Hello, goodbye

Trip Start Apr 27, 2013
Trip End Dec 10, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, December 6, 2013

We found our way to Tony and Sarah's house in Clavering, Essex after leaving the boat behind in Harwich.  The motorhome fitted into their driveway but having run out of LPG a day or so ago, the heater couldn't be used, so we accepted Tony and Sarah's offer of a bed.  Bo hadn't seen Tony for 40 something years and the Penman family welcomed us into their home warmly.  And warmth is what we needed.  It was chilly as to be expected at this time of the year.  The family left us to it the next day as they scurried out the door to work and school.   It had dawned a sunny crisp day and we wandered around the village taking in the typical thatched roofed houses with their quaint gardens in the rural setting.  There were scenes like this throughout the village and a walk along the path behind Sarah and Tonys house took us through the graveyard of the local church.  It had the misty feel of winter and was apt for the scene we were in.  Having gone right round and walked round past the front of their house we found the local pub, which was closed but was due to open soon.  We continued walking, enjoying the quiet of the neighbourhood and as we were about to turn back noticed another pub on yet another corner, and this one was open.  Feeling a little thirst come on and the need to rest our weary bones, we decided this must be an omen and without resisting too much entered the establishment and ordered a drink each.  Turns out, this pub is owned by Jaimie Oliver's parents and this is where Jaimie had started his career, washing the dishes in the family business.  I won't pretend we didn't know who owned the pub before we entered, and it did have a slight influence on our decision to have a drink there.  It was interesting though, just sitting watching the goings on.  The phone rang non stop as people booked parties for Xmas functions and into the next year.  It seems it's more popular as a restaurant than as a pub.  Didn't see Jaimie and have no idea what his parents look like so in the end we really could have been in any pub.   A constant reminder though were all Jaimie's signed books on sale at the bar.
The Penman household is a busy one, and the family didn't return from work and school until after 6pm.  I attempted to cook a meal from whatever I could find in the fridge (sort of reminded me of the TV programme where they do the same thing).  Managed to put a casserole of sorts together and fed the family when they came in cold and tired.  Next  day was Saturday, and Sarah was off to London as a birthday treat with a couple of girlfriends, so Tony was mum/dad and host for the day/night.  After a morning shopping with the boys while Tony reffed a hockey match, we all went out for a pub lunch and went back to the sports club rooms and watched the All blacks eventually beat England in the rugby.  Was a bit of a worry for a while, but the boys came through in the end.  Sunday was another nice but crisp day and we took it easy.  Little did Bo and I know though, that Tony had more kiwi visitors arriving for the night and he quietly prepared for their arrival.  We all enjoyed a nice evening together, after eating the lovely meal Tony had prepared.  Sarah had arrived home from London in the late afternoon.  Monday morning we said our goodbyes to this lovely busy talented family and headed to Canterbury.  We know we have a busy week ahead to get the motorhome prepared for shipping and to pack all our gear up, with some to be shipped back home.  How to get a motorhome of possessions into two suitcases and hand luggage with weight restrictions  wasn't an easy task.  We did it though with a couple of boxes packed off to be shipped back and things left behind for Claire and Alan, and for Bill.   We took the motorhome in to have warranty work done on it.  This took a couple of days so we had to hire a car and stay in a bed and breakfast.  The B & B we stayed in was further along the road from Bill and we had stayed in it a night back in June.  This was nice and handy as during the days we went to Bills house and sorted out the gear.
