Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leaving Lubeck - 21 June 2009

Travemunde LighthouseAfter a wonderful breakfast in our hotel at the foot of the Marienkirche steeples we set off to complete the walk that was interrupted by yesterday's rain. Lubeck RathausThis neatly finished at the waterfront where the various boat trips leave and we settled ourselves on the boat for Travemunde.

We had not gone far when the rain caught up with us and thus, for most of the 90-minute trip, Rathaus detailwe were confined to the cabin rather than enjoying the views from the open deck.

Fortunately the rain had finished by the time we disembarked at Travemunde allowing us free rein to explore the town and the Strand along the beach frontBrickwork detail. The oldest lighthouse in Germany is a feature of the skyline but is, unfortunately, completely overshadowed by an extremely ugly hotel/apartment tower block.

Typical of the beaches here are wicker chairs that one can hire for a day, a week or a season. These allow you to enjoy the beach while providing shelter from the cool Baltic breezes.
A lovely day for boatingWicker chairs
Our boat ticket included the bus fare for our return trip to Lubeck where we had enough time for a short recap around the square before heading back to the airport and home.

Loving Lubeck - 20 June 2009

Lubeck RathausThe best way to maximise a weekend in Europe is to get up before the sparrows and catch a flight at 0625 which, even with the lost hour, had us on the ground in Lubeck well before 0900,

Holsten Gate LubeckWe dropped our bag at the Hotel and set off to explore the old centre before the promised rain arrived. Unfortunately, the rain arrived a little sooner than forecast so we were forced to shelter in a cafe that served the best apple strudel in Germany and the best Florentines we have ever tried.

LubeckWhen there was a short pause in the rain we made a dash for the station and caught a train to Hamburg as this was our alternate wet-weather destination. The rain was just beginning in Hamburg as we arrived at the Miniatur Wunderland in the redeveloped warehouse and dock area. The Miniatur Wunderland is the world's largest model train set and is absolutely amazing.

Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg
Currently there is more than 12km of track over two floors and when completed they aim to have in excess of 20km of track. To get the “world's largest” accolade they have to be able to drive a train from one end to the other so that means the trains have to climb 6m between floors.

More than 500,000 man-hours have been spent on the model and the modellers clearly have a keen sense of humour as there are so many sight jokes to enjoy. It's behind you!One could easily spend a week there and still not see all the detail there is to see. As well as trains, trams, funiculars etc there are chair-lifts, gondolas, aerial rope-ways and model ships sailing in real water with a tidal rise and fall. A working airport is the project currently under construction. There is an outdoor concert with 20000 miniature attendees and a football stadium with another 12500 cheering spectators many of whom are taking flash photos of the action on the pitch,

Lubeck Markt
But the feature which really sets this model apart, and is apparently unique, is the traffic management. Cars, trucks and buses move around, brake for traffic lights, indicate for turns and circulate around the model on roads that do not have groves or tracks for them to follow, it is all very impressive,

Our Lubeck experienceYou think you have seen it all and then you arrive at the main fire station in Knuffingen: the alarm is raised and a fleet of model fire engines and emergency vehicles rush out of the station and off to an emergency call-out. Having caught wind of this from across the model you position yourself near the “burning building” so that you can have a good look at the “action” next time.Marienkirche spires Sure enough, after a night time sequence, the alarm is raised again and the emergency vehicles race out once more; not to the building that you are positioned by waiting for the flames and smoke to appear, but to a truck fire on the motorway on the far side of the model from where you are patiently waiting.
Click here for more pictures of the model

We had time for a quick look around the dock and warehouse area and the redevelopment that is underway and then walked back to the city centre before catching the U-bahn and train back to Lubeck.
Burgtor Gate, LubeckDecoration in the Seamen's Guild
Dinner that night was in the old Sea Captains' Guildhall; possibly the oldest such building in Germany, but certainly in Lubeck. Hearty local German fare was efficiently dispensed to dinners sitting on benches at refractory tables that you shared with other patrons. It is probably quite 'friendly' if you can communicate with your randomly assigned neighbours.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ahoy, me hearties - 14 June 2009

HMS GannetThe Epping Area MG Club had arranged an outing to the Historic Chatham Dockyards, so we tagged along. We set off bright and early and took a scenic route from near Guildford along the southern edge of London outside the M25.
HMS CavalierHMS Gannet
We spent a little more time than we expected exploring interesting finds like the Silent Pool. The surroundings were anything but silent as there is a boarding kennel next door and the dogs were attempting to change species by barking themselves hoarse.
Royal Coat of ArmsAnchor and chain
Having run out of time we had to abandon the scenic route and resort to the motorways to get ourselves to Chatham for the start of the day.

HMS OcelotThe dockyards will keep you happily occupied for hours as there is so much to see and do: ships and submarines to visit; museums and historical displays; a Royal Lifeboat museum; a tour of the rope making facility with its ¼ mile long rope-walk room and so on. There are apparently more listed buildings on this site than in any other comparable site in the UK. Many were built in the mid 1700s and some, such as the rope walk are still used for their original purposes to this day.

