A Travellerspoint blog

Day 18 - Home Again

Birmingham, Frankfurt, Calgary, Edmonton

overcast 8 °C

A very early morning (5 am Birmingham time), and a very long day!

Walked in my door at 7 pm… and according to my calculations that’s about a 21 hour travel day! We were a bit late leaving Calgary this afternoon, but got here eventually.

Overall… a very good trip. Had some very good walking days, some with rain, others with sun and wind. Met many, many very nice and helpful and thoughtful people along the way. There were many good conversations had. Learned a lot about this western area of England, and saw many of the historical things I wanted to see… although on some rainy days, with my head down - or in a car, unfortunately I passed right by others. I always look forward to going back to the UK at some point in the future, and walking some more. Maybe at a different time of year!

In any case… I’m glad to be home.

Posted by Laura Walking 13:39 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 17 - In Birmingham

Cadbury World - or not!

overcast 10 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

I think not! To be honest, at this point I am tired and looking forward to getting home, and sleeping in my own bed!
There is not much to do here in this sort of “airport community”. This seems like a small town away from the bustle of Birmingham proper. Which would mean getting back on the train from here - although I do know where the station is! - and travelling somewhere to see something.

I mentioned Cadbury World, because it is touted as a place like Disneyland, but chocolate themed! Ordinarily, as much as I like chocolate, I would be there in a flash, looking around! The tour tells the history of chocolate, and of the Cadbury business. In 1879, Richard and George Cadbury decided to move their expanding business from Birmingham’s City Centre into the countryside, four and a half miles away… into this historic Bournville village - site of the original ‘Factory in a Garden’. It is built on what used to be the site of the factory, with many of the original buildings still there, although some not accessible to the public. It details the history of chocolate, but is not the (current) factory itself. Completely family oriented, there are lots of hands-on activities for kids. There is a self-guided exhibition tour, created by the Cadbury Company. The walk, in part of the old grounds, has a questionnaire or quiz that has problems or riddles for kids to solve during their walk. There is entertainment on the grounds as well. Short pantomime plays are to be part of the Christmas program, and Santa will make an appearance too.

Looking into this place online, as much fun as it sounds, it would take over an hour to get there. I think I’ll just stay put today. I need to re-pack my things (find my passport, which I safely tucked away in my big pack)… and just relax a bit. Do a little reading instead of going out and about yet again!

Not much to say today! It was overcast and rainy early in the day, but cleared slightly later on. Had a lovely vegetarian lasagne for dinner tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be up around 5 am or shortly thereafter to get organized and walk over to the airport departures area. That’s about 6 hours from now!
Good night and see you soon.

Posted by Laura Walking 22:45 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 16 - Isle of Wight to Southampton to Birmingham

Back on the Mainland.

sunny 10 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

Slept a bit restlessly last night. Not because of the music and karaoke(!) but I think because I had a lot on my mind… with the travel that was happening tomorrow - now today!

When I got up, quite early… the sun was shining! Of course it was… it’s the day I’m leaving! Although noticeably cooler outside as well. I had packed most of the things I could pack last night. I got dressed and ready and was down in the dining room having breakfast around 8 am. Check out time was 10 am. The ferry I needed to catch was at 10:55… however an earlier one at 9:35 would actually be ideal. Amazingly, after breakfast I got the rest of my things packed up and was ready to leave shortly after 9 am! I had my big backpack - it seemed quite heavy this time - on my back, and my little pack on my front. I tried to ignore the funny looks I got… and just smiled back! I was able to catch that earlier ferry after all! Which would make things at the other end less hectic.

The ferry ride was a smooth one with the sunshine blazing into the cabin of the catamaran. It’s about a 30 minute trip. At the terminal in Southampton, it was such a lovely day that I decided to walk with both my big and little backpacks to the train station. I did this on the way over to IOW, however was not sure I would or could do it coming back if the weather was awful. But it was nice so I walked. Probably about two or two and a half miles. Because I had lots of time, I could take my time walking. If I’d taken the later ferry I would probably have taken a taxi to the station.