We enjoyed a day out with Alan and Claire as they took us on a guided tour.  We had no idea where we were been taken for the day and so was a pleasant surprise when we ended up at Chilham which is home to many film settings.  It was obvious why, as we drove along the narrow streets and passed beautiful historical houses and buildings.  Looking out the car window took you back in time and you could just about imagine how the people lived and moved around.  On arriving in the heart of the village, we drove into a square with shops and a castle facing towards the middle of the paved street.  We warmed up with a hot drink at the local cafe, which was just lovely, very cosy.  Another interesting drive took us to Dungeness, which is a seaside village.  It was interesting in the way that it seemed to be quite remote, the houses were all built on the base of a rail carriage and then added onto.  There seemed to be no boundaries for the properties, with very little fencing.  The landscape reminded us of the Desert Road area, as nothing grew in the sandy conditions.  Two nuclear power stations stood along the beach front along with a Military Police Station as it's neighbour.  Apart from an armed Policeman we didn't see anyone else out and about, but then again it wasn't the warmest of days either. Further up the road, there is another seaside village, which is lovely with houses looking out over the ocean and a bit of a community with a small shopping centre.  Claire and Alan are hoping they will be able to buy a house out here, when one becomes available.  Seems it is a very sought after area, with not a lot of houses for sale, but those that had been had 'sold' across the sign.  We continued along the coast.  Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for us to pick up our motorhome from the repairers, so Alan dropped us off there.  We had arranged for them to pick us up after dinner that same night to go to the pub we had met at in June while we were in the process of buying our motorhome.  We enjoyed an evening with Claire and Alan at the Checkers Inn at Yew Tree.  Many stories were told, and future travels discussed.  We met some more of the locals and was given advise about our upcoming trip to San Fransisco, which also gave us the idea to rent a camper for the week we are in the States.  We were given the name of a travel agent in Canterbury to book our travel for the Californian coast with.  We said our goodbyes to the very friendly publican Brian, who made us feel like one of the locals, and left the pub with a plan for the upcoming week.  
We had our motorhome parked in Bill's driveway and slept in it there.  Bo had met Bill back in June while we were staying across the road at the B & B for a week.  We seem to be attracted to the Chatham area where Bill lives, as on the day we first drove into Canterbury in early June, we stopped at a motorhome sales yard which is on the corner of this rural road, and every time we go into town from Bills it reminds us of our first day in Canterbury.
Through Bill, we went to a few hot rodding events and at the hotrod hayride we met John who enjoyed feeding us all, and he did it so very well.  John catered at the weekends we went away, introduced us to Pimms, and even managed to get Bo to eat grilled peppers (Bo usually picks peppers out of his food).  Bill arranged with John to meet for lunch so we could see him again before we take off back to NZ.  Was Bill's birthday the day we all went to lunch with John,  and was great to see him again. 
While staying at Bills, Steve has popped in most days and given us some cheek as usual.  He loves kiwis really :).   It was with Steve's help, we were able to book our camper for San Fransisco.  He drove us through the busy Canterbury traffic, waited patiently for us to sort our week out with the travel agent, and then drove us back through even heavier traffic home.  Really appreciated his help, felt good to have our week all organised. And what a great chauffeur he would make.
All packed, with our suitcases full, and motorhome completely empty, we say our farewells to Bill and his family and drive to Southampton to drop the motorhome off for its voyage to NZ.  Arriving at Southampton, we get through the security gates to the port and eventually find the little office to pick the paperwork up from, to take to the next little office, where we also drop off the motorhome.  The nice man at that final office, who took our beloved home on wheels also rang for a taxi for us.  Now lugging bags, we take the cab to a hotel, which as it turns out was full.  By the time we found out there was no room at the inn, the taxi had gone, but was told there's a hotel just around the corner.  Dragging our bags, we walk around the corner to this hotel to find they are all full too.  Luckily the lovely lady could see the situation we were in, and allowed us to use their wifi, at no cost, and sit in their lobby to find alternative accommodation.  Seemed the town was busy and we finally found a room at a budget hotel.  Another taxi ride, and we are finally able to drop our bags in our room and find ourselves something to eat.  How we miss our motorhome already!  Morning dawns, and we peek out the window and realise that we should have come to this hotel in the first place, we can see the port is near and the railway station is just across the road. Struggling with bags again, we walk around to the train station and as luck would have it, the train to Victoria Station goes in about 15 minutes so we have time to buy our tickets and get ourselves onto the right platform.  The train gets us into London about 2 hours later and it's mid afternoon.  We had been in contact with Chris Berry and made arrangements to meet him for a cup of coffee once he's finished work at 4pm.  Was so good to see him, and he was able to help us to the bus to Notting Hill Gate where we're meeting Jarad at 6pm, as Jarad has kindly given us a bed for a few nights.
