mud, mud, mud

12:10 — lunch at the seaview hotel, sitting outside in front of the hotel. the weather is quite sunny and, away from the wind, it's getting rather warm. we seem to have arrived just in time: a little bit later and all tables would have been occupied. enjoying the fine weather we lunch al fresco (now, that does sound posh, huh?) and enjoy the smoked island mackerel and horseradish pate along with a ginger beer.

shortly after 13:00 we get going and head for the coastal path — reasoning that it will in all likelihood lead along the sea front we had down to the same and turn east. it's been high tide just a little while ago and the beach is still flooded — which forces us to retrace our steps after about 500m as we hit on a gate marked private property, no throughway: hmph. the detour takes us all the way up to seaview high street and then quite a bit along the the road before we finally get down to the sea front again. once we are past the priory hotel we need to follow the path through the woods: the beach here is still covered by the tide. at first the path is quite nice, going up and down through the woods, unfortunately, it quickly turns muddy and becomes rather difficult to navigate without turning ourselves into mud hogs…and it stays that way until we eventually reach st helen's duver: tiring.

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fog-blasted, an encounter with the home guard, a surprise lift

the start to a foggy dayafter another good breakfast at northcourt manor, we are waiting at the bus stop right outside northcourt for the number 7 bus to freshwater bay. during the night we had fog moving in again and it has not really lifted so far. we are hopeful that it might have been blown away at the western part of the island: our goal for today is to walk from freshwater bay across tennyson down to the needles old battery at the western most part of the island — today is the 1940s theme day at the battery, which i'm rather interested in.

the bus is pretty much on time, while boarding i notice that we have the slightly speed crazy bus driver from yesterday — sigh. and, sure enough, we are not even properly seated and already the race is on! we reach brighstone in record time — and spend over 5 minutes idling in front of the village store (our race driver, err, bus driver gets out and checks the posted timetable, shakes his head, comes back in and continues waiting) — once the second round has been rung in, it's "pedal to the metal" again, though we are a bit encumbered by those pesky 30mph signs posted all over brighstone (clearly, those need to go if we ever want to have an efficient bus service), and it's not until we hit the military road that we really do get the pedal to the metal — we arrive in freshwater bay with an advantage of at least 10 minutes!

luckily (i'm not too fazed by double-decker-pot-hole-jumping-at-high-speed) we get off here. looking up towards tennyson down is not too promising fog-wise: if anything it seems to be thicker there than back at shorwell…oh, well. off we go.

not only is the fog thicker, there's also a rather strong breeze coming in from the SW, chasing the fog across the down, creating some rather interesting fog constellations! the higher we climb the stiffer the breeze gets — but it really seems to come into full force once we pass tennyson's memorial. we are now being fog-blasted! luckily our wind-stopper jackets do their jobs Cool. at times we can only see 2–3m ahead of us (and i'm glad that the path is apparent on the ground: somewhere to the left are the cliffs, with, in places, sheer drops down to the sea). when we reach the end of the path we are glad about the arrows someone has chalked onto the tarmac and we find our way to the old battery — and are greeted by a home front soldier in full gear! we try and not let on that we actually are from the country he is supposed to be protecting the battery from and sneak in with our NT membership pass…Wink

a pot of tea for two, a dig for victory soup, an isle-of-wight lemonade, another pot of tea, and a victory sponge later we make our way to the D-day exhibition and then to a rather captivating (they got us in the end) talk by the WVS lady about war time rationing.

meanwhile, the strong breeze has turned into near gale force winds (according to the anemometer in the lighthouse café) and we are a bit wary about continuing on the coastal path to yarmouth…we give the first part from alum bay across headon hill a try and decide — with the wind still blowing in near gale force strength and the fog still staying with us, providing for some rather limited views — to call it a day at totland church. the next number 7 bus to yarmouth is scheduled to arrive at 14:55 and we spend the remaining 18 minutes by having a look at the church (closed and armed with a security system) and a couple of snails having an outing at the covered entrance to the church yard. at 14:50 we queue at the bus stop (i stand first, dorothee is second making good use of the wind cover i provide) and wait for the number 7. a couple of cars wizz by, another one, and another one — this one, though, honks at us! it's my colleague rob who lives on the island and is back with his family from a walk on tennyson down! quite a surprise Surprised when told that we are indeed waiting for the bus to get us back to shorwell, they offer us a lift — which we accept and are quickly whisked back to northcourt. sweet Smile

