Our last few days in England

On Tuesday afternoon we went to the Science Museum in London. The highlight was going to the iMax theatre to see the 3D movie about the Hubble Telescope. Stephen looked at other exhibits afterwards whilst I enjoyed reading about the Hubble. Being close to Earth it was possible for teams to do repairs and upgrades and it is still operating after being launched in 2009. A replacement is planned which will be much further out and not able to be reached by astronaughts.

We caught a bus through to Hyde Park and spent a pleasant time in the warm late afternoon on the Serpentine. Our goal was to see an exhibit, very large and very silly, floating on the water. We were able to enjoy the warm weather just sitting. The lack of airconditioning means travelling by public trans;port can be quite uncomfortable. Our train journey home was comfortable as it was cooler.

When the weather warmed up here, we were finding the house very warm and stuffy, and it was difficult to sleep even though we had the sliding door in the bedroom open. We could only open the windows very slightly. However, Stephen emailed G and found out how to open the windows properly. It means going through a very stiff part, then the windows open. For the last couple of days the house has been much cooler, especially since we are waking up to mist insteading bright sunlight. The mist clears by late morning, allowing the sun to really warm things up. During the ‘heat wave’ our house was already very hot by 7.00 a.m. when the sun had been on the glass for about two hours.

Yesterday Stephen wasn’t feeling very well with renewed cough and cold. I did some shopping and we went out later in the day to enjoy a cup of tea at the M&S cafe. We both bought some underwear, not cheap, but good quality.

Today (Thursday) is our designated cleaning day. We have done the big jobs, with some more to do tomorrow. We are spending our last night in a hotel near the airport, but checkin is not until 3.00 p.m. and we plan to do our packing in the morning and travel via the very slow bus to Heathrow. From there it is a short journey on another bus to the hotel. I thought I might do packing today, but can’t get motivated.

We are both feeling a bit anxious about leaving as we have been in one place long enough to feel quite settled and it is unsettling us to feel we have to move on. Also, I don’t think anyone these days looks forward to long flights, especially when travelling economy. At least arriving home means we can relax at the end.

Tonight we have an outing to the theatre to see ‘Kiss me Kate’ at the Colloseum in London. We plan to have dinner somewhere first. We felt we needed a reward after cleaning the house. Plus, it is a lovely way to spend our second last evening here.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Crossing the border

Today we walked up North Hill about halfway, shared a roast meal, followed by sponge with jam and cream, then drove from the Malvern Hills to a little place called Brilley in Wales. We paid one pound at the border crossing.

North Hill, The Malverns

Tonight and tomorrow night we have a cottage all to ourselves with kitchen and living downstairs and bedroom and bathroom upstairs. We are on a little hobby farm with dogs, chickens, geese and horses.

Tomorrow we plan to explore the Wye valley. I drove through here on my own about 32 years ago.

I’m very tired and will write again tomorrow.

Two days on the road

We left at about 10:00 am on Sunday after talking with Matt on FaceTime. I had been quietly dreading the driving, but apart from the frustration of too many roundabouts it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The motorways make it fairly easy to get the miles done, and having two pairs of eyes to check the road is enormously helpful. We had quite a long break at lunchtime and I was able to nap lying down in the back seat for half an hour

We enjoyed catching up with Ron and his family at a nearby carvery, basically having a really good Sunday roast. The family individually have their personal challenges, but the love and support they show for each other is wonderful to see.

This morning we set out a little before 10.00. To avoid the motorway we headed first to Tewksbury, which turned out to be a very good choice as it is a delightful little town. We had a morning coffee, then visited the Abbey and went for a walk.

We then drove to The Firs, which is a small cottage the family were living in when Elgar was born. We now know a great deal about his life, supplemented with a biographical documentary by Ken Russell which gave perhaps a richer perspective on the highs and lows of his life lent to us by our hostess here at our AirBNB in Malvern. As well as going through all that was on display, and taking out National Trust membership, we enjoyed photographing flowers in the cottage garden.

Our accommodation is set in the Malvern area, with a village that is spread over the hillside. Our hostess is a widow and we are only her second set of guests. She is warm and kind and we have enjoyed our discussions with her. Her husband became a world traveller after retiring from the police force and brought her home from one of the countries he visited when she was 19 years of age. They seem to have had a very happy marriage and have a daughter who is studying music theatre. Fortunately she has many friends from her 24 years of living here. She said a friend of hers signed her up for the AirBNB listing – I guess she will find out from experience if it is something she really wants to do. We feel very grateful that we can share her old and beautiful home.

We asked about somewhere to have tea and she took us out in her car to get some fish and chips. We had some fruit with us, so our meal wasn’t altogether unhealthy!

Tomorrow we will leave our stuff in the house whilst we do our best to do the walk up the hill. The beginning of the walk is nearby. Our next place is near Hay on Wye, about 40 miles away and we won’t need to leave this area until mid afternoon.

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.