.

Edinburgh holds my heart and I simply cannot wait to come back!

Next stop Inverness...

October 2, 2010

Day Two

Waking up we saw SUNLIGHT!! Gorgeous sunlight! It was therefore of course necessary to pass by the stop overlooking Alwick castle once again. Boy am I ever glad we did. I confess I’m rather in love with this picture.

Driving to Edinburgh I felt like I was in the novels of Austen and Bronte with the lush rolling hills and the picturesque nature of everywhere!

We had heard that the next day would be another dismal one so we decided to get the Edinburgh to make the most of the fantastic weather. We parked on the outskirts and bussed our way into the city.

And I fell in love. I adore Edinburgh! So much history, so much culture, so much beauty, just so much!! We caught the hop on/hop off sightseeing bus and saw the house of Robert Louise Stevenson - enjoyed statue after statue, building after building. My affection for the place growing and growing with every moment I spent there. I climbed the Scott Monument and saw the city from up high.

Scots Monument

There is something about the place that is almost spiritual to me. It may be because some of my favourite authors come from there. Or it could be the interesting mix of history and modernity all contained within the same place. Whatever it is I could quite happily live there for a while.

Up next... the second day in Edinburgh

Day One

Waking on our first full day we were greeted by the most inclement weather. Rainy, cold, windy - exactly the sort of weather that lends itself to curling up with a book and staying indoors all day. But we had come to England to explore not stay indoors plus we figured we may only have this type of weather.

So we set off for Alwick. Alwick castle (a.k.a the Harry Potter castle) being our first port of call. Unfortunately because of the weather I didn't manage to get the greatest photos but it does show the grandeur of the castle.

The castle simply took my breath way. We did the tour of some of the inner rooms and the opulence of the furnishings was astounding.

Because of the weather I was constantly pulling my camera out from underneath my leather jacket, snapping a picture real quick then returning it safely to the protection of my jacket. Plus we quickly had to figure out the proper umbrella protocol.

We then walked - swiftly - to Barter Book (one of the largest second hand book stores in the UK). It was magnificent! There were first editions, rare books, the everyman's library, and miniature books. And the smell, oh my word, the smell!! It smell like history, literature and knowledge combined. I could have happily browsed for ages but it was time to move on.

One thing that struck me about Alwick was just the sense of pure history - from the cobbled roads, to the houses, to the castle. I notice that everything is tightly packed in - small houses, small streets, narrow stair cases.

It's like seeing a setting for one of my beloved BBC period films on every corner, down every road. For some strange reason I thought that I may see a few houses like that but for everywhere else to be 'normal' houses.

We decided to take a country drive in the afternoon because the weather was so bad. Winding our way up stopping at the Bamburgh castle.

Isn't it impressive? We didn't go inside instead just taking in the grand structure. Then slowly making our way back to the bed and breakfast for an early night.

We were in the northumberland district and I must confess I found the accent quite difficult to understand. I think I actually experience a slight bit of culture shock possibly because I was expecting everyone to be just like me.

There is such a sense of history, time, and place everywhere. I think I'm going to like this adventure.

Next... on to Edinburgh

And So It Begins...

My adventure has been going for a few days now but this is the first decent Internet connection I could find so bare with me as I spend a little time up dating.

It all started on Monday the 27th of September at 5pm (Brisbane Australia time) - all pack, house clean, all necessary jobs done and I was super ready to go. We headed off to the airport, got our bags checked and headed through security and passport control.

After a remarkably short time it was time to board the plane. Now in my hand luggage I had packed every possible thing to keep me entertained and comfortable - my computer, my camera, my iTouch, two books, toiletries, chargers, notebooks, pens, blankets and a pillow. All I ended up using was my pillow, my camera, and my Itouch - lugging all that around for nothing!

But anyway we took off at night and stayed in darkness - for 14 1/2 hours! Very disorientating. Both my mum and I slept off and on in snatches. I'm not sure if you've ever endured a long haul flight before in economy but it is nearly impossible to get comfortable (and I usually sleep fine on airplanes). Mostly we watched movies - Emirates supplies a huge list of movies that can be played on demand. I was now dreading coming home. But the next leg would be shorter - so that would be easier.

We landed at Dubai at 4:30am local time and it was already 30 degrees. You try being in the same clothes for 14 1/2 hours then going through security, trying to find your correct gate, all the while feeling hot, sweaty and stinky - not the greatest feeling. After a two hour lay-over it was time to stay the next leg... and we finally saw the sun!

Now I had thought that the second leg would be a piece of cake compared to the first. Boy was I wrong! It was tedious and it seemed like I was forever 2 hours from our destination. Pure exhaustion finally took over and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep... To be woken by a poor little kid who had obviously had enough of the journey. By this time my body clock was completely confused and my medication schedule was all over the map.

But we finally made it. We had landed at Newcastle, England at 12:15pm local time on Tuesday! Border control took a while but we got through, got the keys to our hire car and were on the way.

We made it safely to the first stop, a Bed and Breakfast in Longhoughton. Because it was still really early and in a effort to reset body clocks and minimize jet lag we tried to stay up for a while - going for a slight drive/explore and then to find some dinner.

By this time I was feeling decidedly queasy and couldn't keep dinner down. We made our way back and stumbled into bed with me fervently hoping that I wasn't going to be sick for my entire holiday. Would my vacation be ruined?...

Next stop the first full day in England starting in Alnwick...