Thursday, September 14, 2023

UK Road Trip, August 2023

All over the place, UK. August-2023.

Plan A was very straightforward. A couple of weeks in the UK to avoid the Italian heat and tourists. August is holiday month in Italy and many northern Italians head south for the month. We were going to fly into Gatwick on August 18th, pop straight to Ringwood for a friends 60th birthday, do a parkrun then head up north to Penrith for the remainder of the two weeks. train back down to Gatwick and fly back to Italy on September 2nd.

Then a couple of things happened:

Mary read that the El NiƱo effect was going to cause a Heat Wave so we moved our UK flight a week earlier. No problem. Plan B: Train up to Penrith and drive down and back for a long weekend for the birthday. 

Next my nephew and godson announced his wedding for the following bank holiday weekend, Saturday 26th to be held in Harpenden just north of London. We didn’t fancy driving all the way down from Penrith and back up again two successive weekends so on to Plan C: a road trip, fill the weekday gap with visits to friends so this was our final itinerary:

  • Five days in Penrith
  • An overnight stay with a friend in Hereford
  • First weekend in Ringwood for the birthday celebrations
  • A couple of days in Bournemouth with my second cousin
  • A day in Portsmouth doing the historic dockyard 
  • Ferry over to the Isle of Wight for two days with friends
  • Up to St Albans for the second weekend to visit my best man and his wife
  • Wedding on Saturday and on Sunday we drove back up to Penrith for a couple of days
  • Finally down to London for a couple of days and then back to Italy

Full details…

Friday 11: Penrith: Flight BRI / LGW (I am fluent in airport TLA's). Our flight was delayed about an hour and a half which made for an exciting dash from Gatwick, across central London to Euston to catch our train. Just made it, phew!

Saturday 12: Penrith: Saturday is, as usual parkrunday - for a change at my home parkrun, Penrith. A lovely meal that evening at Grants of Castlegate with Nigel & Siobhan.

Sunday 13: Penrith: Mary went for a pre-breakfast swim in the river Lyne with various other supporters of the Carlisle Turkish and Victorian Baths. She was bit envious of people who have such a lovely swim spot at the bottom of their garden.

At lunchtime we went for a meal at the Mardale Inn with Andrew and Sarah. A fantastic community pub, lovely food and great value. 

Monday 14: Penrith: A quiet day, sorting stuff out and waiting for the engineer to do a boiler service in our own house. 

Tuesday 15: Penrith: Taking advantage of a lovely morning, we did another walk from the Walks with History book that Mary bought me for Christmas. This time the theme was Medieval and the route started and ended at the impressive remains of Shap Abbey taking in the River Lowther.

Wednesday 16: Hereford: We had not been able to make our friend Sue's housewarming, but she had said come and visit any time so we did. It was a delight to see her again and visit her new home and explore her new place to live. Hereford is perhaps a bit out of the way for some but for us it was a good stop off point on our way south and a fascinating city to visit.

That evening we went for a Thai meal, which was a real treat. In southern Italy, all the restaurants do some variation of Italian food; exotic and Oriental food is not to be found. I had forgotten how delicious Thai green curry is. 

The next morning we did a wander around the Hereford including the cathedral. We went in to look at the Mappa Mundi which was absolutely fascinating.

After lunch we continued on to Ringwood. 

Thursday 17: Ringwood: That evening we attended a wine tasting in the centre of Ringwood at New Forest Wines (see Spain and Portugal wine tasting for full write up). 

Friday 18: Ringwood: Our birthday present to Lynn was to treat her to supper at the Pig at Brockenhurst. We had seen this restaurant featured in Remarkable Places to Eat on the telly and has been on our to do list for awhile. This was a perfect opportunity and it did not disappoint!

Saturday 19: Ringwood: Of course, Saturday is parkrunday, so we went to Itchen Valley nearby to get the penultimate letter for our parkrun alphabet. Evening was taken up with Lynn’s birthday party, eating, drinking and making merry. 

Sunday 20: Bournemouth: After breakfast, we headed off to Effie’s via Christchurch where we stopped for lunch and a look around. Another lovely place we had never visited before despite living nearby for 13 years. 

Arrived in Bournemouth late afternoon for tea and biscuits followed that evening by a great Turkish meal in an authentic restaurant judging by the clientele. Another gastronomic treat not available in southern Italy.

Monday, 21: Bournemouth: We thought it would be fun to take a trip out and headed up to Salisbury, not far from where we used to live. We visited Mompesson House, an NT property in the cathedral grounds, and then went over to Old Sarum, site of the original cathedral. Both well worth a visit and we wondered why we had never done them before. 

Returned to Bournemouth via Sturminster Marshall where we visited one of my nephews and his family and met with my sister who was also there to see her grandchildren. 

