All aboard and back to England

Feeling refreshed somewhat or maybe a second wind, just enough to get me on the Eurostar where I could grab a couple hours sleep, John, Michael, and Fran were in the carriage behind me so it was welcome quiet time for me and I think I was asleep before they cleared the breakfast things away. Uneventful trip arriving although train hour or so late leaving due to issues with another train we arrived at St Pancreas at a bit before 2pm. John and I were booked at the Ibis near the station as our train to Walsall was leaving 6.30am the next morning.



Michael met us at the station and we set off on our train ride with one change at Birmingham. We were in Walsall a little after 10am and after a quick cab ride to collect our final hire car for this trip.


First stop was the Leather Museum which was interesting and John spent quite a while with the in-house saddler looking at various works in progress and techniques. Michael and I left them to it and found the coffee shop and caught up on emails and messages etc. After a lunch, at a non-descript pub in an ordinary area of Walsall, we headed to the Cedric tannery and saddlery suppliers. Michael and John spent a long time looking at different leather and checking our saddle trees. They pointed in the direction of another place where we arrive just before closing so after a chat and a quick look around they arranged to come back tomorrow, minus Michael who was needed back in London on the night train.



After delivering Michael back to the train John and I set off in search of a hotel for the IMG_7684night and found the Novotel in nearby Wolverhampton we were grateful to see our beds as soon as we had a quick steak in the hotel restaurant.

Next morning it was back to Sedgwick &Co where I spent a glorious couple hours dozing in the car and searching our a couple contacts for John while he did a complete tour of the tannery and came away with sample dye for his leather edges and contacts that will be good in the future. We hit the road again headed to Beam House Engineering hoping to make before they closed, which we did just. Michael and Colin were great and Colin showed John all over the operation and some of the old machinery they had around the place. The most important thing was Colin was able to link us up with a friend of his at the North Hampton University which runs a three-year Bachelor Course in leather tanning.



It was all arranged and Colin took lead us over (about 30 miles away) to the uni and made the introduction to another Michael. They then when through every machine and technique used to tan various leathers. John spent several hours poring over the equipment and gathering as much info from Michael as he could. The two fellows might be the best contacts of the whole trip.



We left around lunchtime and headed south in the hope that we could get back to our starting point in at Devon.

John spent time on the phone trying to confirm if the guy was going to be there. In the end, it looked doubtful so we pulled the plug and headed back to Heathrow to ditch the car. Check in somewhere for the night and then leaving our bags at airport head into London for couple days and one night. We arrived back and eventually ended up at the Hilton near terminal 5 after Hilton at Terminal 4 was fully booked. It was a taxi ride away but the hotel was good although I didn’t think the restaurant was all that good for the process they charge. Should have tried the in-house Chinese restaurant never mind, next time.

After a good night, we headed back to terminal 4 to leave our suitcases at the ‘Left Luggage’ storage at terminal 4 and boarded the Airport Express ( for convenience, the tube is a cheaper option and not that hard to work out. We arrived at Paddington found the first Red Hop on Hop Off bus and set about doing the loop to see the sights (included a river cruise on the Thames from Tower Bridge to Big Ben. We ended taxi back to the financial district to our hotel. Managed to book the Apex Hotel (5*) for about $160A a night it was so nice and we decided on room service for dinner. Tonight was the night I was getting up to see Irithea run at Gosford and win her second race this preparation. So at 2am, I am in the bathroom watching while someone back home (with FB live video of tv) for me (thanks, Jeff). Sarah and kids were only ones able to make the races, so the got to be in the winning photo which was lovely.


Up the next morning and that was that our last day spent getting to Harrods (after failed attempt to finish loop on the red bus, cycle London was on and many roads closed and traffic horrendous) we ended up bailing and taking the tube to Harrods then to Heathrow before checking in for the flight home. Lots of sleeping on the plane for me, can’t believe we managed to fit so much in such short time. After a quick stop in Dubai and negating the strongest security yet( due incident back home where groups tried to board and bring down Etihad flight from Sydney), they went through every single carry-on bag, we had very little which saw us through quickly but some people took ages to get through. Another reason for not taking much carryon.


