Archive for the ‘England’ Category


Posted: July 19, 2012 in England

Today we went to 1 of our favorite places – Bath.  We had planned to make it an overnight trip so we could call past Stone Hedge and another large garden on the way home the following day.  However this amazing English summer we are having kind of didn’t work in our favor – that’s right more rain and then thunderstorms forecast.  So we cut it back to a day trip to Bath and home again that night.

We arrived in Bath late morning and decided to jump on 1 of the tourist buses to do a city tour and have a look around.  Bath is a really nice city.  All the buildings have a facade of bath stone, which is a local sand stone.  This stone is very easy to work with and carve because it is a lot softer and does not need to be split along the grain.  However because of this washing and cleaning of the buildings is a very tedious and delicate task.  We learnt that they need to firstly put a solution all over the building and let it sit for a few hours to loosen any mold and dirt then another hit of the solution before it is hosed off under low pressure.


Driving into Bath

City planning, however only requires the facades of the buildings to be completed in the traditional Bath stone so when you go down a back street it is just normal / regular houses and buildings from the rear.


After getting off the bus we went through the Roman Baths.  The Romans built these baths around a natural hot water spring.  It was a great setup.  They had built a huge structure over the main spring the constructed a full drainage system to carry the hot water through a series of other baths.  Some inside the buildings and a large one outside.


The large bath outside.

Another view of the large bath outside.

When the Romans occupied the area, Bath was very important to them.  They used it as a place of worship and healing.  Pilgrims would travel a long way to use the baths, animal sacrifices would be made and many holy people would reside at Bath.


A skeleton found during the excavation of the baths.

It was also used like a gym and fitness center.  There were large areas where soldiers and others would work out and exercise.  When the Roman Baths were discovered the archeologists uncovered many interesting facts that demonstrated how advanced the civilization was.  For example there is sewer and drainage systems that kept the area clean and construction methods previously unseen at the time.

Part of the old drainage system and cobble stone pathway that would carry springwater from the main spring.

They uncovered many other artifacts – old pieces of weapons, stone carvings and curses, which were pieces of lead with names and descriptions of crimes committed against one another.  The curses were thrown into the spring to curse the criminal who committed the crime – if you could name them the curses would be much stronger.

After leaving the Roman Baths we had a look through the Bath Abbey.


The Bath Abbey.

The Abbey from the top of the bus.

It had not stopped raining most of the day and we were all getting over it by late afternoon, so with a couple of hours drive ahead of us – we decided to have a quick look at the Royal Cresent before making our way home.  The Royal Cresent is a large series of buildings that over look the city.  It is the most expensive and prestigious part of town to live in.  There is mainly private apartments here with 1 Hotel – The Royal Cresent, right i the centre.  They have their own private park area in front which leads down into the gardens, so there is no obstruction for their views.


The Royal Crescent.

Moni, Dieter and Neil in the rear garden of the Royal Crescent Hotel.

Still raining …… we’re outta here and back to Esher.



Posted: July 14, 2012 in England

We now have less than a week before taking off to Scotland, so the last few days are packed full of things to do and see, plus some last minute planning.

A day trip to Portsmouth is our next mission.  Moni decides to stay at home for this 1 so it is the 6 of us on the road.  Again this amazing English summer we have stumbled across serves up another day of rain.  Umbrella’s and rain jackets in hand – what’s the big deal hey?

Arriving at Portsmouth we made our way to the historic marine area to see the 3 main attractions – the Warrior (the 1st steam / sail war ship), the Victory (the ship Lord Nelson captained in his victory at the battle of Trafalgar) and the Mary Rose (an ancient war ship retrieved from the bottom of the ocean).

We visited the Victory first off.  The Victory was 1 of the longest serving battle ships in the Royal Navy.  It was captained by many different commanders and was a very successful battle ship.  Because of it’s design it was 1 of the fastest ships around for many years, heavily armed with 12, 24 and 48 pound canons over 3 gun decks it was a deadly competitor in it’s time.

The Victory

A gun deck from inside the Victory

On board the Victory

It was most famous for it’s roll in beating the Spanish at the battle of Trafalgar were Lord Nelson was shoot on it’s top deck from short range and later died aboard shortly after hearing the news of his victory.

Meeting table in the captains quarters with maps laid out

It is now part of the British Royal Navy Museum and open to the public.  There is displays setup on all levels and is very interesting to have a look around on.

The carpenters workshop on board

Beds for the crew

There is also a sign on the top deck marking the spot were Nelson fell.

Top deck where Nelson was shot

After having a good look around the Victory we made our way to the Warrior.  The Warrior was a wind and steam powered battle ship.  This ship was the first of it’s kind in the world and changed the way wars were fought and won on the high sea’s.

The Warrior looks a lot different to the Victory and it was obviously a lot faster than anything else on the seas.  While sailing the prop would be winched up, out of the water to prevent drag.  Then when the steam engines were required they would drop the prop back under water, drop the sails and fire up the engines.

