A day out: London from a different perspective

We have paid 30 GBP for a two for one pass covering the rest of our stay in England. This means that we can have transport options, such as a day trav el pass in London a bit more cheaply. Stephen found that we could take advantage of the pass to access river cruises up and down the Thames all day, getting on and off as we wished. It still wasn’t cheap – travel expenses for the whole day came to about $70.

Riding the river ‘buses’ gave us quite a different perspective on London. It was a mostly grey day, with sunshine later in the day. I took lots of photos of the different places we saw, both on land and from the boat, but none of them stand out as special. However, it is good to have a visual record of what we did.

Because of the long days we came home in daylight even though it was about 7.00 p.m. by the time we got back. The featured photo shows the light in the sky when I was getting ready for bed. It was great having the hot meal waiting for us and with just a small amount of preparation dinner was ready.

We bought sandwiches and had muesli bars, bananas and other snacks on hand during the day. We also had a flapjack and cheese twist with our afternoon tea in Greenwich. Not exactly going hungry during the day.

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Walking around the University of Greenwich was one of the highlights of the day. Not just because the buildings are graceful, but because it is a living building. As we walked around we could hear students practising music. The nearby Cutty Sark exhibition was interesting as well. We didn’t actually go in, just looked at the outside and read the information.

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View of the Cutty Sark from the river. We walked around it when we landed.

The boats we travelled on were catamarangs able to reach quite a good speed once we were on a part of the river where speed was allowed. Our last journey on board was to Battersea. We walked over the bridge, caught a couple of buses, one to Sloan Square, then from there a bus to Victoria Station. Although we didn’t feel that we had walked a great deal, we did 10, 753 steps, about 8 kms. Good exercise for the day.

I’d had back pain for the last few days for which I blame the uncomfortable lounge chairs here in the flat. We spent a good deal of time sitting around in the first few days when we were recovering from colds and jet lag. It’s one of those modular settings that provide a good deal of seating space, but don’t provide any sort of back support. I may have initially injured my back when we were getting here with our cases and bags, doing some heavy lifting at times, especially in the last stages of arriving here at Turnpike Link. Panadol works, though I’d prefer not to be taking four to six tablets a day.

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Going under one of the many bridges. The smudges are on the window of the boat. There was a small rear deck, but the views inside were quite good.

 

Rain and Thunder on Tuesday

We are missing the banquets from our time in China. When we were preparing vegetables for our crock pot this morning we had something of the feeling of being in China with colourful food – celery, onion, capsicum, potatos and sweet potatos. I put a touch of hot chilli powder in as well. One of the things about this house is that former guests leave behind all their herbs and spices. It appears that some good cooking goes on here.

Yesterday we planned to do some washing and shopping. The washing part was easy although three loads took some time. Getting out to do the shopping was another matter due to thunder, lightening and rain, and we ended up heading out at about 4.00 p.m., taking the tram, just to our small, local Sainsburys near the station. We didn’t get wet and were able to cover all of our shopping needs, worth remembering if we think we need a bigger supermarket for groceries.

This morning we have done some thinking and planning. We want to visit Ron and the family, and Melanie suggested that we come this Sunday and stay as long as we want to. We think this means two or three nights, by the way, not weeks and weeks. They are going away in mid June.

Some of the exploring we would like to do in that area can be done in day trips. Our tentative idea of hiring a car for a few days has transformed into an actual booking for 7 days. We will pick up the car late on Saturday and drive to Gloucester on Sunday. Melanie is planning a family dinner outing for the evening. We can then spend a few days exploring.

We haven’t made any AirBNB bookings as we can make more concrete plans once we get there. At the moment we are thinking of exploring close to Gloucester on Monday, then going further afield on Tuesday and doing something of a circut before heading back here to East Croydon. Hopefully, we can do our AirBNB bookings a day ahead. Having the car means we don’t have to try to get places in the middle of towns.

There are no photos from yesterday, hence using a banquet photo from our China tour for the featured image. We are going out soon for the rest of the day, with a lovely hot crock pot meal to come home to.

Sunday Roasts and a Visit to Chartwell on the Monday ‘bank holiday’

Imagine if this was what you saw from your house? The country home of Churchill and his family includes this view. Continuing our Churchill immersion experience, we caught a couple of buses to visit this old house and gardens.

Yesterday we had a lively Facetime session with Matt. He demonstrated his great reversing switch. Placed under his shoulder on the right hand side, he can operate it with his right arm bent or straight. He was apparently feeling well last night because he ate a full meal and had a big drink of coffee afterwards. The session took place at about 11.45 a.m. our time, but after dinner for him.