In summary words can not explain how great this trip was and I only hope it gives John the desire to travel more and take the girls back to see the places he has seen( of course not at breakneck speed like we did it) I will never forget how lucky I have been to experience this trip and it will sit very high on the best ever trip list. Phew finished this a couple weeks before the Candid trip. I have said it before and will say it again. Must write as I go it hard to catch up and remember everything. Although this exercise has been good to recall and relive the trip again…






England, France, Tour de France, saddleries and tanneries

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Always being the opportunist…

For someone who never lets a chance (to travel) go by, I am feeling very fortunate to be able to accompany brother John on his first of what I hope are many trips to England France and beyond.

A bit of background, John has been invited to travel to France and meet a friend/client to watch his cycle team in the Tour de France. An opportunity to watch the finish of the race with the team owner is once in a lifetime experience that we can both bore the grandchildren with in the future. John decided this was his chance to see some of the tanneries and saddleries in England and France while there. John was traveling alone and I jumped at the chance to travel with him and smooth out some of the uncertainties that first-time travelers face.

Driving Plan England

Our itinerary

    • Flying into Heathrow collect our car and head to Devon to visit tannery.
    • Return to Gatwick and fly to Bordeaux France
    • Collect car number two and set off for a few days free wheeling in the French countryside trying to see as many saddleries and tanneries as we can
    • Train it to Paris from Bordeaux
    • Explore Paris
Driving Plan France
  • Watch the race before heading back to England on the Eurostar
  • Head north this time and explore again more saddleries and tanneries before heading back to London
  • If time permits check out a few London sights
  • Fly home Heathrow to Sydney

A whirlwind trip but it will be so worthwhile and hopefully John will be able to come back with his family to explore at a more leisurely pace next time.

Next post will cover our Flights and Devon (tannery) experience…

Train to Amsterdam and exploring the countyside

Our time had come to an end in London, our check in for train to Amsterdam with a change in Brussels before arriving in Amsterdam around 4 pm.

The Eurostar and Thalys …

Breakfast on board Eurostar
Getting through security took a while with having to pass through British and then French border
control with 100s of other train travellers. It was easy to make our way through just took time which we had plenty of. We boarded our carriage and settled back for the 2 hour ride to Brussels where we changed train with ease and settle back for the next two hours. 
Train travel is the best way to get around over here. I just love it!!!
We arrive at Centrale Amsterdam right on time, it was raining so we decided on a cab for the short distance to our hotel the Ibis Styles hotel. We had a great room on the 3rd floor overlooking the street which was full of activity.
Dinner was the next thing on our minds and given that we’re travelling to South America early next year we decided on Argentine Steak house, and a great choice it was at that.

Amsterdam and surrounds…

Up early the next morning we set off to work out the local buses for a day trip to Edam Volendam and Marken.  
The buses were easy to find on the other side of the central station we purchases a day pass for 10 euros and we jumped aboard the 316 heading to Edam. 
My second visit here and just as pretty and peaceful as the first. After walking around for about an hour we boarded the 316 back to Volendam to wander along the waterfront, cod and chips and two tall cold Heinekens.  
After lunch it was on the ferry to glide across to Marken another picturesque peaceful little village before returning to Amsterdam in time take a walk through the red light district before dinner which turned out to be italian incidentally owned by same guy and right next door to the steak house. 
It was equally as good and we really enjoyed good food, service and beautiful setting.
Day two in Amsterdam we decided to just walk and explore all the
districts we could including the floating flower market and some of the main shopping areas. I think we walked just under 10kms for the day before heading back to change hotels ready for the cruise tomorrow. 
Tomorrow the next phase of our trip begins,,, Avalon Cruises here we come

Visit to Horse Guard and Afternoon Tea Bus

Another sensational day on what is fast becoming one of our most memorable overseas trips.All our plans and my research has paid off by providing us with some really rewarding and memorable experiences.

Today’s planned activity was a visit to the Horse guards and watch the changing of the guard followed by some exploring around the city centre and a decadent afternoon tea aboard an old double decker red bus while making our way around London.

We started off by catching the tube from Euston to Charing Cross station using our trusty oyster cards for the fares. We headed to horse guard row to find the Horse Guard parade ground, this was only a short walk from Trafalgar Square and we arrived in time to see the first guard change at 10am. The main changing of the guard was at 11am so we positioned ourselves in a prime viewing spot that no-one could edge in front obstruct our view.

Right on 11am the guards prepared for the change in the parade ring and it wasn’t long before I could hear the other guard coming from Buckingham Palace to make the change. This was really worth seeing and I loved all the pomp and ceremony and I keep thinking that this takes place every day rain hail or shine and has done forever in a day.

