Our Europe Trip - April to June 2003.
A brief description of our travels with links to many photos!
(Click on any word in blue to view photos of the area)
We had originally planned to have 3 days in Hong Kong on our way to Europe but canceled that due to the SARS outbreak and went directly to London via LA instead. We arrived in London on 15 April, hired a car and drove to Horsham to stay with Alan and Dianne.
April 16 went to with Dianne, then drove to Portsmouth and on to Salisbury and stayed the night at the Swan Inn at Stoford.
April 17 we visited Stonehenge, which was a real anti-climax as the public are not allowed within 150 metres of the stones! The most exiting part of the visit was when Annette's camera died (a not unusual occurrence on holiday). Then into Salisbury to buy Annette a new camera and visit the cathedral. We then drove to Cabilla Manor (B&B at Mount on the Bodmin Moor) to stay with the Hanbury-Tenisons (friends of Jo Craig).
April 18 we visited the Eden Project, drove down to the little fishing village of Charlestown, then the island castle at St Michael's Mount, and then on to Land's End. We then drove up the coast to St Ives - a fascinating seaside town, and we stayed the night at a lovely farm B&B called Gwinear, not far from St Ives.
April 19 we called in to Padstow, another little fishing village and I fell flat on my face over a gutter. Pretty sore kneecap and elbow for a few days. Had some nice seafood. Then on to Clovelly, a fishing village built in a very steep valley. We walked down to the sea and back, and then on to Lynton where there is an interesting cable railway that operates on water power. We ended up that night at the Washford Inn for B&B.
April 20 we drove to Horsham and stayed at Robert's house for the night (they were overseas).
April 21 we drove to Virginia Water to stay for 4 nights with Robynne and Victor. That afternoon we went to Heathrow (very close nearby) with Simon to meet Andrew who arrived from Denver (via LA and Frankfurt). He went off to stay with Simon.
April 22. We got the train to London and met Andrew at Victoria station. We visited Buckingham Palace, St James Park, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, walked along the south Thames bank from Westminster bridge to Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Pauls. Then tubed back to Embankment, walked over Hungerford bridge and rode the London Eye. Then walked to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Had Thai seafood for dinner and caught the tube and train home to Virginia Water.
April 23. Spent the day with Robynne and Victor. They took us to visit Windsor, saw the changing of the guard at the Castle (better and closer than at Buckingham Palace), walked over the Thames to Eton, saw the "Long Walk" from Windsor. In the afternoon we walked through the park around Virginia Water (lake) to the Valley Gardens. Drove around Ascot and past Prince Williams home. That night we ate at an Asian restaurant-very pleasant.
April 24. Went into London again by train and visited the Science Museum, walked thru Harrods, particularly the food departments, walked thru Hyde Park, caught the Tube to Piccadilly Circus, walked down Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, down the Mall, thru Admiralty Arch, and happened upon the changing of the mounted guard at the Horse Guards, walked back to Waterloo and caught the train home.
April 25. Drove around the M25 ring road, and went up the A12 thru Colchester and Ipswitch. Went to Woodbridge and then went out to Aldeburgh, a little fishing village - nice crab meat! Drove over the little back roads past a huge pig farm to Beccles and on to stay with Fraser and Annie at little Melton, near Norwich.
April 26. Drove to Buxton and had a lovely walk in the country with Fraser, Annie, Joseph and Izzy (Isobel). We then drove to Blickling Hall for lunch and then visited Norwich and the cathedral. Mid afternoon we departed for Ellington near Cambridge to stay with Sue and Brian.
April 27. Sue and Brian took us to Huntingdon market (visited Cromwell's Museum), and then on to Cambridge for a walk around. I worked there for 5 weeks 24 years ago and much was as I remembered it! Really interesting going back again.
April 28 we flew to Paris where we stayed in a very roomy conveniently situated apartment for 4 days and visited Churches, Monuments, the River Seine, and many other places of interest and intrigue.
May 3 we caught the
TGV train (the fastest in
Europe) to Avignon where we picked up our Eurolease Renault Scenic and drove
east to the fascinating little village of
Venasque where we had a
villa for a
week. The first night we went to Nime to pick up Simon who flew in from
Next day, May 4, we went to the market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. An amazing assortment of food in particular. On the way home we stopped and looked around St Didier, a lovely little town that we passed through often during the next week. That evening we drove through Carpentras to Vacqueyras and had a marvelous meal and wines with Ross and Helen at Domaine de la Ponche, where they were staying.
