Day 72 - 31 August 2013 : Hong Kong - Melbourne (Weather 33C, humid & overcast)
Today we departed Hong Kong at 8.30pm local time on our 8 hour and 20 minute flight to Melbourne. Our plane departed 30 minutes late due to heavy traffic and arrived at Melbourne at 7.50am.
During our holiday we travelled over 35,500 km by plane, 3,000 km by car and 2,700 km by train.
Before leaving Hong Kong we discussed what each of us thought was the best place that we had visited and our favorite experience. Invariably the discussion resulted in long pauses. It was difficult to chose one place or experience.
We had many choices. There was the culture and busy pace of Hong Kong with its vibrant streets and night lights; the Nordic landscape of Finland; the ancient history and monuments of Rome, Vatican City and Florence with their famous artists, astronomers and inventors, their Cathedrals and tombs and St Peter's Basilica; the picturesque landscape of northern Italy; the wonderful views of the Swiss Alps through the glass roof of the Bernini Express train; the beauty of the buildings in Paris and the views along the banks of the River Seine; the iconic sites of London with Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and London's famous black cabs and red double-decker buses; the scenery in Kent, Devon and the North Yorkshire Dales with patchwork coloured paddocks; the experience of living in a thatched cottage in the English countryside; locating the towns where our ancestors lived; the historic city of York with its history of Vikings, Saxons and Normans; the rugged mountains of Scotland; the experience of trying to speak Italian and French to the locals with smiles and laughs all round and having a conversation in English with people from Scotland and not understanding a single word that they said.
Perhaps in the end it is best that one does not have to chose just a single place or experience. The beauty with travel is that the more you do the more you see and experience with it just washing over you.
To all those people who looked at our blog or sent us messages we thank you for contributing to over 1,200 visits to our blog and for making it the most visited planet ranger site in July. Most important of all you helped us feel a little less homesick and reminded us of the wonderful family and friends we have in Australia.
Goodbye for now - The Dean Family
Location: Hong Kong
Day 71 - 30 August 2013 : Hong Kong (Weather 33C, overcast with morning thunderstorms)
Today after Harrison and Mitchell had a good sleep in we had breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast we walked a short distance to the Citigate Shopping Complex adjacent to our hotel to do some last miunte shopping.
We relaxed in the hotel lounge until 5pm when we boarded the hotel bus for the 10 minute journey to the airport. We boarded our Qantas flight to Melbourne at 7.30pm.
Day 70 - 29 August 2013 : London - Helsinki - Hong Kong (Weather : -35C at 37,000 ft, Hong Kong 33C, humid)
We left Heathrow Airport, London on time at 6pm for our 2.5 hour flight to Helsinki. The plane was only one-third full and we were able to spread out. The flight landed on time at 11:00pm Helsinki time. We then immediately changed planes for our 9.5hr flight to Hong Kong, which left Helsinki on time at 11:40pm.
We arrived at Hong Kong at 2:30pm Hong Kong time. We then took a shuttle bus to the Novotel Citi Gate hotel. We enjoyed a swim at the hotel pool,before having dinner at the hotel restaurant and packing for our flight to Melbourne.
Day 69 - 28 August 2013 : London - Helsinki (Weather 24C, fine and sunny)
Today after breakfast at our hotel we caught the tube from Paddington to Victoria Station. We walked a short distance to Buckingham Palace where we had a booking for a 9.30am tour of 19 State Rooms open to the public.
Buckingham Palace comprises 775 rooms including 240 bedrooms, banquet rooms, music rooms, drawing rooms and private apartments. We also were lucky to see an exhibition of the Coronation of QE II from 1953. It included the Coronation gown, robes, the crown sceptre, jewellary and momentos. It was a wonderful tour which helped us to understand the layout and operation of the palace. Many of the State room walls were lined with silk and contained ornate gold leaf decoration and chandeliers. After the tour we stopped for afternoon tea in the palace gardens.
With two hours to spare before having to leave for the airport we took the tube again to Oxford Circus where we spent some time at Hamleys which is a five storey toy store popular with all ages.
On returning to our hotel we loaded up our taxi and arrived at Heathrow Airport at 3pm for our 3 hour flight to Helsinki where we change planes to fly to Hong Kong. We all look forward to visiting London again one day!
The Dean Family
Day 68 - 27 August 2013 : Edinburgh to London (Weather 23C, fine and sunny)
Today after breakfast and saying goodbye to our hosts we drove from Dumferline to Edinburgh Station. At the station we saw Barry Humphries catching a train dressed in a tartan outfit before leaving our hire car and taking our train for the 4.5 hour trip to Paddington Station in London.