After the changing of the guard we headed down to the Thames via No 10 for a walk along the river towards Big Ben and back around to Trafalgar Square where we thankfully found a coffee shop where we could just sit for awhile before we boarded out afternoon tea bus from across the street.

I had originally planned to go to the Dorchester for afternoon tea during this trip bus was glad to come across this option for afternoon tea on the move.

What can I say every morsel of food was delicious and the company of the two french attendants was great fun and interesting. We were lucky to have the whole bottom of the bus to ourselves. 

I had booked the bottom as I thought the top would be popular and felt we could see just as much from the bottom. This turned out to be brilliant as we had our very own frenchman to look after our every need and entertain us with stories of france and pointing out the sights along the way.

This is certainly going to stick my memory for a long time, the boys packed us up a doggy bag of sweet treats which was very kind of them.


After we left the bus it was back on the tube for the ride home and ready ourselves for early check out and train ride to Amsterdam.  Another great day draws to a close..



Hyde Park and Harrods

Wandering around London…

I know a couple lads that
could give this challenge a shake

After a bit of a rest we set off for a day’s walking around London.

Our aim was to walk to Harrods via Hyde Park and back to Paddington. We walked ourselves almost to a standstill but we saw so much and really got to experience this city from the ground.

First port of call was the Pride of Paddington near Paddington station for a pub breakfast, poached eggs for Ian and I went with my favourite eggs royal. The evidence that the Rugby world cup is on was everywhere with lots of people from all around the world doing the same as us, having a late breakfast..

Peter Pan Statue

Chris Bowman Transport – new run about 

It was only about a 10 minute walk before we arrived at Hyde Park, we entered at the Marlborough gate near the Italian pools and walked all the way along the serpentine past the Peter Pan statue with a brief stop at Princess Diana’s memorial fountain.

After about an hour walking through the parked we popped out at Knightsbridge just a 10 minute walk from Harrods.

Diana’s Memorial Fountain

A couple hours spent browsing around Harrods and purchases for the littlest grandchildren completed we found the icecream bar and succumbed to a strawberry sundae and a chocolate milkshake (both shared).

Lego of Harrods

Love Harrods for its opulence and style but for goodness sake turn the bloody heating down, I have been here twice now and sweltered each time.

Both times have left gasping for fresh air and probably leaving sooner than I would have it it was not so hot. It is like a shops in USA always way overheated even on a warm day.

All lego amazing and hours of work

Checking out the range in the spirits room

We headed back towards Park Lane and around to Marble Arch where we dropped into Marks and Spencer for a couple minor purchases, again over heated and enough to drive anyone outside again.

With our legs in need of relief and we headed home after a sensational day of getting to know London, walking is the one true way of getting one’s bearings and seeing so much that could be missed otherwise.

A welcome shared Sundae
before leaving Harrods

Allowing plenty of time to wander along and look at the various sights is a perfect way to see this city. All in all we walked just over 8kms (5 miles) and our legs were complaining as we headed to a nearby supermarket to pick up a sandwich and drink for our dinner. Sleep came easy…

The sun setting on another perfect day in London

A day at Newbury Races – in the west of Berkshire, England

Newbury Races

A bit work on the way up

It was with a degree of luck that I picked out a great race meeting within easy reach (via train) from London. Newbury Dubai Cup carnival.

So up early and off to station to purchase train tickets and grab a quick toastie for breakfast. We boarded our direct train to Newbury and settled back for the hour journey in a very comfortable carriage. It was good to get a look at some of the outskirts of London before we made our way through the countryside.

We arrived at Newbury (Newbury was founded late in the 11th century following the Norman conquest as a new borough, hence its name.) at 11am.

We decided to explore what we thought was a small place that turned out to quite a large centre with exceptional shopping and a great mall area.

After a very nice morning tea we headed back to the station to catch train to Newbury racecourse station and walk across to the the beautiful racecourse.


Best selection on the day

We paid our dues for the members area and headed in to look around. The facilities were outstanding and I just can’t believe how lucky we were to pick this race meeting and on this day.


After having a good look around we cloaked our coats and settled into the grandstand to watch the first.

Who brought binoculars to England
and not to the races

I selected a horse by stallion we had seen a few days before at the National Stud. Pastoral Pursuits. Although he was just in double digit odds he put up a good show to run second.

After that I backed next two winners and then manage to land the exacta on the 4th, my punting day ended in the very wide open cup race where my selection put up a good show to run third.

