Kiss me Kate and dinner in China Town, London

The Coliseum theatre where we had an enjoyable time seeing this old musical.

Outside the theatre.

On our way, we went to nearby Chinatown for a meal. The food was Hong Kong style and very good.

Today we took the very slow bus to a hotel near Heathrow Airport. Our flight is at 9:30 am tomorrow and we have a car booked to take us to Terminal 2 in the morning. It is the same cost as the Airport Shuttle, but faster.

We had a day of packing and finishing cleaning at the apartment, before catching the bus. It took us about 3.5 hours to get here, with wait times and Stephen going to the library to return some books.

This hotel is more of a hostel, we have a tiny room with tiny ensuite and a kettle in a nearby outdoor area if we want to make our own cups of tea. I have a cup and some teabags and plastic cutlery. There were other possibilities for an evening meal, such as pizza delivery or a nice pub on the corner, but I brought some leftover food and we had picnic tea outside, before walking down to a local shop to get money, water and ice creams.

Hastings Adventures

After afternoon tea on Monday we walked along the sea front as far as we could until we were under the cliff. There are a couple of museums for Stephen to explore.

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at the end of the path
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cliff face
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funicular railway
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enjoying the pebble beach
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The pier, a new construction owned by foreign interests appears to be only open when there is an event.

We walked back into the Old Town and found an Elizabethan style pub where we had the two together steak special. The steaks were beautifully cooked to our specification and the meal as a whole well presented and tasty. There were chips, but not used to cover up bad cooking, as sometimes happens. We were so happy with our first dinner Monday night that we went there for our evening meal last night as well, choosing the fish and chips special this time.

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the pub where we had our evening meals

When we were walking Monday evening we saw a place, Pam’s Cafe that serves breakfasts. We chose it partly because we would be able to see the sea from the windows. However, it turned out to be a bad choice – the only choice was fried everything and they didn’t do real coffee. I took my laptop and planned to blog whilst enjoying coffee, but the table was sticky and I didn’t like to bring it out. So, we consider that a fail. The sea was grey, with a grey sky. After breakfast we walked back to the house to pack our things for the day out.

Our plan was to visit Bodian Castle, a bus ride away from the town. I was trying to buy a real coffee, but the Costas at the bus station/train station reported a malfunctioning coffee machine. After walking around a bit, I found a sort of funky pub that did take away coffee. Thank goodness as it was getting close to midday.

The bus ride was interesting as it took us through a part of the town which is hilly and we probably wouldn’t have chosen to walk that way. Bodian Castle is a National Trust property and located just near the bus stop – which made it ideal from the logisics point of view.

Apart from that, it is the most beautiful castle. It is a ruin, but the outside is well kept and there is enough intact inside to get a feel for what it was like to live there. The man that built it came from an ordinary manor house and he and his wife had the challenge of making a castle as comfortable as their former home. The castle has featured in documentaries, but I don’t remember seeing it before.

It was partly sunny and quite warm by the time we reached Bodian. It was a delightful experience to walk inside and around the grounds. They had the usual National Trust shop and cafe, and we made good use of both. I took lots of photos, but also bought some postcards of the castle in snow and in evening light. If we ever build a castle I want it to be just like Bodian. Below are some photos.

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There were some very large fish in the moat. This one’s face looks like some sort of mammal rather than a fish.

It’s been an odd experience as we walk around the town to seeing Hastings on signs everywhere. The was also a Carlisle hotel and I took a photo of it for Matt.

After arriving back in town at about 3.30, we went to Jempsons for our afternoon cuppa. We resisted cakes and it paid off with having a good appetite for our dinner. We walked along the sea front in the other direction after leaving Jempsons, then walked back to the Old Town to our favourite pub.

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there was a bank of fog over the sea during the afternoon, some of which blew over the town

By the time we got home we had done the most steps of any day on our trip so far, about 16,929 – about 12 kms. We slept very well indeed, though we had energy for listening to a couple of Desert Island Disk podcasts. If you haven’t been listening to Desert Island Disks it’s worth while checking them out. They have interviews stretching back 30 years. Sometimes there are interviews of the same person at vastly different stages of their life.

I needed a new book shortly before we left and chose ‘The Conqueror’ by Georgette Heyer. Her books are now available as ebooks and the connection with Hastings makes it the idea choice for reading here. The hero is William the Conqueror. I’m not sure I want to bring it up with the locals, they speak of the Civil War as if it happened a few years ago instead of centuries. Being overtaken by the Normans might be a bit sensitive for them, depending on their ancestry and loyalties.

