England and Ireland

The train trip from York to Cambridge was uneventful – that is, NO broken trains! Yipee! We were entertained by the speed of the trains – over 230km per hour.  But first of all here are some photos of York that I couldn’t attach to the last blog.

5 Sisters Windows in York Mistral

Look at the one of the 5 sisters windows in the York Mistral.  At the bottom see there is a choir singing.  Note the relative size of the windows.  Magnificent! And the most detailed leadlight I have ever seen.  Tiny pieces of glass and most of it all hand painted with pictures as well.

Next is a photo of Peter walking down a street in York – just to show how the streets look.  

Peter in York

And then a street called Shambles – named so as it used to be the street of Butchers and the benches they cut meat on were called Shamels.  Note how the top buildings are leaning in to each other!! Now it is full of cute little shops.

THe Shambles in York

Right, now back on to Cambridge.  We had to change trains at a place called Peterbourgh.

Peter at Peterbourgh!!

Then a short trip and there we were at Cambridge – the city of glorious University Colleges and thousands of bikes.  Everyone rides bikes with wicker baskets on them and it makes you feel like you are back in the movies.  We did the bus trip around the city and also a bit of a self directed walking tour.  It was small enough you couldn’t get lost – not even me!!   I loved the Colleges. 

Back of Kings College

Kings College from the side

Entrance of St John's College, Cambridge

Had our lunches in cafes or a pub by the water and watched the punters punt by. 

Punting in Cambridge

I had read about a local restaurant that had two Michelin stars and we decided to go.  One of my “bucket list” things was to eat at a Michelin Star restaurant.

It was amazing! Exceeded all my expectations!! It was a delighted surprise after surprise. From the old building it was in to the service, food and the cows grazing on the common outside the window! In fact the service was so good the maitre d’, who is French and has bought a house with his partner to do up in France, found out we are going to be in Saissac in France for a month.  It turns out his house is near there and the month they will be there overlaps with our dates, so he has invited us for lunch!! J When I said we’d remind him we ate at the restaurant when in Cambridge he said not to worry, it is not every day he gets two Kiwis popping in for lunch at Saint Ferreos de Comminges! That made us laugh.

Midsummer House Restaurant, Cambridge

So, the food.  OH MY GOODNESS.  The web is www.midsummerhouse.co.uk if you want to see a sample of the menu etc.  We ordered our meal – an entrée and a main each – and then the fun started.  All these tiny but exquisite tasters from the chef started arriving.   First a plate with two starters and a bowl of tempura battered anchovies (I of course did not eat those but Peter said they were great).  The others were tiny melt in your mouth cheese balls – how to describe – with a crust so thin it was like crunchy paper and inside melted hot white cheese.  A surprise to bite in to.  Then a large shot glass with a bloody mary soup with chillies chopped so fine they were tiny (glad I am not that chef’s assistant!) and in the middle of the bloody mary a sorbet stick of celery. Not only did it taste amazing it looked stunning. 

Then hot homemade breads arrived and to our surprise, soup too. In a round glass. It was a pea veloutte – like velvet pea soup – I have never felt a texture like that.  Peter’s had prawns and mine baby pea tendrils, since I don’t eat seafood.  We were just getting over that and expecting our entrees when a mouth cleanser of grapefruit and celery foam arrived. Of course the entrees and mains were amazing too, mine being a deep fried hens egg (sounds foul (hee hee) but was amazing technically and also tasted yummy) served with smoked duck roll and asparagus.  Peter had cod for his entree. For main Peter had duck with beetroot and I had lamb with all sorts of things with it.  WOW!! I could not help myself trying the apple tart tartin for dessert – as I make it myself but have never had it in a restaurant.  So we staggered over the bridge, after Herve once again insisted we call him to have lunch in France, to catch a cab home and to reminisce on the amazing experience we had had.

We caught another train that didn’t break down from Cambridge to London.  And then managed to sort ourselves to get the tube to Benedict’s work to pick up the house key, as we were staying with him for the next three nights.  (Poor Benedict – it turned into 6 nights actually!) The next 6 days we had fun in London.  Other than spend time with Benedict we went on a Thames cruise up to Greenwich.  The boat trip was great but Greenwich was a little disappointing there as the town was covered in scaffolding as some of the 2012 Olympics will be there and they are preparing. Had lunch at a very old pub that the famous London writers and parliamentarians use to frequent. We are quickly tiring of hot chips………. They come with everything!  

Greenwich Observatory

On the boat saw a lot of the London sights – Westminster Parliament buildings, Big Ben, the Tower, the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the pub Charles Dickens lived in while he wrote several of his books, Docklands which is now all very expensive apartments, ……………. And much more.  And to make it even better the “guide” who was telling us all the history etc was very very funny and we were laughing very hard.

Tralfager Square

The next day was Saturday and the All Blacks were playing.  Peter had arranged to meet Kimberly (his niece) and her partner Chris, who live in London, at 8am to find a place to watch it.  So we all met at 8am and could not find a place open – even though Kimberly had checked one out the day before.  So we went for a breakfast and then spent the day together at the Borough markets (incredibly large and wondrous) and then to the oldest pub in London, where Shakespeare, Dickens etc had all frequented. 

