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Taking off

Catalina – a seaplane on the ground

Leaving Bury St. Edmunds behind wasn’t hard – we’d been there three nights and it was time to move on.

Our next destination was The Red Lion in Duxford in readiness for a day at IWM Duxford Air Museum.

We’d chosen The Red Lion over the nearby Holiday Inn Express as the thought of staying at a coaching inn appealed, especially as we were due to stay at a Holiday Inn Express whilst in Cambridge later in the week.

What we didn’t realise that the two Duxford hotels were so close to each other and were linked. The car was parked outside the Holiday Inn Express and that’s where we had to check into for The Red Lion.

Given the previous three days, the remains of the day were spent relaxing, reading, snoozing before our evening meal and then a brief indulgence courtesy of watching a fully functioning television to catch up on news and the weather prospects for later in the week.

Breakfast was taken in the Holiday Inn Express the following morning – porridge and coffee for Caroline and a bacon roll and coffee for me. We’d already indulged in coffee in our room though as we had a bag of decent coffee with us to use in conjunction with the stainless steel cafetières that are usually packed on our UK ventures.

Yes, we have tried coffee bags to make brews, but the cafetières definitely make a better brew as a wake up call.

With tickets already booked and a guidebook paid for in advance, all we needed to do at IWM Duxford was to mask up, use the hand gel and show the hard copies of the booking confirmations.

The visit had been on the cards for a while as we’d missed it out for various reasons when we’d made a couple of visits to nearby Suffolk.

Whilst there’s numerous famous warplanes around Duxford, the must sees in AirSpace were the Lancaster and the TSR2. Thousands were made of the former, but only two flying examples exist at the moment – one with The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby in Lincolnshire and the other over in Canada. There are plans for a third to fly once more, but as far as I’m aware, that is still a work in progress…

The TRS2 is a different animal though. Only two exist after the project was cancelled in the 1960s – the other is at RAF Cosford (pictured below), but other examples were placed as targets on RAF firing ranges.

TSR2 – at RAF Cosford

The other aircraft of interest in AirSpace were civilian ones – Concorde and the De Haviland Comet airliners, both planes that I’ve always admired and ones that are among those that I’d wished I’d had the chance to fly in.

Spitfires were starting up and taking to the skies as we investigated other hangers, but the aircraft I really wanted to see where in the line-up of commercial aircraft that are kept outside further down this working airfield.

Bristol Britannia in Monarch livery

The likes of the BAC 1-11, Bristol Britannia, Trident, Vickers VC10 and Vickers Viscount all played their part as the popularity of air travel increased. I have flown in a BAC 1-11 on a few occasions, but the last time was the memorable one – a Dan Air (aka Dan Dare – allegedly) – from Bergen to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We’d arrived at the airport early, checked in and then waited for the flight to be called. A member of the check in crew found us as we waited to head into the departure lounge to tell us that the plane had been delayed due to a fault and a replacement aircraft was being sent out.

The plane touched down, people disembarked and then we boarded and the engines fired up for the flight home.

We commented on how quick the replacement aircraft arrived and got the reply “It’s not a replacement – they fixed the fault at Newcastle”.

Such reassurance wasn’t the first thing in our mind when the plane hit turbulence halfway across the North Sea…

We did get to Newcastle, but one thing was for certain – we never flew on a Dan Air BAC 1-11 again – the HS 148 was much, much better on the other trips we made to Bergen using Dan Air!!

Trident in BEA livery
Vickers VC10 in BOAC livery

Last up after this visit to the airline memory area was to the American Air Museum. I thought that this was going to be more interesting than I thought, but I suspect that that is down to being more interested in UK aircraft.

The only personal standouts were the SR-71 Blackbird, the F1-11 and B52 bomber. Some of that was down to the layout of the display area and personal thoughts regarding how space could be created as a means of getting a better look at the planes themselves by moving the static display section to another part of the museum.

After the amount of wandering around we’d done, food beckoned and ended up being a sandwich deal and this was followed by some serious shopping as Caroline needed to sort out pressies for her grandsons and her son-in-law’s imminent birthday date. And me? A new watch at a not unreasonable £40 and a Spitfire themed face mask.

