Saturday, April 23, 2011

London to Istanbul

Eurostar back to London is always exciting. Stephanie, whose working visa had expired, easily negotiated British immigration in Paris, the officers joking with her about her wish to stay on for an extra week to 'attend' the royal wedding.

Gammar back to Jummy and Sam's joint the three intrepids hopped up at the ungodly of 4:15am to snaggle off to Luton for an early flight to Turkey. This was a really weird trip as there was no traffic on roads that normally only allow snail's-pace progress. Zip bang whack and we were standing in the queue for check-in! This we did not need to do, however, since we only had carry-on baggage! This we discovered with only metres to go in the line! Never mind.

3-hour trip in the plane sees us landed in Istanbul, buts ails-pacing from Sabiha airport the 20-or-so kms to the city over a 2 1/2 hour period (the return trip a week later took one hour). Andy, Grazyna and their daughters landed later on the day and experienced the same grinding journey. They had had a few days in Capadocia (spelling?), which sounded like a neat (please pardon the archaic American slang here). Houses appazzas are formed by tunneling into the scoria and carving out rooms in which to dwell and carry out all other manner of activities associated with life in that part of the world.

Here are some of the places we visited in Istanbul: the Blue Mosque, the mosque across the road from it that is now a museum, the Grand Bazzar, the Spice Market, a gorgeous, ancient orthodox church, lots of cafes and restaurants and the Mighty Bosphorous (the waterway leading from Istanbul to the Black Sea. We also spent some time in the Museum of Modern (Turkish) Art which commanded wonderful views of the Asian and European sides of the aforementioned Bosphorous.

Here is an incident that took place on one idiot strolling days: Steph had had her shoes polished by a little boy whose cutely pleading eyes she could not ignore. 5 TL (Turkish Lire - $3) the cost, including tip. That gives you an idea of the going rate. Some time later, as we strolled along, a much older (20 years?) shoeshine chap walked in front of me and dropped his brush. I picked it up for him and handed it back. "Gentleman!", he shouted, "Gentleman!", and made to offer a free shoeshine in gratitude. Soon, however, it became apparent that this was not to be free at all, and that the price would be 18 TL. By this time Andy was having his shoes shone by the first chap's colleague. I do not know how I could be so stupid, but I handed over a 50 TL note an asked for change! What a dill! JUST THEN I CAME TO MY SENSES (with Andy's and Grazy's help) and demanded the 50 TL back. This they (surprisingly) did and they were left with only 5. Quite reasonable in the scheme of things. It was annoying, but quite a-typical of the attitude of all the Turks with whom we had dealings.

Dear Jude had not observed the above incident, and the next day the same thing happened to her. A MUCH older shoe-shine chap dropped his brush in front of her and she was about to pick it up when Graz all but pushed her over to prevent her act of kindness. As we walked on, the smiling shoe-shiner was seen to be laughing to himself and acknowledging that his little trick had not worked. All very good-natured.

Gotta go. More later.

Hoo Roo,


Thursday, April 21, 2011

France, not Paris II

The remaining two days in France were spent wandering the by-ways and backroads of Normandy. I don't know why, but I had imagined this nock of the woods as being dull and lacking in interest. How wrong was I? Car travel is not my favourite form of transport, but given the time constraints it suited the Ramblers Four very well, with lots of ideas for future (read 'real') rambling in the future ...

We visited four gardens over our two days at a cost of about 8 euros per head per garden. Each possessed its own particular charm: one open and rambling, one overgrown and clumpy, another open (again) but dotted with sculptures and lastly the garden designed and built by the Master: Monet, hisself. The visit to the sculpture garden was enlivened by the emergence of the youngish sculptor. He enthusiastically encouraged us to take our picnic in the grounds, scurrying off to fetch an additional chair from inside a 15th-or-so century chapel. He explained that the chateau in whose gardens we were picnicking had been owned by his aunt, but had been bought by the local council. He was working, along with an architect, on the artistic development of the site. He invited us to visit his studio when we had finished our repast, although when the time came he was not to be found and a couple of sullen chaps with no English gave us the cold shoulder when we approached the inner sanctum.

At the first three of these gardens we were pretty-well the only visitors. It is only very early spring and despite the abundance of flowers very few people were out and about. The weather was a bit on the cool side, but very pleasant nonetheless.

The highlight of course was 'Monet's Garden' in Giverny. Youse just HAVE to get there! It's not good enough to look at pictures, it has to be experienced at first hand. We stayed in a cute little farm-stay-like accommodation down by the little stream that runs through the town. It contains a little menagerie with a variety of animal life that includes a few wallabies. There are a number of not-so-good reviews of this little 'gite', but we found the place totally charming, friendly and welcoming. We ate a lovely dinner there that night and felt very much at home, as did the ferocial-looking bikies who took off with a roar the next day.