Tuesday 22: Portsmouth: We took a leave of Effie and went over to spend a night in Portsmouth, and visit the historic dockyard. That afternoon we did the Mary Rose and HMS Victory. Amazing but exhausting - so much to take in. 

After which we went to find a real ale pub that served proper brown beer and with Mary's nose for these things found one that offered flights - allowing you to try three small (1/3 pint) measure of three different beers.

Wednesday 23: Godshill, IOW: The next morning we met up with an ex colleague of Mary’s for a quick dip in the sea at Southsea (them not me) followed by coffee and a catchup.

Afterwards we completed the trilogy of historic ships, returning to the dockyard to see HMS Warrior.

We parked up in a long stay car park very close to the ferry terminal and headed over to the Isle of Wight as foot passengers. We took the train down to Shanklin which still uses old tube trains as rolling stock, but this time a slightly more modern version than our last visit.

Thursday 24: Godshill, IOW: The forecast was rain, so we abandoned the plan of a long walk and instead visited the Wildheart animal sanctuary which re-homes various rescue animals. The big cats we saw came from poor situations in circuses and Safari parks. For example Casper, the white lion below, had been rejected by the pride in a safari park and now lives in relative luxury in the sanctuary. He was 17 years old on the day we were there. A whole range of other creatures there and it was all pretty wholesome stuff. 

That evening we had an excellent meal at True Food Kitchen in Ventnor. I was moved to pop up to be serving hatch and thank the chefs in person for their efforts. 

Friday, 25: St Albans: We were fortunate in that we did not need a hotel for Lorenzo and Julie's wedding as my best man, Pete, and his wife Amanda, live in St Albans so it gave us yet another chance to meet up with friends plus there happened to be a beer festival at their local pub.  

Saturday 26: St Albans: Of course, Saturday is parkrunday so we went to St Albans for a lovely run / walk around the lovely Verulamium Park and a view of the cathedral. After a shower and change it was off to Harpenden on the train for Lorenzo and Julie's wedding. It was a full Catholic Nuptial Mass.

Excellent photo from Lorenzo and Julie’s wedding. Honoured to be witness and sign the register for my nephew / godson on the occasion of his wedding. 

L to R: Joe (nephew), Jane (sister), Pete (BIL), Sarah (SIL), Ian (brother / Lorenzo’s father), Julie (bride), Lorenzo (nephew / godson), me, Francesca (Lorenzo’s mother), Mary, Tom (nephew), Tom (nephew), Leoni (Tom’s wife).

Then an Uber back to the reception at The Hub on Veralum in St Albans in St Albans. We dipped out at the dancing stage and met back up with Pete and Amanda for one last beer.

Sunday, 27: Penrith: Breakfast and the long drive north. 

Monday 28: Penrith: It was a Bank holiday so Mary and Manda went for a wild swim at the top end of Ullswater. The photo below shows their "beach" and luxurious changing facilities.

Tuesday 29: Penrith: Mainly doing several laundry loads.

Wednesday 30: Penrith: Boiler service and Landlords's Gas safety for our first property in Penrith. Then we took Mary's Mazda MX5 (aka "Minx") for its annual service. 

I was supposed to have lunch at Bassenthwaite Lake Station with friends Grant and Helen but the night before my tooth started aching so I had an emergency dental appointment. A nascent abscess was nipped in the bud with a bit of drilling and filling and I was sent of with some antibiotics for emergency use only - fortunately it settled down so I didn't need to crack them open. Mary and the others, however, enjoyed their lunch.

Thursday 31: London: Train south. Supper with siblings and partners at Skylon in the South Bank. 

Friday 01: London: Went to see the Paul McCartney photography exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery. Fascinating to see an exciting period in British culture documented from the inside. 

The evening started with an amazing vegetarian pre-theatre meal at The Gate, Islington across the road from Sadlers Wells. One of our favourites, the flavours and presentation of the food astound us every time! 

We then went to see Matthew Bourne's Romeo & Juliet - the reason for this stopover in London. Fantastic dancing - fluid, graceful and expressive. This is why I love modern dance. Set in some kind of institution with the plots and characters given many twists. Mesmerising! I cannot do better than quote the professional reviewers.

Sarah Crompton in the Guardian writes [5 Stars]: "Set in an asylum, the choreographer’s bleak yet passionate adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic romance triumphs in a newly honed revival [...] Fabulously responsive to the melancholy that underpins Prokofiev’s score, which is brilliantly adapted by Terry Davies and played live under the conductor Daniel Parkinson by the New Adventures orchestra, this is a bleak adaptation of a dark play. Absolutely compelling." [Full review...]

Saturday 02: Cisternino: Train down to Gatwick and our flight back (LGW / BRI). A civilised flight time and home in time for supper.

People say we are always doing so much stuff and they are not wrong!

No comments: