Torquay: Wednesday 17 – Saturday 20th

Wednesday 17th, Drive to Torquay.

  • We drove to Torquay via Brean
  • Arrived at the Somerville B&B.
  • Visited Auntie Jean and Uncle Frank.
  • Drinks at ‘The Hole in the Wall’ followed by Italian for dinner.

Thursday 18th, Helping Out, relaxing a little!

  • Visited Jean and Frank, bought a new iPhone 7 for Jean and set it up.
  • Dinner at Cary Arms.

Friday 19th: Steam train, ferry ride, and more castles.

  • Caught a steam train to Dartmouth.
  • Small ferry to Dartmouth Ferry and checked out the Castle.
  • I steered the boat back (for a minute) to Dartmouth from the castle.
  • Cream tea at around 1pm at the Sloping Deck restaurant.
  • Steam train and bus back to Torquay.
  • Dinner at Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Seafood, followed by a stroll along the cliff.

Off we set again, early in the morning, picking up our clean washed clothes before heading out. Our first stop Brean, was a little disappointing, but that was more the weather’s fault! It was a long 1.30hr drive there from Bath. We stopped in to have coffee and toasted sandwiches for lunch. Taking a photo of the miserable looking beach. There were quite a significant number of holiday homes there. Clearly in summer it must be quite busy.

From there we drove straight to to Torquay, taking about 2 hours. We arrived at the hotel a little early and were not able to check in as Mum and Dad were already there, talking to the owners!

Once in and settled into our amazing room, we chauffeured Mum and Dad to Jean and Frank’s and said our hellos! It was really great to see them again and for Bel to properly meet both of them.

After such a long day we had a lovely dinner at Amici just down the road from the Hotel.  Dad and I ended up drinking the nice little bottles of Scotch I had bought in Guildford earlier in our trip and I ended up with a nice hangover the next day.

Thursday was spent mostly helping Mum and Dad help Jean. Her iphone was faulty, so we went to Vodafone and bought a new one for her, setting it up again. We did try to restore a backup of her old phone however it was damaged and backups wouldn’t work. Nonetheless, we were able to restore all her contacts, photos etc just by logging Jean in with her AppleID.

We had dinner that night at the Cary Arms Restaurant which had beautiful food and views of the bay.

On our last day with my parents we did some more ‘touristy’ things. We caught the steam train down to Kingswear then the short ferry to Dartmouth. There is something special about steam trains and we enjoyed the trip. We explored the town together and took a small ferry (read: dingy) to the Castle guarding the river mouth. On the return trip I had the privilege of manning the tiller for a moment while our ferryman collected the fares.

We had a lovely cream tea at a Tudor built house called the Sloping Deck. The floor was quite literally sloping.

We finished the afternoon with a short ferry across the river, back on the train and a bus back to the hotel. For dinner on our last night we went to Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Seafood, recommended to us by Peter, the proprietor of the Somerville B&B. We had a great stay in the B&B, Peter and his wife are fantastic hosts. Our bed was extremely comfortable, the internet was fast and we really enjoyed having a TV that pops out of the end of the bed. I put it to good use with our chromecast and caught up on some of our shows. All in all, a very happy and relaxed stay.

Next stop Naples!

Beds, Bath and Beyond

Sunday 14th: Drive to Bath via New Forest and Stonehenge (not actually a true henge)

  • Drove to Lynhurst, walked the main street
  • Drove to Bolderwood and saw deer, went for a walk in the Forest.
  • Saw Stonehenge.
  • Checked into our hotel in Bath (it has too many stairs)

Monday 15th: Bath

  • Visited the Roman Baths.
  • Went on a boat trip up and down the Avon River.
  • Walked around Bath.
  • Had dinner at handmade Burger Co.

Tuesday 16th: Bath and Beyond.

  • Drove through the Cotswalds.
  • Visited (in order): Corinium museum in Cirencester, Chedworth Roman Villa, and Berkley Castle.

