Archive for June, 2012

Ok so a few things as expected have happened since initial post.

Harrison Jack (GS3) was born about 10 days early and so was a little fella – he was always going to be a little fella with his parents but this was bordering on concerningly small. However maternal instinct is a wonderful thing as are the staff at Toowoomba General hospital so he was able to come home a week later and will be fine and dandy. Went out to Toowoomba last weekend to spend time with The Three Amigos and this has an amazing settling effect and enables oneself to focus on the important things in life.

Now on to the less important inevitable occurrences. Microbiology did finally relocate and so we have now been in The Brave New World for a month. It is a mixed bag. The tunnel may be long but there is definitely something flashing in my eye off in the distance. The removal of “On Call” has been pleasant as expected but the drop in funds also as expected – when one is use to more disposable income it can be difficult to adjust – so late in life – even if one should just enjoy the more free time one has. Easier said than done. This boy likes to work hard and play hard – or at least spend big. Constraint has never been my strength – I can resist everything but temptation. As I write this getting towards the bottom of the second glass of wine nothing has ever been more obvious. Since Girl Child 2 moved on it has been very easy to have a couple of drinks each afternoon – and associated dangerous munchies – and so as the weeks pass the waistline may be expanding at an unhealthy rate. This is the challenge ahead but at present it has not been met. It is approaching winter in QLD which is a wonderful time often with clear blue skies and brisk mornings but generally booteeful days. The sun goes down early which makes afternoon drinkies that much more appealing. It is cool in the morning which makes gym visits less appealing. This is a dangerous combination. A smart boy may say well go to the gym in the afternoon instead of drinks and kill 2 Birds with one stone. I may be clever but I aint smart.

Long before Doc Martin drew us to Port Isaac All Creatures Great and Small left us with a Yearning for Yokshire and the Dales. Of course there is more to Yorkshire than just The Dales – lots Moors in fact:). So after some Welsh rarebit in Conwy we headed off to Manchester and into Yorkshire. First stop was Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal gardens to rip one off at Ripon. I always assumed that if I had married Princess Anne, as many royal insiders had predicted. then Studley Royal would have been my MI5 nickname. I mentioned this to CLP and she said neigh in what was a very good impression of Princess A actually. In England you see plenty of ruined abbeys and a garden or two but these were rather impressive.

Next it was on to Thirsk which we were using as our central point and had booked 3 nights at Fern Cottage which was ideally located in the lane behind “The World of James Herriot” . James Herriot was of course really Alf Wight who set up his Veterinary Practice in this town so it was an appropriate choice for our base of operations. Unlike Port Isaac the filming locations for ACGAS moved around a few towns and locales in Yorkshire. Fern Cottage itself was a lovely cottage and of course as we always found in England private parking is at a premium and think we were very lucky in 2 trips and 2 hire cars not to pick up one scratch!

Next day dawned bright and clear which was perfect for our day trip to Whitby in North Yorkshire situated at the mouth of the River Esk and looking out on the North Sea. Two major attractions had drawn us here – Whitby Abbey and its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and also the Captain Cook connection. The ruins of Whitby Abbey are impressive indeed especially given their location on the headland dominating the landscape. It is very atmospheric and we saw it on a clear bright morning – it would be rather stunning late in the afternoon with the sun setting. Cue stunning photos ( of the morning variety)

Whitby was also where Captain Cook learned his seamanship apparently. Guess we Aussies have Whitby to thank for being discovered? It was a very pleasant walk around with an old fashioned row of amusement parlours on one side of the street and the harbour full of boats on the other with clear evidence they catch a lot of oysters around here. Whitby is also well renowoned as a place for Goths to aggregate but on this booteeful day it was all flip flops and ice creams

Next day it was time to discover some Moors. They even had a Moors centre devoted to this. Maybe just another excuse to charge us for some parking?? It was a pleasant walk around on another pleasant day but there was nothing special here and certainly no werewolves lurking. Perhaps we needed to come back at night. perhaps we needed to find a Pub stat.

At least I was able to catch a rare glimpse of 3 Beavers together

Next day it was time to travel to York by train. I was starting to wonder when we were going to see some Herriot sites given we were in Herriot country. Apparently York Minster is rather impressive. It is indeed. There are many cathedrals in England and they are all impressive. I can state this with confidence because after 2 weeks in UK I had seen 3026 Cathedrals. There are lots of cathedrals in UK. Cathedrals also tend to dare you to climb the stairs to the top. I got sucked in the first few including this one but I had a rather life changing meeting on this trip that convinced me some things are best left unknown. There was no Hunchback – or Hunchfront sadly- but I simply assumed one of the gargoyles had sprung to life and decided to wander down the stairs.CLP has a sense of humour – guess she must have really. Our trip to Yorkshire was turning into shambles. Funny you should mention that.

