28
Aug

London Farewells

By: muttler
the monument at monument

the monument at monument

The last few days have been ones of travelling, breathers, and farewells. So I’ll wrap them all up in one post.

On Tuesday we made our way to Istanbul airport for our flight back to London. I read that Turkey is now the 6th most visited country with regards to tourism, and we certainly saw evidence of that around the country. It seems though they haven’t quite got their busy airport running smoothly quite yet. It wasn’t chaotic by any stretch, but it seemed that at every check point (baggage scan entering the airport, checking in, and going through security) lines moved painfully slow (even when there were very few people in line) and ended in free for alls. Luckily we gave ourselves plenty of time to get through and in the end we only had time for a little rest before boarding our flight.

We were delayed by almost an hour, it seemed due to some Turkish Airlines seating issues, but in the end off we went, and an uneventful flight got us to Gatwick. A train ride in to the city and we were checked in to our hotel in London, this time in the Monument area (just east of St Pauls). The monument in question is the monument to the great fire of London, and it greeted us each time we jumped on the tube (as you can see at the top).

We only had time to quickly drop things off before catching up with Kate’s aunt and uncle for a last visit. It was great to see them, and all going to plan will see them at the end of the year on the big day, so it was not as much sad to say farewell, but exciting to think we would see them again in a few months.

big cannons at the war rooms

big cannons at the war rooms

Wednesday was Kate’s only full day in London before she was to fly home. She had a plan, and that was to visit the newly reopened Imperial War Rooms. They had recently refurbished to open their new World War One display, so off we went. It was packed, and we had to get timed tickets to the WW1 exhibit. But that was OK, as the entire museum takes hours to properly check out.

While I didn’t think the WW2 exhibits were that great, the WW1 exhibit was incredible. After an hour and half we were getting fatigued, but both felt we could have spent more time in there. Well worth a visit.

The rest of the evening was spent deciding whether to catch a show. We tried to get cheap tickets for Book of Mormon through their nightly ballot, but alas we missed out. So we opted just for a lazy dinner and night in. An early morning greeted us, so it was all for the best.

So this morning (Wednesday) Kate and I wandered out to Heathrow to say our farewells for the moment. Kate was on her way back to Melbourne, and I would be heading to Helsinki tomorrow. We were bummed out, but it had been an amazing last 6-7 weeks in the UK and Turkey, so we couldn’t feel too down.

obey

obey

Kate went through the security doors and I was left to myself for the rest of the day. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I decided to visit a couple of record stores to see what had been happening. I hadn’t visited Rough Trade for ages, so it was nice to go there again. I noticed a Shep Fairey mural nearby which was cool, and a very large Invader (although I’m not sure if it is a real Invader or not).

dali at the tate

dali at the tate

 

a gorgeous frampton at the tate

a gorgeous frampton at the tate

I also decided to wander the Tate Modern, since last time I was there I didn’t check out the permanent collection. It was mostly as I remembered it, so got to see some cool things, as well as some things that I will never understand.

That took me to dinner time, where I had a quick bite and retreated to the hotel. Time to pack and prepare for my Finland adventure.

05
Aug

Am I Back In Iceland?

By: muttler
puffins!

puffins!

Today was our second day on the Northumbrian coast, and we had a bit of a plan in mind. One that was just a little exciting… PUFFINS!

Those of you that have been avid readers of this blog will know that whilst in Iceland a couple of years ago, I became a tad obsessed with puffins. Well, all going to plan it was off to visit more. So off we jumped in the car, and headed to the nearby seaside village of Seahouses.

Seahouses is the closest point to the nearby Farne Islands, home to quite a bit of seabird life, but this time of year is Puffin breeding season, so the main island Inner Farne is usually teeming with the little rascals. Unfortunately we were at the tail end of the breeding season, and as they arrived on the earlier side this year, many had disappeared. But word was that there was still quite a few around, so win!

all aboard

all aboard

On it was to our trusty vessel Glad Tidings IV with a bunch of others out for a tour of the islands and the opportunity to jump off at Inner Farne. Some very choppy waters greeted us, but Kate’s stomach was a trooper and it was uneventful in the best way possible (not so for a couple of other passengers).

popping in to see the locals

popping in to see the locals

The islands have various small buildings on them, but none are inhabited as such. They were in days gone by by lighthouse keepers and the like, but these days not so much. Inner Farne has a dedicated group of rangers, but otherwise, it was a tour of the islands to see what we could see.

puffins!

puffins!