Looking online last night, I really wanted to catch the 12:15 train from Southampton to Birmingham via a dozen other places. It seemed to be the most direct and quickest, even with all the stops. I got my ticket for that train, no problem. It was supposed to take two hours and 34 minutes. There is going to be a train strike starting tomorrow… and so they had purposely overbooked this train. On a cross-country train like this one, I have never seen people standing in the aisles, but today there were many. I had a reserved seat for some reason. I didn’t ask for it, but was very glad for it! And I also found out that there was a stop before the city of Birmingham, called Birmingham International, right at the airport! So that was a real bonus too! I am staying two nights in a small hotel here. My flight leaves very early Sunday morning. It was easy to walk through the airport terminal from the train station, and then outside to this hotel. I hope I find my way just as easily on Sunday morning.

The train arrived here only slightly behind schedule, and I checked in around 3 pm or shortly thereafter. For a day of travel it went very smoothly - even with my humongous heavy pack! Had dinner downstairs in the very casual dining room. Going to turn in early.

Posted by Laura Walking 22:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 15 - Last day in Cowes

Listening to the steady rain on the window.

rain 10 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

I spent part of the morning organizing and packing up a bit. My “almost dry” laundry from yesterday was strewn about the room hanging from every possible hook and nail I could see! It still feels damp, but I think it’s mainly just cold… from the dampness in the air. Anyway, it’s all packed away now. It was raining out this morning… and continued until about 1 pm or so. Then it was blue sky and sunshine until about 5 or 5:30… when it clouded over and poured for an hour or two. Now around 9 pm it is a steady rain, and definitely not as much wind as yesterday.

This morning after getting things more or less organized, I wanted to see the Floating Bridge, or chain bridge. This is a small barge-type vessel that goes directly across the Solent, from Cowes to East Cowes, so that the cars don’t have to drive all the way down to Newport (like the bus does), to cross the water. It carries both cars and passengers. The place where you can catch this floating bridge is a few blocks down the street from the Inn where I’m staying. Even though it was raining when I started out, I wanted to do something on my last day here, even if the places I mentioned yesterday were all closed. So I ventured down to the dock area. When I got there, the barge was on the other side, although I could see movement, so I thought cars must be loading onto it. It is an open-air platform type of boat. A fraction of the size of the Red Funnel car ferry that can carry 70 cars and many 18-wheeler-type trucks as well! Anyway, in a few minutes it started coming over to this side. There are big thick chains in and under the water, that it goes back and forth on. It took maybe 10 minutes to reach this side. Not a very wide expanse of water at that point. And then the cars and a few people unloaded on this side. While I was waiting for it to cross, a couple appeared, who I recognized from breakfast at the Inn. We got talking and I asked them what was on the other side that they were going to see. They said Osborne House. I was a bit surprised, and I said I thought it was closed - according to my information. I wondered, did they know something I didn’t know?! They boarded the boat, and we said we’d compare notes later.

I’m an English Heritage member, which allows me entrance to many Castles and Abbeys and museums of various sorts for a reduced admission price, or often free. Osborne House is an English Heritage property and so even before I came to England, in my membership emails which are sent out frequently, I was aware of its closure during this time. Her confidence in the fact that it was indeed open, made me wonder. So a little while later, armed with my bus pass, I boarded the bus once again to Newport to take “the long way around” to get to Osborne House. I was aware of the approximate time of the clearing skies, because I was on a bus! From Newport, back up on the other side of the water, was a new area that I had not seen. Now in sunshine, everything looked so lush and green because it is constantly getting watered! I saw huge fields of cauliflower, both today, and yesterday on the way out to Alum Bay. Cauliflower! Who knew! The woman sitting behind me on the bus yesterday, telling me some history about various things, said that most of this cauliflower goes to the mainland, and is exported elsewhere.

