Tuesday, 2 September 2014

June/July travels

We continued towards London, staying a couple of nights at Brentford on the Thames River - just west of London to see how big the river is.  Went over the river by bus to Kew Gardens.   They are absolutely huge.  We walked for hours but probably saw less than half.   Amazing glass houses  - especially the Princess of Wales glasshouse which had several different climate zones and incredible plant displays.  Kew Palace which was built for mad King George III was also in the gardens - it's not as elaborate as some other ones we have seen but it's in a lovely setting.
We travelled along Paddington Canal past Little Venice where there are lots of boats permanently moored and through to Paddington Basin.   It's surrounded by lots of new office blocks and apartments and a Hilton Hotel offering special £200 ($400) per night bed & breakfast packages BUT we had FREE  moorings for 7 days right in the heart of London.  Paddington and Edgeware Road Stations are just a  2 minute walk and double decker buses to all of London are right at the door.
 Moored up at Paddington Basin
We walked  to Hyde Park and to busy Portobello Road - famous for antiques.   Also went to the National Gallery, Lords Cricket Ground, the British Museum and the Port  of London Museum at Canary Wharf - an area in the East End of London also filled with newish office blocks and apartments.   Saw 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'  a terrific comedy/musical t(starring Robert Lindsay - the father in the TV show My Family) at the Savoy Theatre in the West End.  Then on Saturday went to see Olive's school parade (which went past their house) and her school carnival at Goose Green Park where Sooz's vet clinic had a stand offering microchipping of pets which will be compulsory in a couple of years.  So  many people everywhere -  just amazing.
Going through Little Venice near Paddington Basin.
Spent a night moored at Camden Lock right at the famous Camden Market. Very crowded with tourists and most stallholders selling London souvenirs (all the same and most made in Asia!!).
Moved on to spend a few nights at Battlebridge Basin (right at the massive Kings Cross/St Pancras Stations.   
Battlebridge Basin near Kings Cross Station.
Continued with the London sightseeing and even caught a train to Brighton Beach on the south coast.  The travel posters list it as the favourite place for 'a dirty weekend'!  No sand anywhere on the beach - it's made up of large uncomfortable pebbles but it doesn't stop everyone swimming and sun baking in hired deck chairs.
Decided to go to the Royal Pavilion which was closed for renovations on our last visit to Brighton nearly twenty years ago.  Outside it looks like an Indian Temple but inside it's highly decorated in a Chinese style - it's the most elaborate palace we have ever seen.  It was built for King George IV and also used by Queen Victoria (who really didn't like being too close to the public and sold it!).  King George was a bit extravagant - the menu for one of the dinners he served his guests had 100 courses - including 56 entrees and 32 desserts.  A bit over the top!!
Dining Room at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton
One of the 8 light fittings in one of the State Rooms.
Spent a night at Limehouse Basin where we booked to go out on the strong morning tide up the Thames River.   Lined up at nearby Canary Wharf in an ideal spot with 1000s of people to see the Tour de France ride past.  Had the IPad, phone camera and another camera ready to capture the moment but after managing to film the many advance vehicles when the bikes sped past we only managed to get the last 3 riders!
Part of Limehouse Basin
Next morning we only had one other narrow boat to travel out with on theThames and the lock keeper was a bit concerned that neither of us had a UHF radio but he took our phone no and let us through the locks.  Lovely sunny morning and the water was quite smooth until the big ferry/taxis passed by which made waves and then it was a bit bumpy.  The river is soooo wide with 28 bridges to navigate through according to which archways were signposted.    Went under the massive Tower Bridge - Terry was hoping they would raise  the centre for us to pass under but of course it was miles above us and this wasn't necessary.  It was a great experience passing the London Eye (the giant ferris wheel), the Shard, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and impressive Parliament House with Big Ben.
Coming up to Tower Bridge

Going past Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The big London Eye - before 9.00 a.m. so not working yet.
Our companion boat turned off into the Brentford Lock and we continued alone to the Teddington Locks where the tidal part of the river ended.  Spent a night moored up at Kingston Bridge right outside John Lewis (a huge UK department store).

Luxury houses line the banks
We wanted to go to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and were lucky to get a mooring the next morning right at the Palace gates.  Great not to have queue up with the 1000s attending like last year .  This Show, which is much bigger than the Chelsea Flower Show, goes over 32 acres of the Palace gardens so we were able to return to the boat for lunch and a rest before heading back to see more of the beautiful displays.
Moored up at Hampton Court Palace for the Garden Show
Went back to London by train for Olive's 5th birthday party. Unfortunately the weather turned and it was quite wet so everyone was.inside.  A little chaotic but it was great fun.
  Olive's big day in her 'Frozen' costume (hand sewn on the boat)
Continued along the Thames towards Windsor - went through some locks on the river but the boat just has to enter and we tie up then all the work is done by lock keepers.  Much easier!
Leaving Molseley Lock near Hampton Palace
Moored up near Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle from the Thames

More news to later.

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