 

off to feed the family

off to feed the family

And we were in luck! Puffins! There were some small groups chilling out in the waters that we saw early on. It actually seemed that many were disappearing every minute, as you would see one of the cheeky birds zoom by with an eel or some fish in its beak.

just hanging out on the beach

just hanging out on the beach

As we were getting about the islands, some small groups of seals could be found hanging about too. Oh the life of a sea creature hey?

welcome to the farne islands

welcome to the farne islands

After getting about the islands for a bit, it was time to jump off the boat. We got to land on Inner Farne for about an hour to see what we could see.

this little guy was the best

this little guy was the best

Sadly, not many puffins were on land… it was all about looking up and seeing them zoom past, usually too quick for the camera. I did see this little fella just hanging about for a bit, and he was nice enough to pose (I am sure a puffin expert will see this blog and tell me he is a she).

not a puffin

not a puffin

 

not a puffin either

not a puffin either

As we explored the island, there was a bunch of other birdlife hanging about. My knowledge of anything non-puffin is a bit limited, so maybe I saw something rare? Who knows. But it was fun to see them all chilling out on the island with their little ones.

In no time at all it was back on the boat to head into shore. On the way we saw a few dolphins (or porpoise… it seems the jury is out) along side the boat. Unfortunately in all the pushing and shoving of people on the boat to get a glimpse, there was no cool photo. Doesn’t matter.

braving the causeway

braving the causeway

And with that we were back! It was only early afternoon, so we decided to head out on another close journey, one that we had originally planned for the next day. But the tides were favourable, so we decided to head off to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it is known. This island is accessible by a causeway that is governed by the tide, and as luck would have it, we had a change to get on and off the island with our car. So off we headed!

As we approached it turned out that it was not just any day we had decided to visit. Rather it was some special viking day, as the many youngsters (and many adults) in viking costume attested to as we drove in. Suddenly I was very confused if I was in England or Iceland again.

lindisfarne priory

lindisfarne priory

We had a few hours to explore the island, so it was off to see the main two features… the priory and the castle. First stop was the priory, were many of the ruins still stood. This was quite a famous religious location, but it seemed today was all about the vikings taking over, as the priory was the site for many costumed folk. I blame Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones personally.

hedgehog!

hedgehog!

So we looked about the site and were also treated to some displays of historical reenactment. It was a bit to kitschy for me, so I went for a wander up the nearby hill to look over the island. On my way I came across this lovely fella hanging out on the side of the path. He was all a bit taken aback by the craziness too I think.

monument on the hill

monument on the hill

On the hill there were amazing views of the castle, nearby Bamburgh and out across Northumbria.

oh those crazy vikings

oh those crazy vikings

I also had a view of the crazy viking battle that was taking place in the priory. Oh those crazy role playing folk.

lindisfarne castle

lindisfarne castle

We had not too much time before we were to be stuck on the island, so we did a quick wander to the castle. We didn’t have time to head  right in, but to approach it was pretty amazing, all menacing there on the rock.

kate tries to take the caste home with her

kate tries to take the caste home with her

 

your castle is served!

your castle is served!

 

castle in the sky

castle in the sky

We did have time for some cheesy photos though. Of course we did you all say. There was time for some normal ones too though.

And with that, it was time to get off the island while we could and head back to Bamburgh. Our last night in England before heading to Scotland. Woo!

 

02
Aug

Old Castles and Newcastles

By: muttler
another rainy summers day

another rainy summers day

Next morning, nice and dry again, it was time to keep heading north on our way to Scotland. Given it was a few hundred miles away, we decided to spend a few days making our way. Kate had a plan, which was to make our way to Bamburgh, about 200 miles away for a couple of evenings, where we could checkout the Northumbrian coast and visit some historic places along the way.

no you're not seeing things... it is really that wonky

no you’re not seeing things… it is really that wonky

So after a big brekky it was in the car and away! We didn’t get far though, making a quick stop by the church in Chesterfield for a quick photo. The pic probably shows why we wanted to make a quick stop. Nope, that is not a weird photo illusion… the spire really is that wonky. It looks quite cool and it amazing that a church would allow something so distinctive to be built. But they did, and as a result we made a visit.

