Mystery* - noun - "something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain"
With over 8,150 photos and videos from six sources (2x mobiles, 2x GoPros and 2x cameras) along with various scanned items, it has been difficult to choose which to include in this Tour webpage. Hopefully what is included is of enough interest to keep you all interested. Remember, some videos are worthy of turning up the volume and all are embedded into this webpage, some also include photos. Thanks.
Says it all, but with so many photos and places visited during this tour, hopefully the following will help in explaining just why "Mystery" is part of the "History". Along the way, links to interesting photos not yet shown on-line will be included, as well as websites of the places we visited. Feedback is welcome. Please enjoy!
Taking full advantage of Canberra's very own International Airport, we arrived in London via Singapore late in the afternoon of 20 May 2019 and headed to our digs for the next five nights, staying at the Grosvenor Hotel, which was pretty handy to just about everything. Especially when you have an Oyster Visitor Card in your wallet.
The following days were unplanned (yes... the "Mystery"), except for a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show (and that's only inside the tent) and meeting a bit of crowd crush along the way, something we kind of got used to over the next few weeks, with the next day being an all day "experience" of London, which included a visit to Greenwich and many other highlights. Before the flower show and meeting up with Judith, our host for the afternoon, we spent a pleasant time wandering about the British Army Museum, where we picked up some interesting facts and viewed Britain's military history in all of its good, of the Stiff Upper Lip variety (and not so good) glory.
Getting our taste of all things 'royal' after the changing of the guard from the previous day, we headed out to the Victoria & Albert Museum on a rather warm London day, with plenty on show along the way. That evening we headed out to the Queens' Theatre (since renamed to Sondheim Theatre) for the London production of Les Misérables. (I hope the seats have had extra padding included in the refurb.)
Anyways, you all know the picture story as you've already seen most of them on Flickr. To make it easier to view them again, I've split up the various parts of the Tour, with photos from our time in London (click on the arrow to scroll through the album, or click on the photo to see a larger version on Flickr (most photos will have a brief description)), here. *note: some movie files ("movie" in the description) are here as well, to open you will need to click on the image to open the file in Flickr.
Londoners probably complain about their public transport systems as much as we do. Personally, we couldn't see much of a problem as we barrelled out of London on an express train towards Haywards Heath to meet up with Mike and Judith (who we first met on the JoC 2017 South American Odyssey) who not only introduced us to possibly Britain's finest flat white brewer but were also very kind to us over the next three or so weeks, and pick up our hire car.
After very convivial evening with Mike and Judith, we made our way towards "Atlantic Reach" not far from Newquay, Cornwall, for the next six nights, making sure we travelled via Jane Austen's House Museum for a quick visit along the way and stopping for lunch just across the road, where they hang the cups in the strangest places. On our way towards Cornwall, we drove by probably the oldest structure we've ever seen.
Over the following days, we visited several places of interest, which could have been a lot more except for the English version of "time and distance". For example, here in Oz, a 300km trip by car (say from Canberra to Westmeade, Sydney) would take three hours, where the same distance (approx) from Southampton, UK, to Newquay, UK, would take four hours. So, as you can see, we didn't quite get to as many places as we would have liked, especially when factoring in the narrower town/city streets and winding country roads. Maybe next time we'll see more.
And what did we venture out to see? Well, the story is in the pictures below, but along this part of our Tour, we stopped by in no particular order: Newquay (where one of the UK's finest beaches is located), St Eval, Tintagel Castle, Restormel Castle, Lands End, Bedruthan Steps, Mawgan Porth, Pendennis Castle, Trebah Garden, Padstow Harbour, Rick Stein's of Padstow and Lanhydrock. Naturally we partook in many of the fine dining locations and sampled one or three of the local brews along the way. Google Maps 1 - 2 - 3
Part two of our UK Tour covers our time in and around Bath, York and Sussex, before we headed over to Amsterdam and this may help in explaining some of the "history" and "mystery". Then again, it may not.
After the relatively short drive to Bath, we soon discovered how restrictive this "really old" place was in regards to motor vehicles, especially when it came to finding a parking place - on a street. Fortunately we found one just across the road from our lunch stop. Suitably refueled, we headed off to join the crush at the Roman Baths for a bit of a gander and then checked into the first of our AirBnB's. It was recommended that we dine at the Velo Lounge that evening, which was a short walk away. Did not disappoint and I can recommend the 'Bang Bang Chicken' as a main meal. The following day we made our way to the Botanical Gardens before heading out of town for a bit of photographic history along with a look at how the one percenters once lived along with a quick look at a once famous village.
