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Condolences to the Queen

We were in London for the weekend before the Queen's funeral, with people queueing up to 16 hours to see the casket. We crisscrossed London several times attending Oxford University and Imperial College open days. Never saw a queue in that whole time, except at an ice cream shop round the corner from South Kensington. Trump would have called it fake news. I like to think it is a compliment to the organisation of the whole thing that it didn't interfere with the rest of London getting on with their lives.

We weren't there for the funeral proceedings, so never made it to any specific condolence settings. We came across this one just behind the Royal Albert Hall, which was very nice.

Flowers put alongside a commemorative plaque of the Queen, with the round Royal Albert Hall in the background.

God save the King!

Pram on roof of train

On our way home, getting the train to Stanstead, the train driver made the following announcement:

A children's buggy has been thrown onto the train ahead of us and might have interfered with the overhead power lines. We have been asked to drive slowly along those lines to check that they are OK.

Only in the UK!

Train arrived 20 minutes late...


I've been watching Manifest over the summer and have now completed the first three seasons. A final fourth season is being released on Netflix in the autumn.

The series is about a group of airline passengers who return five years after their plane seemingly disappeared into thin air. For them no time has passed, but for the rest of the world five years have gone by. So you have twins now separated by five years, couples split up with one partner remarried and so on. And of course the FBI, NSA and NYPD all get involved trying to unravel this mystery.

The passengers who disappeared suffer from "Callings" giving them clues as to how to solve crimes, save lives and generally do some good. As the series drags on one calling is solved after another, but the story also gets intertwined with faith and religion. It seems as though all the passengers will eventually die, unless they all redeem themselves in one way.

What do I think of the series? The initial few episodes, in fact the whole of season one are quite good. The idea is great. But as the episodes go on, it all gets a bit tedious. Solving calling after calling. Some of the scenes are also a bit of a stretch, eg a kid passenger being able to talk himself into a top secret governmental facility researching the phenomenon.

There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, but it doesn't always seem hooked up. It's more like they are keeping you guessing as they work out how to write the plot. Still, they've done enough to keep me interested in seeing how this ends, if only because I have now watched 42 episodes. I can't help feeling the whole thing could have been a two hour movie or wrapped in one, at most two seasons.

Regensburg in the morning

On our drive back, our final stopover was in Regensburg in Germany. Usually we just get up the next day and drive off on these stopovers. This time we were closer to home than usual, so had a couple of hours to spare in the morning. Gaining an hour by crossing a time zone also helped. We decided to have a walk around the centre of Regensburg - a UNESCO world heritage site no less.

A quick look on Google showed there was free parking right in the centre - in fact in the middle of the Danube! It's one thing I like about the more European to cities and planning. Not everything has to generate a profit, pricing is often simple used as a deterrent or an opportunity cost. So whilst you would have to pay to park there during the week, on a weekend it is free. Visiting similar places in the UK earlier in the summer, parking was always paid and often quite hefty. Anyway, enough of this diversion...

So we walked across a bridge back to the other side of the Danube, getting some lovely views of the old town. Then we headed along the river a bit, which was full of flowing water unlike in Bulgaria where we had come from. There were lots of tour groups already heading into the old town from across the very orgininally named Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge).

The town centre has a lovely cathedral, seen here from across the Danube. Like all cathedrals across Europe in my experience, it is currently under repair and partially covered in scaffolding.

As if to prove that the Danube has indeed not dried out, a group of Kayakers came floating past as we crossed the bridge.


All in all we had a lovely couple of hours strolling round the old Regensburg town centre on a quiet Sunday morning.

Sometimes you get lucky

Driving back from Bulgaria we queued two hours at the Bulgarian Romanian border at Vidin. I was dreading the Romanian Hungarian border the next day. As we approached it, Google suggested we could save 15 minutes by driving through a side parking area and re-joining further along. So we did this and skipped several hundred meters of queueing. Just as we re-joined the main queue the border police opened up a couple of gates on the right. Without even stopping, we rolled through the side bit and pulled into the passport checkpoint with two cars in front of us. What should have been at least a hour border crossing, took us a few minutes.

I guess sometimes you get lucky! 🍀

The Long Tomorrow

by Leigh Brackett

An interesting read about a post nuclear apocalyptic world where the population has returned to living something of an Amish lifestyle without much technology. The book would make a good film or netflix series.