Met with Jarad as planned and he took us back to his lovely apartment just one street back from the main street of Notting Hill.  Next day Jarad had work, and Anna and her daughter Caitlin were joining us in London from Edinburgh and arriving early morning.  Once we had them settled we wandered down the street which is full of Ambassadorial houses and as photos are not permitted, I clicked only down the street and not any of the beautiful homes we passed.  This road lead us to Kensington Park and it was just lovely walking through here and stopping at Kensington Palace for the usual photo shoots.Caitlin recognised the Royal Albert Hall as we approached it, as her and her sister Holly had danced in a ballet production when they were little.  She recalled the feeling of performing in front of thousands of people in such a prestigious venue.  Something the family will remember forever.  Walking from the Royal Albert Hall out onto the street took us to Knightsbridge where the famous Harrods Department store is located.  Xmas lights and decorations adorned the store and it looked so inviting, so yes we went in.  Much warmer in there too, was starting to get cold and the skies starting to paint a bleak picture.  Bo waited patiently outside while us girls took a look at the food halls, and what an education.  All sorts of exotic food was on displayed and consumed by those who chose to dine there.  Diners sat around a bar and enjoyed delicacies at specialised food outlets, one I was most impressed with was those sitting around enjoying champaign and caviar - how posh!  We exited what we thought was the door we had entered, but of course things are not that simple.  We ended up walking half way around to get back to where Bo was waiting for us, but that enabled us to see the beautiful windows dressed with the Xmas theme.  Plans to visit Buckingham Palace were squashed when the rain came and we made our way back to Jarads house instead.  The bus took us past the winter wonderland which would have been magic to have visited, but we just didn't really get the chance.  The next day was Saturday and Jarad took us all to the Portobello Markets.  I forgot to take my camera, but this market seemed to go for miles.  Anna and I stumbled across the bookshop that featured in Notting Hill.  We happened to be looking for a coffee shop and noticed people posing outside the shop, and on closer investigation noticed the sign advertising it's significance.  So of course we posed too, using Anna's camera.
Not that I'm fixated with Jaimie Oliver, as coincidentally not only does his parents own the pub in Clavering that we drank at, but in Notting Hill he owns a shop, one of many scattered around.   It has an interesting concept too, as in the centre of the shop is benches and sinks in a circle, designed for the public to attend cooking lessons.  Anna and I visited it while a lesson was in progress, looked a bit like a Xmas function of sorts, all enjoying a wine as they put together a dish, trying to duplicate the one the instructor was demonstrating.  They were all in good spirits and it seemed the more wine consumed, the bigger the mess.  What fun!  You can buy pre cooked dinners in roasting dishes, just need heating, so we did just that for the Saturday night meal and they were delicious.
Anna and Caitlin went and stayed out near Heathrow for Caitlin's final night in the UK as she is off to Canada to teach children how to ski on Banff.  As Bo and I are also flying out the next morning for San Fransisco we checked out the trains when we farewelled Anna and Caitlin at the underground station and decided to get the 7.20am train the next day to Heathrow.
The next morning having said our farewells to Jarad we drag our bags once again, and board the train to Heathrow.  It's early for a Sunday but for others it's late for a Saturday as they make their way home from their Xmas celebrations.  We were entertained on the train by a couple of girls, dressed beautifully for a night out, as they sang to all on the train the Xmas carols they knew.  There weren't too many and so we listened to the same songs over and over again for the next 30 or so minutes.  These girls were having a blast, and they were upset that the rest of the carriage were not in the same festive mood.  The carriage was full and everyone seemed amused,  even when they lightheartedly gave everyone strife for not showing the same enthusiasm they had for the Xmas season.  Must admit they helped to make the train ride amusing.
Arriving at Heathrow wasn't as scary as we thought it would be.  Had been warned that Heathrow is so big and busy, but we found our way to check in, and was rid of our luggage very soon after arriving.  We met up with Anna and Caitlin and had a coffee with them before saying our final farewells - til the next time.  Was so pleased that Anna had come to London before we left and was good timing that Caitlin's visa finally came through at the last minute and Anna could combine the visit to London with farewelling Caitlin.
So off we went to the terminal leading us to the plane for San Fransisco.  Getting a little closer to home.


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