Eventually I saw the stop for Osborne House come up, and got off the bus. I saw the entrance to the grounds and went through the gate. There was a barricade for cars that said “Closed”. But I walked through the pedestrian gate. No sooner had I done that than an alarm went off and a voice spoke! It said something very quickly that I couldn’t quite catch, but basically got the gist of… and I said/ asked aloud if I couldn’t just walk around the grounds. The voice, which I realized at that point was a recording, said the same thing again. I turned around and walked out the gate, and back to the bus stop. So that was that! I was getting chilly by this time, from being out in the rain earlier and now this side of the road was in a cool shady spot. The bus came in a few minutes and continued on up to East Cowes where I then caught the Floating Bridge back to Cowes. This was exactly where I had come to look at this contraption earlier! Fortunately, having done that, I knew my way back to the Inn and had a hot cup of tea when I got to my room. Not a very exciting adventure for my last full day here!

I meant to mention earlier, that when I was in that great bookstore (Waterstones) in Bath, I did in fact buy a book! It’s a small hardcover book called “Nightwalking: Four Journeys into Britain After Dark.” You can imagine my attraction to the title! It’s by John Lewis-Stempel, a writer and farmer. And he is also touted as being: ‘Britain’s finest living nature writer’ by The Times. In any case, it is about walking after dark, through his fields or woods, and all the marvellous sights and sounds and smells one discovers at this surreal and magical time of day - nighttime. I have always felt that way too - that there is something special about the night. (Perhaps that’s why I’m a night person… ) It’s a quiet, magical time when things come alive or move around that would otherwise be still during other times of the day. Anyway, I’ve just started reading it, and am really enjoying it.

Through the sound of the rain gently falling outside - there seems to be a loud base beat, and music, and singing. Very amateur singing, I might add. I think it’s karaoke! It’s only Thursday… but I guess that’s the entertainment going on in town tonight. I don’t think it’s in the pub downstairs, that would be much louder… and the whole building would be vibrating! I think this is down the street! It’s fine. I’m so tired I’ll sleep right through it!

Tomorrow I will be leaving the Isle of Wight, and catching the Red Jet passenger ferry back to Southampton. Then have to figure out a train back to Birmingham. When I came down to Southampton on Monday, it was only from Bath, which is much closer! I will spend the next two nights in a small hotel near the Birmingham Airport, and then fly back to Canada on Sunday.

Posted by Laura Walking 23:05 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 14 - In Cowes, West to The Needles

More bus adventures around the island!

semi-overcast 12 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

I listened to the wind and rain last night for probably less than five minutes and then, I assume, was lulled to sleep by it. Today appeared to be sunny when I woke up, but there were ominous-looking clouds lurking around… just to make sure we didn’t forget them!

First thing after breakfast this morning, I gathered the things I wanted to wash and found the laundromat. When I got there, just a few blocks from the Inn, the door was open, so I went in. I saw that the machines took coins and how much they were, and soap and so on… so I traipsed back to a “Poundstore” (a dollar store!) and bought a couple of things so I could get some change. The clerk was very kind to have given me so many pound coins. Back I went to the laundromat and this time the door was propped open and the proprietress was there. She was a lovely woman (I don’t remember her name), and helped me with the washing machines and then the dryers, all digital! We chatted along the way… she’s been to Canada a couple of times, many years ago: Toronto and Niagara Falls; and on a different trip, to Vancouver Island. Inland a bit, to Jasper, and said they flew home from Calgary that time. She was very nice and very helpful, and then had to leave at a certain point. It’s really nice to have a few clean things to wear now!

I went back to the Inn to deposit my “almost dry” clothes… and have a bite to eat. Then at 12:30, still a bit overcast, but not raining, I decided to go to the west part of the Isle of Wight to see The Needles. If you Google that… it should show you a picture of a beautiful lighthouse way out on several small rocky outcrops of island. In the summertime a boat trip out to see it close-up would be the thing to do, but those boat trips have shut down for the season at this point. As I got on the bus this time, to Newport… everything goes through there… I bought a Rover pass for two days. Each trip to Newport, and back to Cowes and wherever else I want to go costs at least 4 pounds minimum - so now I have an unlimited pass for 48 hours. It expires on Friday, when I will be leaving the IOW anyway. So I have tomorrow to roam as well!

Oh, I must correct myself again… the bus ride from Cowes to Newport is only 30 minutes or so. Yesterday I said it was over an hour! I think it just seemed that way! As I am getting more familiar with the route and the visual landmarks, it is going by more quickly!

