A Travellerspoint blog

Week 4: Heading west to Wales

Joining the retirees in Britain with our own motorhome

We picked up the van and headed west towards Wales, primarily to see a Derren Brown show at the Millenium Centre. Our first planned stop was at Oxford, however, we soon realised that parking a 5.2m long van in the middle of a busy city was quite challenging. Oxford looked nice (from the van), after a couple of laps of the uni we gave up trying to find a park and headed south west for Bristol. We picked up Mikes from the Gloucester ground in Bristol, had a look around his place and then had dinner and stayed with Bernie and Johnny. It was good to catch up with Johnny and Bernie - probably our last night in a real bed for some time...

In the morning we headed over the new bridge to Wales and into Cardiff. The camp ground was in the centre so was a great place to be based. We spend a good couple of hours in Cardiff Castle, checking out Lord Bute's bedroom, first house in Wales with running hot and cold water in the bathroom and a flush toilet! He was a pretty rich guy, and the castle was amazing. That night, after a meal of all you can eat 6.95 chinese and a quick dash to the millenium centre, we watched Derren Brown's show. It was mind blowing, and every bit as good as his tv shows. We spent the next couple of hours back in the van you-tubing to see if we could work out how he did it.

The next morning, we decided dropping Mikes off to Bristol would cut into exploring time, so ditched him at the train station (only 10 pound to get back to Bristol - bargain!) and headed north towards Gloucester and the Cotswalds. Was a really rainy day but spent a bit of time getting soaked and exploring Bourton-on-the-water, Bibury and Cirencester. They really are postcard picture towns, not sure if our pictures on such an awful day do them justice. Arlington Row in Bibury was a real highlight - apparently the oldest inhabited cottages in England built in 1380.

Friday we spent driving South, towards Dorset. Beautiful rolling countryside, forest floors covered in spring blue bells, and plenty of traffic on the start of a bank holiday weekend. We stayed at a small camp outside of Corfe castle, and the next morning decided to go and explore the castle ruins. Turns out this was a great call, we went on the one weekend of the year where they stage battles. Locals go and stay in two different camps around the ruins, dress up in chain mail and battle gear, sharpen their swords, spears and arrows and go to it. Made the fete in Oamaru look pretty tame, we could imagine Bruce would have loved dressing up and dealing to some Saxons.

We spent the last couple of days travelling around the Jurassic coast ending up at Brighton where we meet up with Jo and enjoyed a day in the English sun!

Up to Kent on Monday to stay with Andy for a night then across to the continent!

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 14:53 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Week 3: A week in London

Mission - buy a van

We arrived at Heathrow after a long day of travelling to be met by Toby, complete with his famous sandwiches and drinks for us. Aunty Bernie came to pick up Mikes and take him to Bristol then we were off on our first London underground experience – was nice to be on trains with English for a change.
The next couple of days we spent travelling to different small places in the middle of nowhere trying to scope out potential campervans. We were told there were a few scams online, different people on Gumtree (English trademe) trying to get hold of email addresses, phone numbers, trying to get people to send money to offshore accounts, so we were a little bit suspicious of the ad for a van in Aylesbury, where Motorhome was spelled Motohome, toilet somehow had an 'a' in it, and can was spelled with a K. But we fell in love with the van as soon as we saw it, guy (plumber/gas fitter) was nice and paperwork seemed legit (regardless of the fact he smoked like a train and finished a couple of carlsbergs extra strengths during the van negotiations) , so the next step was organising our NZ dollars into pounds. Not as easy as it sounds…ended up having to transfer NZ money to Jo’s account in NZ, then she got it sent to her English account, but after bank hold ups, and Anzac Day, she wasn’t able to get the money out for us and Kate came to the rescue and became our banker. We paid for the van in 20 pound notes, lots of them (a very large brown paper bag). Most money we’ve ever had in our hands at once.
In between the van shopping, we also did a fair bit of touristy stuff around London. Jo and Toby were amazing hosts, felt like all we did the whole week was eat. We went to lots of different markets, especially loved the Borough markets, Camden markets were overwhelming, Portobello markets really fancy.
On Saturday night we went to one of Katie Ravens gigs, which was supported by the kiwis in London facebook page. The music was great, but the 'snake bites' were terrible.
We had a Sunday roast lunch complete with Yorkshire puddings, went to the Tate Modern museum, Natural History Museum, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace (great toilets thanks Wills and Kate), Harrods, and the list goes on.
The best part of London was spending time with friends. Staying with Jo and Toby was great, and their place was in Dalston, only a few tube stations from town. We also managed to catch up with Yuri and spent a bit of time with Kate.
We saw London off with a bang going out for a massive dinner in Chinatown followed by a show – The Book of Mormon. It was brilliant, written by the writers of Southpark and I think managed to poke fun at almost every ethnic, cultural and racial group.
Our last morning in London there was a tube strike, so our trip back to the train station to go pick up the van took ages. We won’t miss the madness of London, or the traffic, or the way your money seems to disappear like water, or the impersonal way you get treated at shops, but we love the way it is so alive.

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 12:57 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Week 2: Japans buzzing metropolis

Prawns, people and a litle bit of smog

After a really early morning in Christchurch, we met Mikes at Auckland airport and jumped on a plane to Tokyo.
Finding the hotel (and I use that term very loosely) proved to be pretty tricky, but we managed to get our stuff and ourselves there in one piece, including Michael's huge suitcase and massive cricket bag. The room was very cosy, with pretty flimsy looking triple bunks and barely enough room for one person standing at a time.
Highlights of our trip included going to Shinbuya station and wandering around for about half an hour trying to find a massive pedestrian crossing - pretty cool once we made it though. We went to see the biggest fish market (tsukiji) in the world one day, enough to put me off fish altogether for a bit - huge area, and every kind of fish you can imagine. We risked our lives going there, plenty of people and dangerous men on motorised carts to dodge around.
We also spent a cold misty day at Hakone, which we hear is beautiful but all we really saw was rain and mist. We went on 5 kinds of transport in the day - train, bus, pirate ship, rope and cable car. We ate black eggs, which had been cooked in the geothermal pools and according to local legend extend your life by 7 years per egg (but only if you have less than 2.5 eggs).
Japan has delicious food - we spent most of the week eating. Not a lot of English on menus, so there was a bit of miming and a lot of pointing at pictures of food on the menus, but we loved the noodles, tempura, fried chicken and rice.
My lasting impressions of Japan will be the sheer numbers of people, vending machines selling hot and cold drinks on nearly every street corner, smog and extremely friendly and polite people.

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 13:46 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Week 1: The beginning...

Stewart Island to Tokyo in 48 hours

Our trip started with an over loaded polo in Gisborne.
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We travelled down south, visited family and spent a week fishing, kiwi spotting and insulating our place on Stewart Island.
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After a night in Oamaru we bused to Christchurch and flew out to Tokyo.

Posted by Andrew and Lisa 07:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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