We then went out in search of a roast for our lunch. We changed our minds after finding the closest pub closed, and went to the new to us food hall near the station. It was very busy, with most of the food stalls open and some craft stalls on one side. We chose a Thai meal and it was lovely to have spicy food again.

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After lunch we walked down to Croydon Minster. Our plan was to zoom home on the tram, but I had changed bags and didn’t have my Oyster card, so we walked back. Here we are going through Matthews Yard, where there is a small pub.
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Here is the Spreadeagle, with a board advertising roast meals. On another Sunday we will take advantage.

Yesterday was our first long walk, and today we walked even more, trekking around Chartwell. We had to catch two buses, and realised at the change that I didn’t necessarily have enough on my oyster card to get home. We followed directions to a little shop, where we were able to put some money on the cards. Later in the day, we realised that we can use a credit card on the payment point on buses. We still had to wait about 45 minutes for the next bus to Chartwell and had a coffee and withdrew some more cash whilst waiting.

The Chartwell bus runs on weekends and public holidays only. We were worried that it would be very crowded, and it was, but not so much that we couldn’t enjoy the lovely gardens and weather. As you can see, it was sunny and about 25 degrees. Very hot, as far as the English were concerned. We were the only people using umbrellas as sunshades, in fact, a passing child thought it was a very odd sight.

Chartwell is a very nice country house, not too ostentatious (they weren’t wealthy, though quite well off), with wonderful gardens and surrounds. Entry was timed so that there weren’t too many people in the house at a time. We had quite a long wait for our time of 1.40 p.m. We noticed other people having picnics, so went back to the cafe at the entrance and  bought some sandwiches. We sat under one of the large trees to eat and rest.

It was a lovely day in near perfect weather. Yesterday and today there was a storm warning for southern England current, which has probably contributed to the warm weather, but Friday’s dramatic thunderstorms have not returned, in our corner of England anyway.

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Chartwell Pastorale
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rear of the house
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We found this sign quite funny. Where did the black swans come from? Why are they particularly to be avoided?
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‘More geese than swans now live’, here at Chartwell anyway.
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I needed a polarising filter today, the sun was very  bright and a little mistiness made the glare a problem for photos. Plus this front view of the house meant I was shooting into the sun.
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We had afternoon tea at the cafe
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a living room
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the dining room
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There was lots of produce and plants on sale – a way of helping to fund this National Trust site. This snap could have been better, but I couldn’t see the screen of my phone.
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This is the studio where Churchill painted. It appears to have been used as a guest cottage and place for the older children to stay when they had holidays from boarding school. The main house isn’t that big. 

 

Chartwell leaving (1 of 1)
We were able to go in and out of this gate once we had paid our fees and had our little sticky national trust badges. This was our last exit before having afternoon tea and catching the bus home.

I took some photos of the glorious flowers in the gardens.

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Chartwell wall flowers (1 of 1)

Stephen at Chartwell (1 of 1)
Another photo with Stephen
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the Chartwell Churchill flag
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The Churchills loved yellow flowers.

East Croydon weather update

OK, I have to admit that we are still spending most of the time in our apartment, just going out to shop, walk in the park, or get the paper and have a coffee as we did today. I didn’t feel up to going somewhere for a major walk and we are also aware from past experience that a long weekend at the beginning of the school holidays is not the time to visit London attractions such as museums and art galleries. They tend to be particularly busy and children are naturally pretty noisy!

Today was quite good for getting out. It was warm and quite sunny by midday after a foggy morning. Heavy showers and thunderstorms are still forecast for tomorrow, with a break during the day on Monday before more possible showers and thunderstorms late in the day.

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beside the busy road
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Before photo

Our apartment complex is part of a larger complex of row houses with gardens and lawns. We noticed that a number of the trees have been severely cut back. New leaves are starting to come through and we predict that the trees will be covered in green leaves before we leave. We plan to take more photos of the trees as the leaves get thicker.

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As we walk around the local area, it isn’t exactly pretty. There is a lot of public transport – trams and buses, plus the East Croyden Railway station. Yet, whenever we go outside we can hear bird calls and there are often lovely scents from flowers and flowering trees.

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There are some quite intersting old buildings in the downtown area, but also a lot of cheap and nasty sixties buildings that don’t even appear to be being used.

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The trams run along a normal width road mixing with cars and buses. But it somehow all works out.