We got to Newport in good time, and the bus I was looking for was not at the station, but an alternate bus, going to the same destination, was. And this bus #12, turned out to be taking a more scenic route, along the south coast west to Alum Bay, and The Needles. It seemed to take ages to get there. The wind was picking up tremendously, and the skies were more fierce-looking than ever! Along those teeny tiny, narrow little roads the bus wove it’s way west… it’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents. The Needles area seems like a huge tourist place, and in fact on the pamphlet says, “Landmark Attraction”. There’s a Carousel, a Mini-Golf Course with 11 holes - with a Jurassic Dinosaur theme; what looked like a Bumper Car ride, and a spectacular Chair Lift ride right down over this very high cliff to a dock way down on the beach… and back up again. Of course, this being the end of the season, all of these things were closed and deserted. I walked alone down the midway lined with ice cream shops and ticket booths and craft shops all boarded up along both sides. At the end of this walkway, there was a grassy area and a fence… to prevent one from falling over a cliff down to the raging ocean (English Channel) below… but through which I could see The Needles lighthouse. It was far away, and very windy, and through a fence, but I did get to see it with my own eyes! And took shaky blurry pictures too!

Back at the other end of the midway, the large cafe and restaurant was open, and a large hiking group (perhaps 20 people) who had walked up a very steep and windy hill to the Needles Old Battery, and then back down, entered chatting about it. They looked cold and worn out! The Needles Old Battery, I believe, is/was a Victorian Fort, and because of its location high on a cliff, overlooking the English Channel, was a strategic defence location, much before, and then during WWI and WWII. I didn’t climb that hill! Once back in the cafe after walking back from picture-taking, I had a cup of coffee to warm up, and waited for the bus to take me back to Newport. There was a gift shop open as well, and I browsed in there too. I knew ahead of time that most of the attraction would be closed, but I just wanted to see what, if anything, there might be to see - and so I did!

As I sit here in my room at the Inn, much later (10:30 pm), the wind has been howling for several hours… and the rain is once again pelting against my window. In fact it’s so loud I think the window may be open! I will check in a minute!

I had grand plans for my last full day here, tomorrow. One was to go to Carisbrooke Castle, which I saw a glimpse of from the bus this afternoon on the way to Alum Bay. The woman sitting behind me, was giving me a bit of a running commentary with a history lesson thrown in… which I really appreciated! She said that the Castle is not to be missed. When I got back here and Googled the hours and so on, apparently now, in the “Winter season”, it is only open on the weekends, so I’ve missed out on that. And so then I thought I would go and check out Osborne House - one of the homes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, where they brought their nine children to summer here on IOW. When I looked for information about it, it said that they are closed until November 9th for their annual break after the busy summer season! And that they would be opening for limited days after that! Just my luck! There is still a Steam Railway Exhibit and train to ride somewhere… that is my last hope for something interesting to see and do that was on my “list”. I will look into that tonight. So just a moment ago I looked up the IOW Steam Railway and would you believe it, their last day of operation until the Christmas Holiday season was today! So I seem to have missed out on that as well! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find something to do!

However… with tomorrow’s 100% chance of rain - which may have already started - I have seen quite a bit, and may just walk to the floating bridge which connects pedestrians in Cowes to East Cowes, on the other side of the canal/ or waterway. East Cowes is where the Car ferry docks. I will get the proper names of these things/ places tomorrow!

Also, just for curiosity’s sake, I wanted to check and see just how much of the Cotswold Way path I did in fact walk. These statistics magically appear (via Bluetooth), on my phone every night, so I can see what I’ve done. Of the 163 km (102 mile) walk, I walked 100 km. Certainly not all of it, and not every day, but I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with that. Fortunately my right knee, which was painful this summer (before I left Canada), seems to be almost fine now. I’m still wearing the brace, but I am not really bothered by it anymore. And the left knee, that I injured when I fell down on the street in Painswick, is also healing nicely. The lovely multi-coloured bruise is fading, as is the bruise on my chest where I landed on my camera! So all is well health-wise, which I’m very thankful about.

Posted by Laura Walking 09:48 Archived in England Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 22) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 » Next