Once back at The Red Lion, a decision had to be made. We were due to move on to Cambridge the following morning, but we’d seen the weather forecast for the next couple of days and it did not look good…

Although we’d booked tickets to visit King’s College Chapel the following day, we had a message to say that it was going to be be closed on the day of our proposed visit and that a refund was being processed. So cancellation it was and the Cambridge leg of the trip was postponed until we head back down to the area at some point.

Hotel hobbies…

A better class of buskers…

So, where were we?

Oh, yes, Bury St. Edmunds, but there was a slight problem.

The hotel (which shall remain nameless) didn’t have any bookings in our name and I had to fight our corner as a means to get around the problem as the hotel was denying that they’d had a booking from booking.com.

It’s a good job then that I had ample evidence in my hand to say that I had a booking as I’d not only got the original emails from booking.com on my phone, but had hard copies too to back up our case.

After a while, a room was found and the hotel agreed to honour the prices stated on the paperwork.

Our room was in the annex are – sizeable enough with everything we needed for our stay, apart from china cups to drink tea or coffee from – only disposable ones were available, but these lasted just two brews, so necessity was the mother of invention when it came to coffee time…

As it was getting late, we opted to eat in the hotel rather than walk into town on a rainy night in search of eats.

We ended up ordering food and drink, but then realised we were placed between two sets of loud diners who were intent on ensuring that every one in the room knew what there thoughts were – especially about wearing masks indoors when they weren’t sitting at their table eating or drinking.

Breakfast was much better the following morning as we followed the rules regarding getting our breakfast choices.

Once fed, it was time to walk into the centre of Bury St. Edmunds to do some exploring. It was drizzling and overcast as we wandered in, but we managed to get a couple of free coffees from Greggs as I had two full coffee cards in my wallet from the time before lockdown one, so it seemed like a good idea to use them and warm up.

As it was so cool, keeping ourselves drier by indulging in some retail therapy seemed like a good idea and whilst Caroline tried a couple of dresses on in one shop, the only purchases came from WH Smiths and Body Shop.

With lunch at Bill’s taking care of food and drink out for the day, more fodder came along from the food section at Marks & Spencer. As we’d spent more than anticipated at Bill’s, we were quite happy to hit M&S as they were doing the daily round of food markdowns, so our respective evening meals were easily sorted, as was a supply of beer and cider to wash it down with.

With the TV set at the hotel playing up, I ploughed through the magazines I’d bought earlier whilst Caroline fired up her Kindle to do some reading

One better day…

Fortunately Monday morning was looking good, so we wandered back into the centre and whilst Caroline hit the museums and Cathedral, I took the opportunity to get a few shots on the camera before going for a coffee.

What we had noticed as we’d been away was the different approaches used to stick to track and trace requirements – some were being rather pedantic about scanning QR codes whilst others were more laid-back and simply took our names and telephone numbers as a means of recording our presence in their establishments.

The visit to B-S-E was an odd mix between the two methodologies with some places getting narked at the fact we’d never ever done any QR code scanning for anything whilst others just asked for our details or handed us a clipboard to do the deed ourselves.

After lunch at the Cathedral cafe, Caroline went off for another wander whilst I took a seat to do some reading and take some more photos.

Abbey Gardens
And a cheeky squirrel

After meeting back up again, we took a wander down to the area around Greene King Brewery.

It wasn’t open to visitors, but a nearby pub was, so liquid refreshment was ordered and quaffed – slowly but surely.

As it was getting on by now, it was time to hit M&S again for food bargains and non-alcoholic drinks before heading back to the hotel to sort out the washing we’d done the night before and then pack the bags once more in readiness for our move towards our next destination – The Red Lion Hotel in Duxford – and our visit to IWM Duxford Air Museum.

Back east…

Woodbridge…

Yes, it’s back into the breech after job searches, my first ever video interview and more job searches after the ‘No’ came through the following morning.

There’s also been a bit of taking things easy too plus the planning & taking of a city break along with research for a three destination Autumn break.

But now it’s time to rewind and head back in an easterly direction…

After a restful stay at Hotel Katherine in Lowestoft (01502 567858) it was time to move on to Bury St. Edmunds.