In Brief (writing this on the 20th on the train to London Paddington):
We found the hotel room in Bath to be very small, the beds were very uncomfortable and we were on the third floor (no elevator) however it was very conveniently located. We had to pay £25 for parking around the corner for the two days we were there.

Highlight of visiting Bath was undoubtedly the Roman ruins in the Cotswalds. We had cunningly left our washing to be done at a nearby laundromat and for  £14 they washed, dried and folded our clothes while we went on our driving adventure.

The town and Museum in Corinium was lovely. We had a Cornish pastie at a local cafe and enjoyed the museum which, unlike the major museums in London, was relatively empty. This primed us for our next stop at the Roman Villa which had been excavated by the Victorians. Our tour guide was a semi(?)-retired archaeologist who proved to be quite insightful. For instance: the grade 1 listed roman ruins were protected by grade 2 listed  Victorian buildings which made it difficult to do any further site works.

From there we managed to make it to Berkley Castle for the 3.30pm tour, the last for the day, and as it turned out – a private tour! There was so much history it was incredible. Highlight was seeing an original Kings James Bible, interesting because the Berkley family have always been Catholic.

For one of our dinners in Bath we went to the Handmade Hamburger Co, which I had mistaken for another chain restaurant in London. The waitress was young and I made the faux pas of assuming she was a student! Bath has a large student population.

Other things to note:

We thought Stone Henge was a little overrated. Very busy with tourists, but very glad we saw it anyway.

The New Forest was lovely and we enjoyed a short stroll through some of the tracks.

Driving in the UK is still very stressful as the roundabouts are not always clear on what lane you need to be in.

Day 8: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard & Portchester Castle

Saturday 13th Main Points:

  • Good night’s sleep at the Marriott in Porthsmouth and a full breakfast;
  • Visited Historic Dockyards including HMS Victory, Mary Rose, and HMS Warrior.
  • Enjoyed a walk around Portchester Castle.

Firstly: The roads in the UK are crazy. Roundabouts make no sense, sometimes there are no lanes. some of them have traffic lights. The locals think we’re crazy for driving around ad accidents are common.

We enjoyed a good full breakfast in the hotel before driving the dockyard. We arrived a little after 10 and went went straight to the Victory. It was an amazing experience walking around on the decks of such an old and important ship. The audio guide was fantastic and went into just the right amount of detail explaining life on board and what happened during the battle of Trafalgar. Again, it was incredible to see where Lord Nelson was shot and later died below deck.

The Mary Rose museum was very well planned and laid-out. It reminded me strongly of the Shipwreck museum in Fremantle and the wreck of the Batavia, only on a much larger scale. The May Rose predates the Batavia by 118 years.

Just as interesting was HMS Warrior, the UK’s first ironclad war ship. It was 100 years newer than the Victory (1760) and had both modern and ancient features. Between the three ships it was very interesting to see the changes in naval technology from the 16th to 19th centuries.

Having had a big breakfast we only had hot chips between us for lunch. We left the Museum by mid afternoon and drove to Portchester castle to check it out.

The attendants at the castle were very helpful and explained the usual layout on roundabouts… an explanation I needed for reasons I wont go into. We were told that the walls around the castle are Roman and the only surviving fortifications this side of the Alps that had all four sides intact. The Normans then built the castle’s keep with additions added throughout the middle ages. I found that it really reminded me of Port Arthur in Tasmania (and similarly, the historic harbour reminded me of Fremantle!) The park was quite popular with the locals and many were outside enjoying the grounds and the sun.

Total steps today: 10,859.

Day 6 & 7: Kew Gardens, British Museum, Drive to Portsmouth

Thursday 11th Main points:

  • Visited Kew Gardens in the morning;
  • Visited British Museum.

Friday 12th Main points:

  • Picked up the hire car: A Skoda Fabia from the Marriott Hotel
  • Drove out of London;
  • Stopped in Guildford;
  • Saw the Castle, had lunch at the Kings Head, a 500 year old pub.
  • Major accident on the A3, so we left the main road and did a little country driving
  • Checked in to Portsmouth Marriot at 4pm.