Stephen likes to strike up conversations with other elderly men as we are catching buses. This can lead to very interesting local information.

We see very little of our hostess who is a shift worker. Hopefully we will see her when we go back to the house to pack up and we can clarify the pick up time for our bags.

 

The Hastings go to Hastings

But first, getting up to date. On Saturday evening we went to a concert at the Croydon Minster. The choir members do not audition and the choral singing was a little fuzzy – not up to WASO chorus standards. But the young soloists were excellent and the Rossini mass is very easy to listen to.

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Sadly I couldn’t get a photo with all four soloists looking towards the front. The second from the left was the mezzo. She had a really lovely voice.
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We could see more of the church before the choir arrived.

When we came out it was still light, with a cold breeze. Stephen had his thick coat (I had been using it in the church to try to get comfortable), but I had my denim jacket only. A brisk walk home was the best we could do to get warm.

On Sunday we did nothing very much – we talked with Matt and Hidde on Facetime at 11.30 a.m. Matt continues to look well and happy. In the later afternoon we went out for afternoon tea and shopping. We had pork pies for lunch, mostly so that we could tell Hidde that we had them, rather than because we thought they would be great. They were nice at the time, but have a strong taste of pork which seems to be haunting me still. Perhaps I need a Chinese meal or something to overpower the taste.

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Stephen’s finger on the lens here. We sat outside as we waiting for them to post the platform number. We were told it was usually platform 3, but we didn’t want to have to scramble up and around to another platform if it changed.
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Stephen with the sign on the platform opposite – we have arrived!

This morning we got up in good time to pack for our little trip. In fact, our train didn’t leave until 1.00 p.m., but we wanted to get to the station early to pick up our tickets. We were thinking of just taking my duffle bag for both of us, but I filled it up with my stuff, so Stephen has had to bring the other duffle for his clothes. We still felt we were lightly packed compared with when we went away with the car for a week.

We haven’t bought any food with us as it would have been extra to carry. We can prepare food at our AirBNB, but will probably just have meals out for the couple of days we are here. We have two nights, and are leaving at 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday, which gives us a couple of days here, more or less. We have a room on the ground floor, just down three steps, rather than up many steps, with our own private bathroom. It’s very inexpensive compared with most of the places available here, $103 for two nights including AirBNB fees. Breakfast isn’t included, but there are many options to buy breakfast nearby.

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We are on the left, with the white door.

It was cloudy and dull when we woke up this morning, then fined up by the time we left home. We arrived here in sunshine, which tends to make a good impression. There is a coolish breeze, so we need jackets. We really enjoyed the train ride. Obviously when we were travelling along near the sea Stephen put away his paper to look out the window.

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Stephen in the town square with our destination, Jempson’s Bakery Cafe, in the background.
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The cafe
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Cup of tea for Stephen and coffee for me. We had tea cakes, a bit similar to Welsh cakes, quite delicious toasted.

Stephen didn’t do any preparation in terms of looking up the attractions of this area before we came. Whilst I am tapping away at the blog he is doing some research for the next couple of days.

Stephen was joking (I hope) with the waitress that we should get a discount because our name is Hastings. She confided that the manager had said to only charge us for one tea cake, not two – we were already being given a discount. I think we will come back to this cafe.

The Fox to Farthing Downs

We had a roast for lunch today, just a small amount of chicken, enough for two, with roast vegetables. It was delicious and we felt it would set us up for a long walk in the afternoon.

We set off on our expedition quite late, about 3.30 p.m. The bus was full of blue blazered schoolgirls, very noisy and happy to get out of school. As it was a long bus ride to our destination it wasn’t as peaceful as we would have liked. Plus, the bus was having to contend with a lot of traffic. Close to our destination our bus packed it in altogether and booted us out. We weren’t told, but the next bus was close behind and it didn’t cause much of a delay.

On arrival we had afternoon tea at The Fox, a rather nice pub on the edge of the Coulston Downs. We have walked in this area before and had a rough idea that we could easily walk through to Farthing Downs, then along the high ridge to catch a different bus. It was about 5.00 p.m. when we set out and we caught the bus towards home at about 7.00 p.m. We had one very steep climb and compared it with doing the 9 floors up to our apartment. Doable, but slowly.

So, now, some photos from our walk:

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Stephen spends time looking at plants and trees and I take photos. We don’t try to keep pace with each other all of the time, but sort of leap frog as we go.
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The Long Grass on Farthing Downs
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There were quite a lot of different flowers, I found this one interesting.
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Stephen waiting for me to come through the gate.
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View from Farthing Downs
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Another view down the hill
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The buildings mark the beginning of the Farthing Downs section of the walk.
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The signpost. I have a photo of this from our last trip to England.
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The Shard and other buildings in London were visible in the distance. Although it looks to be getting dark in the photo it was still quite light when we arrived home.

