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Time to reminisce

Gisborne travellers Sue and Phil Newdick continue the story of their pre-Covid-19 European travels with reminiscences of their visit to the UK . . .

Our travel time from Gisborne to London was 32 hours with short stopovers in Auckland and Hong Kong. We managed to buy Oyster passes for the London buses and underground at Heathrow Airport and caught all the right connections for a trouble-free journey to our apartment.

We were plain exhausted when we arrived — and our hopes of a warm welcome were dashed when we were informed that our ground-floor apartment was not ready as promised, but if we cared to climb up a few stairs, we could have the penthouse. The climb turned out to be six flights of stairs because the lift was worn out . . . just like we were.

The helper disappeared before we found out that the appointments of the apartment were as bad as the lift. The only communication we had was internet and the Wifi codes we had been given were for the ground floor. We had to negotiate the stairs twice more to get the correct codes . . . and let them know precisely how we felt about the penthouse.

However, a good night's sleep, put us in a much better frame of mind and the excitement of being on the road again seemed to make our world a nicer place.

Our first day back in London started off with a leisurely wander into the centre of the city for a bit of sightseeing and dinner with our London cousins. It was great to catch up with them again after such a long time, repay the dinner they shouted us last time we were there and share the latest family gossip.

Although we had spent 10 days in London on a previous trip, there's so much to see and do in this exciting city. Back then, we witnessed protests in Parliament Square, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, mingled with the students in Trafalgar Square, visited the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and gardens, Hyde Park, Westminster Cathedral, the British Museum . . . the attractions just go on forever.

This time our plans for London were primarily to recover from the marathon trip of getting there and start planning our next steps. Having used the public transport on our last visit, we navigated around the city like locals. We managed to get reasonably-priced, last-minute tickets to the musical ‘42nd Street' and treated ourselves to dinner and a great show.

Next day, we left a cool London summer by train for an even cooler Leeds. The trip included a couple of subway rides and a very comfortable Virgin train ride. We were amazed when we surrendered our Oyster passes we had only used a combined total of about NZ$14.00 for our three days of travel around London.

The itinerary we had planned for the UK was a collection of convenient stops to enable us to visit some of the places we had missed on our previous trip. We were on the road again, going where the fancy took us.

Next stop was Leeds, a city 170 miles north of London with a population of 2.6 million, Britain's eighth largest by population. It is a bustling city with very diverse industry and a long history.

Our accommodation in Leeds was a huge improvement on London and close enough to all the places we wanted to see so we didn't need to use the buses. We took a train for a day trip to York, 25 miles north-east of Leeds. Having visited the city on a bus tour previously, we wanted to investigate the place at our own speed. York is a walled city with plenty of historic buildings and sites like the ruins of St Mary's Abbey Church, established in 1055, York Minster which dates back to the seventh century and Clifford's Tower built by William the Conqueror in 1068.

Described as a Cathedral city, York is one of the most complete medieval cities in England. The “Shambles” in the old part of the city was originally a street of butcher shops. In 1872, there were 25 of them but none remain now. The narrow street with overhanging timber-framed buildings is a very popular tourist attraction. Our day trip extended our knowledge significantly but to explore the city and learn its history would take much more time than we had available.

The early daylight and long evenings, even with daylight saving were very noticeable (4am till 10pm) and the further north we went the longer the days became.

By now we were getting into our freewheeling-touring mode, booking accommodation and travel online as we went. After making the necessary bookings we caught a train to Aberdeen.

To be continued . . .

Clifford's Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time. Pictures supplied by Phil and Sue Newdick
Canal boats moored in Leeds on the Leeds-to- Liverpool canal.
The first church on the site at York Minster Cathedral (right) dated from the seventh century. It was damaged by fire and restored many times. It was reopened after the latest restoration in 2013.
The ruins of St Mary's Abbey Church in York, established in 1055.
Leeds Corn Exchange was built between 1861 and 1863. Restored in the late 1980s, it is now a shopping centre.