A rose, by any other name - 13 June 2009

Early June is the best time for roses, and the sun was promised to the west of London, so we set out to visit Waterperry Gardens.
Waterperry GardensWaterperry Gardens
These gardens, attached to a garden centre, have extensive borders, which will look stunning in a few weeks time. They still looked colourful today, and we were able to enjoy the wild and free growing roses. The most attractive section was the formal garden.
Blenheim Palace mazeBlenheim Palace roses
Blenheim Palace is not far from here, and their rose gardens were stunning. Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and last year their gardens won the Christies' Garden of the Year award: both awards are well deserved. There is a variety of gardens – water gardens, formal gardens, rose gardens and a very charming secret garden; all looked stunning today.

Blenheim Palace Water TerraceIn addition to the state rooms, the house now has a synopsis of the life of the house, from the time the foundation stone was laid to now. It was extremely well done, with various techniques, such as animated models who 'spoke' into mirrors. It was promoted as the 'untold story', which introduced us to some of the past faces at Blenheim.

Blenheim Palace Italian GardenEqually interesting was the parallel stories of the military career of the first Duke – John Churchill, and the more modern day leader, Winstone Churchill.

Blenheim Palace restored portico eyesIt's easy to spend a whole day at Blenheim Palace but we reserved enough time for a picnic at Minster Lovell ruins, before heading home.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wet and wild - 7 June 2009

The camel was not the slightest bit interested in the array of MGs behind himIn contrast to last weekend's perfect weather, the forecast for today was extremely volatile, with thunder storms waking us up, and nowhere totally free of showers today. But by mid-morning it had cleared up to bright sunshine, so we decided to join the Oxfordshire MG owners for their outing at the Cotswolds Wildlife Park.

We enjoyed several hours of warm sunshine and photographed their wide range of animals, which included most of the favourites for zoos, A White Rhinoand a few new animals we hadn't seen before, like a very 'energetic' sloth. There was also quite a good selection from NZ to remind us of home. The zoo is in the grounds of a stately home, and they had an entirely new use for a walled garden. Unlike yesterday's colourful display of flowers, they had a great display of animals including some very colourful birds. One double door enclosure contained many ring tailed lemurs. They posed very happily while photographers, fascinated by their antics, clicked away.
A CranePlayful Lemurs
The MGs set off on a 30-mile run through some of the best Cotswolds' towns, Scheepmakers Crowned Pigeonjust as an dark and ominous weather front moved in. So there was no chance for photos from the open top, as most drivers surrendered to the elements and put their tops up as the rain got progressively heavier and, in spite of the forecast suggesting that the rain would have moved through by 3 pm, it was on and off showers and heavy rain all the way home.

Grace and Lace - 6 June 2009

Typically one thinks that going west from London to the Cotswolds is the place to find cute stone villages however, north of London there are also some equally attractive villages.
OlneyRefurbished bells wating to be re-hung at Olney
We spent the afternoon in three lovely villages to the north, starting with Olney. This is a sizable market town with many lovely cafes and clothing shops. It was once a lace making town, and we saw one lovely old stone building which was involved in the trade.
OlneyTurvey House gardens
The church has a very elegant stone steeple and tucked away in a back corner is John Newton's pulpit. Newton was the Curate-in-charge at the Parish Church and it was here that he penned his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

HarroldA short drive away is Turvey. This town is smaller, but equally lovely. The approach in is over a beautiful old stone bridge, and overlooking the bridge is Turvey House. This was open to the public, and we enjoyed their large colourful walled garden. The house tour was equally enjoyable, still lived in, it really appealed as a house to live in. Lots of interesting details were given, like one owner decided to make the back door into the front entrance. The mausoleum at TurveyThis left the kitchens and butler's pantry by the front carriageway, so needed to be hidden behind a wall. However that still left a problem with servants accessing tbe utility areas from across the drive so the owner built a tunnel from the outbuildings, under the new carriageway, for the servants to reach their part of the house without the guests observing them going back and forth.

HarroldIn the library we were able to examine an original Captain Cook tour globe, and find New Zealand looking pretty much as we know the geography today. The globe plotted his voyages of discovery around the world.

HarroldFrom Turvey we drove further north to Harrold, where we had a town trail to follow. At first glance, this town does not appear as picturesque as the other two, but on the walk we discovered many interesting features. In centuries past, this was the site of about five tanneries and leather works.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Thames Path - 31 May 2009

The Thames Path provides miles of pleasant walking, level and easygoing for a hot summer day. We decided to combine a boat trip along the Thames with a return walk along the Thames Path.
AbingdonChrist College, Oxford
Various ferry companies ply their routes along stretches of the Thames from Oxford to London. We choose an eight mile stretch starting in Abingdon and finishing in Oxford. Abingdon is well worth exploring in it's own right, but unfortunately road works held us up, so we only made it to Abingdon in time for Salters' 11.15am sailing.
Sanford LockIffley Lock
The trip was delightful on such a beautiful day; there were plenty of people out having picnics, punting, rowing eights and even swimming. Oxford was relaxed in the sunlight and after a picnic lunch on the lawn at Christ College, we set out on the return walk.
Travelling in styleRose Island
The Thames Path starts and finishes on this stretch with a pub, and there are two more on the route, so there was no shortage of refreshments. We had an early dinner at the excellent pub at Sanford Lock.
Artistry presentArtistry past
A highlight of the walk was Iffley, where we visited the 12th century church. As we neared our destination in Abingdon we collected Elder flowerheads to make this summer's batch of Elderflower cordial, another British treat we have come to enjoy.