wind farms everywhere

wind farms everywhere

With photo done, it was on the M1 and heading north. There wasn’t much to report on the way. We got to see many of the wind farms that are dotted all over the UK. Why we haven’t gone with them at home I will never know.

spotting the angel of the north

spotting the angel of the north

On our travels we also made our way past the city of Newcastle. Although we didn’t go into the centre, we did see their main attraction from the motorway. The Angel of the North is a public art work that overlooks Newcastle and the A1 motorway. I only got a quick chance to snap a pic out the window. It is the second time I have seen it from the motorway, and yet still don’t feel compelled to get closer. I’m sure it is more impressive up close.

say hi to hogwarts

say hi to hogwarts

We kept on trucking, but not to Bamburgh, rather to our main destination, Alnwick Castle. About 1000 years old, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK (behind Windsor Castle) and is in amazing condition. In fact much is still intact, and as a result is still a main residence for the Percy Family, as well as the site of many films and TV programs (one of which, apparently Downton Abbey) was being filmed when we visited. The biggest drawcard though would be as home of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films.

not a bad place to live

not a bad place to live

So rather than just leave it as a castle to casually wander, it is full of tours and costumed characters. Thankfully not too much, so it still retains the dignity of a historic site. But we still took the opportunity to get to see all the spots where Harry and co got up to shenanigans.

local harry and hagrid

local harry and hagrid

The folk obviously didn’t waste the opportunity to have their own Harry Potter characters wandering around. In fact there was a not too horrible Harry and Hagrid entertaining the crowds.

a knight being knighted by a knight

a knight being knighted by a knight

The other concessions to the crowds was to have some some more entertaining things for the kids. One was the chance to dress up like knights/princesses/loons. Of course we took the opportunity to do so, what did you expect?

spooky!

spooky!

As well as this there was the Dragon’s Quest, slightly kitschy, slightly dodgy, “spooky” area. As we made our way through dark corridors and mirror halls, things would jump out at us. I will admit, that something got both Kate and I at different times, but it was a bit lame. Thankfully it was one of the few things to detract from the dignity of the castle. But of course it was still kinda fun.

visiting the locals

visiting the locals

The rain began to settle in, so we took that opportunity to finish up. A quick drive and we were in the seaside town of Bamburgh, our home for the next couple of nights. Even though it was pouring, we decided to wander to the nearby beach and Bamburgh Castle. Bamburgh Castle is also owned by the same family as Alnwick, but sadly we didn’t have a chance to pop in and say hello. Rather we just wandered about. It looked quite amazing and dramatic on the hill overlooking the sea.

mary poppins!

mary poppins!

It was a tad windy and rainy down on the beach. Hopefully I do get a chance to have a dip in the next couple of days!

02
Aug

Pomp and Circumstance

By: muttler
settling in for some rainy proms

settling in for some rainy proms

And with this, my time at the Uni of Warwick was sadly over.

Yep, 5 weeks had disappeared in the blink of an eye. It was a great time that was spent there and my hosts Jane and Sara were incredible. I feel like during the time I have made quite a bit of headway into my research, and have plenty to go on with, so all in all it was a very fruitful time.

But that’s work! With a few weeks of leave officially arriving before I get back to work, Kate and I left the uni late in the arvo, and started heading north. Our plan was to head to the town of Chesterfield, which was nearby to Chatsworth House, a historic stately home, where we had tickets for the last night of the Proms extravaganza.

The drive up was relatively painless… all motorway, although we were getting used to the endless roadworks and traffic by the end of it. But with plenty of time we had checked in to our hotel and were making our way to the venue. Sadly, this is when a real English summer decided to arrive.

what's a proms without pims?

what’s a proms without champagne and pims?

