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A Mooch in Antigua

Honeymoon - Antigua

sunny 28 °C
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As the Caribbean can be quite samey, we had made a conscious effort to explore different things in each place. However with a run of busy days and with none of the possible excursions really tickling our fancy, we decided to have a more chilled day today.

After having got up in our own time and had breakfast ("Two Apple juices?" said the waiter who by now knows what I want each day), we made our way down to the port to have an exploration.

P&O were quite good at having hand sanitizer stations everywhere, however their ID card printers are such poor quality that the hand sanitizer wipes away all the ink and leaves them unreadable. Instead of investing in good quality machines, or giving everyone plastic lanyards to keep their cards in (they charge £5 for these in the shop), the solution is to get the passengers to request a new card.

Having already had to ask for a new ID card just a few days into the cruise (as the one I was given initially was already half wiped off before I even picked it up), by now, day 10 on board, my card was getting pretty bad again. Still possible to read, but not ideal.

Getting down to the disembarkation area the lady looks at my card and says "you need a new card". Yes, I know - because your printers are awful, I think to myself. Then she just carries on looking at me. "What... now?" I ask. "Yes, now" she snaps back at me. Despite the fact the card is still readable, I now need to traipse all the way back up 3 decks to the reception and then wait around whilst yet another new card is printed. Thank God we didn't have an excursion booked or we would have missed it.

It was not impossible to speak to customers nicely, but clearly they've just employed anyone they can find even if they are rude to the passengers. Eventually after now having my third card in the space of a week I could traipse all the way back down and finally get off the ship.

Whilst most of the ports had not required any kind of Covid checks, Antigua was a bit tighter, and required us to do temperature checks on the jetty before we made it into the cruise terminal. Nevertheless, we had so far managed to dodge Covid and even the hot temperatures still gave us a normal reading, so we were allowed into St. John's.

Cruise Terminal

Cruise Terminal

The terminal was full of the usual shops and cafés, and we had a little look around before then heading out into St. John's proper and to the eponymously named cathedral that overlooks the town.

St. John's Cathedral

St. John's Cathedral

From the outside it looked a bit of a state - but inside it was completely unexpected - being completely panelled in wood.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Although it was undergoing some renovation, it was still lovely to see. We then headed south through the back streets of the town to the VC Bird Monument - dedicated to the first Antiguan President, but bizarrely painted like no monument should be.

VC Bird Monument

VC Bird Monument

Ironically, Antigua sells itself as the island of 365 beaches, and yet not one of them is a walkable distance from the port, and so after just under an hour or so, we were already back at the port. We had another wander around the terminal before re-boarding the ship.

We spent the afternoon once again lazing around the pool, before enjoying a sail away through Deepwater Harbour and past Fort James.

Fort James

Fort James

At tonight's dinner we once again picked up lots of the small plates of different foods and had our fill, before having a chilled evening watching some of the on demand entertainment.

Dinner

Dinner

Although when we had travelled northwards there had been a sea day between the Windwards and the Leeward Islands, on the return journey southwards we would have continuous port days. We therefore travelled on a relatively direct route, and this meant before bedtime we were passing very close to the island of Montserrat.

Montserrat

Montserrat

As we didn't have a balcony, I went out on deck to take a look - being able to see a silhouette of the volcanic island as we passed. After taking in the views, I then went for a quick wander around parts of the ship I'd not yet seen, before finally heading back to the cabin for the night.

Pool by Night

Pool by Night

Posted by kmmk17 17:18 Archived in Antigua and Barbuda Tagged food city island cathedral caribbean Comments (0)

The Fens

Fens

semi-overcast 22 °C
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It had been a long time since we had had a relaxing getaway, and so we booked ourselves a lodge with a hot tub in Norfolk, and went up with my brother and sister.

We travelled up after work on Friday, getting dinner en route, before dropping our bits off at the lodge, located in the Fens in Norfolk. The Fens were historically marshy underwater land that was drained in the 1600s. Very much like the Netherlands they are incredibly flat, and contain lots of straight roads and drains, and arable crops.

After popping to the supermarket in Downham Market, we headed back to the lodge and made our first use of the hot tub, enjoying drinks and music in the soothing tub.

The following day we made use of being in this part of the world, by visiting the city of Ely. Ely was historically an island within the Fens, and although home to just 20,000 people is only of the most important places in the area.

After eventually finding a space to park we headed into the centre, walking down the High Street, before turning into the churchyard. Here the huge Ely Cathedral came into view. The cathedral has an iconic Octagonal tower, and dominates the skyline of the whole city.

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Admission was £8, and so for the four of us this would have been £32 - but as the pay point was just inside the church we went inside took a quick look across the barrier, went inside the gift shop and then left.

We then headed across the Green, past the canon captured from the Crimean War, before arriving outside the family home of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of England during the Republic after the civil war. Inside, the building also functions as the Tourist Information Centre, where we bought some souvenirs, before heading along the circular walk around town.

Oliver Cromwell's House

Oliver Cromwell's House

This walk heads to the south of the cathedral through gardens dedicated to the Queen's Golden Jubilee, before arriving along the banks of the River Great Ouse.

