Tuesday, August 31, 2010


With its harbour, city wall, white marble streets and terracotta roof tiles, the old city of Debrovnik is quite stunning. If the crowds are any indication, lots of other people share this view.

For reasons that remain unclear, in 1991 and 1992 the Yugoslav army decided the Dubrovnik was a military target. They shelled the city from gun emplacements atop this hill. This explains why so many roofs have new terracotta tiles.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Blog central and undergraduate power on the River Stour

This is Canterbury blog central, also known as Pret.

Ben is an undergraduate at the University of Canterbury. He also provided the rowing power for our short but very pleasant meander on the River Stour.

The chair is suspended over the river.  It has been used to discourage the over-talkative.

I know that this post is not chronologically correct.  I'll try to catch up over the next week or so.

Today we visited St Peter's Basilica,  Sistine Chapel, the Vatican museums,  the Colosseum and the Forum.  Exhausting.  Images later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A morning in Rome

We had a morning in Rome before taking a train from Stazione Termini to Civitavecchia before boarding our ship. Above is the ceiling of the Pantheon. Below is its rather modest exterior (it has had a long and sometimes violent past).

The Trevi Fountain is stunning, but set in a surprisingly small space.

On matters transport, I can confirm that it is possible to buy a railway ticket from a machine with cash, and that platform 27, from whence the train to Civitavecchia leaves, is the furthest from the main concourse. We did make it, and are now very much enjoying our cruise on the Noordam. Today we are in Kusadasi, Turkey. Yes my blog is well behind.

Last night we had dinner with a Canadian woman who was on our Eurodam cruise in 2008. I know this because we were swapping stories about miscreants on cruises. We both told parts of the Mr Burgermeister story.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The wilds of Kent

Its hard to describe the Kent countryside. No because it is bland or featureless; but rather because it is quite hard to see. The picture above shows typical hedgerows near our cottage in Old Wives Lees. As you can see, not much of the pastoral landscape is visible. Hedgerows also make driving interesting, becuae in most places the carriageway is about 5m wide (or less) and there is no verge.

This is Flint Cottage at Cork Farm, Old Wives Lees. We stayed here for six nights, rather than the seven originally planned (a salutory tale, outlined in an earlier post). Cork Farm is about ten minutes walk from Chilham.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Green tunnels in Kent

In Kent it is not uncommon for the hedgerows to form a tunnel.  Some are long and dark enough to require headlights in the daytime. This example is near Ightam Mote.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sissinghurst, Kent

Sissinghurst has its famous gardens, slightly eccentric buildings, a pleasant restaurant  and an oest house. 
An oest house? Their distinctive cowls are dotted all around Kent but what is their purpose? The short answer is beer. Locally grown hops is dried on a slatted floor between the wood-fired furnace below and the venting cowl above.

From the Sissinghurst Tower

Friday, August 13, 2010

Canterbury Cathedral

This is the ceiling of the Chapter House at Canterbury Catherderal. Made from bog oak, it is so dense and hard that, according to our guide, it requires little or no maintenance. . The Chapter House is now a multi-purpose hall, complete with urns and folding tables.

A word about church and town guides in England. They are invariably cheerful, knowledgeable and nearing the age of the monuments and buildings they so lovingly describe. Guided town tours are well worth seeking out.  Our favourites are walking tours of Bath and Canterbury. For those who prefer cycling to walking, a Fat Tires tour is almost compulsory. 

Thomas Becket was not the only Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered; but he was the only one to meet his end in Canterbury Cathedral..

Stained glass tells the story of miracles claimed by pilgrims to Becket's tomb. Pilgrimages to Canterbury commenced after Becket's death until Henry VIII destroyed the tomb in the early 14th century.

The severe grey chair east of the alter is only used for investitures of Archbishops of Canterbury.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Camping in Kent

This is Chilham, about 10 minute's walk from our lodgings at Cork Farm at Old Wives Lees, Kent. A very pleasant and civil place.  A building on The Square is above, St Mary's church is below.
In my previous post I mentioned the consequences of reckless form filling.  The later flight arrived on time at Heathrow, but fate was about to have her say.  First there were lengthy queues at passport control.  We were among the last to be processed.  A baggage handler had the day off, we were told, so our bags were slow to emerge. Nonetheless it was good to be on the ground.

I booked a car from a company called Green Motion many months ago. We were expecting someone from Green Motion to meet us at the shed that is Terminal 3, or at least to answer our call to its office nearby. Plan B was hastily formed and put into effect.  This involved taking a courtesy bus to the Avis depot (which seemed to be closer to Bristol than Terminal 3) to become a "walk-up".  Apparently a walkup has criminal tendencies that justify some additional charges, but at least the staff were helpful and had a car available.

We drove to Kent.

We arrived at Old Wives Lees at bout 11pm, just as our hosts were taking their phone off the hook.  Plan C? No other accommodation was available so we slept in the car.  Early next morning we made belated contact with our host who cheerfully suggested that perhaps we should have contacted him earlier.

After finally getting some sleep we set about exploring this fascinating area, starting with Canterbury.
Chilham door.

Changi and the folly of forms

So many forms.  Many months ago I made a mistake in our booking form for our flight from Singapore to London.  In the twenty minutes it took to rectify the problem, we lost our seats on the 9am flight.  Not too perturbed, we settled for the 12:45pm, aboard the A380.  After a restful night in the transit hotel, waiting in Changi Airport for a few hours was not too burdensome.  Koi and butterflies make fine, gentle entertainment and a next to our departure gate.  All appeared to be well, but the aforementioned error had consequences later that day.