A Travellerspoint blog

On Salisbury Plain

Ask questions, but get only stony silence

rain 8 °C

Today, I saw Stonehenge. Not by going there and paying and wandering around it. Simply driving past on the motorway. There it was, in all it's grey, stony splendor. So dramatic. I was blown away by how eerie and bizarre it is, just sitting there in the middle of a paddock, next to a busy main road. Apparently the stones come from riverbeds miles and miles away from the site on the Salisbury plains. And they're huge and on top of eachother. Now, I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but just seeing it there made me so curious. "How did it get there?" I asked. "How did they do it?" and "Why is it here, in the middle of nowhere?". But that's the thing about mysteries isn't it. There are no answers. That's the point of them.
If you drove along a motorway in rural Australia, you'd see the Giant Prawn, or the Big Banana. Not quite so mysterious I should think. Ah, the joys of travel!

Posted by millie t 11:40 Archived in England Comments (0)

Why England is green...

...and other discoveries in sunny Somerset

rain 6 °C

Ah, Somerset. What a lovely place. Lovely, but not at all to be confused with Summer-set. Oh, no no no.
We made like Londoners and left the big smoke for a bank holiday weekend in the English countryside. We braved the 5pm Friday night traffic, hurtling down the motorway amongst green hills, verdant hedges and fields of flowers. "It's so lovely and green" I remarked. Our driver, the local, just laughed. "What's funny?" I asked. He muttered something about how did I think it got so nice and green. Whatever. Nothing could spoil my Friday-afternoon-weekend-in-the-country buzz.
Saturday morning, I awoke to crisp, fresh air and was glad I'd grabbed my coat on the way to breakfast (where I stuffed myself silly with the Full English - eggs, bacon, sausages, etc...). To burn off the calories, I decided on a ramble through the countryside. In Australia, I would have simply gone for a walk, but as I was in England, just a hop, skip and jump from the film location of Sense and Sensibility, a ramble it was. [It should be noted at this point that Michael was competing in a super-strenuous 3-day bike race called The Tour of Wessex so I was rambling solo].
Over stiles I went. Through paddocks, past ponies, over streams, across overgrown fields, in and out of tiny stone-walled villages. There were houses with roses round the doors, thatched-roof cottages and old barns full of mooing cows being milked. Someone was baking gingerbread and the scent wafted out the open windows, combining with wet grass, spring blossom and the ever-present whiff of manure for the most amazing Eau de English Countryside. I had to pinch my arm to remind myself it was 2007 and I wasn't the heroine from a Jane Austen novel. Frankly I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd started scribbling down poetry in a journal and saying things like "Good morning sir, and what a fair day it is for a ramble. I do so love a ramble, don't you?" while dipping into a curtsey. Luckily, before I regressed back into hoop skirts and a bonnet, the wind changed. Suddenly the sky was full of black clouds. Ominous. Crows flew overhead, cawing menacingly. Now I was up to the part of the Jane Austen novel when the hero gallops up on a horse, flings me over the saddle, and escorts me to the saftey of his country mannor for hot tea in front of the fire so I don't catch pneumonia and have to spend the next week in his guest room. Unfortunately my hero was somewhere south of the Piddle valley (no, not a joke) on a bike rather than a trusty steed. So I did what any self-respecting Austen girl would do, rolled up my trousers and plodded home. Suddenly it was freezing and I was cross and far from home. After plodding for about an hour, I could see my destination, The Walnut Tree Hotel. Only problem was, I had to walk down a very narrow path and over a stile to get there and between me and the stile was a very large cow. We stared at each other. I stepped forward. It stepped forward. I stopped and waited for a tumbleweed to blow past and to hear the strains of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme. This bizarre waltz, which must have looked tres comical to an ousider, continued for about five minutes until I decided I'd had enough and was not going to be intimidated by this giant bovine any longer. After a small scuffle, it rushed past me, moooing angrily, and I was able to continue on my way. So dramatic for a Saturday morning. I arrived back at the hotel exhausted from my exertions. The rain continued through the evening and all the next day. "So that's why it's so green" I thought to myself as it pitter-pattered down and the temperature plumetted to a mere 6 degrees. This is supposed to be Spring, people! The next day, I put on my woolly socks and watched bad sitcoms on Sky TV. Wonder what Jane would have done?

Posted by millie t 10:57 Archived in England Comments (1)

Ooh la la!

We love Paris in the Springtime...

sunny 29 °C

Some days are ok, some days are pretty good, and some days you get that "pinch-me-so-I-know-I'm-not-dreaming" sensation. My four days in Paris with the girls - Susie and Tory - were most definitely those of the latter. Leaving Michael back in London, we jumped on the Eurostar and headed for the City of Light for a feast of great weather (we even managed to get sunburnt), beautiful food, amazing hotels and shopping, shopping, shopping. Well, they shopped, I drooled. The French have a great expression, "faire du leche vitrine" which describes window shopping, but literally means "to lick the windows". Now I completely understand why they invented it, and why Paris is the fashion capital of the world. And while the girls flexed the 'mex in Dior, Paul & Joe, Marc Jacobs, Chloe...I just enjoyed strolling around those gorgeous streets, stepping in to those beautiful old buildings and lapping up the culture of the place. We did tres French things like eating steak frites in little bistros at 10pm, nibbling delicate pastries at famous teahouse Laduree, sipping Rose and Kir and Evian, even attending a fashion showing. We also did super-touristy things like taking a bateau mouche up the Seine at sunset, scouring Galleries Lafayette and having our photo taken on Pont des Artes, in Tuilleries gardens, in front of the Louvre, sitting at cafes, basically anywhere we could find someone to ask. And it was all amazing. Paris truly is one of those cities you just have to go to, and after you've been, you just want to return again and again. It's stylish, chic, in-your-face beautiful. And I can't wait to get back there again in August. Ooh la la, la la.
paris_2.jpg The rooftops of Paris
paris_3.jpg The famous Laduree Patisserie paris_4.jpg Tory and me, outshone by Place de la Concorde paris_1.jpg A Parisian evening

