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A Day In The Cotswolds

Cotswolds

sunny 21 °C
View Cotswolds on kmmk17's travel map.

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
View Northumbria on kmmk17's travel map.

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)

The Rest of Rome

Rome

sunny 37 °C
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After our first day exploring the Vatican City, the following day was spent at the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Meeting up again with my aunt and cousin we entered the Colosseum taking a look round the huge complex before heading for gelato in the midday sun.

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

After grabbing a cool drink in a nearby restaurant, we then headed across the road from the Colosseum, and into the Roman Forum, where there were great views over the ruins of the heart of Roman government.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

After another hot day in the sun, we headed back to our hotel. The following day we decided to take easier. We got up later and headed north towards the Spanish Steps.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps


Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Sovereign Military Order of Malta

After walking down the steps we walked past the buildings of what remains of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, before another gelato in Piazza del Popolo. After a long day in the sun we headed up into the Borghese Gardens for a bit of shade, and views over the north of the city.

Overlooking Piazza del Popolo

Overlooking Piazza del Popolo

After heading back to the hotel for a few hours we then met up with my aunt and cousin who had gone on a wine tour, to have dinner on what also happened to be my cousin's birthday. We had a last catch up over pizza before saying goodbye to them both for the rest of their trip around Italy. We then headed to the Vatican quickly for night time views of St. Peter's Square, before heading back to the hotel for our last night in Rome.

Vatican by night

Vatican by night

Checking out of the hotel after breakfast we headed into the heart of Rome, starting off at the Quirinal Palace before walking down to the Trevi Fountain. This was the first time I'd got to see it, despite having been to the fountain before - as the previous time it had been covered in scaffolding. It was busy but truly stunning.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Walking past the Temple of Hadrian, we arrived at the Pantheon, which we also took a look around.

Pantheon

Pantheon

After cooling down inside, we made our way over the Piazza Navona for our last gelato, before crossing the River Tiber, taking in beautiful views of the Vatican.

Views of the Vatican

Views of the Vatican

Resting along the river bank with views of Castel Sant'Angelo the sun started to be masked by the clouds and there was also a bit of a breeze, giving us a bit of rest from the radiant heat.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo

After a nice sit down, we headed back into the city, crossing the river and heading down to Piazza Venezia for views of the Altar of the Fatherland.

Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland

The last place we saw was the Trajan column, before walking back to our hotel, to rest and gradually get our bits together before our late flight home.

Trajan Column

Trajan Column

With temperatures over 35˚C every day, plus humidity making it more like the early 40s, it was quite a tiring holiday, despite having more than ample time to see everything! Nevertheless it was a good weekend seeing a very interesting city.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 04:28 Archived in Italy Tagged ruins river city sun roman Comments (2)

Off to see the Wrestling

Lithuania & Belarus - Vilnius & Minsk

semi-overcast 27 °C
View Lithuania & Belarus on kmmk17's travel map.

After 8 months without any foreign trips, it was finally time for this year's to begin. The first being a trip to Lithuania and Belarus.

We began with an early start to get to Luton Airport for our flight just before 8. Annoyingly however as we waited to board our flight, our aircraft was given to the delayed Warsaw passengers and instead we had to wait two hours for a new aircraft to be flown over to us. This wasn't helped by the fact every morning I'd had terrible stomach pains from a virus I still wasn't over.

Two failed boardings later we eventually made it onto the aircraft. As with my previous flight to Vilnius, I was once again delayed and ended up having to change plans for the day.

Vilnius Town Hall

Vilnius Town Hall

We no longer had all afternoon to explore Vilnius, and instead only a few hours for a quick wander. It also meant that we didn't get chance to visit the KGB museum as this would be closed on our only other opportunity this weekend. A real pity.

Gates of Dawn

Gates of Dawn

The following day - our only full one on this short weekend trip - we made our way to Belarus to watch the wrestling!
I had wanted to visit Belarus for some time, with it being a blank on my map. However normally visas are required (unless flying in and out of Minsk Airport, which has no cheap flights). Meanwhile there are tonnes of convenient cheap flights to Vilnius, just across the border.

Back in 2014 Belarus had temporarily removed their visa requirements for the World Ice Hockey Championships. But as this was right at the time I got my new job I therefore didn't know whether I'd have the time or money to go, and so had missed the opportunity.

This time things were different. Belarus were hosting the European Games, and by purchasing a ticket for £4.60, the whole visa process was unnecessary. We were free and could have a cheap and easy holiday. Looking at the dates we could go and the events that were on so that it would look convincing, the best option was to visit Belarus on Sunday 30th, when the finals of the Wrestling were on for just two hours during the middle of the day. Did I know anything or care about wrestling? No. But it could be fun anyway!

After going through passport control we boarded our train with our breakfast in tow, ready for our two and a half hour train ride to Minsk. After around 45 minutes we reached the border, and Belorussian military-looking border officials boarded inspecting everyone's passports. We gave them our European Games tickets which they inspected, and accepted and not long after we were back on our way through the Belorussian countryside.

Eventually after a slightly rough train ride (which didn't help my stomach) we made it to sunny Minsk. We had several hours to explore the city before the Wrestling began - which we decided we should watch just in case we were checked on the way home.

After changing €40 into Belorussian Roubles, we headed into the city - beginning at the Gates of Minsk opposite the station, two Stalinist towers marking the entrance to the centre of Minsk.