May 5 we drove to Roussillon to visit the Sentier des Ocres (Ochre cliffs). We then drove to Colorado (near Apt) and walked in and around the old disused Ochre quarries (Carrieres d'Ocre). Stopped at the supermarket at L'Isle-s-l-Sorgue on the way home.
May 6 we drove down to Cassis on the Mediterranean - a hot fascinating day. The boys lay on the beach for a while and had a swim.
May 7 we drove via Le Beaucet to visit the patisserie for bread and pane 'e chocolat, and then went on to the market at St Remy de Provence - what a foodie's dream! Visited Joel Durand, a well known chocolatier, and Extrait D'Olive to sample and buy olive oil - great basil and garlic olive oil. We visited the local monastery where Van Gough lived and painted for a number of years. We then drove west of Avignon to the Pont du Gard, a 2000 year old Roman aquaduct built to carry the water supply to Nime over the Gard River. that night we had dinner at the local B&B in Venasque, La Maison aux Volets Bleus. Martine and Jerome Maret put on an amazing dinner.
May 8 we drove to Avignon, looked in and around the walled city and visited the Palais des Popes (the home of a number of Popes before they went back to Rome) and the Pont St Benezet, the ancient Roman bridge that crosses the river. Mid afternoon we farewelled Andrew on the TGV train to Geneva and Nyon to visit Suzan and Marco. We then drove to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the site of a huge spring that comes out from under the cliffs. Simon cooked duck for dinner that night - beautiful.
May 9 we drove to the market at Carpentras and bought lots more interesting food, including walnuts, oysters, cooked chicken, salad mix, tomatoes, 3 tapenade mixes, bread, strawberries, radishes, etc. We then drove to Mormoiron to visit the Domaine des Anges winery that is run by an English couple. Enjoyed their wines. We then drove up a barely negotiable track to the top of the hill to an old church (Notre Dame des Anges) and had a great picnic, with a great view, plenty of food and not another person for miles!!
May 10 we reluctantly left Venasque and headed down the "Peage" (toll highway) to Nice, arriving just before midday. We checked in to our apartment hotel. Simon went and found some baguettes for lunch and we filled them with cheese, salami, tomato, avocado and lettuce. We then walked the short distance to the railway station and caught a train to Monaco (~30 mins). Walked around the waterfront, up to the Palace, and through the magnificent aquarium. We returned to Nice in the evening and walked down towards the waterfront to have a ratatouille for dinner. Walked back to the hotel along the waterfront - very pretty.
May 11 we went for a walk along the promenade and up the hill at the north end to view the harbour. Left just after midday, dropped Simon off at the railway station (he flew back to the UK later in the afternoon) and set off for Italy. An amazing highway - we traveled through something like 160 quite long tunnels separated by very high viaducts. The road effectively went in a straight line irrespective of the very mountainous terrain. Great road but must have cost a fortune!! We arrived at Pisa late afternoon, found a hotel and then walked around the leaning tower, duomo, baptistery, etc. Quite spectacular.
May 12 we drove inland and visited the little village of San Gimignano with its many bell towers. The village was too small to get lost in so didn't hand carry the GPS - we couldn't find the car again!! Only took us 20 to 30 minutes to stumble upon it. we always took the GPS with us after that, and never needed to use it! We carried on down a secondary road and eventually joined the main coast road an hour or so before Rome. Got to Rome mid afternoon and easily found the hotel. We booked in and headed for the metro station to go into Rome for the evening.
May13 and 14 we spent in Rome and visited the Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain, Plazza Venezia, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel St Angelo, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, walked through the Forum and up Capitoline Hill. Had a dinner and lunch in the Trastevere area and saw a church there that was more spectacular than St Peters!! Walked through Circo Massimo, to the Piramide Castio. Went to the Piazza Garibaldi and lots of other sites. Rome was amazing, a fountain or ruin around every corner, and so much history. We found Roma untidy, but mainly litter rather than dirty.
