Iona to Glasgow
We caught the early morning ferry from Iona back to Fionnphort on Mull and found the car still safely parked near the wharf. We drove back across Mull to Craignure and joined the queue for the ferry, then drove onboard and we were soon back in Oban. The weather had again turned to rain, so we headed south towards Glasgow.
We found our way over the Erskine Bridge that crosses the Clyde River adn headed towards Glasgow to an area where my great-grandmother was born. The street still exists but is now a row of 1950s style low cost housing, so we followed the M74 south. We had intended to spend a day in the Lakes District, but decided that this was not enough time, so Stratford-upon-Avon was substituted instead. By late afternoon we had reached Annandale Water with a hotel and eating places, so stayed the night there - functional, with attractive lake but catering only for the overnight traveller.
An early start to more motorway driving, past Lockerbie, Gretna Green and across the border back into England, past Carlisle where the A(M)74 becomes the A6 then more miles before Manchester and Birmingham. By early afternoon we were on the A3400 and approaching Stratford-upon-Avon from the north. A side road takes you to Mary Arden's house where the NT have developed a farm exhibition of life in Shakespeare's time. The house is well maintained and the exhibition of owls and falcons is well work a visit.
At Stratford-upon-Avon we wandered around the centre of town and visited Shakespeare's birthplace, a wonderfully preserved house and garden. Then it was out to Ann Hathaway's Cottage to catch the house and garden in the late afternoon sun. We found a pleasant B&B near the town centre and it was a short walk to a good selection of eating places.
This day was to be our last day with the rental car, and we had to drive into London to drop it off at Marble Arch. Navigation did not prove to be much of a problem until we were in central London, then we could see why they charge an extra toll for that area and why everybody prefers to take cabs. The traffic was mad - made worse by us thinking we could drop off our suitcases at the hotel on the way to the rental car depot. Eventually we dropped that idea and crawled along to Marble Arch, ditched the car, and took a cab back to the Regents Palace Hotel.
Great location for a hotel, central, close to a tube station and right on Piccadilly. The hotel itself is looking a little tired but suited us nicely for location and price - and we were only staying 3 nights. An added bonus was the McDonalds with Internet access right at the door.
After dropping our bags we climbed aboard one of the open top buses for a tour of central London, getting our bearings and coping with the traffic and crowd of people.
This day started with more of the bus tour and a cruise on the Thames. We then continued the Shakespeare interest with a tour of the Globe Theatre on the bank of the Thames (see photos below). The regular theatre season had finished a few days earlier, but we heard mention of a special performance of "Twelfth Night" so bought 3 "groundling" tickets at £5 each for the Saturday afternoon performance.
The weather was indifferent, overcast with occasional light showers. We used the Underground a lot, going north to find Baker Street and Abbey Road (like most first time visitors). We did however have a second reason for visiting Baker Street for it was near here that my great-grandfather Goldsworthy ran a bakery business in the mid-1800s before uprooting his family and heading for Melbourne, Australia. The location of the bakery is now a block of apartments. However his family home just off Bayswater Road still stands.
Friday was a quieter day on our agenda. We took the Underground out to Plaistow to visit All Saints Church at West Ham, location of family weddings and baptisms. The old church is still there, but in poor shape, needing extensive renovation. Luck was on our side as we wandered through the church grounds - the Minister and his part-time assistant were in the grounds and showed us into the church. The church has a long history, with relics dating back to the Abbey founded in 1134AD. We purchased two prints of early sketches of the Church, that are now framed and hanging in our house.
Friday evening was spent at one of the many theatres close to Piccadilly watching a performance of "Noises Off".
Saturday morning and we were early onto the Underground to reach the Science & Technology by opening time at 10am. Many others had a similar plan as the train station and underground paths leading to the museums were crowded with people. We spent the morning at the museum, looking at early technological marvels, then it was back to the Globe Theatre for the afternoon performance of "Twelfth Night". We had purchased £5 groundling tickets that allowed us to stand close to the stage. The performance was nearly 3 hours but sore feet were compensated by a remarkable performance of traditional Shakespeare.
By Bus to Paris
Sunday morning and we packed all our bags, dragged them onto the Underground and arrived at Victoria Coach Station, deposited most of them at the Left Luggage Counter (one of the few left in London) and headed for the bus to Paris. We had decided on the bus over the Eurail train as we hoped to see more of the countryside, and there was the possibility that we might board a Channel ferry. The latter was not the case and after negotiating our way out of London we arrived at the England terminal of the Chunnel and exited UK Immigration. Twenty metres on we entered French Immigration, so everybody was off the bus and processed through Immigration. Despite the officiousness, this was nothing compared to the return trip.
Then the bus was driven onto the train, the doors closed and imperceptibly we moved off, soon travelling under the Channel at 100 MPH. An incredibly smooth ride. At Calais we were supposed to stop for a lunch break and to swap drivers - but after 30 minutes of driving around narrow roads we were stuck at the end of a narrow one-way street with no option but to back out - all 500 metres of it. Eventually the driver admitted he was lost - due he claimed to the centre of Calais all being blocked off for a bicycle race that he had not been warned of. So cellphone to the rescue, located other driver and they agreed to meet outside the hospital - so our view of Calais was 30 minutes up close to the maternity wing.
We arrived in Paris an hour late, but managed to locate the Metro, the right train and got off at Pigale. A short trip by taxi and we had arrived at our small hotel in the heart of Montmartre. Small was probably doing it a favour, the building on Rue Abesses was one room wide and our room was 4 floors up. It boasted a double bed but scarcely any space on either side, and an ensuite bathroom but you had to climb over the toilet to get to the shower. Still it was a nice hotel and the location was superb.
Last updated: 16/06/2017