York and National Railroad Museum

York and National Railroad Museum – 14 July 2022 – York, United Kingdom

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By Tom Allin

It was a beautiful day for a bus ride. So, we decided to take the Hop On/Off Bus tour and stop for the National Railroad Museum. The Railroad Museum is something we most likely wouldn’t have visited but all the guidebooks gave it high ratings and we found the ratings well deserved. I believe we spent close to two and a half hours at the Railroad Museum.

We have done several Hop On/Off Bus Tours. Some have been great such as Hong Kong. Others not so great such as Cape Town. The information is always good, the presenter or audio is always a crap shoot, and if the bus can’t or isn’t allowed to navigate to the sights then the ride is boring.

Note his jacket, the person sitting to his left with hood up – it was cool. Five days later the hottest recorded day in York’s history was 101 degrees.

Clifford Tower was a part of York Castle which no longer exists. This is the second Tower or Castle Keep. The first was destroyed in 1190 when the City’s Jews took refuge inside and eventually committed suicide to avoid being murdered by Christian rioters.

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York City Wall — 13 July 2022 — York, United Kingdom

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We are in York; luggage is in our apartment and therefore it is time to go exploring.  

I hadn’t taken 20 steps when I could see Monks Bar in the very near distance poking out above the buildings in front of me.  Monks Bar is one of the primary gates through the old city wall.  Monks Bar was built in stages in the 1400s with the last stage – top story – completed by Richard III in 1484.  Monks Bar originally was constructed with a gated barbican and a series of murder holes from which defenders dropped rocks, etc. on to attackers.

The City Wall was primarily built in the 13th century and extensively renovated in the 1800s.

The city wall fortifications consisted of two sections of wall, one swamp, and one lake (for the king to fish).  The stone wall is very narrow and not particularly high.  However, most of the stone wall is built on top of a previous dirt mound fortification so that from outside an opposing army was looking at 20’ of a very steep dirt incline and then 10 to 15 feet of stone wall.  This made it very difficult to bring siege machines close to the wall and almost impossible to lean a ladder against the wall.  I wouldn’t want to be part of an attacking force.

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Black Top Farm to Manchester – 10 July 2022 – United Kingdom

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By Tom Allin

While we were eating breakfast, Jane came out of the kitchen and asked us where we were going today.  I answered we were driving to Manchester.  Immediately she said she would write out the most scenic drive for us to take to Manchester.  Then Jane’s visiting girlfriend from Manchester said not only would it be scenic but no slower due to all the Sunday traffic on the highway.  I knew anything scenic meant narrow roads but I am slowly getting used to closing my eyes, steady on the gas pedal, and praying for divine intervention.

During yesterday’s walk from the farm to Hartington and back I had a heart-to-heart talk with myself.  I reminded myself I had survived six months of driving in India – a country where driving is the art of the insane, roads are narrow with everything on them but cars, certifiable crazy taxi drivers everywhere, and don’t forget cows, oh yes and buses.

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The Peaks – 9 July 2022 – Hartington, The Peaks, United Kingdom

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On 8 July we arrived mid-afternoon at The Black Top Farm two tenths of a mile outside of Hartington. We checked in for two nights and unloaded our stuff. Then drove back into town to find dinner – Jane, our hostess, told us without reservations we may have to drive to another town for dinner. That was all the motivation we needed to immediately get back to Hartington.

Our first stop didn’t serve meals but the second did. Most importantly the second said if we would sit down they would serve us before all their tables were filled with guests from their lodge or tonight’s other reservations. Didn’t have to ask twice.

The next morning we were downstairs eating breakfast by 8:30. The word, hearty, hardly describes all the food. The following morning, we let Jane know we didn’t need the beans or the meat. My favorite was the oat cakes, flat like our pancakes but with a very different taste to them. Nancy liked the oat cakes but said the eggs may have been the best tasting she had ever had; this from a person who eats eggs for breakfast at least 29 mornings out of 30.

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Out in the Countryside – 7 July 2022 – East Anglia, United Kingdom

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By Tom Allin

A Note from Tom – July 17, 2022

Yesterday the high was 71.  Today the high is predicted to be 88.  Monday 96.  And Tuesday 103.  But Wednesday its back to 73.  Keep in mind our apartment has no air conditioning.  

Nothing like being in the UK when it is having one of its hottest hot spells.  My favorite headline: Climate models predicted current heat — in 2050.  The climate deniers continue to be correct — the models are not perfect; the models keep predicting cooler weather than is occurring!