Everyone was saying that the hot summer was too good to be true, and as it turns out the night we really could have done with some nice weather, the clouds rolled in and the rains came. You see, the Proms were being held in the surrounding grounds… perfect for a pleasant summers evening, but not so much for a rainy one. So with rain jackets and brollies in check, we braved the rains and settled in on the grass, getting ready for the symphonic extravaganza.

picnic, england style

picnic, england style

The setting under normal circumstances would have been ideal. Historic homestead in the background, easy access to Pimms and champers, and the UK Symphonic Orchestra banging out the classics. Indeed everyone was taking it very seriously, with many parties bring out tables, chairs, food, and even the odd candelabra.

lots of pomp and circumstance

lots of pomp and circumstance

So what followed was 2.5 hours of orchestral classics. Even though it is not typically my thing, I knew virtually all the pieces. We even got some low brow classics like the main Star Wars theme. They must have known I was coming.

going out with a bang

going out with a bang

Even though it was still pouring with rain, we finished with some fireworks to celebrate the last night of the Proms. Me, I celebrated the wet, but fun, night out by getting dry.

28
Jul

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

By: muttler
no, we are obviously not at the beach yet

no, we are obviously not at the beach yet

The weekend arrived and it was time for more adventure! This time believe it or not it wasn’t back to London, rather we were heading east, toward the Norfolk coast for a change of scenery. To the beach! In England! Who would have thought! But it was also the locale to catch up with some more of Kate’s family which was as good an excuse as any to head to the coast.

Rather than head all the way over in the one day, our destination was the small township of Ely. Ely is famous for a couple of things. Firstly, it has a very well renowned cathedral, that whenever I mentioned to anyone here at Warwick that we were heading to Ely, they always said “to see the cathedral?”. They also added Ely’s second somewhat famous attraction “… and Oliver Cromwell’s house?”.

Off we headed, with our trusty GPS Emily to lead us on our way. No, we didn’t name the GPS, rather, she was set to the “Emily” setting for voice, so Emily she came to be known. As Kate was doing all the driving (being the only named driver), I formulated my own quite fun game with Emily which was for me to use our UK map book to try and work out which way she was going to lead us (I know I know… I am speaking about her like she was a real person in the car… well part of the fun/joke was that we started to speak about her as if she was in the car with us). I probably got much more enjoyment out of this game than any normal person would and Kate was just spending half the trip laughing at me as I would get firstly exasperated at her choice of route, and then resigned to the fact that it probably was the best way after all.

cromwell wasn't home sadly

cromwell wasn’t home sadly

Anyway in just a couple of hours we arrived at bustling Ely. It seems lots of folk like it as a destination on a weekend as the town was busy with people wandering the centre of town. The first of the (in)famous sites we saw was Oliver Cromwell’s house. Apparently he lived here for a bit in the mid-1600’s.

kate all excited she was at cromwell's house (well, sort of)

kate all excited she was at cromwell’s house (well, sort of)

 

me trying to blend in with the locals

me trying to blend in with the locals

The house looked quaint enough. With a somewhat pricey entrance fee, we were not convinced it was really worth too much of a look. We found it much more interesting to just take some cheesy photos outside and that was going to do us.

the best kind of lunch

the best kind of lunch

In just a few minutes walk we came across the very impressive Ely Cathedral. The cathedral towered above everyone, but we decided to leave that until later and wander the farmers market for a makeshift lunch to kick things off. With our nice selection of local bread, cheese, fruit, and brownies, we found a nice shady spot in the cathedral gardens and enjoyed some lunch. Mmm… sometimes simplest is the best. Cheese tastes best when it has come straight from the cow (well, maybe with 18 months of aging in between) and the brownie has come straight from the oven.

Rather than head back into the cathedral, the sunny weather was too good to be indoors, so a general wander of the town was in order. We headed for the waterfront… no, we were not yet at the beach, rather Ely is on the River Great Ouse, and it seemed everyone was happy to be perched on the banks, enjoying the music in the park. The music was OK, but our leftover brownie was even better.

the impressive ely cathedral

the impressive ely cathedral

So with a wander via some antique shopping for Kate, we made our way back to the cathedral. I have seen quite a few now in my time travelling Europe, but this one was pretty impressive. It was begun to be built 1000 years ago, taking several centuries to finish. But that time shows, as for a small town, it is a VERY impressive cathedral. Inside the stained glass was amazing, and just the sheer size of it was pretty incredible.

that is one high ceiling

that is one high ceiling

 

i love angles

i love angles

I always fixate on the roofs and the intricate work on them. It begged the question with Kate, “how on earth do they get up there and clean it?!”.

rancho relaxo

rancho relaxo

While wandering around I came across the resting place of this dude. I should have taken a closer look at who he was, but I couldn’t resist taking a photo. He looked very comfy resting there. I guess if you are going to be there for eternity, why not perch yourself all comfortable like to say hello to everyone.