Now the initial thought was to go to Woodbridge, do some shopping and have lunch before aiming for Orford.

Then we saw the afternoon’s weather forecast and changed our minds…

So we just hit Woodbridge. Shopping was on the agenda as we had £10 Rohan gift cards to use up and as tech t-shirts never come in wrong, that was my choice of the day…

Woodbridge II – the lunch cafe was further up this street…

As it was approaching lunchtime, a place to eat was sought and after much mooching around, we ended up at a small traditional cafe that was rather busy, but fortunately had a table available for the two of us to have food and a couple of drinks each – one hot, the other not…

Closed doors at The Angel…
More shopping opportunities

Once fed, it was time to do some more mooching around before heading back to the car and pointing it in the direction of Bury St. Edmunds and our hotel for the next few nights.

It took a little while to find the place and Caroline stayed in the car whilst I went in to do the check in deed.

A small, but infuriating detail cropped up when I entered the hotel’s reception are and tried to check in.

Although I’d book the room a few weeks before via booking.com, the hotel had no trace of my booking…

More on Wednesday!

Happy eaters…

We’ll be back – The Priest Hole, Ambleside

If it’s Friday, then it must be Ambleside and time to head out for an evening meal at the place we’d book a table for 8.30pm earlier in the day.

The walk from Wanslea to that establishment wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, so we arrived early and that’s where our problems started.

The person at the desk couldn’t comprehend that we’d arrived early or that we had a table booked for 8.30 in my name. After ten minutes of faffing about on the computer, the booking was found, and we were in – or so we thought.

The next person we spoke to couldn’t understand why we wanted to just leave our name and telephone number in line with the guidelines at the time and insisted that we scanned a QR code. 

Eventually he relented when we pointed out that we’d already left a name and telephone number when we made the booking and that we’d never used a QR code ever for anything.

We were eventually shown to our table and given menus to peruse. What we hadn’t realised was that this particular establishment only offered vegetarian choices and I was looking forward to eating something a little meatier.

Given the palaver we’d already had, we left and went in search for another place to eat. The Michelin starred places didn’t appeal and the couple of nearby pubs were full, so we looked around and found The Priest Hole (thepriesthole.co.uk).

And it had a table – on a Friday night after 8.30!

Once in, names and numbers were taken and then we removed our face coverings and sat down, took a look at the drink’s menu, ordered and then examined the main menu. Both of our choices were easy to make – local lamb shank with all the trimmings and the fish special for Caroline. 

After the mains were polished off, extra drinks, dessert & coffees were ordered, thoughts turned to booking in at The Priest Hole for the next night. 

The small problem was that at that time, there wasn’t a table available for Saturday night, so my name and number was taken once more so I could be contacted during the day on Saturday should a table become available.

With that arrangement out of the way, it was time to head back to get some shut eye after our respective days out. Glasses of water were used to dilute the alcohol stream before turning in at a later than usual bedtime.

What we didn’t expect was the sound of car doors slamming outside at 1am and a few people congregating in front of the main door for a loud chin wag and ciggie consumption.

It was tempting to shout STFU out of the window, but I refrained because I just knew that that would not be a good idea, especially at breakfast time!

Lakes Day Two…

Bridge House, Ambleside

After a reasonable night’s sleep, showers and coffee made in our own cafetieres were a great way to start the day before breakfast.

Our choices had been made the night before with Caroline choosing the lighter breakfast whilst I went for my first morning full English in months. 

Wearing masks into the breakfast room wasn’t a problem for us or the staff, but it appeared to be for one or two others over the few days we were there.

We were up early, largely because Caroline had booked a hire bike from Ghyllside (ghyllside.co.uk/content/12-bikehire), one of her favourite places to hire bikes from. 

The forecast wasn’t that good for the first part of the day, so I was pleased that I’d opted to drive around to Hawkshead to sus out a potential lunch spot before meeting Caroline at the half-way point for the ride she was doing.

Why? Because it wasn’t long before it was hissing down and thoughts of taking quite a few photos disappeared…

After a mooch around a couple of shops in Hawkshead and buying a copy of Lakeland Walker magazine, thoughts turned to coffee and sustenance.

