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Goodbye St Albans - Bulgaria tomorrow!

St Albans, Hatfield and Hemel Hempstead


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I've been saying my goodbyes gradually over the last few days in preparation for my departure to Bulgaria tomorrow for my new teaching contract for the coming academic year.

I went to Asda in Hatfield on Wednesday morning to buy some trainers and casual trousers, neither of which they had (apart from jeans). I did get to speak to some friends who work there, though, which was nice. Then that evening I went down to the rugby club and caught up with some people there.

Yesterday Dave and I went into St Albans city centre, had lunch at the Meating Room (a gem of a burger place which had been highly recommended to me) and stopped at the cemetery on our way home in order say hello and goodbye to Dad. We went out again in the evening to have a drink and game or two of pool at The Crown.

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Earlier today we went to Hemel Hempstead for a birthday barbecue at Kate & Andrew's.

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Dave has now left for Manchester as he has work tomorrow. My flight leaves Gatwick at 6.35 am so I'm not going to go to bed tonight - I can't risk sleeping through my alarm! I'm getting a train in the middle of the night. My first time flying with Ryanair - hopefully it will go OK!

I've been given instructions for what to do on arrival in Sofia. I'll need to go to a specific taxi company desk at the airport, get a taxi to the main bus station and then a bus from there to Veliko Tarnovo. I know how much the ticket should cost and how long the journey should be.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom sisters dad dave mum hatfield st_albans hemel_hempstead Comments (0)

Further explorations of London

Ludgate Hill, St Paul's Cathedral, Museum of London, the Bank of England Museum and the South Bank


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After Dave departed for Manchester in the morning, I took a train into London. I had arranged to meet up with a friend there for dinner and before that I fancied visiting a couple of museums and having a nice wander round.

I got off the train at City Thameslink and walked up Ludgate Hill, past St Paul's Cathedral and then north to the Museum of London.

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What a treasure trove that place is! It tells the story of London, and pre-London, from prehistoric times right up until the 2012 Olympic Games. Special mention to the prehistoric auroch head and mammoth's foot, the Bronze Age and Medieval weapons, the Bronze Age Sunbury Hoard, the Romano-British artifacts, the copy of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia, the view out of the window of a section of the Roman London City Wall, the displays on the Great Plague & the Great Fire of London, the display of items found in the Thames over the last 1100 years, the Pearly King suit from the late 19th century, and the testimonies of ordinary people from WWII.

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It was short walk to my next destination, the Bank of England Museum. Even for someone like me, who has never been interested in economics and finance, this was definitely worth a visit. I got to hold a 13 kg gold bar, watch a video tour of a bank vault full of gold bars, read about the lives of employees here since 1694, and look at such interesting things as the charter of the Bank of England from 1694,14th-century Chinese mulberry paper money, the earliest known Bank of England running cash note (the most direct forerunner of modern bank notes, this one dates from 1697) and a handwritten cheque from 1660.

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My friend R and I had decided to meet at a pizza restaurant on the South Bank. I walked there via The Gherkin (aka 30 St Mary Axe), the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, a little out of my way but of course well worth it!

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It was great to catch up with R over some pizza, panna cotta and a drink or two.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:58 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains london united_kingdom museum cathedral river_thames st_paul's_cathedral Comments (0)

Relaxation in St Albans

St Albans


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Edit from January 2019: Unfortunately, both Fleetville Vintage Emporium and Ballito's have been demolished since I wrote the original blog entry :-(

Dave came down for the weekend on Friday evening and we've had a lovely relaxing couple of days since. We have;

- played frisbee and kicked a rugby ball around in the sunshine at the Wick (local woodland/field)

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- had some takeaway pizza from Cheerz Pizza

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- had typically tasty Japanese food at Wagamama, followed by a drink at the bar attached to Jamie's Italian. I had a lovely cocktail which I drank half of before I accidentally knocked it over onto Dave's lap!

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- browsed the wonderful Fleetville Vintage Emporium and its sister shop Ballito's.

Fleetville Vintage Emporium

Fleetville Vintage Emporium

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Dave returns to Manchester tomorrow morning.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:19 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom dave cocktails st_albans Comments (0)

London explorations

Dr Johnson's House, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Hunterian Museum, Turkish meze in Bethnal Green


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Day trip to London :-)

Dr Johnson's House was my first destination. This 300-year-old Georgian townhouse is where the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson lived and worked for a while in the 18th century. In contrast to other parts of London, there are not many other examples of houses of this era within the Square Mile of the City of London.

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It was lovely looking round and seeing all the period furniture and appreciating the wooden panelling and so on, but especially interesting for me were the famous stained glass portrait of Dr Johnson that hangs in front of one of the windows, his framed last will & testament and most of all, the loft room where he compiled his famous Dictionary.