Just goes to show one does not always have to know the horses to line up the form or at least have a very lucky day.

The racing was good and the salt (corned) beef sandwich was even better apparently. My winnings paid for our day out which was a bonus.

Frankie Dettori arrived by helicopter 10 minutes before the cup, presented the cup and flew out again before the next race. A true flying visit.  We however made our way back to the train and head back to London.

On our way back to the hotel picked up sandwiches and drinks for dinner at local supermarket for dinner before falling into bed after what will be a long remembered day at the races.

Click here for full day in photos and videos


Off to London with a stopover at The Cricketers Arms

The Cricketers Arms Rickling Green

After a couple wonderful days in Newmarket, a place that will definitely be added to my must visitagain list.

We set off for London where a few days doing everything except the main tourist site is on the plan.

Before leaving Newmarket I was trawling around looking for somewhere to stay on they way and stumbled over the ‘ The cricketers Arms’ hotel in Rickling, This pub over looked the green and sounded just perfect.

On arrival we checked in early and were amazed by this wonderful little place that has been the watering hole to cricketers from the nearby Rickling Green where cricket has been played since 1800’s.

The staff were fantastic and we just loved everything about this place, so well appointed and the builder in working on the next part of the restoration, which appears to be an ongoing as all the old world charm is being maintained with new tasteful fit out in the various areas.

We had a lovely shared plate for lunch a couple drinks before returning to the room to re-organise bags, take in the views from our room the ‘Lord’s’ suite. Our key was hanging from s small cricket bat and the wifi password was even in the cricket theme.

Dinner was perfect and we had our first steak since arriving and it was cooked to perfection the staff were attentive and made sure they made our evening enjoyable.

Our room overlooked the green and we could have holed up here for a few days but we were due in London so sadly after and lovely breakfast and lots of laughs with the girls on staff we headed off for the hour drive back to Heathrow

Back to London and Camden Markets

The drive back to Heathrow apart from my not changing the gps back to setting that ensured we avoided all major roads so we came in by the all the small places which in itself was great but it did make the trip a bit longer than it should have been.

We did get to see so much more that on the motorway, so worth it.

Our little black mercedes (I wouldn’t own one our Hyundai was better appointed) was returned in one piece but a bit muddied than we got it.

Another 900 miles of driving for Ian and only a few disagreements on directions but with gps even if you go wrong you always come out right eventually.

We grabbed the shuttle back to Heathrow (I think we were on the bus and on our way back within ten minutes of pulling up). At terminal 3 we caught the Heathrow express to Paddington Station (Easy and about 20mins in duration).

We found ourselves at the front of Paddington station with little idea of which direction our hotel was so after walking around for awhile we grabbed a cab that had us at the door within 10 minutes, we were close to finding it on foot but with have negotiated the canal so glad we go the cab in the end.  Our hotel is only about 5 minute walk to Paddington Station and underground once you know where it is.

After a quick check in it was back over to canal about 3 minutes walk from the hotel, we turned left and headed for Little Venice where we caught the canal boat for the 50 minute ride past London Zoo and lots of fun canal boats to Camden Market.  The youtube video will do it more justice than these few photos

Camden market is a very busy place with everything you can imagine not to mention food from all parts of the world, I decided on a snack pack from Poppies Fish and chips van. The cod cocktail pieces were really good and hit the spot it seemed like a long while from breakfast and I guess at 3pm, it was.

We wandered around for an hour or so before walking to the Camden Market underground where purchased an Oyster card and headed home with a change at Kings Cross station

We decide on chinese at the Pearl Ling nearby for dinner, food was great service was slow but we had nothing else planned so was no real concern.

End of another full but rewarding day…

Click here to watch YouTube video – Day in Review

Off to Newmarket, The National Stud and The Cricketer Arms

In past trips, we have joined stud tours at Three Chimney’s Farm in Kentucky USA, the Irish National
Stud and this trip we wanted to visit the National Stud at Newmarket England.


National Stud and Newmarket

                                                Driving from Manchester to Newmarket was a very nice drive of only about 3 hours 40 which we competed at a leisurely pace arriving at the Heath Court Hotel in heart of Newmarket and only 100 yards walk to the gallops.

Hundreds of horses are worked here every morning and the street around town are filled with quite big stables.

Horses and cars co-exist without all the red tape and safety measures we would have at home. The is a busy road right up to the middle of the slow and fast tracks, cars just wait when large groups horses cross from one track to another.