A gun deck on the Warrior

Again this ship was heavily armed with varied size canons.

Rifle cabinet


The wheel

Large piston in the engine

The third ship we went to see was the Mary Rose.  Unfortunately it is no longer on display.  It is still in the same place however they are building a new enclosure and display round it so it has been shut to the public since 2009 – and will remain that way for a least another 12 months.  Instead they had a large display setup with heaps of info about finding it and raising it from the seabed, plus the restoration and preservation of it.

We finished off by checking out the Museums and they also had the remains of the main sail from the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar – it had over 90 musket and canon ball holes in it from the battle.

After a snack and a drink at the pub across the road we all headed back home to dry out and warm up.

Wisley Gardens

Posted: July 14, 2012 in England

Next thing up was a visit to Wisley Gardens. These gardens were only down the road, the weather was not great, with showers coming over regularly but we braved it anyway.

This is Wisley Gardens, enjoy the following photos – they speak for themselves.

Buckingham Palace.

Posted: July 14, 2012 in England

Our little group at Esher was about to be enlarged by 2 when Moni’s brother Dieter and his wife Glenis arrived from Australia on Saturday afternoon (or so we thought).  We had planned a rest day today and not long after breakfast a taxi pulled up and out got Dieter and Glenis.  Somehow we all got the dates got mixed up but it was no big deal we dragged them along for the ride.

They had come from a few days in Dubai, so we all had a chat about our different adventures so far and basically had a relaxing day.

The following morning we got up prepared for our tour of Buckingham Palace.  It was not until 3:00pm that afternoon so we got into London around lunchtime.  Lea was keen to check out Harrods so a couple of hours spent shopping then lunch in Hyde Park.  It was really nice but of course we got rained on while eating lunch.

While we were in Hyde Park we got news through from Australia that Matty and Rach have gotten engaged – a big congrats to you both!!!!

So off to the Palace it is.  Of course there were no photos allowed inside, however we could take some once we got out in the grounds.

We started on the main platform at the inner courtyard where the queen would stand and great her guests.

From there we went inside.  This is the state apartment.  Everything here is massive.  Huge wide rooms, high ceilings, giant works of art and decorations everywhere.

We came to a huge set of stairs that lead up into what is used as a foyer area that guests wait in with the guards before they meet with the Queen.  This area went through 2 different rooms each was covered in large cabinets full of gifts from all over the world that had been given to the Royal Family.  The walls of the rooms were covered in displays of weapons and armor.

We walked through into large art display rooms.  These rooms were gigantic – the size of a small factory.  They had huge canvas paintings hung the length of the rooms some stretching from floor to ceiling.

There were huge dinning rooms that could seat over 100 guests.  They told us that when there are important dinners the tables are set using a ruler because the tables are so long that if 1 small thing is out of place it would stand out like a sore thumb when you look down the line of the table.

When the queen is having guests over she personally works with the staff to set the menu.  It is then written up in Latin and given to her to read over and confirm.  She then double checks any special dietary requirements of her guests before approving the menu.

They also showed us a wall unit / desk in the corner of the room that has a hidden door behind it.  The queen apparently likes to come out from behind this hidden door as a surprise to her guests when she comes to join them for dinner.  Hahaha good old Lizzy has a sense of humor.

All in all it was an amazing experience – everything in there was huge and done to excess.  We had a drink and snack at the Palace cafe before heading home.  Again a big thanks to Jill and Paul for the tickets, it is something that we will never forget.

The Freake’s Surrey Tour

Posted: July 13, 2012 in England

Thursday we all went on a drive around Surrey.  This is a tour of the area that Mal and Moni have compiled over the years they lived here and it is a really great day trip they have done with many visitors.  It’s a great opportunity to have a look around the country side and see many of the things that aren’t covered in the usual tourist itinerary.

We visited lots of little English villages, drove down some of narrowest (2 way) streets ever, got lost a couple of times and had some nice stop offs to eat lunch or have a snack here and there.  The following photos are a small selection from the famous ‘Freake’s Surrey Tour’.

Lea and Moni.

Old Church at Shere.

Inside Shere Church.

Old village houses.

Creek at Shere.

Nice old house.

Community veg patch.

Pot plant people.

The old blacksmiths house.

A Moni sized doorway – Shaun needs to duck.


Posted: July 13, 2012 in England

Today we went to Cambridge to meet up with Nick (my cousin).  He has been in England for almost 5 years now – employed at Cambridge University as part of a research team studying stem cells.  Although he’s schedule was pretty flat out he managed to get a free afternoon so we went to meet him.

I have never been to Cambridge and Tina could hardly remember the last time she was there – but I’ve heard it’s a really great place.  It did not let us down.

We got the train from London and met Nick at Cambridge station about mid day.  We walked into town and went straight to lunch for a beer and a quick catch up.  After lunch Nick showed us around playing tour guide.  He showed us many famous buildings and had some interesting facts about certain parts of the town.