Which came in the form of coffee and fresh scones at Minstrel’s Gallery Tea Rooms next to the King’s Arms pub in the oldest part of the village. 

The phone eventually rang when Caroline checked in to see whether or not I’d found somewhere to chill out, got directions and then entered the tea rooms in a slightly bedraggled state.

Drying out and warming up…

After this, Caroline headed up to Grizedale Forest whilst I headed into Langdale. The weather hadn’t improved, so I went in search of some hand gel and a couple of snacks for later on in the afternoon.

With Caroline on her way back to Ambleside (in an area that isn’t noted for good mobile phone reception), I headed back to Wanslea, parked up and wandered in to various shops to see what offers there were on footwear – Caroline’s shoes were letting in water, a sign of their age rather than the effectiveness of the waterproof membrane.

Once back at Ghyllside and the bike returned, it was rather obvious that an outside café experience was needed because of the mud and skunk stripe Caroline had acquired on her ride. After coffee and cake, we booked a table at a restaurant for that night before the search of new shoes.

Which was easier said than done. I’d seen a couple of options whilst waiting for Caroline but getting anyone to served proved difficult. Someone turned up eventually but wasn’t interested and whilst it was tempting to intervene, I wasn’t being paid to do so and after a discussion we went into John Gaynor’s and sealed the deal on a pair of Merrell shoes.

Next up was back to Wanslea for showers and a change of clothes before exiting for our evening meal – which wasn’t taken at the place we’d booked!

Once more into the Lakes…

As I mentioned on Monday, both Caroline & I have visited the Lake District on several occasions and know the main areas pretty well.

Bridge House, Ambleside

We’d not stayed in Ambleside for a few years though and that’s why we chose it for our first post-lockdown visit to the National Park as we could wander around the village, head off on foot to other villages or as in Caroline’s case, hire a bike and explore on two wheels.

Getting there from home was easy and didn’t involve maps, route cards or any form of tech to get there, just good old-fashioned nous, memory and familiarity with the roads.

As Caroline had been on twelve-hour nursing shifts on two of the three days before we headed off, we didn’t have an early start. 

We made a brief stop at the Rohan shop in Long Preston for a retail therapy raid on both sale and previous season’s offerings before heading to Wilf’s Café in Staveley for lunch and a couple of cold drinks.

Which was great in theory, but we weren’t expecting the car park to be that full, so we headed off in the direction of Ambleside to park up, have lunch, explore some more and then head to the B&B we were staying in.

After one circuit of the village, we parked up and walked out to Fresher’s Café (fresherscafe.co.uk) at The Courtyard on Rothay Road. 

Ordering a full English with a cold Coke was a no-brainer for me whilst Caroline chose the Quiche Lorraine and sparking water. Coffee followed, as did a wander around before coffee and cake beckoned at Zeffirelli’s.

With the car park ticket running out, we headed for Wanslea Guest House on Lake Road to park up, check in, unpack, snooze and change before we took a walk into the centre in search of food first and a pub visit afterwards.

We looked at quite a few places on our way through the centre. Some were closed, others far too expensive for our budget (and not to our tastes either having looked at the menus) and then we came across Sheila’s Cottage (sheilascottage.co.uk), a place I’d visited before – in the 1970s when killing time at the end of a school trip to the Lakes.

After a couple of very good mains, desserts, mineral water and coffee, it was time to head to one of my favourite pubs in AmblesideThe Golden Rule.

Rules were in place for choosing and serving, but with a good selection of ales and ciders to choose from, neither of us were disappointed at our respective choices of ale for me and good cider for C.

It may have been a long day, but as the food and drink had been so good, it was time to walk back to Wanslea and do a very important task – fill in the breakfast order!

Oxford weekend…

Hampton by Hilton, Oxford

After leaving Burford behind, it was time to head to Oxford and the Hampton By Hilton next to Oxford United’s home ground.