After our short stay in Bath, we headed off to York to stay in our second AirBnB and meet up with Lorraine (and her most generous husband, Darren, who put up with my complaining knees on our way up and down York Minster's tower steps) who we hadn't seen for many a year and were both kind enough to take time away in their busy lives to be with us. It was great to get together for long chats and walks with the possibly of tredding over the same ground that one or more of the Viking ancestors may have once travelled. In the meantime, this was a near perfect opportunity to visit the town where 1 x James Cook learnt his seagoing trade, so we made our way out to Whitby to pay the Captain Cook Memorial Museum a visit (which book-ends our visit to Venus Point in 2018) and then have a Cornish Pasty... a long way from Cornwall by the way.
While I'm on the food thing and this is our only notable "bad" food experience while we were away, so... what is it with Fish & Chips in this part of the world? The first attempt was at the Victoria in London (the beer was very refreshing), can't remember where the second one was... but the third, I mean, you gotta give 'em three goes, right?.... was in York and well, it was an improvement, but still failed the quality test compared to the dish served up at the Coffee Club of all places. I will admit to enjoying the peas (not everybody's cup of tea, I know) and the chips which were nice and chunky as well, but the fish had way to much batter and was really over cooked. OK, rant over.
OK, that out of the way and moving right along, where else did we manage to visit during our short stay in York? Well, in no particular order: Castle Howard, Jorvik Viking Centre, York Minster, York Art Gallery, The Shambles, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate (a quick visit), Micklegate Bar (phone pano) and St. Margaret Clitherow's House and Shrine, before heading down south once again for our final couple of days in England.
Our final AirBnB was near a place called Wivelsfield, but actually just down the lane from St Peter & St John the Baptist church and a perfect base of operations for discovering some more family history especially in the Hastings area (see St Clements, below... and watch the guy stumble towards the end of "Hastings 1"). While we were heading around looking for local churches to plunder, the camera managed catch some unusual things. One being a local Bentley dealer, with the vehicles on display outside of the showroom... wouldn't happen in the Colonies.
As a thankyou for all of their kind assistance during our time in the UK, we invited Mike and Judith out for a meal and of course, not knowing where the better establishments were, we once again relied on these fine folks to show us the way to the Witch Inn. Great food, great company. The only thing that could match that is a reasonable bill, which it most certainly was. Great value and highly recommended.
The places for this part of our tour are shown in the pictures below, which can be viewed in the usual way. *note: some movie files ("movie" in the description) are here as well, to open you will need to click on the image to open the file in Flickr. Google Maps (closely represents our routes) 1 - 2 - 3
Fast rail. Australia. Should. Have. It. Making our way from London to Amsterdam on the Eurostar, we certainly enjoyed the experience and it is one that many in Australia would like to have as well. Arriving relatively relaxed and less stressed, with the only 'stressful' moments being passing through the French border control at St Pancras station in London. Another stamp for the book at least.
Arriving at our digs for the next six nights late in the day, we didn't get out to explore our immediate surroundings until the following morning when we walked the short distance to the Rijks Museum and encountered our first crowd crush, with mainly art buff schoolies getting in the way of a good photo. As most of the Amsterdam story is in the photos on Flickr (below), I won't go into great detail except for some of our meal stops over the next couple of days, with our first one at Bouf, which gave us a wonderful early evening view as the locals made their way home from work. (The Sticky Toffee Cake was exceptional, by the way.)
The following day we headed of to the Hermitage, which turned out to be a lot quieter than our visit to the Rijks the previous day, but no less enjoyable. One of the newer displays is a city of Amsterdam time-lapse called "Panorama Amsterdam" which was very informative. Just make sure you sit down for the English language version! That evening we headed off to a restaurant just across the road from Bouf, called Brasserie Bark, where we had swordfish and salmon and finishing off with I think was the 'chalkboard special' of the day for desert. You would almost think we were on a Foodies Tour.
Before we managed a few days of canal cruising (recommend the Red one, rather than the Green one if anyone is interested), we had a private tour by VIP Travel Services with Dave as our driver/guide. What a great day climbing in and out of windmills (which were sawing wood and making oil) before heading to Edam for some site seeing, Volendam for lunch and a cheese and clog shop to finish off with. Dinner that night was effectively meat and the biggest spud you've ever seen served up on a plate at El Rancho Argintino... we get around. So much so, the next nights we dined at Saray (an old Turkish eatery which was reasonably priced and had a very interesting choice of dishes) and finally Siriphon (a small family run Thai foodfest which probably was the best value for money we encountered here).