Before we knew it the cathedral was close to closing up for the day and we decided to head to our lodgings for the evening, in the even smaller township of Little Downham, and the local hotel The Anchor. It was pleasant, and we spent our night relaxing with a sneaky cider.

Next morning after brekky, it was time to head further north-east-ish to hit the Norfolk coast. Our first stop was the small town of Holkham, where there was a beach (a real beach!) and a historic house called Holkham Hall. But given it was so nice, we decided to head to the beach first for a wander.

kate on a lovely sunday afternoon stroll

kate on a lovely sunday afternoon stroll

It seemed that was the thing to do, as there was steady streams of people making the walk down to the beach. Being low tide it seemed to take forever to reach the water, but when we did it was quite lovely. Certainly not the same beach vibe as back home (or most places for that matter), even though it was warm, it seemed being at the beach was more about sitting on the beach, or playing with your dogs, or walking, than swimming. In fact there was only a handful of brave souls in the water. Which was surprising, as the water was quite pleasant in.

proof that you do get beautiful blue sky here in england

proof that you do get beautiful blue sky here in england

We ended up strolling for a couple of hours, and in the end decided not to visit Holkham Hall. Rather we wandered back to the car and headed to the nearby Blakeney Hotel for a catch up with some more of Kate’s family.

Again, it was a lovely way to spend the day… catching up with family that we don’t get to see very often. The afternoon was spent chatting away, and having some drinks to keep cool.

In the blink of an eye the day was drawing to a close. With a few us needing to drive a few hours, it was time to say farewell fr the time being, and head back to Warwick. On the way Emily and I battled our best routes. But as always, she won.

28
Jul

Friday Night Castles

By: muttler
just hangin' out at the castle

just hangin’ out at the castle

One thing about being here in the UK is that you can just say “Hey! It’s Friday! How about we go hang about a castle and then head to the pub?”.

So that’s what we did last Friday night. Kenilworth Castle (that had a brief appearance in a previous blog entry) is just down the road, so when it was time to knock off work for the week, we jumped in the car and 10 minutes later were wandering around the grounds of Kenilworth Castle.

castle on a glorious friday evening

castle on a glorious friday evening

Built in the 12th century, the castle is in a bit of a state of ruin, but is still pretty cool to wander around. To think that parts are 800 years old is always a bit of a spin out. Even more when you think it is just down the road and you can have a casual wander around after work.

elizabethan garden

elizabethan garden

There is also a pretty cool Elizabethan garden that Kate rates pretty highly, which on a glorious English Friday evening, was not too bad to hang about in. Kate certainly looked the part hanging about there too.

hanging out at another castle

hanging out at another castle

But just across the road, there was a place just as good to hang about on the sunny evening… a different castle… called the Queen and Castle! There they had a few more mod cons, like cider and food. So all in all, not a bad set of castle visits for the evening 🙂

25
Jul

Fleet On Foot

By: muttler
i'm in the royal albert hall!

i’m in the royal albert hall!

Hi all! A midweek post (of sorts) for you all.

I have been busy working away this week. A few projects are making good headway, and I even did a research seminar for the Computer Science folks which went over really well. So kicking research goals this week!

Anyway, even though I have been busy busy with work, my lovely hosts have still been finding some time to get me out and about. So on Wednesday, Jane’s husband organised a trip down to London for a walking expedition. He has spent some time following the rivers that used to flow down into the Thames and had the pans to follow the River Fleet that used to flow from Hampstead Heath, down to Blackfriars. You can actually read about the path on this detailed description here. We weren’t to see any water (it is all deep underground now) but was going to be a pleasant walk on another glorious London day. The plan was to end at the Royal Albert Hall for some BBC Proms. A very full day!

So we all met at Jane and Ian’s house, and made our way in the car to the top of the Northern Line, and hopped on the tube down to Hampstead. After arriving at Hampstead Heath and meeting up with the rest of the walking crew, it was time to walk!

kate all ready for some walking action

kate all ready for some walking action

The start at Hampstead Heath gave us an amazing view towards London. Unfortunately it was a bit hazy, but we could clearly make out St Pauls in the distance, which was our rough direction to head. We also saw all the locals bathing in the pond in the parkland. Sadly I forgot my Speedo, so alas, no swimming for me!