Posted by millie t 03:21 Archived in France Comments (0)

The joys of jet lag

Strange sleeping patterns in leafy Surrey

overcast 25 °C

Have you watched "The Secret"? If so, you'll know that you're s'posed to keep a 'Grateful Diary'. That is, at the end of each day, even if it's been, um, trying, shall we say, you write down a whole list of all the things you're thankful for. The premise being, the universe hears you being all warm and fuzzy and positive etc and rewards you in wonderful ways. OK, so maybe you shouldn't take my (crazed and jet lagged) word for it and perhaps you should check it out yourself but call that the abridged version. Well, anyway, here's my list for the day, or is it night, my body can't decide. Enjoy! Love you miss you mean it.

Emily's Grateful Diary, 19/05/2007
1. I am grateful that, despite 80.5 kilos of luggage (and yes, admittedly 5 kgs of toiletries) including a racing bike, we made it to the other side of the world without paying a cent of excess baggage through the powers of negotiation, thinking positively and smiling nicely

2. I am grateful that said bike shall not be making another airline journey with us as husband has promised bike will be sent home unchapperoned, immediately after big, important Triathlon in France to which, and I'm also grateful here, we shall be driving a car with a big boot and will no longer need to be judged under the stony stares of airport check-in desk ladies

3. I am grateful that I woke up at 4am this morning, instead of the predicted 2.30am - the time I thought the jet lag would strike

4. I am grateful that Michael was struck by jet lag at the same time as me, so was available to peel oranges, make tea and generally be nice to jetlagged self

5. I am grateful, and this is perhaps slightly selfish here, that Michael has also been struck by my Hong Kong Fluey, although his is more a London one, so he can now appreciate that all that whingeing I did about how sick I was was actually real, not in any way fabricated or generated merely for sympathy vote

6. I am grateful that, even though I might say selfish things as highlighted above, Michael knows I'm (nearly always) joking

7. Finally I'm greatful that we're in beautiful Purley, in Surrey, where there are girls on ponies, boys playing cricket in bright green fields, box hedges down the roads, birds singing, flowers blooming, and life is generally all happy and picture book-y (even though I was awake at 4am - lets try for 5am tomorrow)

Posted by millie t 04:42 Comments (0)

Hong Kong Fluey

Despite the sniffles, I think I'm in love...

sunny 32 °C

Plastic bowls full of live fish, flipping and splashing. Beef carcasses hanging from hooks, chickens being plucked, mounds of bok choy, bananas and mango. Red paper lanterns, bright parasols, and someone's washing hanging off a piece of string looped across the road. And the smell. It's a humid-hot scent, peppered with over-ripe fruit, spices, car fumes and the sea. I'm standing on Peel Street, Central Hong Kong, one of the last remaining street markets where locals can come to buy their food. The colours, sounds, and scents are almost overpowering, and not a bit like my local Woolies. There are men with no teeth, tiny, frail old ladies carrying loads almost larger than themselves, fruit vendors, butchers, cooks and someone selling weather-weary flowers. Then turn around and a few steps down the road is the Two IFC Tower, a mammoth structure that's 417 metres tall, and resembles, I think, a giant electric razor. That's Hong Kong. It's crazy yet chic, crowded yet friendly, modern yet old-fashioned. A city of contrasts. A new building is under construction, rumoured to be the tallest in the city, which will apparently stand at 437 metres when complete. They're building it with bamboo poles for scaffolding. Of course they are.
We both love it here, even though I've developed a shocking cold-type illness which plagues me the entire stay. Although we only spend two whirlwind days in this amazing city, we see enough to make us want to come back again and again. Oh, and the shopping, ladies, is amazing. A Louis Vuitton on every second corner, Zara, Marks and Spencer, Harvey Nicks, Stella McCartney, Dior, Chanel, names, names, names, sweetie! Unforunately I cannot partake as I am under strict six-months-without-pay shopping restrictions, but I salivate in front on the windows and make plans to jump on a plane when the sales are on here one day.
A real highlight is a sailing trip on a junk on the harbour at dusk, as the sun is setting and all the lights start twinkling on in the city. Sipping wine, chilling out to Cafe del Mar beats, and watching the spectacle unfold is goose bump-enducing. Great Chinese food, trawling through markets and admiring the beautiful trees and parklands (Hong Kong is over 40% parkland) also make the stay special. But the best part? Call me crazy (and yes, Michael did), but as a public transport quality controller from way back, I have to say, the system in this fast and furious metropolis is beyond. Totally in a good way. Especially, and this was the best bit of the best part, the Octopus card. Like a credit card you buy, swipe on anything from trains to trams, busses and ferries, and that's it. Add money when you need to. If you're lucky enough to be heading here sometime soon, get one. It's like, so fun!
Until next time, London calling...

Posted by millie t 04:01 Comments (0)

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