Next day we planned a train trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which gave us a chance to check out a well known TV/Movie site – Goathland. The Station has been used as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films and Goathland itself was Aidensfield in the Heartbeat TV series. As we sat there I kept thinking of Johnny Cash and couldn’t help myself singing along – I hear the train a acoming, a coming down the track… So we sat around for a bit and then remembered we never watched Heartbeat or indeed more than one HP film so time to move on and catch out a couple more castles and a couple more abbeys (basically one or the other on every second corner) and then on way home checked out The White Horse of Kilburn.

White Dork of Goathland ^^

White Horse of Kilburn – >>

Next day it was finally time to catch up on some ACGAS sites – off to Askrigg on our way to Richmond. First stop was a typical country pub – The Bolton Arms. One thing we knew from the TV show is that in this area there are plenty of stone walls and narrow roads. It is beautiful countryside as portrayed in the show and we stopped along the way a few times and did the whole thermos and “Nice” biscuit deal. I don’t mind the narrow roads in the country side but they are a bit hairier in town when there are invariably cars parked as well!

In Askrigg we discovered Skeldale House which bears little resemblance to the house on TV but then they were mainly inside shots. The Kings Arms pub was actually The Drovers Arms on the show – from the show you had the feeling you were in a more remote pub somewhere atop a hill in the Dales but as usual reality is usually disappointing.

The Darrowby Surgey is recreated in the Richmondshire Museum in Richmond. There were a few more cathedrals to see and an abbey or several and then headed back to our digs in Richmond – and it started snowing. Magic. Yorkshire was a great place to spend a week and one short blog doesnt really do it justice – do yaself a favour

Long before we travelled to the Land of the Free we had 2 overseas trips to the UK thinking we would feel more at home there – which we didnt but that is not the point of this. On the first trip we travelled to James Herriott territory( a story for another day) and on second trip in 2009 travelled to Doc Martin territory. When you travel to USA you are drawn to the iconic structures that feature in the shows/movies – for England , at least , it is more a case of immersing yourself in the countryside and life at least for me. Doc Martin is set in the idyllic little seaside village of Port Isaac and so we headed off one fine morning and as we passed through Wiltshire to get to the Cornwall Coast we stopped at Stonehenge for the obligatory photo op. One thing you find in England is you pay to park and you pay to visit all of these historic sites (cf USA) and so we stopped across the road – after all if I need to get up and close with some useless stones cobbled together I need only slip my hand in my jocks!

You know you are approaching Port Isaac when the roads start to narrow worryingly. You know you have reached Port Isaac when you are in the middle of the road and can’t open your car door! Don’t get me wrong it is a lovely little village to walk around but next time we will be dropped in by helicopter. How they film a TV show here is beyond me. We had chosen the lovely Hathaway House which overlooked the inlet and was appropriately close to Fern Cottage – the good doctor’s surgery. People who have watched the show would recall the narrow road outside said surgery. As Hathaway House is located at the end of this road on the hill it was time to close your eyes, hang on, flatten the accelerator while strategically having one hand hovering over the horn

It is a superb location to look back over the bay and the town. B&B is the way to go in England and we had already had some wonderful experiences with the very hospitable hosts up to now. Our hostess here while very helpful most of the time gave us the distinct impression we were putting her out somewhat with our requirement for a slightly earlier breakfast next day as CLP (who was not the driver) had planned some excursions in the area! The lady of the house was very changeable though because next time you met her she could not have been nicer. The other aspect of these B&Bs is that to get the great views you often have to carry rather heavy suitcases up some narrow and winding staircases and we often wondered if the last set of stairs led to Ruprecht’s room! It was a glorious day so it was time to climb to the top of the hill and look back down on the beautiful vista. Then on to the good Doctor’s surgery and see if we could pick out a few other recognisable spots. The “Surgery” was under repair so had to settle for sitting on the doorstep and waiting for the chavs to walk past – damn they must have been actors!

It was such a beautiful day we (ie non driver CLP) decided to travel the relatively short distance to Tintigel Castle, a medieval “fortification” on the peninsula of Tintagel Island. It is certainly stunning rugged coastline and as with many areas around here had associations with Arthurian times. The sun was setting as we made our way around the rocky landscape which took a little longer than planned as we headed in the wrong direction to begin with! There was not much “fortification” to see as was common with most of these historic sites but still it was a very pleasant walk with the beautiful backdrop of the ocean in the background.

We then decided to drop by the fishing port of Padstow on our way home for some fish and chips at Rick Steins. It was still daylight on our trip there and it was certainly a beautiful setting to chow down on some over-priced fish and chips. So it had been a full first day and all we had to do now was find our way back to Port Isaac in the dark. Never fear we had our reliable Tom Tom GPS system. Lesson number 1 for driving around rural England – the shortest route is never the best route especially when a friggin tractor is coming the other way on a road barely wide enough for our car. A road map is a better option than a GPS at least in rural England. Thank me there only hedges at the side of the road and not stone walls!