Anyway, next stop is the 14 day cruise and you know the drill re the photos from Amsterdam:
So... this cruise thing. This one was #7, the others in order of cruising (the cruise either being part or all of our time away) - Canada & Alaska - ABC Tour - Fish 'n Chup Tour - RtW Tour - South American Odyssey - Tahitian t-shirt Tour, so you might kind of gather we enjoy a cruise. This one was pretty special as it turned out. The ship itself was not originally a Holland America vessel and had quite a history (also recommend reading Part 2) before it became the Princendam as hopefully it continues to have as it moves to new owners.
As mentioned, this was a very different HAL ship to the ones we had previously sailed on, so it took a bit of time to figure out which way was up/down/left/right and as they kept on putting port/starboard/aft/forward on the signs, it was at times frustrating. However, we did explore the various parts as we always do, found a bar for a beer or two, figured out the deck where our dinner table was located, checked out the cabin (down near the waterline this time) and generally hung around waiting to depart which is always fun, espesh when you are at the mandatory safety briefing and one or two of your fellow travellers fail to turn up to have their names marked off... oh dear, this is going to be a FUN cruise and as you can tell by the cruise map we went way up north, but before we could do that, we had to depart Amsterdam.
Rather than bore you all to tears (if anyone has made it this far down the page, feel free to let me know on Facebook) and as I've been scratching this page together for so long it is almost time for another cruise, I'll let the Flickr photos below show you the cruise, along with an overload of short videos and I'll also include the odd interesting link as I think of them along the way.
Being north of the Arctic Circle at this time of the year was an unusual experience. Apart from the fact you are were you are, as we moved further north, daylight became a 24/7 thing which is pretty weird. Mind you, the sky vistas were breathtaking. Our first port of call was Stavanger. This is were those three large swords are stuck in the ground. Vikings must have been big blokes. We also met Finnøy, a fairly old Polar Bear, at the Museum of Archaeology at the University of Stavanger. Other places of interest we graced here were the Iron Age farm, the Oil Museum... I know, pretty weird, but they had this little fun fact and we had a "if only Australia did the same with it's natural resources" moment going on, followed by a walk through Old Stavanger... which actually looked newer than the Modern Stavanger.
So... one down, only eight more to go. Still with me?
Next stop is Ålesund. This is where we saw a ship called "My Ship," a ship with a spare in a garage, a guy trimming a roof, probably the best looking inner harbour, a dream come true and we visited a wall with crosses on it. This place had it all! Giske Church, Inner Harbour webcam, Alnes Lighthouse, my coffee and the place is the gateway to Geiranger (see way way down below).
Hope that you are following the map, because the next stop is Trondheim. Managed to only visit a few locations here, one being the Nidaros Cathedral, where I managed to sneak in a few photos and a bit of video (honestly, I did not see the sign!) and the Ringve Music Museum, where we enjoyed the excellent musical talents of our guide before departing and enjoying the late afternoon cruise as we headed towards the Arctic Circle.
Next stop is Honningsvåg and a meet-and-greet of some of the locals, followed by another a float-by of Nordcapp (the Lat/Long of the photo is- 71°11'52.0"N 25°51'19.0"E - via camera GPS), supposedly the northern most point in Europe. Fun fact - Nordcapp is also north of the tree line. And I only thought that line was in the vertical.
Heading back southwards again, we make our way into Tromsø where the day started out looking pretty good. Soon turned to poop, but as they say around these parts “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes!” Fair call, and being adequately dressed, we ventured onwards for the day, paying visits to the Tromsø Museum, Cable Car, Arctic Cathedral (church really), Polar Museum and a meet and greet of some local K9s before departing into quite a chilly little breeze.
A short hop away from Tromsø, is Narvik. Less said the better.
Moving right along, our next stop is Geiranger. Now this, this is the Norway we Southerners see in the travel brochures! This is certainly the place for mountain roads and snow. The place also became quite crowded when a rather large cruise ship arrived as we had finished our tour. The folks onboard basically took over the joint, so we high-tailed it back to the Princendam.
The next to last port of call was a little place called Flåm where we made our way to the Tvindefossen waterfall before heading to the Stalheim Hotel for a late mornos and spectacular views. The way out was down Norway's (and maybe Europe's) steepest road in a school bus, before arriving back at Flåm, where we saw the future of transport - a talking car and an electric ferry.
So, here we are at our last port of call before we end our journey and make our way home. We first visited Bergen back in 2015 during our RtW Tour so we decided to walk into town for a bit of a look by ourselves this time. Being a Saturday, it got pretty busy as the day went on, but the weather was pretty good which is apparently unusual for this part of the world.
To view video in a larger format, click on "vimeo".
More videos can be viewed here - Sportz Fotos on Vimeo
More photos can be viewed here - Sportz Fotos on 500px