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Published: October 24th 2016
Destination Conwy with a solid detour via Holmfirth; home to Judy’s father, Jack. Jack’s parents were £10 immigrants to Australia and Judy was keen to see from whence her lineage sprang. Holmfirth was a delightful village oasis in a seriously industrial area just south of Huddersfield, with a genuine babbling brook running through it. Lunch next to the café from the “Last of the Summer Wine” tv series which Ron has never experienced. Judy recognised the café at once, and was touched by the charm and by the family connection to Holmfirth; pondering what life had been like for her grandparents, their bravery and the uncertainty that they surely must have endured when moving to a new land on the other side of the earth.
Back in our chariot, backed out of the parking space and the car was a bit sluggish to get moving. Then a flashing red message appears on the digital dashboard. Flashing red things are rarely good news and this one said; “Reverse not available – contact service centre.” Wonderful news when you are on a narrow two lane road with no safe prospect of stopping. It was sluggish because it was starting
in second gear. It was holding second gear assiduously as well until (going up a steep incline as we were) it then changed into fourth. Fourth did not have enough grunt to hold our speed so we slowed right down, almost to a crawl until it decided that second gear was again a good idea. Flappy paddles did nothing, could not hold a gear and the entire performance was repeated multiple times on the steep road out of town until we reached moderately level ground. Drivers behind us looking very irritated. It must have been strange to have some idiot accelerate up to 30mph then back to 10mph over and over. Finally found a place to pull over and turned the engine off whilst pondering what to do and who to call and where were we anyway, how far is the nearest Avis depot and did Karl Benz have a legitimate birth? After pondering the imponderable for a while, we restarted the engine. No flashing message; reverse is working; it’s driving perfectly. Does this car run Windows Vista? We never had another problem.
So on to Wales, past massive wind farms along the Coast. In some quarters,
opinion is divided on wind farms, but we both think that they are majestic, rotating gracefully on the horizon, generating clean energy.
Conwy is a gift from the gods with a dramatic Castle the first thing you see when crossing the bridge into town. Not satisfied with the stress of only having two forward gears earlier in the day, Betty (satnav) decided to taunt us as well by taking us along the waterfront; RON WHY ARE YOU DRIVING ON THE FOOTPATH? Okaay, she is now telling us to go through that archway; surely for pedestrians only – no car will fit through that! Keep going, keep going; okay; this other archway is the only way out and it’s even narrower than the last one. Smiling wanly at the pedestrians, Ron folds the wing mirrors flat and inches through. All good and back on a much wider road – now at least 300mm wider than the car! Found High Street and the Castle Hotel. No parks, so we block a driveway and Ron hops out to get advice only to discover a young lady in the uniform of the Castle Hotel crossing the road towards us. “Are you
checking in?”; “Yes”; “please take out your bags – we will park the car for you later”. An Angel of Mercy indeed. Cannot speak highly enough of the Castle Hotel in Conwy. A truly lovely room, great staff with friendly locals in the restaurant leading to after dinner drinks in the bar and facebook friendships.
Conwy is one place where we could have happily spent a few more days. An interesting Castle and an Elizabethan home “Plas Mawr” just a couple of highlights, but we just loved the ambience and enjoyed walking around the town with visual delights at every turn. Loved Wales and we were disappointed that we miscalculated the timing of a visit to Llanberis and could not take the train to the summit of Snowdon.
Off to Bristol. Quite a long drive even for Aussies used to long distances and we encountered the apparently obligatory multiple roadworks. We arrived in Bristol tired and ready to flop. Checked in to the “Future Inn” which is a nice modern hotel and we liked this for a change, with the extra space and controllable room temperature. Initially no sign of historic Bristol. After a
well earned sleep-in, we headed off towards the river and the historic aspects of this famous port city gradually unfolded. The jumping off point for early voyages of exploration to the New World and later perhaps one of the biggest ports of embarkation for migration to Australia; the Severn River eventually led us to the Brunel Institute; home of the SS Great Britain. Engineer Ron was in heaven. Brunel is considered to be one of the greatest and most prolific engineers in history; building dockyards, bridges, inventing tunnelling methods, railways and he revolutionised public transport. In his spare time (whilst Chief Engineer of the Great Western Railroad) he was behind the design of the SS Great Britain, the first steel hulled, propeller driven commercial ship. It was also the longest ship ever built at the time. In later years the Great Britain concentrated on the Australian route and it is said that over 2% of current Australians can trace their ancestry back to a passenger on the Great Britain. This would have to be one of the best museum style attractions we have experienced. Brilliant. We cannot do it justice here. Wish we had more time in Bristol as well.