Off we went, wandering the streets. Ian would guide our path, even though for the most part it was fairly straight forward… i.e look for the lowest point and head toward it. In no time at all, we arrived at Camden, and decided to settle in at the markets for some lunch.

rest stop at st pancras old church

rest stop at st pancras old church

After hanging our feet over the canal for a bit, it was time to walk again. On our way we came across St Pancras Old Church. That was a nice place to again take a seat and just relax for a bit.

But no rest for the wicked! We were off again and before we knew it we were upon Fleet Street and then the Thames. Now for the moment of truth… would we see the outlet of the Fleet into the Thames?

we reach the end! (outflow to the right of the ladder)

we reach the end! (outflow to the right of the ladder)

Of course Ian had timed our run to perfection and we could see the small outflow drain just under Blackfriars Bridge. It may not look that impressive (if you can even see it there in the shadows) but for us it was the perfect end to a fun walk down through London. For me it was any excuse to hit the streets of London and get more familiar.

the awesome tate modern

the awesome tate modern

We had some time before we had to head to the Royal Albert Hall, so our posse decided to go and have an afternoon tea at the nearby Tate Modern. One of my favourite places in all of London, the Tate Modern is a great place to hang out. The views over the Thames towards St Pauls is not too shabby either.

the awesome royal albert hall

the awesome royal albert hall

With our rest done, it was time to bit adieu to the rest of our walking party and head towards the Royal Albert Hall. While symphony is not really my cup of tea, it was for everyone else, and I was in reality just keen to see the inside of the Royal Albert, given I knew of quite a few shows that had taken place there. The outside is incredible, but inside is something else.

photos just can't capture the inside

photos just can’t capture the inside

Of all the venues I have been in to around the world, it would now have to be one of my favourites. First of all it is just amazingly beautiful inside, but along with that, the design means the audience almost envelops the orchestra, giving a completely different feel to it.

the orchestra has their bow

the orchestra has their bow

It looked great rather than seeing a orchestra sitting up front, it seemed they were surrounded and that the audience was really a strong part of the experience.

kate loving the show

kate loving the show

So how was it? It was OK. We heard pieces by Shostakovich, Bartók & Tavener, and for me the Shostakovich was much better than the other two. But ultimately I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to symphony… I just know what I like. And for the most part the Shostakovich was pretty good. It seemed to be the consensus amongst the four of us that it was the clear winner.

With that, it was time to head back north to Edgware, and drive back to Coventry. Kate was a trooper, doing all the driving. Nice and late, we arrived back at the flat. We were super tired but in all the best ways from another great day out in London.

24
Jul

Stonehenge! Where a man’s a man, and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan.

By: muttler
stonehenge!

stonehenge!

I love me a good Spinal Tap reference!

Anyway, when we left you last we had witnessed the penultimate Monty Python show and were spending the weekend with Kate’s aunt and uncle. Sunday morning we were treated to a brunch with Kate’s family before we had to motor off to Heathrow. Heathrow again?! This time it was nothing to do with departures or arrivals, rather it was the most convenient place to pick up our hire car. So off we went, found our vehicle, and job done!

Well, not quite. Rather than head straight back to Coventry, since we were to the west of London, we decided to visit a classic landmark that neither of us had seen in years… one that people fall in love with, or ask “why did I bother to come and see a bunch of rocks?!”. Yep, Stonehenge.

Thanks to our trusty sat-nav, we arrived in relatively no time, although the traffic got pretty bad as we approached. We had our fingers crossed, as typically you need to pre-buy timed tickets to see the site, however since we had no idea what time we would arrive, we just had to wing it. Thankfully things were on our side (for the moment) and in we were able to go!

The new visitors centre is actually a mile or so from the site, so it was on to one of the shuttle buses to head out. Above us a few clouds looked a bit ominous, but that didn’t deter us… we just grabbed our rain jackets and went. On the bus some rain started to fall, but not enough to stop intrepid travellers like us to get out there. So once we arrived we jacketed up and went to the stones.

here comes the rain!

here comes the rain!