An old bridge and the river running along behind the colleges.

The weather was looking ok so Nick suggested punting on the river.  We jumped in a punt and cruised along the river checking out the different colleges.  Cambridge is an amazing looking university.  The grounds and gardens of these places look really special, with the buildings themselves looking really old but so well kept and the architecture is amazing – especially the chapels.  You can see why it’s such a privilege to study at Cambridge.

Cambridge buildings

They need to prune this building.

Punting itself was interesting.  Nick had done it before so he got us going before handing it over to Dad.  Straight away we were doing circles in the middle of the river.  A couple of wrong turns and a collision or 2 with other punts and he had it pretty well under control.   We went along for a while, Nick playing the tour guide giving us plenty of info about each college we passed.

Nick gets us moving.

Off down the river.

Neil’s got the hang of it while Nick and Tina relax.

Next up was Tina.  Dad handed over control to her, then we got talking and kind of forgot about her, until we had done a full circle and were now sideways then backwards down the river. Hahaha.

Which way are we going Tina???

After a quick few tips from Nick she had us pointing in the general direction and moving along nicely.

Punting like a champion now.

Whooooa don’t go overboard!!!

I was up next.  After watching the others I thought I had it pretty much down.  But no, a quick spin, some nice big zig zags, a head-on collision with some equally bad drivers then it started to click.

Ok you can do this Shaun….


A Chapel in 1 of the colleges.

Some apartments on the river.

By this point we were on our way back to where we started and the weather was looking real dodgey.  Dad jumped back on for another shot at it then it started raining.  Not too heavy but enough to get us a bit wet – with nowhere to hide.  We made it back and the rain backed off, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

Take us home Neil.

After punting Nick suggested we go and check out some of the colleges.  There were a lot of graduations so we couldn’t really have a good look around as a lot of the areas were closed off for the ceremonies.

A college and lawn area.

We did, however get a look inside quite a few and they were really impressive.  I had no idea how big Cambridge University really was.  Nick was saying that at one point they owned that much land that you could walk from Cambridge to Oxford and not leave Cambridge property – that’s a lot of land.

Not a bad garden to study in.

It was getting fairly late by now so we decided to get something to eat.  Portigal and Italy were playing in the Euro cup that night so all the bars were packed and not all of them were doing their full menu (just a BBQ).  We ended up having a drink at one bar and watching the 1st half of the game then leaving to get a feed.

The boys in 1 of the chapels.

After dinner we had to rush back to London so we didn’t miss the last train back to Esher, so we said goodbye to Nick and high tailed it for the station.  Cambridge is a great city and we really enjoyed our day there.  It was great to catch up with Nick after a few years also and was very interesting to hear about the research him and his team are carrying out.

Goodbye Cambridge – thanks for having us.

Windsor Castle

Posted: July 13, 2012 in England

Tuesday we headed to Windsor Castle.  First off we had a look around Windsor town.  Again a very nice English town dominated by the massive castal.

Windsor town and Castle.

Shaun trying to decide what to have for lunch.

Inside the Castle we started the tour.  We learnt that the Royal family use the Castle very often – particulary the Queen who stays there most weekends.  We walked along one of the main walls that were used to guard the tower.  They were incredibly thick with arrow loops that the archers would use to fire arrows through at would be attackers.  The stone work in the walls alone was amazing, they must have had some serious man power to build this place.

Windsor Castle.

We could see through the main gate into the state rooms and private rooms across the court yard, however we couldn’t get in.  Along the path a bit further we came across the center tower and the garden below.  The gardens were very well kept again like the other Royal residences we’d seen.

Looking into the main courtyard at the Queens Apartments.

Further past the center tower we came to St Georges Chapel.  The outside of this building looked amazing.  The architecture was so detailed and it was a very impressive looking building overall.  We went inside to have a look around (again no photography) but it was just as impressive inside.  We had full access to all areas and as wondered around we were again amazed at the detail of the place.  As we came down through the center there was a section that had wood carving decorations along each wall with the crests of all the knights that serve at the castle displayed.  The detail in the wood carvings was so detailed you could stair at it for ages.  There were also a lot of famous people buried in the chapel none more so than King Henry VIII.

St George’s Cathedral.

Centre tower and gardens.

After leaving the Chapel we walked through the north gates and around the back for the castle to the Queens doll house and doll collection.  The doll house is a model of the castle with gifts from people all over the world to the Queen of items from within the castle.  There is tiny furniture, dinning sets, appliances, cars, and everything else all hand made and perfectly to scale.  The house itself has it’s own miniature running water and electrical systems.

The Queens guards.

After the doll collection we walked through the state rooms looking at where the Queens guests would stay when they visit.

Private Apartments and courtyard.

Outside again we walked back through more of the gardens and out of the castle.

Lea and Tina with a guard.

On the way home we took a wrong turn and ended up driving an hour in the wrong direction in peak hour traffic – not a great situation.  We made it home that night late and all just bailed to bed exhausted.