Well, the theory that it would be easy to find was great as we were following the route card we’d got from the AA’s route planning software (we don’t use rat nav…), but there were one or two problems as we approached and ended up in the wrong place…

Fortunately, Caroline has an app on her phone to deal with such matters and after a while we found the hotel, got the bags from the boot and headed to the check-in desk.

Now we’d booked directly with Hilton (£110 for two nights) and knew what the post-lockdown breakfast would be – continental style, in a paper bag.

Unfortunately, not everyone had got the message. One bloke in front of us was adamant that he wanted a cooked breakfast and only a cooked breakfast as it had said on a third-party booking site that cooked breakfasts were available…

Our check-in was easier as we joked about the unhappy eater before getting our keys and heading to our home for the next two nights. 

We’d asked about places to get an evening meal when we checked in and as luck would have it, there was an open Chinese buffet restaurant on the leisure park behind the hotel and also a good selection of local takeaway leaflets in the reception area.

As we hadn’t eaten out for a while, we headed to the buffet and embraced the new norm by getting our temperatures taken, leaving names and contact details and slathering our hands in hand gel before we could get a table.

Drinks were easily ordered, but instead of putting our own food onto the plates at the buffet, a full-face covered member of staff asked what we wanted from each section and served it onto our plates as we went mask clad around the one-way system.

Yes, the food went down well, as did the second round of drinks before it was time for desserts – fruit for Caroline and a slice of a seventies favourite for me – Black Forest Gateau with cream…

With the place slowly emptying, it was time to call it a night and we headed back for coffee and a good night’s sleep before heading into Oxford the following morning.

Which started with a very good pot of Taylor’s Rich Italian coffee made in our own stainless coffee presses as a means of getting caffeine into the system just in case there wasn’t any at breakfast.

But there was – the usual Hampton By Hilton coffee machines were sparked up and ready to roll, so the usual methodology was used to fill the disposable cups – three pushes of the espresso button for me and two presses of the same button plus some hot water for Caroline as a means of getting something approaching the coffee we had in the room.

Our breakfast bags contained the milk pots, bread rolls, butter or spread, jam, yoghurt and disposable cutlery as a means of providing some sustenance to start the day. Yes, I’d have rather had the usual breakfast buffet selection, but unlike the unhappy eater, I could live without it until things opened up and changed once more.

With breakfast done, it was back to the room to pick up the day bags and then go in search of a taxi to get us into the centre of Oxford

We could have used our car, but with last night’s navigating and the potential cost of car parking in the city centre, we lashed out a bit (£12) for a cab ride into town in a posh for us Mercedes.

With no map or guidebook on us, getting around the centre of Oxford on foot was quite easy as we used the maps on street signs, finger posts and a couple of ideas scribbled on a Post It Note to find places of interest.

As the UK had only opened up for travel purposes the week before, we weren’t expecting to do much in the way of indoor sightseeing. 

One open venue that we did come across was Oxford Jail. Yes, I’m a bit of a heathen when it comes to visiting museums and historical sites, so it’s usually down to Caroline to head off and take a look around such places whilst I head off with a camera in search of interesting places or buildings to photograph or to find a cup of coffee, beer or whatever instead.

My mission on this occasion though was to find the location of a café that I’d seen reviews of whilst doing the day of research for this trip. After finding it and then doing some book shopping at the nearby Waterstones, I headed back to find Caroline as it was approaching lunchtime.

Which was spent in a very leisurely way outside the The Handle Bar café. The adjacent bike shop may have been closed, but the café was very much open for business with a good menu selection that allowed me to have a full English a little later than usual. 

Although we’d had drinks with our lunch, we decided to find somewhere else to have coffee and cake, but I will admit we wished we had stayed put at the The Handle Bar rather than move and indulge at the café we found later…

We did wander around the shopping centre, but many shops were not open for business, so spending was kept to a minimum. What was a delight was wandering around the Covered Market and spotting various characters from Alice In Wonderland looking down at us from above.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was my knees playing up, something that hadn’t happened for a few years, so I plonked myself down on a seat for a while and Caroline wandered off to do some exploring on her own around the colleges and the Cherwell.

Once recovered and with Caroline back, we headed off into parts unknown by just following our noses and ending up by Radcliffe Camera, The Bridge of Sighs and Trinity College before heading back to the main shopping streets to hit M&S food department.