After making it back round to the car, we headed to the lodge, where after a bit of lunch we spent the rest of the day in and out of the hot tub, mixing it up with games and chats.

Hot Tub Fun

Hot Tub Fun

The following day was our last. We had a pretty lazy day, in and out of the hot tub, and only leaving it to go for a wander around the edge of the campsite. At late afternoon we then packed up our stuff and headed back home, once again getting dinner en route.

It was a lovely weekend, just being able to relax in a nice environment and have fun and games with my siblings.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged history city cathedral family lodge Comments (0)

A Day In The Cotswolds

Cotswolds

sunny 21 °C
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After the last 18 months of not getting to go very far, we managed to have a day out to the Cotswolds on one of the few nice summer's days of 2021.

With a lot of leave still to use, we'd taken the week off and spent much of it decorating the living room. But to give us a bit of a break from all the work on a 'week off', we decided to have a day out and picked the best one weather-wise in what had been a pretty miserable summer.

The first place we headed to was Bourton-on-the-Water, which involved driving across country. As we were almost there, the road we needed to take to cross over to Stow-on-the-Wold was closed, with the nearest diversion adding another 30mins to our journey. Feeling that this might be a bit excessive, we decided to try our luck and see how far down the road we could get before cutting around the road closure on country roads.

As we almost entered Stow-on-the-Wold, we cut off and diverted via a suburb to the south. However these tiny narrow lanes were not suitable for the huge cars ignorant people love to drive. Arriving at one bend where there were loads of parked cars, the developing trail of cars I was caught up in met another travelling the opposite way. A trail of three cars had already headed down what had become a de facto single lane highway which our larger trail was already on. As we had right of way, and also nowhere to go, the cars headed towards us had to reverse to allow us to pass. Some of them did so amicably, but one driver decided he would only reverse as far as possible for all our cars to mount the verge and squeeze past - despite him being able to reverse back slightly more and let us drive on the actual carriageway.

My blood was now boiling. How dare this ignorant man just sit there so obnoxiously expecting us to do something so unnecessary. So I sat there waiting for him to reverse further, but he would not. So, as I was forced to mount the verge passing him, I stopped adjacent to his window, wound mine down and absolutely lost it at him - shouting, screaming and swearing right in his face. He probably didn't care but it made me feel better anyway.

As we left the town we could see the huge traffic queue that had formed due to the closure of the important road. Thankfully we were missing it via our reroute, and around 10 minutes later we were in the middle of an extremely busy Bouton-on-the-Water. Despite being a weekday, probably due to the nice weather and the school holidays, it was full of people and we were lucky to get parked.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water

After a little walk we ended up on the main High Street of this beautiful village, where a small river runs just to the south creating an area of parkland where many families were picnicking. Crossing several of the bridges we started at the west end by the Motoring Museum, before heading into gift shops and ending outside the Model Village. It is quite simply the idealised English village.

But being a Cotswold village, there wasn't much to do, and so after picking up some souvenirs we then headed back to the car park and made our way to the nearby city of Gloucester.

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral

Around half an hour later, and just outside the Cotswolds we arrived and parked in the shopping centre car park. We then went for a wander over to Gloucester Cathedral. This huge cathedral contains the tomb of Edward II, and also served as a filming location for the Harry Potter films.

Cloisters

Cloisters

There, they did the typical thing of providing 'free' entry, whilst in reality trying to force us to give them a donation. So we pretended to leave and then when no one was looking legged it across the vestry - we only wanted a quick look!

Edward II's Tomb

Edward II's Tomb

We went for a little wander into the cloisters and courtyard, before heading back to the exit via the tombs. We then headed back towards the centre, stopping for lunch, before making our way towards the Docks, located on the edge of the River Severn.

On driving into the town it dawned on me that this was also the city where Fred and Rose West had lived and murdered, and their house, where 9 bodies were found in 1994 was just a short walk away. So we decided to walk back via the site, which has since been knocked down and turned into a footpath.

We were now headed back towards home, but we also had another Cotswold village we wanted to stop by at - Bibury.

Bibury

Bibury

Much smaller than Bourton-on-the-Water, it was very scenic. However even at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon, we were lucky to get a space. After driving past the best parking spaces, we could see a learner driver was just getting into the car. After turning around, a stroke of luck, he was trying to pull out. So I let him go and then nabbed his spot.

We then went for a short walk around the village, before making our way back to the car, and a final drive home.

Bibury

Bibury

It may have only been one day, but it was a nice break from the normality of home, and it was very scenic. Would recommend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 19:20 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hills river scenery city cathedral quaint Comments (0)

Touring Tyne & Wear

Northumbria - Newcastle, Gateshead & Durham

semi-overcast 19 °C
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After two busy days, we decided to take our time a bit more today, and would spend it seeing the sights in Tyne & Wear without too much driving.
We began by heading to the centre of Gateshead, parking at the SAGE Centre, and going for a walk around the Tyne, crossing into Newcastle over the Millennium Bridge.