The train headed down the east coat from Edinburgh giving us great views of the rugged cliffs and the north sea. It stopped at 6 stations before arriving at Paddington and was a relaxing way to travel.
At Paddington Station we took a maxi-taxi to our hotel in Paddington located a short walk from St Mary's Hospital where Royal Baby George was recently born. We enjoyed dinner at a nearby italian restaurant before getting ready for our last day in London.
Day 67 - 26 August 2013 : Edinburgh (Dunfermline) (Weather 24C, fine & sunny)
Today after breakfast we drove into Dunfermline and visited Dunfermline Abbey. A monastery was formed on the site in 1070 AD. In 1320 an abbey was built on the site with the backing of King Robert Bruce. We wandered through the ruins and gardens and enjoyed learning a little of Scottish history and the battles between the Kings of England and Scotland.
After lunch we visited the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie who was born in 1835 in Dunfermline and left for America with his family when he was eight. We learnt that Carnegie had only four years of education between the ages of 8 and 12. At 16 years of age he was only one of two people in America who could decipher morse code by listening to the transmission.
Andrew Carnegie made some prudent investments in America when he was young and was promoted to high profile positions in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company by the age of 24. He amassed a fortune by investing in iron and steel industries and in 1901 at 65 years of age he sold his company Carnegie Corporation for US $ 400 million making him the richest person in the world.
Carnegie believed that it was a disgrace to die wealthy and left over 90 % of his wealth to trusts and charitable foundations world-wide which continue to do work to promote learning and help the disadvantaged. Carnegie certainly had an interesting life.
We finished the day with dinner at the home of Angela and Tom before packing for our departure to London.
The Dean Family
Day 66 - 25 August 2013: Edinburgh (Dunfermline) (Weather 23C, fine & sunny)
Today after breakfast we drove about 40 minutes south east with Angela & Tom from Dunfermline to Edinburgh. At Edinburgh we collected our train tickets for the journey Tuesday from Edinburgh to London and found the location to return our hire car.
The Edinburgh festival is on here for the month of August and the city has a wonderful buzz and atmosphere. There is much more to the festival than comedy acts. The tourists and the locals flood here during August. There are many street acts, buskers and musicians to be seen.
We took a hop on hop bus for an hour around the city seeing the major sites including, of course, Edinburgh Castle, which is perched high on a volcanic hill about 350 million years old, in an old part of the city.
After looking in some shops we then took a Whisky Experience Tour where we learnt how whisky is made in the five regions of Scotland. Each region produces a different flavored whisky. Angela, Tom, Kathy and I chose a sample of whisky from one of the five regions. It is safe to say that neither of us will be a drain on the Scottish whisky stores. We finished the tour with a viewing of a priceless private collection of 3,400 bottles of whisky. The collection included one of 200 bottles made for royal families and the US president. Interestingly, one of the collector's favourites was a can of coke and Johnny Walker Red Label bought in Australia many years ago for $1.
We spent some further time looking through the shops before enjoying an italien dinner at Zizzi's restaurant overlooking the city. It was a great way to finish off our Edinburgh experience.
Day 65 - 24 August 2013 : Edinburgh (Dumferline) (Weather 20C, fine & overcast)
Today after breakfast we drove a short distance to Dumferline with Angela & Tom as our guides. In Dumferline we visited Pitencreif Park which was a park donated by Andrew Carnegie the Scottish Philantropist who migrated to America where he made his fortune in the steel industry in Carnegie Steel Corporation.
Special events were held in the park to celebrate the life of Robert the Bruce who who was King of the Scots and died in 1329 at the age of 23. He died for the Scots in the war of independence against the English. We enjoyed watching jousting, chain mail making, bone carving, falconry, shield and weaponry exhibits and medieval music, dance and crafts.
We had lunch at the Dumferline Abbey cafe with Angela, her sister Elizabeth and Tom before visiting the abbey and its surrounding ruins. We enjoyed dinner back at the home of Angela & Tom.
Day 64 - 23 August 2013 : Windermere - Edinburgh (Weather 22C, fine and overcast)
Today after breakfast we left Lake Windermere and drove north alongside the edge of Ullswater towards Gretna Green in Scotland. The roadway was particularly steep and narrow with many vehicles travelling south for the English bank holiday long week-end. We enjoyed wonderful views of the mountain ranges and valleys as the landscape changed to what one would typically expect to see in Scotland.
At Gretna Green we had an arranged rendezvous with Paul, one of my cousins and his daughter, Jessica who had travelled from Dumfries to meet us. We visited the chapel which is a famous spot for couples to marry before looking in the local shops and having some lunch.