Next morning it was up bright and early to head off on our day trip on a rather overcast and dreay day – nice and early meant less cars and more importantly less pedestrians to avoid on our way through the maze cleverly disguised as a series of connected “roads” giving the word its most liberable interpretation. First off it was down to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Not sure why anybody bothered finding them in the first place but it was a pleasant enough wander around for an hour in plenty of green stuff but for 50 quid it was nothing special. Next stop was the Eden Project which was suitably impressive and would be a great place for the family with inquisitive young children. I know all I want to know about everything so while it is certainly an admirable project and charity it didn’t hold a lot of attention for me.

Time for some more Arthurian legend stuff on the way home. First stop was Dozemary Pool – the site of “the lady of the lake” legend where Sir Bedevere apparently threw in Excalibur.
I suggested to CLP if she dove in she could get lucky and wrap her hands around a cold hard shaft for the second time in one day. Showing amazing strength for one so slight she hoisted me aloft to re enact the “tossing of the tosser” as she playfully referred to it but luckily I slipped away at the last minute.
Next stop was the site of some famous battlefield and also the site of King Arthurs Stone. Luckily there was abridge near by for the re enactment of the Black Knight scene

Back home we had a very passable pub meal – The Large restaurant as depicted in the show is not a working restuarant – and then had a leisurely stroll around the town. The view from HH both late at night and early morning was magical. The next day was spent relaxing around time – at last! – and then a very pleasant meal at The School House which is actually an upmarket restaurant. So all in all Port Isaac was exactly as advertised and Hathaway House was a great place to take it all in. Not sure why Doc Martin is such a grumpy prick really

Last Day in LA 2011

Posted: June 2, 2012 in Travel

Our flight did not leave until early evening so thought we would spend our last morning in downtown LA (on a Saturday) as we had already experienced the Hollywood side of town. It was amazingly deadsville. However there certainly were some highlights to see and none more spectacular than the Disney Concert Hall. There were also the well known spots like Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and the LA Times building. We then ventured further in some direction and came across the Grammy Museum but it was amazing to be in such a populated town walking around on virtually deserted streets. We decided to pay one more visit to Hollywood Boulevarde before heading back to Hilton and checking out. We were then able to spend the afternoon relaxing around the pool or resting in our own private cabana – alas no Cabana Boy was provided for CLP. It was a suitable contrasting few hours to the previous whirlwind 48 hours and a time to recharge the batteries before the long flight home.

Our trip to USA had been a once in a lifetime experience that we couldnt wait to repeat! The bank manager and I are currently in disagreement over the likelihood of this but a man can dream can’t he?

Universal Studios 2011

Posted: June 1, 2012 in Travel

Another glorious day dawned as we traversed the short distance from Universan Hilton to Universal Studios – who would have thought they would be so close! We had purchased “front of the line” tickets – highly recommended so after a short line up quickly found our way to the booth to redeem these. Rushing to get there before the great unwashed we almost missed a very clever little “statue” scene which you could have easily dismissed as well a statue I guess:) It was in fact actors of course spray tanned to within an inch of their lives but suitably realistic. First stop was the studio tour – at the front of the bus natch. This took us through the backlots which included basic setups but also classic ones like Amity Island(Jaws) , The Bates Hoetel and surprisingly the complete Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives. There were sound stages set up for earthquakes and ouside cantinas set up for floods. Also passed through the King Kong “ship approaching Skull Island” set up along with the massive backstage lagoon used for Pirates of Carribean, watched the Fast and Furious explosive car display and passed by the plane crash set from War of the Worlds. As part of the studio tour we also did the King Kong 360 degree 3-D EXTRAVAGANZA! Good fun and a great insight for movie buffs. In fact the studio tour was so good we did it again in the afternoon rather than go on “rides”. There is plenty to see and do at Universal Studios but you can spend all day on a continuous loop of the Studio Tour and still get your money’s worth

After this it was time for the first show of the day which was the Terminator one. Well staged inside a theatre with plenty of bangs and flashes. Best part though was sitting on the bike afterwards. Next stop was the Sound Effects demo and once again being in front row was lucky enough to take part and look a fool. Normally I prefer just to look a fool at home not in front of a crowd but they were yanks so shouldnt be a problem:) Not a big one for rides per se but squeezed in the Jurassic Park one before lining up for the Blues Brothers show at lunch time. Familiar songs performed very well rounded out the morning well. Next EXTRAVAGANZA was the Water World show. Didn’t have to line up for long again but a bit too smart to sit in the front rows this time around – just ask the people walking around the rest of the day in wet clothes! There were great stunts and hammy acting so really did seem real. The beautiful day certainly provided a great backdrop to all of the action.

So we had ticked off the main attractions rather easily and still fitted in House of Horrors ( they approached CLP to stay on and join the cast but she respectfully declined), NBC Universal experience and about 5 rides up and down the massive escalators. One of the joys of walking around these parks of course are the characters that constantly mingle with the crowds. So all in all it was a great day, good value for money and highly recommended. Much like being pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of Americans it was also obvious they know how to put a theme park together without making it a shallow costly experience.

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