It was at that precise moment that somewhere some druids took umbrage with our arrival and called on the rain gods, as the clouds went black and the rain bucketed down. Hard. Within a minute we were soaked! But that didn’t worry us too much, as laying eyes on Stonehenge, we were actually pretty excited.

a very damp thumbs up

a very damp thumbs up

We both remembered being further away, so to get within a few metres was very cool. We made our way around, in the driving rain. Trying to take pics actually became pretty comical as clothes were soaked, cameras drenched, and umbrellas turned inside-out. Crazy! But like the handful of others still out at the site, we figured we were already soaked and had no idea when we would be back, so took it all in.

not bad considering

not bad considering

Getting the selfie was quite tough… keeping a camera relatively dry was hard work in those conditions! But as you can see, we thought it was quite hysterical that to this point in the day it was balmy and warm and sunny, and that the second we arrived it was torrential. That’s England for you I guess.

So with Stonehenge visited, we thought it was best to get back to the Visitors Centre and dry out a little. As things would have it, we were back for all of 5 minutes when the rain stopped and sun started to peek through the clouds. Aaarrrgghh! But we just thought it was pretty funny. Kate suggested heading back to the site to see it properly and take our time. After a little deliberation, it was back on the bus out to the stones.

this was just 15 minutes later

this was just 15 minutes later

It ended up being a great decision. There was not another drop of rain and it gave us a chance to dry out a little. We had time to be casual, and listen to the audio guide to hear all about the druids, the astronomy, and all the history. Sadly Spinal Tap were not mentioned at all (not even in the gift shop either!). What a wasted opportunity.

kate listening to stories of the druids (not spinal tap)

kate listening to stories of the druids (not spinal tap)

 

i'm sure the druids knew what they were doing

i’m sure the druids knew what they were doing

We ended up spending quite a bit of time. Given the rain, and that it was getting late (7pm), there was hardly anyone about, meaning photos with no people were a possibility. We snapped away, and looking at the pics it seemed we had a lot of the same pictures of a bunch of rocks, but it was very cool nonetheless.

playing the tourist

playing the tourist

But by this time they were getting ready to shut up the site. So back on the bus yet again and we were at the visitors centre. We poked around the exhibition, but by this point we were done and it was time for the longish drive back. In the end those druids were looking out for us after all.

 

22
Jul

Spam Spam Spam Eggs and Spam

By: muttler
monty python!

monty python!

Another weekend, another trip to London! This was the big one, but we’ll get to that.

This weekend we were lucky enough to be able to catch up with Kate’s other aunt and uncle for the weekend. Straight after work on Friday, it was back on the train and down to London to catch up with them for a late supper and catch up. Like the other night, it was great to relax with Kate’s family and feel welcomed on the other side of the world.

kate says hi to the local guards

kate says hi to the local guards

After a warm nights sleep (England is in a heatwave, which while not a heat wave like we have, still pretty warm and humid), Kate and I hit the streets of London to wander and do some shopping. When on Regent St, it is always worth a pop in to Hamley’s to see what toys are on offer.

giving the royal wave

giving the royal wave

As you can see we got a chance to catch up with some of the Lego locals. Alas, little Prince George was not around. I did spy a Corgi though.

kate gives westminster abbey the thumbs up (before seeing the queue)

kate gives westminster abbey the thumbs up (before seeing the queue)

When trying to think of things to get up to, we thought we might pop in to Westminster Abbey, as it was something neither of us had done is quite a while. Alas, when we arrived there was a VERY long queue and we quickly decided against it. But as luck would have it, we wandered around the corner and realised there was something neither of us had ever done, and that it looked like we might have an opportunity. It seemed the Houses of Parliament were open for visiting!

the mighty houses of parliament

the mighty houses of parliament

We didn’t have tickets but chanced upon a couple that were just released, so after a little waiting, it was inside the hallowed halls!

kate very excited we got some tickets

kate very excited we got some tickets

Needless to say they were just a little bit more impressive than the ones in Canberra. Like many buildings here, artwork centuries old just casually hangs in the halls. If I worked there I would be scared I would break something that was a few centuries old. As it was I got told off for touching something I shouldn’t have!

entering the parliament

entering the parliament

Sadly photos were not allowed in most of the building. But it was a great way to spend a couple of hours, and we were glad we had the chance to see a lot of what the Parliament had to offer.