Trinity College, Oxford

As we’d had a full lunch then coffee and cake, a picnic style evening meal was declared and bought along with beer and cider to wash it all down with.

Although we had a card from the taxi company, we decided to bus it rather than lash out on another cab ride. Although I had plenty of cash on me, the buses were only accepting contactless payments, so Caroline came to the rescue with her debit card and I just handed over the cash to her instead…

With this being one of the few full days we’d had in the open air since the start of UK Lockdown 1, eating and drinking the contents of the M&S bag were the highlights of that particular Saturday night as there wasn’t much on TV and the cinema at the leisure park remained closed to one and all.

Sunday started in much the same way as Saturday, but whilst we had intended to bite the bullet and drive into Oxford, park up and have another wander around, we reckoned without the Road Signs of Oxford.

Yes, we got lost and the road we were on was the one out of the city. 

So we decided to do a bit of exploring by car, top up with petrol, seek lunch and then head in a homeward direction…

So we’d done it – our first weekend away since UK Lockdown 1.

The second one started just four days later…

But we will return to both The Cotswold and Oxford!

Back – to the future!

Well, the software has been updated and new pics loaded, so here goes!

 

Which detective lives here?
And works in this office?
Soouthwold by the sea
Southwold’s inshore lighthouse
And another detective endeavours to work in this city.

TV travel…

thumb_DSCN2217_1024The Alhambra, Granada…

With travel prospects outside the UK being on hold at the moment, filling in gaps that were supposed to be holidays has been interesting.

Yes, we’ve been to Oxford and Ambleside in recent weeks and had a fortnight long Scottish trip planned using trains and buses to get between home, Glasgow, Fort William, Mallaig, Inverness, Kyle Of Lochalsh, Stirling, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then back home.

That last one has been moved to 2021 though as there’s an impending wedding – not us, but Caroline’s eldest son and his fiancee.

In between times though, we’ve been watching a few travel related TV progs and got a few ideas from Rick Stein, The Hairy Bikers, Richard Ayoade and Anthony Bourdain (the last one seen was a visit to Granada).

Some were familiar to both of us, some to me and one to Caroline as Jerusalem was visited when she lived on a kibbutz in the late 1970s.

Greece, France and Sardinia would be new destinations for the two of us, but return trips to Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Norway are being added to the mix, along with a visit to Malta to make up for that trip which was cancelled a week before departure thanks to Covid 19.

There are other plans, but they’re not totally fixed yet and quite a bit of flexibility is built into each plan!

In the meantime though, it’s a Bank Holiday Monday here in England and there’s a few more Anthony Bourdain shows to watch on Netflix…

15 years…

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_15e4

I’d never been to Aldeburgh fifteen years ago.

There has been a lot in the UK media about the National Health Service for a while now, but with that election less than a fortnight away, it’s being discussed left, right and centre by voters, politicians and media outlets.

It’s fifteen years to the day since I had a close shave by having a stroke, but I’m very glad to have been looked after by those working in the A&E, intensive care, stroke unit, MRI unit and physios at Airedale Hospital.

The aftercare is still ongoing through my local medical centre a mile away who keep an eye on the meds I take everyday, sometimes at weekly intervals or three monthly intervals depending on test results.

Whilst there have been a few changes in lifestyle since that day in 2004, things that haven’t changed include a very healthy respect for the NHS and a shared enthusiasm for travel.

Caroline and I been to places that we’d never even thought of visiting fifteen years ago both in the UK and Europe.

Yes, there are places I’d like to go that are quite a distance away from home, but with work and holiday time still a major factor to think about, we’re still heading around the UK and Europe for the time being.

For our next few trips we have four new options plus four return visits to think about in Europe, a big rail based trip here in the UK, one or two ideas about rail trips in Canada and quite a few potential destinations that are also in the UK, we aren’t short of ideas regarding places to go.

Our new mantra as it were is “Keep on keeping on!” and the reasons for that my well be revealed next Monday…

In the meantime, Caroline and I are having a grand day out – a day of shopping in Manchester, not Milton Keynes!