May 15 we left Rome before 9am, drove around the ring road to the north and then headed off through Lubriano and Bagnoregio to visit the spectacular little hilltop village of Civita. Not really on the tourist trail so very few people around which was great. drove on to Florence, booked in at the hotel and did our usual of going into the city for the evening.
May 16 we spent in Florence and visited the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Ponte Vecchio (bridge), saw David at the Accademia, viewed all the sculptures in the Piazza della Signoria. We walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo where ther is a great view over the city, and had a great lunch at the Zoe Cafe on the way back. Florence was very clean after Rome!
May 17 we drove to Mestre (the land part of Venice) and booked into a nice little hotel. We got the train to Venice (trains every 10 mins and takes 10 mins to get there) and did our usual late afternoon and evening reconnoiter.
May 18 we spent in Venice and did a lot of traveling on #1 and #82 boats, and a short ride across the grand canal on a gondola (traghetto). We walked around most of Venice and really enjoyed the scenery, the canals, and lack of cars and bikes. Had a good look around St mark's Basilica, climbed the bell tower (it was the only one we visited that had a lift!). We caught a boat over to Lido Island for lunch. Visited the Ponte di Rialto both in daylight and after dark. There was a great pizza restaurant in Mestre that we used twice as well.
May 19 we drove along the highway towards Milan in very heavy traffic, but it all moved really well and was predictable and well behaved. We turned off to the north and drove around the very narrow coast road on the shore of Lake Como to Bellagio. We booked into the hotel and went walking through and around Bellagio and up into the hills behind to see the views. This was a very pretty place with again very few tourists.
May 20 we caught an early ferry across the lake to Varenna and then drove north to the Splugen Pass over the Alps into Switzerland. Splugen Pass is one of the steepest and most spectacular of the passes and it lived up to its reputation. After lunch in Splugen we turned left and went through the San Bernadino tunnel (6.6km long) and went up to the St Gothard Pass, but decided to go through the tunnel instead (16km long). The plan was to go over the Furkapass but it was still snowbound and closed, so we drove on to Interlaken. From there we drove up to Grindelwald under Mt Eiger and found a hotel for the night.
May 21 we were up really early to catch the first train (cog railway) up and into the mountain to the top of the Eiger (Jungfraujoch) - it is 40% cheaper on the early train. The weather was cloudy and snowing so we didn't see much at all at the top. After coming down the mountain we caught the train to Interlaken to have lunch and a look around. Got the train back to Grindelwald and picked up the car and headed towards Geneva. We stopped at the little village of Gruyeres of cheese fame and had a look and bought some cheese, then on to Nyon close to Geneva to stay with Suzan and Marco.
May 22 to May 24 we had a great rest with Suzan at their magnificent location, but did manage a couple of walks around Nyon, a day in Geneva, and a trip across the lake to the little French village of Yvoire.
May 25 we left Nyon and headed up into the Swiss Alps to Villars sur Ollon to Suzan and Marco's Chalet. It was misty and raining very lightly for the afternoon at V s Ollon but I think it was the highlight of the trip for me - so pretty and picturesque, almost surrealistic. We put on our coats and walked a long way up a track through the forest, over a cog railway track and then down a road into the little village.
May 26 we left Ollon and had a look at the skifield at the top of the road and then headed back past Montreux, past Zurich and on to the minute village of Rheinau on the Rhein River just downstream from the Rheinfalls. We checked in to the Hotel Salmen over the road from an ancient covered toll bridge over to Germany. Then drove to the Rheinfalls, the largest waterfall in Europe (largest volume not height). One can get right down beside the falls and they are certainly magnificent. We then walked across the railway bridge and looked at the other side and had a boat ride back to the car.
May 27 we left Rheinau in light rain and headed into Germany. We took the back roads over the hills through the Black Forest region. Called in at Triberg, where the economy seems to be based on cuckoo clocks. Continued over the hills towards Strasbourg, joined the main autobahn and headed north to the castle stretch of the Rhine. We stayed 2 nights at a most delightful and quiet little walled village called Oberwesel on the banks of the Rhine.