With that it was getting close to evening, and we had to make our way to the O2 Arena in Greenwich for the big one. MONTY PYTHON! We actually secured tickets for the show before I had my study leave approved. We were super lucky to score tickets one night they went on sale, and figured “ah, why not!”. In the end it turned out to be the second last time Python would perform together (so they tell us, although as the name of the show suggests “1 Down 5 to Go” is sadly probably pretty accurate).

woo!

woo!

The O2 had quite the buzz when we arrived. We were surprised to see so many restaurants and night spots there. But no doubt most were there to see the Python lads, given the amount of costumes and t-shirts wandering the arena.

it's an ex-parrot

it’s an ex-parrot

We even came across a very large parrot. Clearly he was pining for the fjords.

In we went into the cavernous arena. It is a little bigger than Rod Laver, but with much steeper sides. As it turned out, our tickets were fantastic, given we elected to get tickets on the (relatively) cheaper side. Up on the top level, but at the front, and just side enough to be close but have good view. Kate’s mad ticket skills to thank for that!

photo opportunity!

photo opportunity!

And without further ado, the show was on! I won’t give a blow by blow summary, but what we got was 2.5 hours of classic sketches performed live, plenty of songs, some choreography between skits as well as some video to keep us laughing while the boys changed.

lumberjack song!

lumberjack song!

So was it funny? It was hilarious! Was it perfect? Far from it. Some skits didn’t translate as well, and there were some odd choices (the weird Ministry of Silly Walks dance remix thing was just horrible). There was also the strong nostalgia that went from very sweet to a little sad at times.

nudge nudge wink wink... say no more

nudge nudge wink wink…

... say no more

… say no more

But overall, it was quite the thing to see Messrs Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones, and Palin in the flesh (for me, especially Michael Palin). It was worth it just to witness Spam, Dead Parrot, and Nudge Nudge Wink Wink done by Monty Python live… something I never dreamed I would ever see.

spam bacon spam eggs and spam

spam bacon spam eggs and spam

dead parrot!

dead parrot!

Of course we got all the other classics… Spanish Inquisition, Australian Philosophers, and awesomely, the Lumberjack Song and Galaxy Song. It was all wrapped up with a big, emotional sing-a-long of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (of course).

the end (python style)

the end (python style)

So was it just a big cash in? Quite probably. But did it matter in the end? Not at all. It was Monty Python.

22
Jul

A Sporadic Warwick Update

By: muttler
university of warwick locals

university of warwick locals

Hello again!

Thought I should provide a sporadic Warwick update. Mostly it has been work (very fruitful I must say… it would be awesome to be able to focus on research this much all the time), but there has been some time for minor shenanigans now Kate has arrived.

my funky comfy digs

my funky comfy digs

Oh, I don’t think I have mentioned my flat on campus. It is owned by the Maths Research Centre. It sure it distinctive! Nice and comfy though which is important.

out on the canal

out on the canal

Anyway, first up, my Warwick host Jane and her husband treated Kate and I to an evening trip on their canal boat. The canal system in the UK is quite extensive, and with a long canal boat you can travel much of the country (in a very leisurely fashion). So after work one evening, we headed for Stoke Bruerne were her husband Ian and daughter Helen were waiting. With that it was a couple of hours of leisurely boating along the Grand union canal. I say leisurely but I was put to work helping out with some of the lochs. By the end I was quite the expert (well, maybe not).

past the point of no return

past the point of no return

Part of the trip involved a 3km trip through a very dark tunnel. It was quite eerie in a way, especially when another boat would be coming at you in canal just wide enough to fit the two boats. Thankfully Ian is quite the experienced skipper so all was fine.

The end rewards for our boating was some good pub food. Not a bad life.

The next night we had the opportunity to catch up with Kate’s uncle and aunt. Awesomely, they live only 20 minutes from the Uni of Warwick, so it means that we have the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with them. Kate spent the day while I was at work, and after job done I was picked up for a good catch up dinner. It was great to catch up with a side of the family we don’t often get to see.

Canal boats… pubs… catching up with family… not a bad side benefit to this trip to Warwick.