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We’ve had an email from the supervisor of Matt’s house to say that he has a sore throat. I do hope he doesn’t get a cold, it’s hard for him to cope with a blocked nose and cough as he doesn’t have the strength to blow his nose and cough properly. She said he is still in good spirits and eating well thank goodness. At least we know he didn’t catch the cold from us. Like Stephen, Matt has had the flu vaccination, but what we really need is a vaccine for the common cold. Matt has seen a locum and they have a script for antibiotics in case he needs it.

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Suzhou canal bridge 9th May, 2018

This photo was taken when we had a free afternoon in Suzhou. We took the underground, then walked through to the canal. We ran into other members of our tour group who had done the same thing. Difference was, our plan was to take a taxi back to the hotel, which meant we could walk further into the park without having to worry about a hard slog getting back. One of the advantages of being in China is that taxis are cheap, at least from our perspective.

Revisiting the local park

We went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon, buying quite a lot of food. One of the downsides to this home exchange is that we don’t have a car to go to the supermarket. We took the tolley, of course, and caught the tram on the way back, but there is a steep walk up to our apartment building, plus some steps, which make it quite hard work. Last time we were here a young woman helped Stephen with the trolley. I had a couple of bags of lighter items.

We can’t work out why, but there are some barricades at the small park, making the walking area even smaller. On the other hand, the little kiosk, which is only open in the warmer months, was open, serving home made cake. We shared a generous slice with our cups of tea. It has been cloudy today, with a little light rain, but as we sat the sun came out.

There are lots of birds around, making quite piercing calls, plus large sqirrells. I didn’t try to capture them as I only had my phone and they move pretty fast.

I put some chicken and vegetables in the slow cooker this morning and we are looking forward to tasting the result. When we were planning this trip I thought it would be too warm for slow cooker meals, but we are having quite cool weather at the moment, with light rain every day. There is a storm warning for Sunday.

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The cafe beckons…
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There is an enclosed children’s playground, plus tennis and basketball courts as well as lawn and flower gardens.
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The Folly – it doesn’t really lean, just the angle of the photo. A Victorian cover up of an ordinary water tower.

Stephen was working on making friends with the woman running the cafe. He is curious to see if she is the same person we met the last time we were here. We were here two months, and the cafe closed when it got colder. It was lovely to see it open today.

I’m trying to get all of my photos backed up into ‘the cloud’. It is taking ages as not much got backed up whilst we were in China. I have them on a hard drive, but having them in Google photos is great because it gives the dates and places taken. I can look back to photos taken here in the UK from 2011.

Was it the McVitie’s?

The featured image is a view from our balcony on Tuesday evening when it was fine and sunny.

I started out feeling really ill yesterday, likely a combination of jet lag and the cold. Stephen still has a cold, yet started about five days before me, so I’m feeling it is likely to continue. After lunch I had a sleep, setting the alarm for about an hour to avoid sleeping for too long and upsetting the adaptation to the new time zone.

Stephen had a ‘flu jab just before we left for China and I didn’t. It didn’t make any difference to getting what we think is probably just a bad cold.

In the afternoon we had a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit (McVitie’s) and watched ‘Churchill’, the 2017 movie, which I downloaded by mistake, thinking it was the latest one ‘Darkest Hour’. We enjoyed the movie regardless. I’m worried about the tendency to make Churchill a hero, since he was also quite bloodthirsty and advocated the saturation bombing of civilian targets such as Dresden.

By then I was feeling much better and we went out for a walk. Needing to buy milk was an incentive. We rugged up, and found we were initially cold, then too hot by the time we returned. The temperature was on the border of being cold, but the breeze could make it chilly. Once we were in more sheltered areas of the town we were warmer.

When we were here last time there was a construction taking place next to the train station. It is now finished, with an atrium food hall as the centre. The food shops are tiny, with a good deal of variety. It wasn’t very busy when we walked through.

food hall

It is rainy today and we don’t have any plans. Maybe another movie this afternoon?

I listened to the instructions on our flight about turning off electronic equipment when coming into land and realised that there were different instructions regarding mobile phones. They had to be switched to flight mode, but were otherwise allowed to be switched on. Which means you can take photos and videos when coming into land. Which is how I was able to film this:

As we were flying Air China, the instructions were in Mandarin and English!

From next week when we are hopefully feeling a lot better, we are thinking of renting cars for a couple of days at a time in order to explore places that we can’t readily access via public transport. It is likely to be only a little more expensive than buses and trains as we don’t get any special discounts here.

Visit to a Chonqing park with Tony and Della

I’ve made a little slideshow of some of the photos from our outing on Sunday.

This morning we woke up fairly early. We have some leftover food from other people who have stayed here, but none recent enough to leave us some milk. We went out for breakfast and had to wait until 8.00 a.m. for a cafe to open. We had rather stale looking buns, which we enjoyed because we were hungry. Stephen had the cafe’s ‘Times’ newspaper to read.