Dear Stephanie had a little adventure at our temporary place of residence that brought a tear or two of mirth from me, her father. It happened that she took an interest in a cute-looking chook (one of the type that has feathers right down to the ground, making it look as though it has no legs and merely wafts about the farm-yard). Anyhow, Steph approached this chook along one of the garden paths that surround the house, expecting said chook to run away from her. This it did not do! Rather, chooky-looky flew at her in a cute-chicken rage, sending Steph into a very hasty retreat towards her spluttering father who had witnessed the whole incident. A story to be admitted into the family story vault for the grand-kids (if grand kids there will ever be).

The next morning we were to head to Paris to rerun the hire car and to hop onto the Eurostar, but not before we looked at a fifth garden out the back of an inn in the Giverny village. It wasn't 'payant', but did possess its own particular charm. Another incident worthy of mention also involved Dear Stephanie. As the four of us wandered about the hillside on which the garden was set, a screech of delight issued from the lips of our first-born as she spied a snake! We all scurried over, but by that time said snake had found a hidey-hole, though not one that totally put it out of view. The bit of it I saw was beautiful, exhibiting a lovely diamond pattern. Dear Steph said that it was about a meter in length. One of the peeps in the pub said that these asps come out of the woods behind in search of water, of which there is a shortage around these parts at present.

On towards Paris after Giverny, along the Seine Valley, though the suburbs and industrial areas, finally snarling past La Defense, through the roundabout surrounding the Arc of Triumph and onwards in a Paris-traffic-grinding sort of way to the Gare Du Nord for the car drop-off, dreading all the while the impossibility of finding the Eurocar drop-off point. When suddenly there it is! A little hole in the city with Europecar drop-off point written in large friendly French right there in front of us. Down we hurtle, in we park, out we hop, up escalators we zip and not the Eurostar we hop! Soon we are zipping across the countryside in which we have been immersed UK-bound.

A great little Ramble!

Good-bye for now,


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

France, not Paris!

Imagine DJ planning to go to France without stopping off in Paris! Well it happened, and this is HOW it happened:

In the planning for this particliar trip, we were delighted that Gammar agreed to come with us and to look after us. Gammar had been to Paris and did not wish to repeat the dose. Fair call! Instead, she would very much like to visit Giverny, if that were at all possible. IT WAS, so off we went.

One of the true highlights was a ferry trip from Newhaven to Dieppe. This meant an early start from Hammersmith, but hell - small price for a smooth skitch (as it turned out) across the Ditch. I openly admit here to being a 'ferry freak'. Cars driving on (and off at the other end), huge clanking ferry doors shutting and opening at departure and arrival, taking turns about decks and watching receding Britain and approaching France are all part if the package. What a hoot! Steph was with us, so it was a real family affair (minus two).

One night in Dieppe was not enough. It is a lovely little seaside town. Lots of fishing smacks a-bobbing on the water and a lovely little harbour along which to stroll. We collected our hire car for our 3-day excursion on this Saturday because the shop would not be open on Sunday. [Good call or WHAT?]

Sunday was spent exploring the Dieppe surrounds. DJ had a book describing back roads in France and, together with Tina on the TomTom, we were all set. Along the coast we visited the disastrous landing points in 1942 (or 1943 - not too sure which) of the Canadians. This, apparently was the Gallipoli for Canadians. More than 20,000 killed! Words are not enough! Small compensation, but the learned lesson was the need for landing equipment for any future Allied invasion, when floating wharfs were used to great effect down the coast a few years later. How come we in Australia don't know about this (or am I the only prawn who doesn't?)

Anyhoo, gotta go now. Our flight back to London (from Istanbul) is boarding and I don't want to get left behind because it is pouring rain.

Hoo rooster!


Monday, April 18, 2011


Aw gee, I just know I'm going to get int trouble here, but I am not such a great fan of London. There, I've said it. Get over it.

London is very busy. There's heaps of traffic and even more people (Steph and I call them 'peeps'. They are EVERYWHERE! It's scary.

Youse are probs wondering what is happening with The Ramblers. Why, for example, are they in Europe AGAIN??!! Well may youse arks!

We are here because Europe is here, that's why. See? Simple.

We brought Gammar this time. Dear Jude's (DJ's) mum, Margaret; known in this blog as Gammar, who has cousin, Judith (known as Jum) who lives in Kingston-Upon-Thames with her husband (known as Sam). There you have it. Gammar has spent most of the time at Jummy and Sam's, but came with us to France for a few days.

Dear Jude and Steph spent a day getting Steph's stuff ready for her English egress in a few weeks' time, while Gammar and I headed for The Tower of London. Here was an example of just how wring one can be about London if one leaps to uninformed assessments of London as a city of enjoyment. We, in fact, enjoyed quite a wonderful day.

We resolved early on to go by bus. The Number 9, in fact, from Hammersmith to Aldwich. What fun that was! Up on the top level of the bus, ready to pounce on the two front seats when they became vacant, we rolled on through the traffic, spotting all the crazy highlights that one hears about internationally: Picadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Latchford Barracks, Hyde Park Corner, where all the theaters are, the Albert Hall and some other really authentic London POI. Change on to the Number 15 and thence on to The Tower.

Not so many peeps today, as the weather was a bit on the cloudy/cold side and it was Thursday.

