Saturday, October 25, 2008

Autumn in Oxfordshire - 25 October 2008

Autumn colours have returned to the Chilterns so we spent a few hours exploring.

We had intended to devote the day to the Oxfordshire area but unfortunately our trip was brought to an abrupt halt much earlier than expected and we reluctantly had to leave the colours behind and return home.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In and around Regent's Park - 19 October 2008

A Cock and Bull Story - 18 October 2008

Horsefair Green, Stony StatfordAbout a day's journey north of London (in a coach and horses) is the small settlement of Stony Stratford, so named because of some stony ground that afforded a crossing over the River Great Ouse valley. The old Roman road, Watling Street, used this crossing but now the A5 which follows the line of Watling Street has been diverted around the town, returning the High St to the locals.

The George, Stony StratfordAlmost adjacent on the High St are two Inns; The Cock and The Bull, and it was at these inns that the travellers would stay at the end of their day's journey from London and regale one another with tales of their journeys, no doubt enhanced after a few jugs of the publicans' finest ale, These fanciful tales were given a name of their own; "a cock and bull story."
The BullThe Cock
After completing the town trail we walked along the bank of the River Great Ouse until it flowed under the iron viaduct on the Grand Union Canal. Leaving the River Great Ouse we took the tow path as far as Cosgrove Lock and then we followed the line of the old Birmingham Canal before branching off back to Stony Stratford.
Cows lapping up the OuseCosgrove Lock

Wolverton Dutch GablesEarlier in the day we followed another town trail, this one around Wolveton, or New Wolverton - to be precise. Wolverton was created as a railway town in the 1830s to service the trains on the London-Birmingham line.

Wolverton doors

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities - 12 October 2008

The morning dawned as dismal and foggy as Saturday so we sauntered down for a late breakfast before packing our bags. However, there was something slightly different about the sky, the promise that things might improve, so we set off to see a different part of the old city with views over another section of the river valley that almost encircles Luxembourg.
Looking east from the Chemin de la CornicheLooking east from the Chemin de la Corniche
By midday the sun was peeking through the fog and it was not too long after that we were enjoying full sun, a blue sky and Luxembourg looking spectacular in a cloak of autumn colours.
Looking south from the Chemin de la CornicheLooking south from the Chemin de la Corniche
We retraced many of the paths of yesterday but following a different walk, the Wenzel trail. There is no brochure available from the tourist office for this walk but, apart from the point where it crosses the bridge into Grund, it is well signposted and well worth following if you are in Luxembourg.
View from the Pont AdolpheView from the Pont Adolphe
After completing the Wenzel route we retraced our steps through the valley under the bridges and then climbed back up to the city level to admire the non-foggy views from above. "What a difference a day makes."
View from the Grund BridgeView from the Grund Bridge
As the mist began to form once more we made our way back to the Hotel Francois to collect our bags and head off to the station to begin our train trip home.

Fog bound - 11 October 2008

Art above the bridge to GrundLuxembourg was shrouded in fog when we awoke. The locals posited that it would lift by noon but they were wrong, as it was still foggy as we retired to our hotel for the night.

Nevertheless we enjoyed wandering around what is a very attractive city.

We decided that a foggy day was an excellent time to visit the Casemates du Bock, the remnants of a 23km long network of underground rooms and passages that were developed over the centuries as shelters for thousands of soldiers and their horses, workshops, kitchens, bakeries and so forth. Art in the parkWhen the city was de-fortified after the 1867 declaration of neutrality many of these tunnels were demolished but there is still a sizeable section of this rabbit warren to explore. There is not a lot to see but it has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status and was a great place to be on an indifferent day.

However, it was not all 'indoors' and underground as the passages frequently opened up to wonderful vistas (if ever so slightly foggy) over the city and the valleys around it.

Although the fog persisted we followed the town trail through the city and along the valleys.

Luxembourg by train - 10 October 2008

Bridge to GrundWell before the Channel Tunnel fire occurred, we had booked a Eurostar trip to Luxembourg so we were quite apprehensive when the tunnel was closed. Fortunately, they cleared the tunnel for a restricted train service in time and the only noticeable problem was a much longer queue to check in as they were having to accommodate passengers from withdrawn services.