As we were travelling on a different bus on the way home we decided to switch back to the 466 when we could so that we could get off outside of our housing complex. It would have been quicker, but more expensive, to go home by train.

As we were home so late we had a quick and easy meal of scrambled eggs followed by fruit for our evening meal.

Most of the photos were processed using DxO’s Effex Pro. I find the HDR effects not as pleasing as the ones from the IOS app Snapseed. The files blow out to 144mb and I have to import the processed files back into Lightroom, then export them using my normal ‘for the web’ presets, taking them back to no more than 5 mb. It adds to processing time. The featured photo and photo of Stephen bending over were just processed using the Lightroom sliders.

 

Morden Hall Park

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Have I said that we love the trams? We definitely do. Stephen has been studying our National Trust book, looking for places we can easily reach. For our walk yesterday afternoon he found Morden Hill Park, which is on the Wimbledon tram line. We leave our apartment block and walk down to the tram stop. The park is about 25 minutes away.

We came home the same way, though we got off a couple of stops early to do some shopping. Then back on the tram to home. The trams are a smoother ride and much faster than buses. I started dreaming about Kent Street Weir being just a tram ride from our place… We can catch the bus there, but would have to walk about a kilometre from Albany Highway to the park. It can be done, but we take the option of driving there instead.

The late sunsets mean that it is still very light at about 8.00 p.m. We find that our evening meal times are getting quite late because we don’t really feel like heading home when we could enjoy being out. It is often the warmest part of the day.

I’m finding that photography, even in parks, is a bit unsatisfactory because we are usually at home by the time the sun sets, and it rises when we are still wanting to sleep – therefore the light can be a bit uninteresting. Plus the uniform green of trees and grass mean they sort of blend together in wider shots. A better photographer would still be able to work things out, no doubt.

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We saw ducks and other water birds, but we could also hear birds in the trees. As it is in an urban area there were also the sounds of traffic, etc.
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On the wetlands walk I spotted Stephen in the rushes
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He spotted something or other
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There were some building in the park, I’m not sure what this was originally.
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There was an old mill with a water wheel. The little river was flowing very fast. I have a video of the flow, it’s hard to see from the photo.

It is a very pretty park. We fell into conversation with a local resident. He had given us some directions, and stopped by us, getting off his bike when we were examining a tree. Stephen has a book from the library which is a big help in classifying features of trees and helps with identification. He wasn’t any help with the name of the tree, but told us that the park is very much used, especially on weekends when it becomes quite crowded. It is 125 acres, with different areas and a small, but fast flowing river. We enjoyed talking with Rocco (he is Italian, but has lived here since he was seventeen) and he told us a bit about his life and his job at a local school. He and Stephen found a connection as Stephen worked at a nearby school back in the 70s.

As well as the rose garden and parklands, there was a lovely cafe, open until 6.00 p.m. We enjoyed ‘cream teas’ – a large scone with choice of jams and clotted cream, plus any hot drink. We ended up having three scones between us to use up our jam and cream.

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A gateway near the cafe in the top photo. The cafe was not well signposted and I found it by following some women with children who seemed to be anxious to arrive somewhere. At the cafe we chose to sit inside out of the sun and strong breeze.
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I liked this signpost in the form of an insect.

We had been planning to cook a tiny chicken roast dinner when we got home, but we weren’t hungry enough, even getting back quite late. We had soup, a small salad and a slice of toast each, and still felt overfull at the end of the meal.

Perhaps this post makes much of very little, however we really enjoyed the excursion and we want to aid our memories of our time here in the UK. Stephen used to always complain that I had lots of photos, but no narrative. So, we now have narrative. He would blog differently, of course. He takes lots of photos on his phone and could easily keep a companion blog to this one. Perhaps he could be pursuaded.

 

South Bank and Covent Garden

We arrived home feeling tired last night to a broken lift and nine flights of stairs, 10 if you count going up to the upper level of our apartment. We are staying home for the morning and hope that by the time we go out this afternoon the lift will have been repaired.

Stephen’s research found that there are plays at the National Theatre for fifteen pounds a seat, relatively cheap. We went to see a play called ‘Translations’ yesterday afternoon. It was interesting to wander around the South Bank on a fine, partly cloudy day. We found the play well acted and the story line at times obscure – fortunately I had paid four pounds for the comprehensive program. The play was set in Ireland slightly before the potato famine when an attempt was being made to update Irish placenames. There were a couple of actors we have seen on TV or in films which was also interesting for us, although all of the cast were good.