Gates of Minsk

Gates of Minsk

[We then headed over towards Independence Square, home of the parliament and the city's iconic Roman Catholic church, where there were lots of flags and banners for both the European Games and the upcoming 30th anniversary of Belorussian independence.

Independence Square

Independence Square


Victory Square

Victory Square

After then taking the metro across the city towards Victory Square, dedicated to Minsk's time through the Second World War, we then headed down Independence Avenue towards the Palace of the Republic.

Having seen much of the city's Stalinist architecture, we were now headed into the old part of the city, which had more of a feel of Poland and Lithuania.

The Orthodox Cathedral

The Orthodox Cathedral

Stopping off for souvenirs by the town hall, we then walked past the city's Orthodox Cathedral, towards the Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Opera Theatre

Opera Theatre


Trinity District

Trinity District

Beside the beautifully meandering river, with it's parkland banks is the oldest part of the city, the Trinity District, with small old winding streets and houses that have mostly been converted into shops and restaurants. On the opposite side of the river is the Sports Palace where we were headed to for the Wrestling, as well as an open air fan zone with local entertainment, food, souvenirs and photoshoots with the Fox mascot - Lesik.

Local Entertainment

Local Entertainment

By now we were on track and the event was starting in just half an hour, so we entered the Arena and found our seats watching the build up before the event itself started. I had no idea what was going on, but nevertheless the chance to enjoy an international event, and mix up the long day in the city was actually pretty enjoyable.

Inside the Wrestling

Inside the Wrestling

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

After the event ended, we walked past Thomas Bach, head of the Olympics, who was attneding the event also, and headed out of the city towards Victory Park, where there is a more modern and grand monument to the city following it's awarding as "Hero City" following it's occupation during the Second World War.

Victory Park

Victory Park

The parkland beside the river was a pleasant place to spend time cooling down from the heat of the summer sunshine, and we walked further north towards the Palace of Independence, Expo Centre and Flag Square.

Palace of Independence

Palace of Independence

After a lot of walking we decided to take the bus back into the city. However despite my best efforts we still could not work out how to buy a ticket! Apparently we could buy one from the driver, but as he was in the front compartment we didn't pass him to buy one. After then abandoning the first bus ride we hovered around thinking whether to walk (but ruled out as being too far and too hot), or ride illegally (it was only 4 stops). Maybe we could just hop on and off the next few stops so we wouldn't be arrested! I mean we had the money anyway - maybe could we play at being stupid foreigners?

And then we saw it, a different bus passed by, and someone reached into the hatch and bought tickets from the driver! So there we were, let's take the next bus and ride properly. However when we got on it was packed and we couldn't reach the driver. Debating whether to get off at the next stop and board a quieter bus or push our way through, we arrived at the next stop when a local woman boarded and pushed her way through. We followed her and then managed to buy our own tickets! What a stressful experience!

Not long later we arrived back in the city centre. After buying some souvenirs we then headed back towards the station to grab some snacks and have dinner. After a long hot day of sightseeing we were ready to go home. Changing our money back and getting €35 returned, we waited for the train to turn up and board back to Lithuania. Three hours later we were finally back from our busy, but interesting day trip to Belarus.

It was a surprising experience, I had few visions of this generally forgotten part of Europe, and had expected it to be a tragic dump, but actually it was very beautiful, clean and green, and I would really recommend it to anyone who can be bothered to go through the process of getting a visa!

Posted by kmmk17 03:58 Archived in Belarus Tagged park airport river sport city old plane border sickness lithuaniabelarus Comments (2)

Destination Dublin

Ireland - Dublin

semi-overcast 19 °C
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Having finished up the sights in Belfast in the morning, we made it to the bus station for our onward travel to Dublin.

The trip wasn't originally going to include the Irish capital, but with it being pretty easy to get to as well as pretty cheap, we decided to include it on the end of the trip. It would also give us the opportunity to cross the border again, as well as fly back to the UK without needing to go through immigration.

Unfortunately, despite the bus being pretty empty, some irritating children sat right behind us the whole journey; but with it being just over two hours it didn't take too long before we would be free of them.

Emigration Museum

Emigration Museum

Arriving in the late afternoon, we headed just around the corner to the Irish Emigration Museum, where I might find out more about my Irish heritage, whilst Chris hoped he might find out he has some too. The museum seemed to capitalise on anyone with any Irish blood in them - even though the state probably wouldn't give citizenship to half of them.

After a little time looking around, we headed out into the city, and headed to a restaurant for dinner before we headed to our hotel on the outskirts of the city centre.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

The following morning we made a tour of the city, beginning at the government buildings, before heading through the Temple Bar. Unfortunately with our trip being pretty busy, we didn't get chance to stop there the night before or today. However it was very pretty with the flower boxes and cobbled streets.

Guinness Factory

Guinness Factory

We then continued on to Dublin Castle, before heading out of the heart of the city to the St. James's Gate at the Guinness Factory. This whole area felt like a hyper-reality you'd expect in a theme park, as it was clearly Victorian, and yet was very well kept, unlike most similar Victorian factory areas.

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge

After this we headed back into the city to cross the Ha'penny bridge over the Liffey, before our final sight - the Garden of Remembrance.

Garden of Rememberance

Garden of Rememberance

After a quick tour of the city it was now time to make our way home, heading to the airport after a busy trip away in a surprisingly sunny and warm Ireland.

Posted by kmmk17 12:27 Archived in Ireland Tagged river bridge city ireland museum border Comments (0)

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