The tour of the National Stud was the main purpose of our visit and so after booking this online, we presented ourselves at the designated time and place. Nigel our guide was very informative as he was previously the Operations Manager (retired) of the whole stud.

He was an entertaining (muttering about the demise of Newmarket during the tour, now the Arabs own most of it) informative guide that really knew all the ins and outs of the stud.

Including the two stallions in residence
Bahamian Bounty (21 yrs old and retired) and his son Pastoral Pursuits.
Bahamian Bounty was a very successful sire in his time and his son Pastoral Pursuits

He was a very successful racehorse winning Pastoral Pursuits although has not lived up to expectations at stud as he is not attracting good mares and really needs a couple of black type winners to save him from sale.

Toronado (standing at Swettenham Stud) and Dick Turpin (standing in Western Australia) are both been shuttled to Australia for the season which will make for some interest to see how their offspring perform down under.

The stud was all freshly painted inside and out and was looking extra fresh for a working farm but Nigel told us this was due to the queen’s visit recently to plant a second tree (to mark 100 years of the stud), she planted her first tree at the stud back in 1966.

We were able to see a couple yearling being prepared for sale and a paddock full of weanlings including a Frankel Filly which was good, as this is the quieter time in the breeding season there were no foals but com Jan – Mar one could imagine how the place would be buzzing with activity with lots of new arrivals.

After our day at the stud it was back to the Heath Court for a rest, catch up on email and pay the wages for CB Transport aahh live goes on.

It is amazing that we can be so connected to home and travel at the same time. We have been having great facetime /hangout chats with all the little ones every other day.
For dinner we decided on something lighter and found an exceptional Thai place in main street all within walking distance from the hotel which was even better.

One our final morning in Newmarket we headed up to the gallops and watch the horse work again, the number of horses is staggering as well as the number young horses, no wonder this place is filled with people who look like they work in racing, lots of girls. 30 years and 30kgs and four children ago I would have loved to come and do something like this for a while. It would beat riding work in Dubbo that is for sure.

After another enormous breakfast offering, I did say offering, we took the lighter option of cereal, toast, and fruit. It was hard to resist the full cooked breakfast but we did. We headed to our next stop.

I found this interesting place called ‘The Cricketers Arms‘ on Rickling Green in Rickling, Essex we booked a room and headed that way. This was on our way back to Heathrow to return the car.


The Cricketers Arms Pub

What a find The Cricketers is a fantastic English pub in a tiny village overlooking the green. Cricket has been played on Rickling Green since about 1850, photos of which can be seen in The Cricketers Arms the one remaining village pub. Cricket is still played on the Green throughout the summer months.

The food, friendly staff, accommodation are first class and this will definitely make the highlights reel. The is such a welcoming warm feeling about the place that makes you want to settle in for a while.


A walk through the village will show many houses dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, exemplifying local materials and building traditions. These include local flints, bricks from local brickworks, tiles and thatch, half-timber as on Manor Farm.

Being only a bit over an hour from Heathrow, you can be sure there will be not a trip to London in the future that does not include another visit here to start or end a trip.

If we ever get to come back to Newmarket for the races it will be my place of choice for accommodation being only 50 minutes from Newmarket itself

It will be sad leaving here but London is calling…






Old Trafford and a great series win

Old Trafford and a great series win 

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, 
the Holiday Inn Express (able to see the Man U stadium from our room window and with 20 minute walk to Old Trafford Cricket ground, expensive (due to Soccer and Cricket being on) but well located in Salford Quays. 

We set off on foot for the ground, this turned out to be a good move (left car in hotel car park) as it was an interesting area. 

Couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the Manchester United Stadium up close was amazing, they were starting to set up for game later in the day. we joined the ever building throng heading towards the Old Trafford Cricket grounds.

What a great game we arrived in time to see all the warm ups, the ground is small so from where we were sitting we felt very close to the action being adjacent to the door of the Australian dressing room. 

Apart from when Starc hit the English Captain and the ground collectively held their breathe for what seemed like forever. 

You could hear the thud from the stands so to get away with only concussion was a good outcome. 

Strac was visibly upset, he was fielding right on the boundary near us it was great how the team looked out for him on the field and Darren Lehman came along for a quick chat and pat on the back each time he was back on the boundary between his overs (glad he kept bowling).  

As they pictures tell a story of a thousand words so enjoy.

Click to watch highlights video