May 28 we took a cruise up the Rhine from Oberwesel to Assmannshausen, which is in the middle of the riesling wine area. The river is a huge cargo route with large barges going both directions on the river every 2 or 3 minutes, some of them so laden that their sides are under water!. There are also twin railway tracks on each side of the river and a train every 4 or 5 minutes. From Assmannshausen we caught a little chairlift up to the top of the hill and walked east through the forest. There were many viewpoints (blicks) of the river and towns below and of the large town of Bingen. We then caught a very small gondola down to the little village of Rudesheim on the river. Caught the ferry across the river and then the train back to Oberwesel.
May 29 we left Oberwesel and drove down alongside the Rhine river to Boppard and then drove up out of the valley to join the autobahn. Headed north over a huge bridge and on into the Netherlands to Utrecht. We booked into our hotel and then walked into the city of Utrecht. A very pretty city with lots of restaurants, cafes, and bars along the very picturesque river canals.
May 30 we drove to the Ibis Hotel near Schiphol airport, booked in, and then went to get the car fixed at a local Renault dealer in Badhoevedorp. That afternoon we drove west towards Harlem and then south towards Rotterdam to see if there were any tulip fields still in flower. No such luck, although you could see where the flowers had been!. Drove out to the coast at Katwijk to the amazing site of thousands of people at the beach, and they had all obviously arrived by pushbike. We drove around and through the huge port of Rotterdam, headed south to view the Delta Works Storm Surge Barrier and then to Gouda for dinner.
May 31 we caught the free bus to Schiphol and then the train into Amsterdam for the day. A fascinating city but a bit too hot and humid that day to really enjoy it.
June 1 we went and took some photos of the windmill on the canal at Badhoevedorp and then drove to Hilversum, past Huizen, and north over the bridge to the new polder. Stopped briefly to photograph Helystad, a new town, and then drove over the long causeway towards Hoorn. Visited Edam and had lunch there, then called in at the little fishing village of Volendam. Drove down the motorways to Schiphol to return the Eurolease car to the depot before 5pm.
June 2 we flew by Easyjet to Luton, picked up a Toyota Avensis rental car and headed for Sue and Brian's at Ellington to pick up some clothing and maps we had left there over a month earlier. After having a very welcome cup of tea with Brian and catching up on some email we headed north. Stopped and had a look around Burley Park and then on to Selby to see the Loves' home town. We found a B&B between Selby and York and then went into York for the evening.
June 3 we planned on going back into York for a couple of hours, but found it so interesting we didn't leave till about 3pm. Looked at the Model train exhibit and the National Railway Museum as well as York Minster (even heard a bit of the organ), climbed the bell-tower, walked around some of the wall, had morning tea at Betty's Tearooms, and had a good look around the city. Mid afternoon we headed for Whitby and had a look at the Abbey and the lovely little village. Found a nice B&B nearby at Sleight and went back into Whitby to queue for a fish dinner at The Magpie restaurant.
June 4 we left reasonably early and headed north. Just north of Middlebrough we came across a 90 year old traveling bridge, which was operating and only cost us 80p to get across. Then on to Durham. Had a look at the cathedral & castle, had a nice lunch, and found a replacement electric pepper grinder in a kitchen shop. Then on to Hadrian's Wall, and Chesters Bridge and Roman Fort. About 5pm we headed north into Scotland to Edinburgh where we eventually found accommodation at the Western Guesthouse.
June 5 we took a bus into Edinburgh for the day and visited the Castle, visited a number of tartan weavers, and had a look around the centre of the city. we then walked for 45 mins to the docks to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. Caught a bus back into the city and wandered around for a while before going back to our guesthouse. We ate at the Murrayfield Hotel that night.
June 6 we left Edinburgh reasonable early and stopped to view the Firth of Forth bridges, then over the road bridge and on to St Andrews. Visited Craigtoun and then on to Crieff to visit the Glenturret Whisky Distillery. Found a great B&B in Crief and probably the best restaurant that we visited in the UK.
June 7 we left Crieff and visited the Waterford Crystal factory shop and then headed south bypassing Glasgow and back into England to the Lakes District. We drove alongside Ullswater lake and visited the Aira Force water fall, then over the hill to Keswick. There were a lot of people in Keswick and we tried in vain to get accommodation. Only later we were told that there was a beer festival on that weekend. we drove south to Grasmere and found a B&B there. After dinner we wandered around the lovely little Grasmere and its lake.