We’re very fortunate to be next to Earl’s court station which is connected to the Piccadilly line (where the main attractions are) and to the District line (that goes out to Kew Gardens).

As per normal, we left early, getting a coffee at Costa Coffee next to the station entrance.  We also dropped our washing off at a local laundry where a nice old lady washed and dried our clothes for us for ~$30.

The train journey was slightly more enjoyable in a westward direction, against the flow of the commuter traffic. The Kew Gardens station is beautiful and the houses on the road up to the Victoria gate were stunning.

We enjoyed a long visit to the park including lunch at the cafe near the Victoria Gate. There were quite a few school groups visiting too, wearing out the teachers. A group of teenagers was playing on the elevator to the tree-top walk and their teacher did a very good ‘teacher voice’ expressing how the student’s misbehaviour was keeping us from enjoying the park. There were many plants on display and we managed to find one lonely gum tree.

Not wanting to waste an afternoon, our last in London, we trained it back to Earl’s court, picked up our washing and then headed to the London Museum. Bel was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived there and wasn’t up for much gallery walking however I was just glad to see some of the Egyptian and Greek sculptures.

We finished at the Museum at around 5 and found another pub near our hotel for dinner. Bel had the chicken pie and I had the lamb shank.

Friday 12th.

We began our last day in London the same way we usually did – with a flat white from Costa Coffee. We finished drinking them in the lobby of the hotel before checking out. The concierge organised a taxi who delivered us to the Avis that was part of the Marriott Hotel in Marble Arch. After filling out the requisite paper work our car was fetched and we were on our way… Or so we thought. Another much older Australian couple form Sydney were having some trouble using their hire car’s inbuilt navigation so I showed them how to use the centre-console dial that is common across most new cars. Next Bel and I had to figure out our car: a Skoda Fabia (new, with only 5400 miles). Thankfully the car is made by VW, so the car is fundamentally identical to my Golf, so the adjustment was easy.

We used my mobile/Android Auto navigation to get out of London and eventually on the road to Guildford. We arrived at around 12 after a couple of very stressful hours driving. We found a parking lot and pulled in, then walked the short distance to Guildford castle. The gardens were lovely and the attendant at the small museum recommended a good cheap lunch at the Kings Head pub, just down the road. I had the BLT and Bel had the Fish finger sandwich.

From there we enjoyed a walk around a picturesque Guildford. We found a whiskey shop, enjoyed a couple of samples and bought a small sampler pack to have later.

Back into the car, we drove to Portsmouth where we were delayed by a truck overturned on the road. We were able to get off at the nearest exit, and then guess our way to the next entry back on again. We drove on some beautiful back roads and went past the Bel and Dragon – we may have to come back again just to go there!

Finally arriving at the hotel, we checked in and had dinner at the restaurant’s restaurant.

Total steps Thursday: 19,904.
Total steps Friday: 7,294



Day 5: National Gallery, Kensington Garden, Westfield London.

Today was a day of repeats. Having enjoyed our walk previously in Hyde park in the morning, we took off again and explored a little more. We enjoyed sponge-cake and tea at Kensington Palace for morning tea. From there it was a short tube ride to Trafalgar Square, Wellington’s statue and the National Gallery.  We had finished with the gallery by about 1pm.

From there we jumped back onto the tube and headed back to Westfield London for lunch of fish and chips (not bad!) and some shopping.

Total steps: 14581.

London Day 4: Hyde Park, Science Museum and Matilda the Musical

Today in Brief:

  1. 830-10 Walked around Hyde Park.
    1. Highlights: The Albert memorial
  2. 10-2 Science Museum:
    1. Highlight: Seeing the first ever steam trains.
  3. Matlida, the Musical, 7pm at the Cambridge theatre.