We took the tour with the Beefeater, whose speel WAS interesting, but was word-for-word identical with the other Beefeater guides we overheard later on. INTERESTING NONETHELESS! We saw ravens an jewells and the spot where Anne Boellyn had her head whisked off wth the French sword. Yikers! The experience was quite evocative, but it was a mite difficult to absorb oneself in the multitudinous epochs which Spanish the life of this grand old edifice. A few hours of gawping dies not do it any justice at all. The best perspective (and the most practicable) is to see ot in the light of 2011: Gammar, The Tower and me. The three of us in one place at one time. It will never happen again! It was great!

Having spent most our time on the bus getting there, it was now time to hurtle back to Steph's joint in Hammersmith to meet up with the sorters and packers and to have some dinns. We went on the Tube. We dined at one of Steph's locals over near the river (Thames) and right beneath the flightpath to/from Heathrow, Gammar having high-tailed it back to Kingston. We (Steph, DJ and Groombles were orf to Istanbul, Byzantium and Constantiople. But that, me coin bloggees, will be the subject of a later blog.

See youse!


More rambling Rosing!

It's been yonks since I have posted, and that's cos I really cannot be trusted to keep youse all up to date. Not god enough, I know, but it is just going to have to do.

Anyhoo, here we are again in Europe and the UK, rambling our hearts out.

Day One of our foray saw us in a train, choosing off to Moreton-in-Marsh, a couple of stops on from Oxford. Our destination was Bourton-on-the-Water (Bourton), where we were to set off by foot for Winchcombe early the next day. We arrived at our B&B late in the afternoon and met by Alan and Carol at Rose Cottage and shown to our very comfy accommodation. The front room of Rose Cottage was designated as the Prayer Room, and it seems that Alan and Carol host bible study groups every so often much the same as Jude choice off to book group back home in Wang.

Next day saw us in walking boots, all kitted out for our ramble to Winchcombe, along the 'Warden's Way'. The forecast was bleak and the first drop of rain plopped onto the nose of Dear Jude (DJ) just outside the door of Rose Cottage. I am most pleased to report that the second drop never plopped! That's right, grey Day One with no rain out to Winchcombe, and sunny Day Two on the way back to Bourton next day on the Windrush Way. Wakko!

The Warden's Way (out) takes The Rambler through a number of cutesie Cotswold villages and over some rolling pastures and fields. It is much less remote than last year's Dales walk, as your Rambler is never very far from country lanes and habitation. Nonetheless, it is strikingly beautiful in a most Cotswoldy sort of fashion.

The first villages were the Slaughters, Upper and Lower. Carol told us that the inhabitants were a bit 'look-down-their-noses-ish', but we didn't really see any, so it didn't matter. On we rambled up the river, over the rolling hills ('wolds') and on to Winchcombe.

The White Hart Inn was our slumber-point, but not before we checked out the shops and a pub or two. The Warden's Way covered about 22 kms of rambling, so we arrived tired, but happy and keen to rip off our shoes and stockings and to flop down somewhere cozy for a pint or two. This we did at the White Hart.

Dinner was scrummy, and so was the wine. DJ headed off to bed, but Dear Graeme stayed on in the bar to savour just one more pint of cider. BIG MISTAKE! Big headache. Big trouble. NEVER AGAIN! [Till next time.]

At 9-ish the two Ramblers set sail along the Windrush Way, bound for Bourton. Just out of Winchcombe, the track is dominated by a castle (now mostly ruined) where Ann Parr spent most of her life, and where she will spend most of her death, because she is buried there. I can't tell you the name of the castle, because DJ has gone to the Spice Market in downtown Istanbul with Dear Gryjina. I'll tell you later.

The Windrush way steers the wayfarer away from villages, and is more remote than Warden's. We only got lost once. Lots of ancient, ruined, abandoned, mediaeval villages to pass by, however kept the intrigue-meter at a very high reading. Nothing to see, but they were marked on the map and probably COULD be discerned if there were enough time to poke around, bu there wasn't, so we mosied on.

We did see a horse-drawn caravan parked out the back of a farm-house, but it was WAY too big for Ratty and Moley and Toad to manage on their own. Its tyres were flat and it was set up on bricks, so no-one used it. Pity ...

A few kms before Bourton we passed through a little settlement of houses huddled around a mill-house. This was gorgeous, surrounded in and about by lovely little gardens and such. A disused rail line ran along the path at this point, only adding to the intrigue of the area (don't get me started on disused railway lines, I warn youse!)

The track through Bourton took us back along the bank of the river that we had followed at various times out from Bourton, and back in. Here, for the first time, we could see trout in the stream. Appazzas, PC (Prince Charles) could only get on the waiting list for a fishing membership in the area! What chance does a simple Wayfarer or indeed Rambler have against such odds? I arks youse!

So back to Rose Cottage and Alan and Carol's hospitality it was for the Ramblers. What an adventure it all was! We just CANNOT get enough of this rambling caper, sore feet and all!

Cheerio for now!

The Rsmblers!