Hotel Francois and the Place d'ArmesThe plan was to follow the guidance of The Man in Seat 61 in making our way to Luxembourg. A Eurostar ticket to Brussels will get you to any station in Belgium for no extra charge so the scheme is to train to Arlon (a further 2½ hours) for free and then pay for the last 17 minutes to Luxembourg.

His web site suggested this would cost 9.60 Euro one-way or 38.4 for the two of us return. If you are organized you can buy online, or you can buy over the counter in Regent St or, if you have time between trains, at Brussels station.

Autumn GloryChristine went to Regent St and they quoted £46.00, a rather large mark up, so we decided to take our chances at Brussels. Imagine our horror when the very pleasant young lady behind the desk typed our request into her system and asked for 82 Euro.

We protested that this could not possibly be correct, she simply shrugged and rotated her screen so that we could see for ourselves.

Ducal PalaceFinally I asked what the fare was from Brussels to Luxembourg? A bit more typing and she said, "That can't be right" and decided that we needed to pay 38.40 Euro. We left happy, she remained - confused.

We had 10 minutes to locate the platform for our free ride across Belgium.

It was dark when we crossed the border from Luxembourg into Luxembourg heading for Luxembourg. (Belgian province, the country and the city)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Abingdon to Woodley - 28 September 2008

Dorchester-on-ThamesWe left London in beautiful sunshine heading for Abingdon, quite a bit further up the Thames than yesterday, but as we dropped over the Chilterns into the Oxford valley we were enveloped in fog.

Passing along the Dorchester bypass we were forced into a layby with no oil pressure in the engine so while Murray investigated the problem and waited for the AA, Christine walked into Dorchester-on-Thames to explore it in the fog.

The church appears from the fogThe church bells were peeling eerily in the invisible distance adding to the ambience of the otherwise still, foggy scene.

The AA chap managed to rig a temporary repair and we made it to Abingdon just as the first of the other MG cars were leaving the town square. After collecting our route instructions we had quick stop to refuel and then set off after the other 25 or so MGs that had left before us.

The MGs assemble in the town squareThe route took us through the back-roads to Woodley, near Reading, and the destination for the run, The Museum of Berkshire Aviation.

It was apparent that the repair to the oil line was leaking so after a tour of the museum and a picnic lunch it was off to find a Halfords and a supply of 20-50W oil, The MG parked 'under the nose' of a Handley Page Herald 100something you cannot get at a service station these days.

After a top-up and with the security of a can of oil in the boot, we set off for home dripping oil as we went but making it safely home regardless.

Exploring inside the M25 - 27 September 2008

A stainless steel origami swanOne tends to think of the M25 dividing London from the rest of the UK and that it is built-up city inside and country outside, but there are many lovely villages, spaces and places to discover inside the M25.

We began the day at Staines, once the home of the linoleum industry as it was invented there. It is a pleasant town on the banks of the Thames with a traditional Saturday market in the pedestrianised High St.

An old barn roof at LalehamA short drive downstream is the cute village of Laleham with many fine old buildings. After a walk around Laleham we continued on downstream to Sunbury-on-Thames to have a look at the Walled Garden and the Millennium Tapestry exhibited there.

A stone cherub strums silently in the sunshineThe walled garden is all that remains of a grand estate and is a very pleasant space with a highly recommended tea-room, if you don’t object to huge slices of mouth-watering cakes.

Detail from the tapestryThe Millennium Tapestry was a 6-year labour of love by the local ladies who created a montage from their individual efforts depicting buildings, scenes and historical events from the local area.

The Millennium TapestryRetracing our path a little, we crossed the Thames at Walton-on-Thames to catch a 45-minute boat trip around what is a man-made island created when the Desborough diversion channel was created in the 1930s to improve navigation and shorten the trip between Weybridge and Walton.

The tranquil ThamesIt was a beautiful day to be out on the Thames and there were many boaties from plastic canoes, skiffs, narrowboats, to the big flash launches out enjoying the day as well.

Back on terra firma we headed west to Claremont Landscape Garden, which we had first visited in 2001.

Coronets at ClaremontA few kilometres southwest of Claremont is Whiteley Village, an extended care community for the elderly. Years ahead of its time at inception, it was a 1907 bequest of a wealthy London department store owner, it now consist of more than 300 listed buildings.

Finally, it was time to tangle with the M25 for the crawl home.