We’ve developed the habit of getting a coffee (a flat white of all things!) from Costa, a coffee chain, before jumping on the tube, as the coffee available in the hotel is clearly WW1 German ersatz. As nothing opens in London until 10am, we went for a walk around Hyde Park and enjoyed the scenery, the horses, ducks on the pond, and a baby Coot being fed on what was possibly the most ridiculous nest ever made. The Prince Albert memorial was spectacular. Quite possibly the largest monument ever built by a Queen-wife for her cousin-husband. Cusband. Equally impressive was the Prince Albert theatre, directly opposite.

From there it was an easy walk to the Science Museum. Seeing Stephenson’s Rocket, and an authentic Apollo module was impressive.

We finished at the Museum at around 2pm and headed back to the hotel for a nap. At around 530 we headed to Maccas for a quick dinner and jumped back onto the Piccadilly line to get to the theatre for the 7pm performance for Matilda.

Matilda was absolutely amazing, made all the much better by seeing it in London. The sets that rose from the floor were just brilliant. We didn’t buy a program. It seems that every other time we do, we just end up throwing it out later at home. My only complain is about the other patrons: A couple sitting on our left left their rubbish over the floor, which basically makes them as bad as Hitler. The couple of women on our left wouldn’t stop talking throughout, and then at the end tell us “that’s Matilda’s mum over there!” Like we care. The girl in front, part of a larger school group of year sixes, judging from their leavers jumpers wouldn’t stop turning around in her seat. As Bel later pointed out was disrespectful as well as generally annoying, as someone presumably paid quite a lot for her to be there to see the production.

 Photos to follow.

Total steps: 14457.

London Day 3: Zoo, Shopping, and Inevitable Sickness

Main Points:

  1. Visited the Zoo in the morning;
  2. Caught the water taxi to little Venice;
  3. Had a great lunch at “The Waterway“;
  4. Went to London Westfield;
  5. Bel is sick with a mild cold, Warren soon to follow (probably);
  6. Bussed back to the hotel.

As breakfast was available at 730 we headed downstairs to the breakfast-room/pseudo-restaurant area. It was very busy with mostly Russian and Australian tourists and felt particularly cramped. Sadly the coffee was average. We resolved to find somewhere else for breakfast tomorrow.

Today we had planned to visit the zoo, however our enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by our taxi driver from two days ago, who delivered onto us a damning assessment of zoos: :

“All Zoos are the same, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen’em all”

Bel and I had been discussing the merits of his argument since then and together we could not disprove it. But we had already paid for express-skip-the-queue tickets so it was too late now to back out.

There was no queue as no one visits the zoo when it’s 13 degrees. I should have learned this when we visited the Belfast Zoo in early January a few years ago when it was sleeting. We were almost the only people there. It was so cold that the free-to-roam peacocks were cowering in the heated gibbon viewing areas. Our presence made them uncomfortable and they gave us dirty looks as they left to go find another warm enclosure.

Back to London: It’s a nice Zoo, entirely funded by entrance fees, donations etc. The original animals were transferred there from the Tower of London close to two hundred years ago. Having seen the Tower on our previous trip and the metal sculptures of the baboons and elephants there; it was interesting to see where they ended up.

Bel quite enjoyed the open enclosures where we could get right up close to see the primates. The spider monkeys were adorable and the walk-through aviaries and enclosures allowed for some excellent photography . We had morning tea at the zoo and were quite finished with the place by 1325 when we caught a water taxi (canal boat) to little Venice.

The boatman suggested we head to a local pub for a late lunch, which we did. We both had the hamburger special, 2 for 1 so lunch came in at a relativity cheap £22.

Afterwards, a short walk and train took us to the nearest shopping complex as Bel needs some new socks and cold/flu tablets. Unsurprisingly Westfield London leaves Joondalup for dead. We felt like country-bumkins walking around that monstrosity. It’s safe to say we’ll be back to do some shopping before we leave London!

Which basically concludes the day – Bel has already gone to bed due to being ill. No dinner tonight due to the huge lunch we had!

Total number of steps today: 16,228.