snail, living at totland church yard

visiting the queen…

after a fantastic breakfast at chalon house we are off to richmond station (just a five minute walk, really), wait a little bit for the train to windsor & eaton riverside ("avoid delays" on the displays at the station), and then hop on board (no dilly-dallying around here: the station controller signals the departure of the train before the doors of the train have opened to let passengers off even, very eager to avoid delays, that bloke). the train ride — once we've left twickenham behind — takes us through beautiful green country side…half and an hour later we arrive at "windsor ER".

on leaving the station we turn left then right and then after about 100m follow the road up to the castle (almost as seen on television Wink) it's a bit past 11:00 and we seem to have just missed a parade coming down from the castle: we catch a glimpse of the red frocks disappearing into windsor on the other side of the hill. at the entrance we queue for  tickets, get them, then queue for the security x-raying and are finally inside windsor castle!

dsc02573it's a rather nice castle, grand but not arrogant. we follow the winding castle road past the gate through which foreign guests of states and banquet guests get to drive (we failed to announce our coming, so have to follow the normal tourist route Wink). we particularly like the garden in the former inner moat of the castle — while looking at it we overhear an american gentleman explaining to his daughter that "honey, this is all real! real stones! look at that!" —we are glad that they realize that this is not euro disney and that in case anyone with larger ears than usual should appear on the scene that it's not mickey mouse in a funny disguise…

we follow the lane through a gate to visit the state appartments and queen's doll-house: it's a 45min wait, but, hey, we do as the english are wont to do when they see a queue, we join it as well.  luckily it's really just a 30min wait until we get to have a peek at the royal stuff. the doll house is rather fascinating, not least because of the miniatures inside but also because it gives you some idea of how the upper classes lived in the early 1900s.

the state apartments are equally interesting, particularly the reconstructed rooms that fell victim to the 1992 fire. finally we emerge from the belly of windsor castle into a downpour of rain — good thing we brought that large umbrella with us Smile

we conclude our tour with a visit to st george's chapel (rather crowded affair that but still managing to maintain a church atmosphere)…and as the queen is not in (and probably would not have invited us for tea anyhow) we decide to go to that little tea-room recommend by anne, our b&b landlady (we do find a nice tea-room-cum-antiques-shop but later worked out that anne had probably recommend a different one further down the road).

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richmond: chalon house

21:00 we are in our room at chalon house — a very nice, large room with an equally nice large bath room (the bath itself is on a kind of raised platform). all very tastefully decorated (white and cream colours). we have just returned from a walk through richmond and along the thames — including a fantastic sunset!it is still a bit noisy outside but with our new silicon-basednoise-control earplugs that is not really an issue anymore and we are fast asleep (the first earplugs i can actually sleep with for a whole night!)

on the eurostar…finally

17:38 once we reached aachen, things took a slight turn south: due to onstruction work on the belgian-german high-speed link we got delayed by 25 minutes in aachen (ostensibly to let the thalys train coming from bruxelles through — but somehow we never saw that one). as most f the track to liege (.be) is not really high-speed yet (i'd rathercall craw-speed) we never recovered from that delay and arrive in bruxelles just when our eurostar was due to leave — and it has left, and without us.

luckily, it's not really a problem: the next one leaves at 17:01 and we are booked onto that one without hassle. nice Smile on boarding we are almost crushed by a lady and her luggage tumbling down the escalator: luckily we can stop her without becoming part of the domino chain and together with her husband manage to put her pright again. quite a bit of excitement for a moment there.

right now, we are seated in first class, enjoy the complimentary drinks (cheers!), watch the belgian, sorry, french now, landscape being wisked past us at 300km/h … got to stop now, they are serving meals now.