Stay cool, safe, healthy and avoid the Covid.

Out of the city and into the countryside.  Life is better: no jet lag, Nancy’s bag finally arrived, and we are walking paths not cobblestone streets and sidewalks.

U-turn and continue walking the broad pathway with very little to look at.

The plan for today is to stop at three Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserves.  The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was begun in 1889 and is the largest nature conservation charity in the United Kingdom.  There are more than 150 reserves spread across the UK.  For more on the RSPB go to: https://www.rspb.org.uk

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Windsor Castle – 4 July 2022 – England, United Kingdom

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By Tom Allin

I am a fan of Rick Steves but I believe he mislead me.  His book on Great Britain notes Windsor Castle as being in the surrounding area of Cambridge.  I booked two on-line tickets and then Google mapped our route only to discover it was a two-hour one-way trip.  Not exactly what I envisioned or had in mind for an in the neighborhood drive.

We presented our tickets and were passed through to security.  I had forgotten that in England and most likely all the United Kingdom (and of course any airport) a pocketknife is treated as a weapon of mass destruction.  It was bagged, tagged and I was told I could pick it up after we left the Castle.  All this for a pocketknife: have to wonder what would happen if a concealed gun packing American tourist showed up.

At the top of the rise in the first photograph is a gated entrance into a portion of the castle grounds. The gate is locked, no entry. From here you complete what is a walking U-turn and continue walking the broad pathway with very little to look at.

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We Are in Lesotho – 25 June 2022 – Lesotho

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By Tom Allin

Yesterday was another birding day but with a different bird guide named Aldo.  Not only was Aldo a great guide but he was willing to talk about anything and everything when it came to South Africa.

A friend dropped him at our place.  To keep the cost down I drove the 4Runner and at the end of the day we left Aldo at his home.  Of course, he had bird feeders and therefore birds in his yard and we picked up one last new bird at his house.

I took no photographs of our birding trip – my mistake.  Like so much of South Africa the area we drove and birded was beautiful.  So, I am going to talk about our birding trip and what we learned from Aldo about South Africa in between photographs of our drive up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho.

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Sani Pass – 23 June 2022 – South Africa/Lesotho

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Yesterday was a long drive for us.  We drove from Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa to a guest house in Himeville.  This was 300 km/180 miles or a five hour drive if you make no stops; we stopped.

But this was a worth while drive.  We had two days of birding with guides lined-up, the first guide was to take us up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho and then back and the second bird guide was to show us the birds around Himeville.  The following day we were to make the drive up to and over the Sani Pass, into Lesotho, and find a place to stay.

We arrived at our guest house late in the afternoon.  Our lodging was a guest house inside a gated compound that consisted of a living area with small fireplace, a kitchen, a bedroom and bathroom plus the owner’s home.  Nancy didn’t waste any time in our guest house before asking the owner, “Do you have a heater?”  Her reply was no but she would go next door and borrow one for us.  Even with the heater and two blankets we slept very close to each other.

That evening while I was keeping the fire in the fireplace going Nancy got creative with the food we had in the 4Runner and made dinner.

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Tidal Pool Tour – 1 June 2021 – De Hoop Reserve, South Africa

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By Tom Allin

Birds in the morning and little animals in the tidal pools along the coast in the afternoon.  The birding tour we had the guide to ourselves but the tidal pool tour we had to share the guide with two other couples.  There are advantages when traveling during the time of a pandemic – fewer people that you must share the guides with.

The De Hoop Reserve has some very large coast sand dunes.

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The Garden Route – 9 to 16 June 2021 – South Africa

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The Garden Route is probably in the Top Five places known or gone to by tourists in South Africa.  The route is made up of towns, national parks and reserves, hiking trails, rivers, beaches, the ocean, paved highways and roads and dirt tracks, and more.  It begins in Mossel Bay and continues to Tsitsikamma Park and includes the towns of Wilderness (4 nights), Knysna (2 nights) and Storm River Camp (1 night).

We began our stay in Knysna.  The Booking.com I chose was not by far my best lodging choice I have made in the last half dozen years.  Making a quick check of the 60 Airbnb and 40 Booking.com (includes apartments, guest houses and hotels) this is the lowest rating – a 3 out of 10 – that I have given any place we have stayed.  We booked for four nights and left after two.  Not everything goes as well as it is planned in my head.

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