It is also interesting how this post-apocalyptic world is depicted from a 1955 view point, before things became computerised and before the internet had been thought of.

Spoiler alert

I thought the ending was a bit weak, with Len returning to Bartorstown. A more suitable ending might have been him trying to forge a third way, alternate to the general Amish existence as well as the technology mindset of Bartorstown. I wonder if Leigh had an alternate ending that the publisher wouldn't agree to back in 1955.

The Long Tomorrow

A week in Shkorpilovtsi

We spent a week on the beach in Shkorpilovtsi. It's a nice Bulgarian village near the seaside between Burgas to the south and Varna in the north.

The beach was nice and relaxed. Plenty of people camping on the beach. We stayed in a hotel slightly inland. The rooms were too small for a week, most people seemed to only stay for a couple of days.

The first couple of days the sea was a little rough, but this made for good playing in the waves. After that there was a big storm and then sea was calmer. We even managed to get the dog into the water.

We finished the week with a visit to the cousins roof top apartment in Varna. Probably my favourite place for dinner in Bulgaria!

A pier reaching out into the sea at sunset

Bulgarian campers on the beach.

Old caravans with tents attached to them.

German campers on the beach.

Two campervans, one a grey converted pickup truck and the other a yellow Mercedes lorry, on the beach.

Summer cinema in Shkorpilovtsi.

Old style sign indicating the summer cinema in the area

Alfresco dining on the top of an apartment block in Varna

The Wasp Factory

by Iain Banks

An interesting, at times shocking, book about a teenager living in his own little world on an island in Scotland. Not necessarily for the faint hearted, there's quite some violence, I didn't find it excessively graphic. There is also an interesting twist at the end.

There is no great revelation at the end tying everything together. It's just a story of a boy on an island with no big meaning beyond the story. It does however cover some interesting topics around teenagers, isolation and living in their own world.

The book is much easier to read than the Culture series from the same author (under his other name "Iain M Banks"). So I got through the book in about three days and was able to follow the entire story without getting lost. The same is rarely true of the Culture series for me.

The Wasp Factory

Cesky Krumlov stopover

Cesky Krumlov

On our drive through Europe we decided to stop over in Cesky Krumlov, in southern Czechia, close to the Austrian border. This turned out to be a great decision.

We stayed in a nice apartment a 15 minute walk downhill to the town centre. It took a little longer to walk back!

The old town is fantastic, nestled in the bend of the river Vltava with a castle, churches and houses overlooking the river.

London for a day


After a week in Cornwall, we started our journey back home, with a brief stopover in London. We arrived at our hotel at London City Airport around 6pm on Friday evening. The Travelodge hotel was literally at the end of the runway. Thankfully the flights stopped around 11pm.

London city airport seen from across the marina

The next day we spent the morning visiting UCL on its open day, before spending the afternoon walking around London. Of particular interest were the music shops on Denmark Street, especially the Roland shop.

We finished the day with a lovely meal sitting outside at Kilis Kitchen on Upper Street in Islington.

The next day we left for home, just in time before the heatwave with 40°C hit the UK. Not that it was much cooler at home!

A week in Cornwall - Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

On our last day in Cornwall we went to visit Tintagel Castle in the morning. Apparently this the place where the legend of King Arthur was created and has a lovely statue, not of King Arthur, but inspired by his legend, to prove it.

It's a nice day out. A lovely walk through the ruins of the castle, with a bridge to get to the island now separated from the mainland due to the cliffs being worn away by the sea. The bridge itself is quite an interesting cantilever design where the two parts don't quite meet in the middle, leaving a 40mm gap, apparently representing the transition from the mainland to the island.

All in all, this is a lovely walk for a couple of hours through the local history of the castle with lovely views of the sea and coastline.

Cantilever bridge spanning from the mainland to the island at Tintagel Castle

Looking down into the sea through the 40mm gap in the cantilever bridge

Looking at the ruins of Tintagel Castle with Camelot Castle in the background

The cove below Tintagel castle was once a flourishing trade spot, receiving the goods from boats across Europe.

Looking down at the small cove below Tintagel castle

This statue is merely "inspired" by the legend of King Arthur.

Iron statue of a knight, some of it missing, to make it look as if it is disappearing into the air.

This is the post office of Tintagel village, a stone cottage from the 14h century.

A week in Cornwall - Lands End

Lands End

After another day on the beach, we headed to Lands End on the following day. It turns out I was here 40 years earlier to the day with my parents, in 1982!