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We had a hot drink afterwards, then took a bus to Covent Garden.

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We were in time for an opera singer busking near one of the restaurants.

We accidentally caught a slow train home. It seemed to wander quite far away before eventually getting to East Croydon. We are used to getting an express with East Croydon as the first stop. Stephen read the paper and I read my book to pass the time.

When we arrived at the station we split up, with me going directly home by tram to put our dinner on and Stephen heading to the local Sainsbury for bread and wine. After enjoying a tiny bottle of Mateuse Rose the other evening we have been looking forward to another glass with our meal. He wasn’t able to get the Mateuse and we settled for a fruit rose – a bit sweeter and a bit less alcoholic. We only have about a half a small glass each.

It was when we arrived home that we discovered that the lift wasn’t working and we had to climb the stairs. We had 7 flights when we were in China, so this is further to climb.

Weather update: Wimbledon

On Sunday we took the car back, no problems, and we will be refund the 200 pounds deposit. It was still tricky driving in traffic and we got beeped one last time, just in case we were missing it! We caught the bus back and did some shopping. We finally found the exit that takes us to the tram stop from inside the Whitgift shopping centre under the busy road.

Yesterday I did a lot of washing, catching up with towells and linen. In the afternoon we walked downtown and Stephen went to the library, then joined me at Neros for afternoon tea. It was a pleasant, sunny day, a bit too warm in the sun even at 3.00ish.

sunny day

It is grey today, with temperatures 12-18 degrees. At 2.20 p.m. it’s about 17 degrees. When I check Vic Park weather the nights are a bit colder, but daytime temperatures about the same for this week. Odd!

Today we are visiting Wimbledon where there are tours of the grounds and courts, plus a museum, shop and cafe. I’ve been looking for something to take home for Matt, and found a nice sports jacket. The young people we’ve seen wearing them look pretty snazzy. I think Matt will as well.

Stephen did a full 1.5 hour tour, where I chose to have a quick look at Centre Court and tour the museum.

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Me at Centre Court. It was a tour, but I was the only one who turned up. Stephen has his own Centre Court photo.

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They have a VR presentation which is pretty sensational. They have started taking 360 degree video of the competition and it makes for an amazing experience. They have a trained hawk that acts to scare birds away from the courts during matches, and part of the presentation had the hawk landing just in front of you, I could have reached out and touched it. You can turn your head to see the Royal Box, such is the magic of VR.

The museum is very well done and covers the game from early days of Real Tennis played by Henry VIII and others to the present day. I liked seeing the dresses women used to wear when playing.

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It’s easy to get here (Wimbledon) from our place, a tram ride to Wimbledon central from outside our housing complex, then a bus ride that took us just outside the gate.

Today we had news of the outcome of the Trump/Kim summit. Insulting the Canadian Prime Minister, blowing off the other heads of state of traditional allies at the G7, and cozying up to a dictator. Giving said dictator legitimacy despite his human rights record and nuclear capacity. I don’t think anyone really believes that Kim will give up his nuclear weapons. No wonder a Fox News host got a bit muddled and accidently described them as ‘two dictators’ – that is on Trump’s own fan channel. Are we impressed – not likely. It seems that he has played directly into Kim’s hands.

Gareth Evans said in an interview we saw on the ABC that with international diplomacy you have to be prepared to talk with ‘the worst of the worse’ in order to achieve peaceful ends. However, a wise leader would not think it meant having to flatter Kim and fly US flags alongside North Korean flags.

We understand Kim’s motivation, having proved his nuclear capacity he must improve conditions economically in order to hold on to power in North Korea. However, it is obvious that he has to keep the nuclear capacity as much as possible whilst doing just enough to have sanctions lifted.

Everyone has been willing to talk with Kim Jong Un since the full crazyness of the Trump administration has become clear. The fear that the madman in the Whitehouse would start a nuclear war for purely selfish and egotisical reasons was the motivation.

 

Safely home again in East Croydon

The roundabouts! Such a danger to a newbie to driving in England. We only had two close calls that we know about, perhaps there were more. When we arrived at our final stay in Swindon we eventually had to give up trying to get the right exit to the roundabout and went and parked up near Sainsburys. After the break, the getting into the little housing estate where we were staying seemed quite easy.