After leaving Gretna Green we headed further north to Dunfirmline near Edinburgh to spend the next four nights with Angela (another cousin) and her husband Tom. As we reached Dunfirmline we clocked over 3,000 km on our hire vehicle since we left London almost a month ago. We enjoyed dinner at Angela and Tom's home. It was wonderful to catch up in person with family today after not seeing them for many years.
Day 63 - 22 August 2013 : Lake Windermere (Weather 23C, fine & sunny)
Today after breakfast we drove to nearby Ambleside at the northern end of Lake Windermere. Ambleside is a picturesque town and in some ways more beautiful than Bowness which is busy and more commercial in character. At Ambleside we took a 30 minute boat cruise south to Bowness. The lake was very calm and the mountains in the area made a stunning backdrop. It is the largest lake in England measuring 16 km long, 2 km wide and 60 metres in depth at its deepest point.
At Bowness we took a tractor train tour of the town before taking a steamer boat back to Ambleside. We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant where we ate last night.
In the afternoon Harrison and Mark went canoeing on Lake Windermere for an hour before we all had a swim in the pool at our hotel.
In the evening we drove into Bowness and had a relaxing dinner over looking the lake before heading back to the hotel to prepare for next day's journey to Edinburgh.
The Dean Family
Day 62 - 21 August 2013 : Windermere (Weather 19C, drizzly)
Today after breakfast we drove a short distance south along the side of Lake Windermere to Bowness where we spent the morning browsing in the local shops. The houses and shops in the town are all made of stone similar that which we have seen in the dry stone walls of Yorkshire. Although there was some morning drizzle we enjoyed the scenic drive much of which was under the cover of old trees overhanging the roadway.
In the afternoon we had a swim at the indoor pool at our hotel. For dinner we drove a few miles north to the small picturesque town of Ambleside where we had a meal at the Waterhead Hotel. The hotel had a wonderful view of yachts moored in Lake Windermere. On the far side of the lake the rolling evening mist gave a great backdrop which we have also seen in postcards of the area.
The Dean Family
Day 61 - 20 August 2013 : York - Lake Windermere (Weather 20C, fine & cloudy)
Today after breakfast we drove north west from York through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I can say we now have a great appreciation of where the saying 'Up hills and down dale'' came from!! The gradient varied from steep, narrow and windy to very steep, very narrow and very windy. The highest rating of gradient was 32% and the Dales rose to 2,400 feet - not for the feint hearted.
We took the scenic route through the Dales to visit the town of Thwaite where my grandmother, Dorothy Kearton, lived some of her early life prior to arriving in Australia in 1900. I was amazed at the isolation of the area and it's rugged terrain. It is still arduous driving in 2013. We saw many hikers in the area crossing from paddock to paddock.
When we arrived in Thwaite we were greeted by the site of the Kearton Country Hotel (the only one in town) where we stopped for lunch. It was the only business town. The hotel and the houses were all of local stone and all of the fencing in the area was traditional dry stone walls on almost vertical gradients. I could not live here in winter. Before we left Thwaite we learnt that the Keartons still live in the town although they are not the current owners of the hotel. It was wonderful to visit a place were my ancestors lived - we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
After leaving Thwaite we continued west through the Dales to Windermere. The countryside continued its patchwork quilt colours separated by stone fencing housing sheep and cattle. Just like in Devon there were several occasions when we had to steer around local sheep standing on the roadway. Many single lane narrow stone bridges were encountered some with traffic lights and others which required drivers to agree as to who was to pass first.
We arrived at our hotel on the banks of Lake Windermere with time to enjoy a swim and dinner at the hotel
Day 60 - 19 August 2013 : York (Weather 20C, fine but cloudy)
Today after breakfast we walked into York and explored those streets which we had yet to see. We had an early lunch at "Betty's" - a traditional tea house and bakery established in 1919. It is currently being operated by the 4th generation of the same family. Mitchell insisted that he have another "high afternoon tea" which we all shared. The meal and ambience were wonderful. As we left Harrison purchased two Fat Rascals which are large traditional Yorkshire style biscuits made with currents, almonds and cherries.
In the afternoon we took a tractor train for a short 10 minute ride to visit the National Railway Museum. The museum has a large collection of restored steam, electric and diesel engines and carriages dating back to the 1840's. It was interesting to see how the members of the Royal family travelled in their bespoke carriages in those days.
Dispays also included station signs, train nameplates and personal historical perspectives of railway travel in those days. Whilst at the museum we enjoyed a short steam train ride on a replica of Stephenson's "Rocket" which was the first steam engine made in England.
We had dinner at another Jamie Oliver restaurant in York before Harrison and Mark went on a guided Ghost Walk around the streets of York at night. No Caspers were seen !
The Dean Family