We stayed there until about 9.00 when the shops would be open. We went to a little Vodafone shop and bought local SIMs for our phones. It was much more expensive than China, with less data, but enough for our needs whilst we are here. We have unlimited wireless internet at the apartment.

We went to a chemist where Stephen bought Vitamin D with calcium and I was able to get some special soap (I come out in a rash using normal soap and although it is temporary it can feel quite uncomfortable). We then did some grocery shopping. We caught the tram both ways today, Stephen hates that every time we use the Oyster cards it costs the same amount, whether we go a long distance or a short distance. But, having jet lag and being unwell was our excuse. The apartment has a shopping trolly which is very convenient.

I’ve really been feeling the effects of the cold this afternoon. Nevertheless, we found out how to play youtube videos on the TV using the little hub that Gary has attached to his TV. Unfortunately, it only works for youtube, I will have to link my ipad with cables to play movies. I’ve processed some photos and set up an account for Stephen on my laptop. Last time we were here Stephen had access to an iMac, but that has gone.

Stephen cooked spaghetti bolognese for tea, plus made up a small salad. He is feeling a bit better than I am, but still has a cough. It’s 7.23 p.m. and still quite light outside, which feels odd to us. The day has been cool, but the apartment attracts heat. There is a system for circulating air, which we put on last night to help us sleep and today I have been opening windows and sliding doors to let in more air.

Of course, a couple of loads of washing have happened. I made a patchwork cushion to take with me to use in hotel rooms. It has worked very well and the stuffing became flatter and flatter as I used it. Today I put it in the washing machine. There are a couple of clothes airers upstairs and with the landing sliding door open all of the washing has become almost completely dry over the afternoon.

We are trying to get ourselves into a normal routine and will try to stay awake as long as possible this evening, even though or us it is really 2.00 a.m. in the morning. We are on daylight savings, which means there is only a 7 hour time difference instead of 8 hours.

 

To East Croydon by plane and very slow airport bus

We had a busy weekend in Chongqing before setting off for England on Monday morning. We caught an Uber style taxi to the airport thanks to Della for ordering and paying, then the flight to Beijing, then changed to our flight to London. I didn’t get a photo, but we boarded from the tarmac at Beijing Aiport and I felt we should have have been dressed in 50s style clothing.

The plane had some empty seats and Stephen and I were able to have two double seats next to the window, which meant we travelled in almost business class luxury. We were booked through Singapore Airlines on Air China for the two flights. The aircrafts were very modern and comfortable, but the food was mediocre and they didn’t serve hot drinks at meal times. I ordered a tea with milk and got a coffee with sachet whitener because they didn’t actually have milk. After all the lovely Chinese food we had in China it was disappointing and not up to Singapore Airlines standard.

We caught a bus to East Croydon, a sort of airport shuttle, that was very slow. We then had to drag our luggage all the way to the apartment. Not much fun, but the thought that we have six weeks here made it worthwhile. We can now rest and make ourselves comfortable before going out exploring.

On Saturday night we went out with Della and Tony on a boat trip to see the lights of Chongqing. We met with Yaxuan and Tony’s parents for lunch during the day. On Sunday they took us in their car to a lovely park. We had a great lunch in a nearby restaurant and walked around the park in sunshine. It was hot, about 31 and humid, but still felt refreshing.

For our last meal in Chongqing we found a restaurant and enjoyed some more good food. We ordered only three dishes, that is the Australian way of having Chinese.

Choatianmen

Today Stephen was feeling a bit better. We took a hop on hop off bus ride around the local area, hopping off at the convergence of the Yangtze and Jiang Rivers at Chaotianmen. There is a major construction going on at the site and we had to find beauty where we could, taking in the two bridges and the rivers.

It was a very wet day yesterday and started out with a bit of rain this morning, then it was a mostly fine, though cloudy and foggy day.

After the bus ride we chose a place for lunch that was a fresh food store with cafe. We ran into problems as it was set up for people to pay through apps on phones and we only had cash. Thanks to a kind waitress we were able to purchase our sandwiches and a very nice coffee for me. I’m not sure, but I think she paid and we reimbursed her in cash.

More washing has happened today. Stephen only has three summer shirts and he has been doing a lot of hand washing to keep up prior to arriving here.

The above photo is where we had lunch.

These photos are from where we had dinner. We chose our meals from picture.

This evening we watched The Shape of Water which we rented from iTunes. A very entertaining fairytale.

This incredible looking theatre is just around the corner from where we are staying.