definitely much better than flying, BTW Smile

action in frankfurt airport station

12:27 — we made our connection in frankfurt airport on time and are now in the ICE 14 to brussels. just as we had taken our reserved seats a siren started sounding outside the train in the airport station: all persons are to vacate the building immediately! the scary things was that it was not being cancelled and labelled as a false alarm, they kept it going — luckily, it didn't seem to apply to our train whose doors closed on time and we left as scheduled at 12:17. while moving out of the station, though, we could see people hurrying towards the rescue stations…wonder what happened there?

erlangen–richmond…by train

09:51 — after an early start we leave a bit too early (my eternal fear of missing a train connection, yes, i know) and end up at erlangen station 20 minutes early Embarassed time enough to buy newspapers…the train to nürnberg is a bit delayed but not by much, we arrive ontime in nürnberg, get some food on board for the trip to frankfurt airport — and the IC 2028 arrives on time and leaves on time! nice Smile

next item on the agenda: getting a cup of tea on a bahn.bonus voucher(i finally succeeded in getting my 1500 bahn.bonus points converted into five €5 vouchers, the first set was lost in transit from germany to switzerland, the second set eventually made it [and they can't send it to an address different from the "billing" address, otherwise we could have tried our erlangen address, hmph] — so there's a set of €5 bahn.bonus vouchers somewhere out there in the void between germany and switzerland, grab it if you see it floating by!)

weird books in the local bookshop

doro and i spent about an hour in the local thalia bookshop (i bought a small pocket bible, a digital photography with linux guide, a thriller and the latest cecilia ahern) — while waiting for doro to re-emerge from the depths of thalia i had a look around in the advice books section and came across the kamasutra pop-up book with 6 pop-up positions!…i couldn't resist and had a go at all six pop-ups: two where damaged already (some other kid must have had a go at it already, hmph), two involved animals! one an elephant and the other a camel — it didn't strike me as a very realistic book. i did get a couple of dirty glances and frowns from a couple of women having a look around that part of the bookshop… the other advice/DIY book was create your own super woman!, a box with a baking-mould in the shape of a woman, a satchel of baking mixture and some easy to follow instructions. huh?

…perhaps they should combine the two books? include bakin-moulds for a camel and an elephant? the kamasutra baking book with 6 self-raising positionsWink

IC2161 between stuttgart & nürnberg: an encounter with “duck face”

my first day of our vacation today Smile

i get up at 8:00, check email, drink a cup of tea, take a shower, then collect all the things one needs when going on vacation: underwear, socks, shirts, shoes, books, thinkpad, camera, ipod — astonishingly enough i manage to stuff everything into the suitcase (the thinkpad and camera go into the backpack). then it's a round of last minute cleanups and i'm off to the station to catch first the local train to zürich, then the ICE to stuttgart, then the IC to nürnberg and finally the ICE to erlangen Smile … in zürich it's the usual round: getting a sandwich, a bottle of mineralwater at migros (at CHF 1.05 definitely cheaper than CHF 3.80 at the sandwich place or on the train) and a newspaper (the tagesanzeiger at a whopping CHF 2.50, quite a bit for such a little paper).
the train ride from zürich to stuttgart is fairly uneventful: today i'm travelling as a tourist Cool and don't need to work. uneventful, that is, except for the mutilations inflicted on the german language by the tagesanzeiger (at least one case of using dativ instead of genitiv ("dem wolf sein lebensrecht"), a glaring bug in the first headline on page two ("es gibt modell …"), and a couple of minor wounds) — it's astonishing that a newspaper with such a big claim cannot afford to have proper editing…

the ICE arrives on time in stuttgart as does the IC to nürnberg — unfortunately, we seem to have a problem with the front car and its communication lines back to the engine at the back of the train: after an energetic start we rather abruptly come to a standstill — it takes them about 10 minutes to get this sorted. the train is quite full, even in first class — which is not a suprise as it's friday afternoon.

opposite me sits a young-ish woman who looks remarkably like a blond version of "duck face" henrietta from four weddings and a funeral. and she behaves like that, rather arrogant towards the conductor who in the end threatens to declare her ticket void (she's got an online ticket and but didn't sign her bahncard and  refuses to do "these petty little things" just because the conductor asks her to — i'm tempted to drop her a  €1 coin for her performance…