I was feeling so stressed yesterday that we booked the car for an extra day so that I wouldn’t feel under pressure to get back early. With a coffee break at a gorgeous little pub, followed by lunch at another pub (not quite so gorgeous) it took us about 6 hours to drive about 200 kms. There was a choice of motorways or small roads with lots of roundabouts, I’m not sure what is worse given that cars seem to drive at motorway speeds no matter what the road is like.

We had been thinking of going to a seaside town, and since trains go there and we have been to Brighton, we decided on Hastings (also because of the name, of course). We have been able to book an inexpensive room in the centre of the town within walking distance to the beach for $90 for two nights, $103 with the AirBNB fee. That is such good value as other prices started at $150.00 per night. AirBNB have redefined BNB to bed and bath, not bed and breakfast, and the price does not include breakfast. However, we are happy to pay less and either bring our own food or go to a cafe.

The worst part of our road trip was the driving. Even my navigator got a bit stressed. However, we were able to visit some beautiful locations and it was definitely worth it.

We enjoyed walking around Hay on Wye on Wednesday afteroon. The sunshine continued all day. The next day we drove through the Brecon Beacons, a scenic area with mountains, rivers, waterfalls and forests. We saw very little, but enough to feel it would be lovely to revisit for a few days. The featured photo shows a visitor centre where we had lunch. We didn’t do much walking – the attractions of the area are walks – so actually missed out. We had a room booked in Monmouth and had to head in that direction in mid afternoon.

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This is a large reservoir – not a lake
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lots of views like this

The idea was that we would travel towards East Croydon, breaking the journey at a couple of places and leaving a short drive home at the end. However, I didn’t actually calculate the distances. Monmouth is a large village with fame as the birthplace of one of the Henrys and of Rolls, of Rolls Royce. There were many attractive old buildings. We had dinner there the first night before going to our accomodation in a nearby tiny village.

The house has been extensively renovated, but we had a room in the old part of the house with exposed beams and a sloping floor. The bed head was considerably lower that the foot and I only needed one pillow to sleep, normally I have two. The room was spacious, with two little armchairs. Hosts often overlook the need for armchairs in a room when you are staying in someone’s house. We had a large bathroom to ourselves, not ensuite, but close by.

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sloping floor – but such a charming room

In the morning our host had set up a breakfast in the dining room. This room was also low ceilinged and part of the old house. We felt she was operating more as a traditional bed and breakfast as she prepared toast and scrambled eggs for Stephen. We had an interesting talk with her about the house and history. We enjoy being in houses with lots of books – it makes us feel at home.

We went to a nearby beauty spot on our way out of Monmouth. In the 18th century a special picnic place called the Whitehouse was built because the wealthy did not want their picnics spoiled by weather. It’s a pretty solid building, but does have windows so that they could see the view.

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It was a cool, misty day, so the views weren’t great and as the White House was closed we had our picnic in the car.

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Kymin military monument
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An ancient gate in Monmouth, built around 1270 AD
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looking down the street at Monmouth from the gateway

Our last night’s accomodation said on the AirBNB site that guests had sole use of the space. As our hosts went away for the night, that turned out to be true, but isn’t necessarily the case. I gave feedback that they need to reconsider the description. The house was fairly modest, but had comfortable arm chairs, fast internet, and we were able to set up the ipad to watch the last episode of “A very English scandal” on the large screeen TV. Our room had a bed and a wardrobe in it, nothing else. However, we slept well – the ultimate test.

Then the tiring drive home.

This morning is blogging, facetime with Matt, and in the afternoon, taking the car back to the hire place, then some shopping. Stephen has booked us into a play in London on Wednesday. And we have our seaside trip to look forward to. We hope for fine weather, but this is England…

We just had a lovely session with Matt. He looked very happy and relaxed – after an excited greeting when we first saw him. Hidde gave us his news and we gave him our news.

 

 

Sunny morning in Brilley

We are having a lazy morning. It started out being misty, but it has cleared quite a lot and we now have sunshine. We slept in until about 8.00 a.m. We have been moving each day since Sunday and this is the first time we have had two nights in one place. Our plan today is to visit Hay on Wye, and also plan the rest of our little trip in the car.

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Our cottage. It is an annex to the main house.
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Living room
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Fully equipped kitchen. The fridge and dishwasher are behind cupboard doors
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The bedroom has a skylight at either end, plus a window. We pulled the blinds on the skylights to sleep as it gets light so early.
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Our cottage is the section with the lower roof and single skylight. We are next to the shed.
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View down the driveway this sunny morning.
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View across the fields.
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View from our upstairs window yesterday evening.

I’ve made a slideshow of our climb yesterday, but our internet is too slow and it was taking forever to upload. I’ll try again when we have faster internet.