Peter, Chris and Kimberly at the Oldest London Pub

Then back to Benedicts and after a drink in his back garden went to a yum cheap and cheerful Vietnamese restaurant around the corner for dinner.  It was of course 10pm by the time we ate.

Next day I had some work to do and so Peter went off to the Churchill War Cabinet which he loved.  It is a museum of where he actually directed the war from.  A lot of it as it was back in 1940.  Peter loved it – said it was incredulous.  That night we had a good old kiwi bbq in the garden!  

The next few days we also saw Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, etc…….. Went to the National Art Gallery.  What amazement to see all those famous paintings just hanging a foot in front of you. Da Vinci, Constable, Raphael, Michael Angelo, etc.  We were in awe.

Peter wanted to see Jersey Boys (the musical) so we had booked to go at Westend on our last night in London.   We wandered around Soho and had dinner, then the show.  We loved Soho and its entire party atmosphere.

Jo at Soho Restaurant

The show was great and as it turns out we had excellent seats and were sitting beside some Australians!

Prince Edward Theater

Back to Brighton for the night the next day before flying from Gatwick to Dublin on Ryanair. We left Brighton much earlier than we expected we’d need, so we could have breakfast, make sure we were in the right place etc……. but Ryanair was so slow at checking people in that we ended up having to go straight to the gate.  And Ryanair have no seat numbers, what they call “free seating” so once the gate opens there is an almighty rush of people so they can get a seat they want.  Funny to watch.

Dublin for three days. Hotel was in an excellent location by the river Liffey and only 2 minutes walk to O’Connell Street (the main street) and 3 minutes over the bridge to Bar Temple – bar used to mean street.

Our hotel in Dublin - the Arlington

Bar Temple is a street and side streets filled with quaint shops, pubs, Irish music and restaurants. We enjoyed an afternoon and evening there.

Temple Bar in Bar Temple

Also did the hop on hop off bus tour which was 90 minutes long so saw heaps of interesting sights. Including of course the Guinness Brewery where they make millions of pints a day!  

We had planned to catch up with June and Tony O’Hare who live in Dublin and who we had met in Siena as Tony was on the same ward as Peter in hospital and June was at the same hotel as me.  But most unfortunately Tony has taken ill and is having heart surgery this week. We have all fingers and toes crossed for a good outcome for him. 

The hotel we were at had live Irish music and dancing each night and if you book in for dinner too you get a good seat.  So we did of course and had a ball of a night. Great entertainment and very funny, great music and great dancing. We both loved it. The food was Ok but we cannot believe how BIG the portions are here in Ireland.  And how that EVERYTHING, comes with hot chips! Even breakfast at that hotel!!

On Saturday we picked up a rental car and drove via country lanes and motorways to Doolin. Susie, the GPS, got herself very confused as there is a new motorway and she wanted us on the N6, which no longer exists.  Very funny. We worked out from the map early on that the motorway ran parallel to the old N6 and at times crossed it, so we knew we were in the right direction. 

Doolin is a very small village (200 population) on the Coast and only 6kms from the Cliffs of Mohar. It is famous for its craic – which is a word for Irish fun, dance and music.  

Near Doolin, Ireland - Galway Bay in background

Unfortunately the infamous Irish Mist covered the cliffs for the whole time we were there so we didn’t really see them.  We did go to the three pubs that Doolin is famous for.  They are 1km apart so it was entertaining walking back on these little tiny rural roads with cars zooming past and heaps of “merry” tourists.

Most famous of the Doolin pubs - it was huge inside!!!!

The pubs all have music “craic” nightly and it was great listening to the music.  But Phew – were they packed tight as they are so popular.

Our photo of the Cliffs of Mohar !!

From Doolin we drove via the coast road to Galway.  Took about 2.5 hours only.  After about 20 minutes the fog / ,mist lifted and we could see the landscape and Atlantic Ocean.  Quite spectacular – esp how the farm land paddocks go straight down in to the sea.

Ireland Countryside

We are here now at Galway and it is their Summer Festival week.  This is no coincidence we are here as Peter heard there are horse races, so today we are off to the races. It is a tad chilly but at least the rain has stopped!!

Hope you are all well and that NZ is coming out of the cold wet winter.  Lots of love, Jo and Peter xx

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One Response to “England and Ireland”

  1. Toddy & Sheila Says:

    Hi Guys …

    What a great blog. Lapped up every word. We’ll be really interested to hear about the sequel to the restaurant episode when you visit France. You certainly know how to describe the food Jo. I was almost drooling and whimpering at the same time.

    We got back to NZ last Saturday 8/8/10 after a very relaxing time in Cairns. Having been there before we didn’t want to go on all the tourist stuff but we did visit Port Douglas which we found had become so commercialised. Didn’t like it much at all. Went to Kuranda and found all the stalls were much the same as each other and got bored there. Went to Palm Cove and thoroughly enjoyed it there. Found an art shop and bought a painting we hadn’t intended to but fell in love with it. The artist was in residence and had had exhibitions in all the famous galleries around the world and had sold paintings to a US President, a Prime Minister and a lot of other famous names so he was no slouch. The painting is hanging on our wall now. We watched over 50 films, ate a lot and blobbed out all the time. It was great with no phones or people harassing us. We both caught colds just before we left Oz and we’re just getting over them now. Heaps of work waiting so I’ll sign off here before I write a book.

    Take care both of you,

    Big Hugs, Toddy and Sheila

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