Tyneside

Tyneside

We then continued walking along the riverside under the Tyne Bridge before heading up to the Castle, which has been cut in half by a railway viaduct, somewhat ruining the image of how it would have been every few minutes!.

Newcastle Castle

Newcastle Castle

After heading back towards the car park we drove out of the city, stopping at the Angel of the North, which unlike most places was still full of tourists.

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

After a short stop, we headed to the furthest place on today's trip - Durham.

Covid had really affected Durham, and it felt particularly empty - especially around the old city. Much of the peninsular is taken up by the University - various halls and colleges, which were all empty. Even the souvenir shop was closed.

Durham

Durham

However as luck would have it, the cathedral had not been closed, and opened for the day just as we arrived. We had a quick look around, and then headed for a walk around the riverside.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Our last stop for the day was to the Penshaw Monument, just outside Sunderland, where after climbing the steep hill to the top, there were scenic views to be had across the local area.

Penshaw Monument

Penshaw Monument

Normally we don't tend to spend an awful lot of time in each place anyway, but with a lot of places closed it meant we had whizzed around even quicker than normal, and after just a few hours we were already back!

We were however not done for the day. Being opposite a TGIs we decided to book ourselves a table, and so instead of grabbing a quick meal we went out to eat - the first time post lockdown. In a way it was nice to feel like getting back to normal, however at the same time we were constantly reminded due to the empty and roped off tables and one way system in place. Something to tell the kids in 20 years!

Posted by kmmk17 08:16 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged monument river bridge city hill Comments (0)

A Winter Wedding

Sandy's Wedding - Amsterdam & North Holland

rain 9 °C
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Our final holiday for the year was a weekend in Amsterdam, as my friend Sandy was getting married shortly before Christmas. As the wedding was on Monday 23rd, we decided to make a weekend of the trip as Chris had never been to the Netherlands.

With there being several flights a day, we headed on an early afternoon flight and arrived in the Dutch capital around an hour later. With plenty of time, we took it easy, and after grabbing some dinner popped over to the Westerpark area where an indoor Christmas market was being held - perfect for a cold December evening, before heading back to the hotel for the evening

Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets

The following day we headed into the city proper. Having been to Amsterdam 5 times before I knew my way around, but there were a few things I hadn't seen, so we started by visiting the Museumplein, with views of the Rijksmuseum and another Christmas Market.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum

We then headed into the city itself, past the many canals and the flower market before arriving at Dam Square

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam Canals

We then made our way over to the Red Light District, where Chris got waved at by a lady. After grabbing food, we headed over to the Anne Frank House before finally making our way back to the hotel.

The following day we left the hotel and headed out of the city, as today was the day of the wedding. So far we had been staying at a hotel close to Sloterdijk station, so that it would be central to the airport, the city, and getting to the wedding - none of which being more than a 30 minute train ride away.

After taking the train we arrived in the small town of Castricum, from where we would need a taxi for the last 3km as there was no public transport. On researching prior to the trip it seemed we could just get an Uber when we arrived. However when we turned up this wasn't possible, so we ended up taking a stretched limo taxi for the 5 minute drive.

The wedding was taking place at a hotel just outside the town, and not long after arriving Sandy's parents came over to say hello, after having a nice catch up my friend Roel from the south of the Netherlands also arrived.

After having a quick catch up having not seen each other for over 3 years, it was now time for the wedding to start. We headed into the hall where Sandy's mum, who is a registrar was carrying out the wedding herself.

Waiting for it to start

Waiting for it to start

It was very much the same as a usual wedding, although longer than those I was used to - being full of many life stories and ending around an hour later. However as it was all in Dutch, we didn't know fully what was being discussed, except the lovely, but also slightly embarrassing moment when the language swapped to English to thank us for coming, and everyone else turned round to look at the foreigners!

After the ceremony finished and the couple were married, we then tucked into the wedding cake before mingling, and photos.

With the happy couple

With the happy couple

Room keys were then handed out as everyone was staying at the hotel overnight, before a half hour breather prior to dinner. It is interesting to see how even though parts of the ceremony are all the same, they take place in a different way!

We then went into dinner where we were sat with Roel once again, and we had another catch up. We weren't sure exactly what was going on and made sure we had our fill on the food before realising that this was only the starter, and more food was coming!

With Roel

With Roel

Being a relatively small wedding, we got to spend plenty of time with the happy couple as well, and felt very much part of the day despite an occasional language barrier.

Games

Games

After games, the party started! Sandy, Roel and I all know each other primarily as we are Eurovision fans, and I was pleased to hear some of the songs made the playlist. And even better, everytime one came on the dancefloor cleared, so I had free rein for dancing :D

Party Time

Party Time

Just before the party ended we all went outside to create a sprinkler tunnel for the couple to walk through, and then at midnight we had a countdown celebration as it was now 10 years to the day that they had got together.

After a long busy day we went off to bed and the following morning had a breakfast together with all the other guests, who by now we had got to know quite well.

Roel then gave us a lift back to the station and we headed back to the airport and finally home for Christmas.

Posted by kmmk17 07:17 Archived in Netherlands Tagged wedding city friends party christmas Comments (0)

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