Still with all gears working, the jalopy took us to Bath. High expectations by reputation for an historic city but no wow factor like we experienced in York, Whitby, or Oxford etc. Perhaps we were jaded? Roman baths were indeed very interesting and worthwhile - recommended as a reminder at how bloody clever the Romans were. These Baths were very complex and here, were less a pleasure palace than a place of regeneration, exercise and apparently with a religious intent. We felt that Bath’s general streetscape was a bit grubby – looked like it needed a spring clean. Does Bath need a shower?
Then off to Padstow - Cornwall. Quite a drive, we went via Tintagel where the visitor’s centre was closed at 3:00pm and we couldn’t see King Arthur’s Castle at all from the road and elected to continue to Padstow. The Metropole Hotel was just wonderful, brilliant meal at the Hotel Dining room, very comfy bed – slept like a baby and great breakfast as well. Explored Padstow; home of Rick Stein, saw Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant, Rick Stein’s Fish & Chip Shop, Rick Stein’s Deli, Rick Stein’s Bar, Rick Stein’s Patisserie,
and Rick Stein’s Bookshop. In the bookshop they were featuring “Born to Run”; by Bruce SpringStein. In the Pub, beer was also served in . . . . Steins and the pian naturally was a . . . Steinway. Seriously, Padstow is an absolute delight . . . another place where we would have happily spent more time.
Next morning after a fab brekky at the Metropole, we headed to Port Isaac. This is “Portwenn” in the tv series “Doc Martin” . . . . . Ok, Ron thought this would be for die hard ‘Doc Martin’ fans only (ie. Judy), but wow; what an absolutely picturesque place. Hard to find as it is well off the beaten track but worth the effort. Guess what was on the telly in our hotel the next night; accompanied by shrieks of; “we’ve been there!”
Long drive to East Stratton, just north of Winchester. Northbrook Arms Pub with four guest rooms. Just seven miles north of Winchester but feels remote and very quiet. Great meal. Friendly hosts and fellow patrons; including Lola the chocolate Labrador who thinks she owns the place.
Next morning, in
to Winchester. Very charming with an impressive Cathedral. We couldn’t go inside because the University of Winchester were using it the entire day for their graduation ceremonies, so we waddled off to the Winchester museum. That was also closed for renovations; “re-opening tomorrow”. We still liked Winchester, with funky markets in the downtown area. A beautiful city. Half of it bloody closed but still a beautiful City. Mmmm . . . what to do now? Being a car enthusiast, Ron had always been aware of the Montagu Motor Museum in Beaulieu, near Southampton. Having a previous State Premier called Ted Baillieu, we assumed this was similarly pronounced. Wrong! It is pronounced ‘boo lee’. Mentally practicing boo lee we programmed Betty and in 40 minutes we were there. Great expectations. Even better in reality. Lord Montagu and his heirs have set up a charitable trust to manage the Beaulieu estate, comprising the stately mansion, fabulous gardens, an historic and beautiful abbey and did we mention the motor museum? What a brilliant place; curiously with ponies and donkeys roaming free on the access roads! Did we mention that there is a motor museum? Almost a bucket list item for Ron; so in
we went. Through the obligatory gift shop and as we wandered along the path through the wonderful gardens, we encountered something called; “Top Gear Experience”. Now Judy is a closet Top Gear fan, despite being not remotely interested in cars – “it’s just very funny”; and Ron wanted to be Jeremy Clarkson – until he started punching people. It was brilliant. They ran a hilarious video presentation of their stunts and challenges. The vehicles in question were on display in the next room and included such things as a Triumph Herald yacht, a Lotus Esprit motor home and a double decker Toyota Corolla. Grins all round and worth the price of admission alone. Then the museum proper which met all and any expectations. Some of the older vehicles had only two forward gears and no reverse; we knew the feeling.
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