A Travellerspoint blog

June 30 to July 4 2011 - Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

semi-overcast 16 °C

We arrived at Stansted Airport on Thursday not knowing what to expect; our long-held booking now clashed with a National Strike in the UK. As it turned out, the whole trip to Amsterdam was one of the easiest we've had in years - no queues, 40-minute flight and a simple transfer to the Apollofirst Hotel with the Connexxion shuttle. The hotel is in the Museum Quarter and right outside along the Apollolaan boulevard was the Artzuid sculpture exhibition which included works by Dali, Arp, Miro and dozens of other artists

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On Friday afternoon we were joined by old friends Bert and Marina from Duisberg in Germany and together we walked many, many kilometres around the canals in the Jordaan. A place not to be missed is the Beginjhof, a very large, courtyard sanctuary dating from the 14thC in the Spui area

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On Sunday morning, we headed to the Plantage Quarter to the visit the De Hortus botanical gardens; founded in 1638, it is one of the oldest in the world

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And on Sunday afternoon, we walked back to the Leidseplein area and took a canal trip on a restored 1920s "iron-boat" that has been restored by the St Nicolaas Boat Club - if you dislike the large boats with the constant commentary, this is the boat for you (10 euros "donation")

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A few days ago we found out that Kevin Patterson was going to be flying in late Sunday evening from London for a conference, so we headed over to the Prinsengracht at 9:30pm for a quick drink at his hotel

Unfortunately the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum are undergoing long-term renovations and have much-reduced displays (for the same price of course) so we decided to visit them another year, preferring to spend Monday morning in the Van Gogh museum (14 euros) - we booked the tickets online (you need to print out the tickets) and this allows you to skip past the queue. Was it worth the $18 entrance fee? Yes but it's quite difficult to decide which sites to visit in Amsterdam as the "big" places are 10 to 14 euros to get in and even the lesser-known places are rarely less than 6 or 8 euros

We travelled around Amsterdam with a 4-day travel card (19.50 euros from the small and hidden tourist office at the Stadsschouwburg at the Leidseplein) which is valid on the trams, buses and metro. It's pretty good value as a single trip costs 2.60 euros and the tram system is fantastic

Posted by kforge 15:21 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

June 25 and 26 2011 - Essex

A WEEKEND IN ESSEX - BARE LEGS BUT NO WHITE SHOES

sunny 28 °C

Late Friday afternoon, we drove down from Cockfield to Little Waltham to spend a very pleasant evening with Steve and Carole, and Jo and Ollie. On Saturday we were going to drive down to Southend-on-Sea for a day at the seaside (well, estuary-side actually) but as the weather was pretty unsettled, we decided to spend the day with Steve and Carole in the Maldon area. Maldon is a very old village on the Blackwater River, famous for its salt and the Battle of Maldon in 991 where Byrhtnoth's Anglo-Saxons tried to hold back the Viking invasion

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About 4:30pm the sun suddenly burst out and it was obviously time for a nice cold beer on the other side of the river at Heybridge Basin where a canal runs from the estuary into Chelmsford

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So now the trip to Southend was back on and Sunday morning we drove the 20 miles down the Chalkwell area of the seafront and spent great couple of hours strolling along the promenade before meeting Tom and Ruth for coffee in the Barge cafe, one of a string of cafes under the "arches" in Chalkwell, overlooking the beach and Thames estuary

For those of you who know Southend, the huge, old Palace Hotel on Pier Hill has been completely restored by the Radisson and looks fantastic

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Posted by kforge 01:45 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

June 23 2011 - Norfolk

IN NORFOLK

rain 16 °C

We read up on Norwich and decided it might be a good day trip from Cockfield. It wasn't. There are some fine medieval buildings in the city (including Elm Hill, below) but they are hidden away and mostly surrounded by "fuck you" 60s architecture - well done Norwich Council. The walking map from the tourist office is obviously funded by the large shopping centres as Elm Hill hardly even gets a mention (only a couple of small cafes down this street). We didn't stay long

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We must be getting sick and tired of National Trust properties; we drove a few miles north of Norwich to Blickling Hall, supposedly the jewel in Norfolk with connections to Anne Boleyn's family. The Tudor building and gardens are beautiful (a small Hampton Court Palace) but the interior is very disappointing and if we had paid the GBP10.90 to get in, we would have had a quiet word with the people running it. But they did have a book by Henry the VIII published in 1521 and also one by William Tyndale from 1526

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Posted by kforge 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

June 17 to 19 2011 - Shrewsbury

ON THE WAY TO SHREWSBURY AND IN SHREWSBURY

overcast 13 °C

We thought we'd pop into a couple of National Trust sites on the way across the country. First stop was Lyveden New Bield. Their web entry states "Lyveden is a remarkable story of survival. One of England's oldest garden landscapes, Lyveden was abandoned in 1605 when its creator Sir Thomas Tresham died and his son became embroiled in the Catholic gunpowder plot. Today you can enjoy an experience of an Elizabethan garden with moats, mounts, terracing and intriguing garden lodge. Period fruit trees recreate what was described as 'one of the fairest orchards in England', and the circular labyrinth reflects Tresham's original garden design" - on a warm, sunny day this would be a good place to stroll around but it's probably not what most people would define as a garden. The lodge itself is not really a ruin; it was just never finished and nobody has every tried to complete it!

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Next stop was the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire. We are members of the National Trust but the estate still wanted GBP3 to park there. If you just roll up there without membership, it will cost GBP15 each to get in (only GBP37.50 for a family). It's a nasty themed costume park sutable only for small children. Don't go there

We arrived at Rob and Jo's in Shrewsbury about 5pm and after a couple of pints of Jennings Cumberland Ale in the pub next door with Rob, we returned to the house for an excellent Rob-prepared meal of farfalle with home-made pesto and his very own home-made spelt bread (we were very disappointed with its low height though)

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Saturday, we strolled through Shrewsbury with the aim of taking a look at the Shropshire Victorian Olympian Festival, but all we could see were a few people dressed in Victorian clothing and dozens of carnival stalls (incuding the enticing "Biggest Pawnbroker in the UK"). The blaring music was the evocative soundtrack from the Blues Brothers

In the evening, a swift pint of the excellent XXX beer from the Three Tuns Brewery was followed by a fine meal at the Golden Cross hotel/restaurant

Sunday, Rob and Jo suggested we visit Stokesay Castle (GBP5.80), about a 30-minute drive from Shrewsbury. It is truly one of the most amazing historic sites I have ever seen; "Stokesay Castle is quite simply the finest and best preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. Set in peaceful countryside near the Welsh border"

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From there it was off to Rob and Jo's favourite tea-room, Rocke Cottage, where fine tea and cakes were had by all. They have just been declared the winner of the UK Tea Guild's Top Tea Place 2011

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Posted by kforge 10:50 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

June 14 to 16 2011 - Cockfield and Cambridge

JUST ENJOYING THE COCKFIELD AREA

sunny 20 °C

We're just enjoying the pleasant weather and sites around Cockfield in Suffolk; a walk around Bury St Edmunds, a couple of pints of Greene King IPA at the Plough and Fleece, a couple of hours in Cambridge and a visit to Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire

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We decided to skip the "park and ride" in Cambridge and with the address of a city centre car park in the CoPilot GPS, headed cautiously into town - straight in, GBP6 for 3 hours and straight out, a matter of minutes and no hold-ups or problems at all

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Today (Thursday), we're going to have a look around the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, the last working Regency playhouse in Britain

Tomorrow, we're off to Shrewsbury to visit Rob and Jo

Posted by kforge 02:38 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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