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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 25 Sep 2007

Location: South West, England

MapThe last week has been flat out, in fact I am more fatigued touring than I was at work! Who'd have thought my parents would be into power touring as well.

Sunday morning, admittedly on minimal sleep after a Saturday night on the town in Southampton for Nat's birthday, I was out the door at 8 am to head to the Isle of Wight with Mum and Dad. We were on the 9 am ferry and arrived at 10 am. The wind was blowing so there was a constant stream of boats sailing out of Cowes as the car ferry pulled into town. We drove off and headed straight to Osborne House, the former 'holiday house' of Queen Victoria. Yeah, well, it was a rather large house. There were beautiful views from the house into the gorgeous surrounding gardens, as well as across the Solent to Portsmouth and Southampton. Some of the history of the house was really interesting, most of all, the story of the bloodline of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Their children, and thus bloodline, managed to infiltrate every major royal family in Europe, including the Germans, French, Norwegians, Swede, Danish, Yugoslav, Russians, and many more. We wandered the house, then headed out to the gardens and over to Swiss Cottage which seems to have been a holiday house on the same property. Man it made the holiday house we had up at Gough's Bay look pretty lame!

After Osborne House, we had intended to go to Barton Manor, but gave that idea away, figuring one big aristocratic house a day was enough! Instead we headed to the Folly Inn for lunch which was delicious, but sitting outside in the chilly air and blowing wind wasn't that crash hot. From there we headed to the SW corner of the island and visited the Needles. That was rather overrated, with a couple rocks sitting off the coast with a small light house on it. The look out was too far away from the point, and the tacky rides and fun fair wasn't very appealing either. From there we continued around the island and stopped in at Freshwater Bay to take a couple of happy snaps before it started raining.

We moved from there to Cowes, but being a Sunday afternoon, by 4pm everything was shut and the place was pretty dead – pretty, but dead. I think Mum & Dad got an appreciation as to why I am worried I will be bored as hell on the island. We crossed the chain ferry and the headed to the car ferry and back to Southampton. Once back on the mainland, we drove to Banana Wharf for dinner, and then headed home. Mum & Dad dropped into Nat & Cari's where we had yummy birthday cake (still can't believe Cari actually baked it!) and then Mum & Dad called it a night. Given the girls both had to be up early on the Monday (well, had to be up...) and we'd all had a huge Saturday night for Nat's birthday, we quickly called it a night and got a decent sleep.

Money morning we were up pretty early, and off to Winchester on the first stop of the grand UK tour. We stopped in and saw the Guild Hall and Winchester Cathedral, and straight away Mum & Dad we amazed by the beauty – things were only going to get better. From Winchester, we headed to Stonehenge, for what could be most accurately described as a 'drive-by'. It was simply a case of saw as we were driving along, pulled into the car park, took a couple of happy snaps, and drove on. To be honest, it looks most impressive from afar as you drive over the ridge and see it for the first time in the middle of the field. Once you're 'up close' it's not that crash hot. I think I'll save my money, and head in on a Summer Solstice day/night when you can actually get in and touch the stones, and it's free!

From Stonehenge we headed to Salisbury and saw the cathedral there. The inside of the cathedral was beautiful, but we missed out on the tour up to the top of the tower. There was also a pretty amazing water feature in the middle that had some sort of holy water flowing out of it, but had been designed in such a way that the water appeared still on the surface, and basically acted as a mirror and you could see the church roof in the water. After wandering through the town for a bit, we set off again, looking for a place to rest our heads for the night. Eventually, after a couple hours driving, we ended up in Plymouth and decided to stay there. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then Dad and I headed into the Plymouth Walkie for a few beers!

The next morning I headed off for the internet cafe to print out the second stage of my visa application. We had picked up some mail from the post office Monday morning, and it was actually my first stage acceptance for my visa. That meant that I could post off the second stage straight away. Some Tuesday morning I sat there in an internet cafe, updated the application, and got it ready to go. I found Mum and Dad down by the water and then we wandered around the port and up to the Hoe for a look around. The place is actually surprisingly pretty, and wasn't and intended stop on our tour!

From there we headed to Cornwall, and drove through the pretty little town of Looe, then headed to the next pretty little port town of Polperro. There we parked the car and wandered around the little port town. Unfortunately it was low tide, and the port looked a little shabby without the water there to 'float the boats'. After a while there, we pushed off in the late afternoon and headed to the Eden Project, just up the road. That was pretty cool, and looked pretty spectacular. The took an old clay quarry and turned it into the worlds biggest greenhouse, with an arid Mediterranean section on one side, and the steamiest tropical rain forest in the other. Plus the surrounding gardens were also quick pretty. After we left the Eden Project, we headed off to a place to stay, and FINALLY found a B&B in St. Austell.

The next morning we continued our trek towards Land's End, first stopping at St. Michael's Mount. It is an old island monastery that can be accessed over land only at low tide, and by ferry boats the rest of the time. After a few happy snaps there, we headed to the town of Penzance, where 'The Pirates of...' play comes from, and did a bit of drive through. Next we passed the Merry Maidens, another Pagan sight and had a look around there. This one was free to get into, and you could touch, sit or stand on the stones if you wanted. It was basically a dozen 4 foot hight stones standing in a circle, that had some well worn paths through it. When we pulled up there were only two other people there, and another two people rocked up as we were leaving. Much quieter than Stonehenge.

From there we pushed on to the tiny town of Mousehole, with all it little boats. It was gorgeous, but the roads were ridiculous, and parking a nightmare. That was a place that the GPS got put away, as some of the streets I was directed to drive down couldn't have been designed for road traffic. Plus with all of the tourists walking everywhere on the roads, it made it even harder. From there we pressed on to Land's End and made it there by lunch time. It was a pretty over rated experience, with the rest of the stunning Cornwall coat line leaving Land's End for dead. A few happy snaps there, and the tour continued.

From there we headed north to St. Ives, couldn't find a car park, so continued on, eventually stopping at a service station with some Maccas for a very late lunch. We continued north to a small coastal town called Tintagel, which is supposedly the birth place of King Arthur. It also the sight of a castle that has been ruined overlooking the sea. It wasn't King Arthur's castle, but was built on the same spot that he had previously built one, or something like that. In any case it was a great excuse for Guinevere, Camelot, Arthur, and Merlin to be used to excess in the town for naming shops and hotels. Quite a tourist trap, but as we got there so late in the day, we entered the castle for free and most of the crowds had left. After that we put in some serious miles again and headed to Exeter for the night. We went out for a lovely Indian meal (Mum & Dad hadn't had Indian in ages...) and the called it a night.

More soon....