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I flicked through a huge original copy which lay on a table, making sure to stop at his famous entry about Oats; 'A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people' (unlike modern impersonal dictionaries, Dr Johnson didn't hold back from including one or two of his own opinions).

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From Dr Johnson's House I walked on to the Hunterian Museum, a medical museum within the Royal College of Surgeons. It's not far. On the way there I admired a famous Fleet Street institution; the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. I've eaten here before (it does some really good food as well as drinks) and it's incredibly atmospheric both inside and out. A lot of famous literary characters have drunk here over the years; Charles Dickens, P. G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. Although there's no written evidence that Dr Johnson ever visited, the fact that his house is only about 100m away and that he was a famously sociable literary figure makes it highly likely that he did.

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The Hunterian Museum was fascinating, just like I guessed it would be. It's filled with anatomical, osteopathic and natural history specimens, mostly from the 18th century but some from since then as well. A lot of them were interesting to me, but the stand-out was the skeleton of Charles Byrne, 'The Irish Giant'. I also loved the 18th and 19th century pictures of exotic animals such as a hippo and one of a yak.

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After leaving the museum I headed eastwards to Matthew & Andrea's new flat, where I met up with them, Mum and uncle Justin for a delicious dinner of Turkish meze. I've read that Bulgarian food has a Turkish influence gained from the Ottoman period; I think I will like it! Soon I will find out...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom museum river_thames house_museum ye_olde_cheshire_cheese_pub turkish_cuisine historic_pub Comments (0)

Wrecclesham and Farnham: Trip down memory lane

Wrecclesham and Farnham


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Today was a trip down memory lane for Mum and a lovely experience for me because I got to share it with her.

First of all we visited my Grandad and his wife J for a cup of tea/ coffee and a chat. They are moving house very soon, away from the old family home Mum stayed in during school and university holidays throughout the Seventies, so I also walked round the place with Mum taking photos of anything she wanted me to.

After leaving the house, Mum and I went round the corner to Wrecclesham Pottery (which recently changed its name to Farnham Pottery, despite not being in Farnham) to look round.

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The gate was open, so we walked round the small grounds, but couldn't enter the actual buildings. It's a working pottery, founded in 1873. We admired many of the outdoors features -drainpipes made from pottery, dating from the turn of the 20th century; the massive brick kiln; the well; the very old outside clock; the owl looking out from one of the pottery archways; and last but not least, the 'A Harris & Son, Pottery Works, 1873' written above the main door. Mum told me that she used to walk past it on dog walks with her Nana in the mid-Sixties and think to herself that one day, in the unimaginable future, the writing would be 100 years old. I remember something similar when I was at the same age, when time seems to stretch endlessly into the future; I remember once in 1992, in my last year of infants' school, someone mentioning something that was going to happen in 1995; I couldn't stop mentally shaking my head in wonder at how incredibly far in the future that was.

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For lunch we went round the corner to the Royal Oak pub. Mum had a baguette with salad and I had the best jacket potato I've ever had; goat's cheese, caramelised onions, parsley and extra butter.

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The last thing we did before moving on to Farnham was go for a walk, following one of the dog-walking routes Mum would go on nearly every day in her school holidays in the Seventies and late Sixties. We walked for nearly an hour through nearby countryside. At one point we looked into a field that used to be filled with hop plants which were picked every summer by people from London's East End, but is now choked with nettles, brambles and horse chestnut saplings. We also scrambled up a slope in a wood and followed the path there until it grew so small we would have had to start crawling to have gone any further.

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Eventually we returned to the car and drove on to nearby Farnham. Once we'd got there we looked round the town centre for a couple of hours. The first place we visited was the Bush Hotel, where Mum and Dad had their wedding reception back in 1980. I'd never been there before and Mum hadn't been for a very long time. We had a look round and Mum had a cup of tea in the main lounge. We noticed some very old-looking, rather faded murals of human figures (possibly mythological or from ancient history) on the walls, set between wooden beams. There was no information about them anywhere, but they were still interesting to look at.

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We also browsed in a couple of charity shops, window-shopped in the lovely cobbled Lion and Lamb Courtyard (saying hello to three furry model bears in the process), attempted to buy some fruit from a greengrocer but arrived two minutes too late, admired all the Georgian buildings and, on the way back to the car, walked past a house-end that looked quite comical. The wooden beams were sunk so deep into the whitewashed wall, it looked like the wall was full of yeast and had puffed out like risen bread dough.

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From there we carried on down the road to Nana and her partner R's new bungalow, a place I hadn't been to yet because I was still in Ecuador when they moved. I got a good look round the place and we had a lovely dinner together. Special mention to Nana's signature pineapple upside-down pudding!

Posted by 3Traveller 04:08 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom hotel mum british_countryside wrecclesham wrecclesham_pottery farnham traditional_customs british_cuisine Comments (0)

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