Europe Adventure Day 1 & 2

The flights and Arrival:

We flew Qatar from Perth to Doha. We left home at 730pm to catch our 1130pm flight. In hindsight that was very early and we had to sit around the airport for quite a while. We sat behind what I’m not calling the ‘baby row’ where the bassinets go and had to put up with screaming children until their parents settled them during the take off. Thankfully we were both extremely tired from work so slept a significant portion of the first half of the flight. Bel had earlier that day carried an entire box of envelopes in her public servant job which had exhausted her (I think it was more the flue shot that exhausted me – Bel). I had asked for a window seat as it gave me slightly more leg room – I can stretch my left leg fully down the gap between the seat in front’s support and the wall of the cabin, also leaving more room for baggage under the seat in front.

After landing in Doha we had to rush through an additional round of security to get to our next flight QR007 to London’s Heathrow which meant dumping our water bottles again. Bel managed quite a bit more sleep on this flight. The woman in the seat behind me thought it was appropriate to put her feet on the edge of my arm rest, first on the left hand side where i had shoved my pillow. I only noticed when I felt something tugging on it when she was curling her toes. I gave her the evil eye when she put her right foot on the back of my right arm rest. I did not have my seat all the way back, unlike the man in front of Bel who, aside from extending his seat, also had the extra leg room of an emergency exit. I guess some people are just born arseholes. Going forward, I think flying business class might be on the cards.

Other points:
The in flight commercials played before each episode/movie were overtly sexist. The women in Qatar clearly only aspire to be married/housewives. We had two chicken sausage  and omelette breakfasts on the journey and one dinner. The total travel time was 21 hours.

Landing in Heathrow and getting through customs was an uninteresting affair. The taxi-driver had a daughter living in Perth (of course).

The hotel room is small, but ok. The bed frame is wicker, unfortunately quite dusty and causing Bel and I to sneeze a bit.

Getting UK Data:

We were able to sort out local sim cards as per my plan. Luckily there was a Vodafone around the corner from the hotel. The girl who served us was very friendly and from Chichester, which we discovered when we told her we were going to Porstsmouth. Apparently they’re quite close. I also now know there is a university in Chichester which has the lowest drop-out rate in the country.

We had Nandos for dinner, where in my jet-lagged state left my Ansett beanie. I only discovered it was missing the next morning when it was very cold!

Day two:

We woke at about 430am and called my parents to say hello as they’ll be joining us in Torquay in a week. Having nothing really planned we decided to do the bus tour of London, the London Eye and the Imperial War Museum. We had McDonalds for breakfast as the hotel’s kitchen didn’t open until 8am on Sunday.

The hotel had given us a map of London which had a 20% discount on the bus tour which was very convenient. We walked to the bus tour office (a 5 min walk) and were able to sort out our tickets.

The bus gave us an excuse to quickly see a few things we otherwise wouldn’t have bothered to – eg Buckingham Palace and dropped us off at the Eye.

We arrived at the London Eye and paid the extra £10 each for the express queue. (which was horrendously expensive – Bel). The joy of having the shorter queue was dampened by being in a pod with some selfish people who stood in the best spot to see Big Ben et al for most of the rotation. Leading Bel and I to think there needs to be a word to describe being angry at other tourists.

Despite that, the view was not bad, although overpriced (even without the shorten-the-line-extra). We saw a fox living in a construction site on the way to the Imperial War Museum (IWM).

The IWM was quite enjoyable (in a depressing way) and we had the £5 special of a sausage-roll and salad for lunch. Bel was very happy to eat something green. The piece of the North Trade Tower was quite sobering, as was the Holocaust display. We took the tube back to our hotel and picked up my beanie on the way. The poor workers at Nando’s didn’t know what a beanie was (English was no their first language, however did understand blue + putting on beanie gesture).

Berlin Wall
a sly fox
Bet at the Eye
London Eye View
300 French Canons

Part of the North Tower

An atom bomb
Eagle from the Reichstag