The drive there was slow going, taking two and a half hours (and the same back again). I am not sure it was worth it to be honest, but it is a nice day out - if you don't have to drive so far to get there.

A week in Cornwall - The Eden Project

The Eden Project

On the Wednesday, we headed to the Eden Project, about an hour's drive from where we were staying. This is research project aimed at helping to maintain the world's biodiversity through education and sparking an interest in unsuspecting tourists! It's a well thought out project, built in an old quarry. It has two domes, one dedicated to the Tropics and the other to the Mediterranean.

Visiting the Eden Project makes a lovely day out, where you might even learn a thing or two. For example that residents of Luxembourg eat 90 kilos of oranges a year, compared to 40 in the UK. Or that Hawaiians traditionally think of the past as in front of them because they can see it. Whereas the future is behind them, which they can't see. So we learn from the past to step into the future.

Biodomes nestled in the surrounding greenery of the Eden Project

Artistic view of a biodome through twisted ropes creating a circle at the end

At the same place, but separate to the Eden Project is "Hang Loose" containing lots of activities for wannabe adrenalin junkies. Our kids went on the zip wire, which at speeds of up to 65mph is the fastest in England. Of particular interest was this sign:

Sign in front of an activity reading "DANGER! Potential projective vomit area".

A week in Cornwall - Polzeath


On our second day we headed to Polzeath to check out the beach. Polzeath is a lovely beach, full of surfers waiting to catch the next wave. It looked like we had turned up in Surfers Paradise.

Surfers hanging out in the sea waiting for the waves at Polzeath

The water was cold, around 17°C, but "it's alright once you are in". So we spent quite some time splashing around in the waves, before drying out with some sunbathing.

Then we headed on the coastal path around Polzeath. This was a lovely one hour walk back to our car, which we had parked at Pentireglaze. The path has stunning views of Polzeath and the surrounding hills and cliffs.

View of Polzeath beach in the distance with the Atlantic in the foreground and the cliffs to the left.

Cliffs meeting the ocean around Polzeath coastal path

A week in Cornwall - Trevose and Port Isaac

Trevose Cottage

After visiting Bristol for the day, we headed on to Cornwall and arrived at our cottage, Trevose, around 5pm. The view from the back yard was wonderful.

View of the see in the distance with a picnic bench in the foreground in the late afternoon sun

The Sunset a few hours later was equally lovely.

Sunsetting into the sea with a house on a hill just before the sea and fields in the foreground

Port Isaac

The next day we walked along the footpaths to Port Isaac. One of the beauties of the English countryside is right to roam. This means the farmers have to provide a path through their field, if their field is "in the way". We walked through beautiful fields of wheat, sheep grazing and curious cows.

Footpath through a golden field of wheat

Cows peering at us across the stonewall

Port Isaac itself was a lovely little fishing village nestled in a bay surrounded by hills and cliffs.

Looking down on the bay at Port Isaac from the footpath

Bristol day trip

On our way to Cornwall, we stopped off with friends in Street for two nights. For the day after our arrival in Street we went on a day trip to Bristol. The weather was glorious, as it would be for our entire holiday. The city is lovely, quite hilly, offering interesting views from time to time. We explored quite a but of the city and looked around the university area, which is very central.

One word on parking. If you visit Bristol from abroad by car, make sure you have plenty of coins to pay for the parking. The machines don't accept card, and the app you can download to pay only works if you have a UK mobile phone number. Catch-22. We had the same thing five years ago in Oxford. Some things never change!

This is one Bristol's oldest pubs, The Llandoger Trow, established in 1664.

Pub goers sitting on benches outside The Llandoger Trow under sunny blue sky

Here is a view across the rooftops of Bristol, from the Christmas Steps.

Iron fencing in the foreground, with a church tower in the background and rooftops in between.

This was a curious little back alley we walked down on our way to the waterfront.

Graffitied walls on the side of a covered passage leading to the a back alley.

The river Avon flows through Bristol creating a lovely waterfront with lots of cafes and shops in the area.

Bridge over the river Avon with water front area in the foreground.

Bristol is quite well known for the rows of coloured houses. Whilst we didn't see the specific ones for which Bristol is famous, we did park right in front of some other, equally pretty, coloured houses.

A row of coloured terraced houses overlooking the river Avon (not on photo)

And that was our day in Bristol. A nice day trip from Street.