June 8 we were planning on staying in the Lakes District but it was wet and cold, so we decided to leave. However before doing so we went back to Keswick to have a look at the lake and go back up to the pretty little narrow Ashness Bridge. Traveled south and passed through Windemere which was very crowded, and on to Blackpool. I always remembered that Blackpool was a famous holiday beach, but we didn't stay there very long - quite rundown and tacky. We found a lovely farm B&B at Wesham for the night.
June 9 we drove to Chester and had a look at another lovely walled city and cathedral. Drove south and over the border into Wales. Spent some time viewing the Cefin Viaduct near Ruabon and the Pontcysyllte aquaduct nearby. Drove through Betws-y-coed and Llanberis and found a farm B&B at Llanrug. Great meal in the local pub.
June 10 we visited the Dinorwig power Station at Llanberis and drove to Caernarfon to visit the castle where Charles was crowned Prince of Wales. Then south and through the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Through a back road to Betws-y-coed where we stayed at one of the best B&Bs on the trip, Glentwrog House. Great meal at the pub just down the road.
June 11 we headed back into England and into the Cotswold District. We visited Broadway, Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter, and Broughton-on-the-Water. Then on to Cheltenham and down to Bath where we found a really nice Farm B&B near Box (between Bath and Bradford on Avon). Great dinner at Bradford on Avon that night.
June 12 we headed into Bath for most of the day. Then drove just north of Bradford on Avon to view all the locks on the canal at Devizes, and stayed a 2nd night at the farm with another dinner in Bradford on Avon.
June 13 we drove to Kent using the M roads most of the way. We arrived in Rochester about midday to see where Simon and Jo lived and then on to visit Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens. Called into the Info Centre at Ashford and found a B&B in Rhodes Minnus for the night. After dropping off our gear we drove to Dover and spent a few hours on a balmy warm evening sitting above the white cliffs watching the never ending action at the port. The cliffs of France were very clear over the Channel. Drove further north along the cliffs and came across St Margarets at Cliffe and had dinner at a lovely little pub.
June 14 we headed south to the coast to Hythe and visited the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch Railway - great little steam railway. We drove west along the coast to New Romney and then headed for the Great Dixter Gardens. Unfortunately they were not open until 2pm, so we went and visited Hever Castle of Anne Boleyn fame. Lovely castle and enormous elaborate gardens. We then drove to Alan and Dianne's for our last night in the UK.
June15 was a very hot day in London. We drove to Heathrow and handed in the rental car. Simon and Jo arrived to see us off which was nice.
June 16 we arrived in Singapore mid afternoon. It was fine, but very hot and humid. Shuttle to the Phoenix Hotel very central in Orchard Road.
June 17 was wet -heavy rain but not so hot. We went on a City Tour for the morning and visited Little India, China Town, the Esplanade with its National monument the "Merlion". We visited the Botanical Gardens and its lovely orchid house and also visited a gem factory. In the afternoon we got some MRT traincards and visited the Suntec City Shopping Complex. At 6pm we departed for a Night Safari, which was very interesting and not too hot outdoors.
June 18 we woke up to a fine hot humid day. Our cameras took a long time to de-fog when we went outside!! Caught the metro and then a taxi to Mt Faber and caught the cable car to Sentosa Island. Caught the monorail to the beach and sat in the shade under some trees for a while. However the heat and humidity were at the point of being most unpleasant so after a brief walk over to the little island (the southern most Point of Asia) we caught the cable cart back and went and cooled off at the hotel. that evening we caught the train to Chinatown to have dinner - huge selection and number of food stalls.
June 19 we spent most of the day in air-conditioned shopping malls and left Singapore early evening. Singapore was pretty and interesting but the temperature and humidity made us really glad to leave!
A great trip with no hassles or problems and in general really good weather. I'm not sure whether we were glad to get home or not - could easily have spent more time in a lot of places.
All my photos were taken on an Olympus C-730 Digital with a 10x zoom. Annette's were taken on a Fuji 1000 wide-angle zoom film camera. As Annette had a wide angle lens she would frequently be in front of me, and I realised that she was appearing in quite a few of my photos when she was taking shots. I took advantage of this fact to put together a few shots called Annette the Photographer.