Somewhere over the Atlantic
The whole day and night was spent travelling. I caught the 7am shuttle from the hotel to the airport and checked in very efficiently with Delta Airlines. Whilst doing this, it was with some amusement that I watched a very slim Colombian girl with two extremely large suitcases try and check them in. Delta airlines were obviously not happy about this, so she opened one case, took out a smaller one, and then proceeded to move boxes of food and stuffed toys from one case to the other. I am not quite sure what this achieved, as she then checked in all three suitcases!
The flight left right on time and it took 4 1/2 hours to reach Atlanta, where I had to change planes for London. Thankfully, my bag had been checked right through but I still had to go through Passport Control and find the gate for the next flight, which wasn’t obvious. As it turned out, I had to catch a train and then go upstairs to the gates, but nowhere were there any signs to indicate this. In the process, I also helped a Spanish speaking girl, with no English, to find her gate. Impressive, when I still only know about 20 words of Spanish!
There was only an hour and a half between flights, which passed very quickly and then I was off again. The flight was full, not particularly comfortable and the plane was very noisy. I was therefore very relieved when we started the approach to London.
We landed at 7.20am and I joined the queue in the packed arrivals hall. I was travelling on my NZ passport so had to join the aliens, which always takes a little longer to process. After that, I went on the hunt for my backpack and was a little concerned when it did not appear on the carousel. However, some helpful soul had kindly taken quite a lot of bags off and left them on the far side of the carousel, where none of the people looking for their bags could see them.
That done, I then had to hunt for the National Express bus to Chepstow. I needed to get to the Central Bus station and had read on the website that I could catch a bus to it. It transpired that I had to catch the Heathrow Express (train) for one stop to Terminal 1 and 3, which is where the bus station is located. Interestingly, there were no signs to that effect in the arrivals area of Terminal 4 so it took a few questions of relevant people to discover this information. It is now filed in the brain for future reference!
I walked for miles down corridors and up escalators, worrying that I would miss the 9.05am bus. Luckily, when I eventually found the bus station, there was a self service machine that had no trouble processing my credit card and spitting out a ticket, otherwise, I would have been standing in a ticket queue and missed the bus.
It left right on time and I dozed as we drove along the M4 for 2 hours until we reached Chepstow, where the weather was not quite as bright as London. My friend, Min, met me and we drove back to the house, where I spent a relaxing rest of the day.
After lunch, (which consisted of lots of excellent bread and cheese, something I had been severely deprived over the last few months), we walked up to look at the rhododendrons in Lydney Park Estate, which is where Min and her husband, Des, live and work. Just as we arrived, it started raining but we still managed to admire the rhododendrons before returning to the house.
A nice cup of tea (which I had also been severely deprived over the last few months) was followed by the celebratory fizzy and more food and wine. Surprisingly, given the lack of sleep, I managed to stay awake until after 10pm!
I awoke to a beautiful blue sky today.
I had an extremely leisurely day, pottering about in the morning and, in the afternoon, I was left to my own devices whilst Min went to work in the museum, it being one of the house and garden open days.
I had a walk up to the gardens after she had left, but my camera wouldn’t work and there was a coach party in the rhododendrons, so came back to the house to recharge the battery on the camera in the hope that it would then turn on. I returned to the gardens a bit later with a functional camera and it was less crowded.
I had the gardens to myself and it was extremely peaceful wandering around with only the birds for company.
Afterwards, I met Des and we walked to the house, where Min had been guarding the museum. The latter houses quite a number of N.Z. artefacts as one of the early Lord Bledisloes (the owners of Lydney Park) was a Governor of N.Z. at the beginning of the last century. (The Bledisloe Cup, that world renowned rugby cup, was presented by him.)
There was a complete change in the weather today and it rained most of the day. Min and I went on the train to Cardiff for a bit of retail therapy in the charity shops, mainly because I had few warm clothes in my backpack, having spent the last 5 months in the heat.
The train left right on time from Lydney and took just under an hour to Cardiff Central. Here, one of our first stops was at Carluccio’s, an excellent coffee shop and delicatessen with a very good range of cakes. We were forced to try a lemon tart with our coffee.
Next, I had an appointment at the Apple store to try and sort my iPad out. It was under the illusion that it had a large number of photos on it and therefore no space left for more. As the images were ones I had deleted and no longer had because they were on my camera when it was stolen, I was hoping that they might be able to be restored. No such luck though, and everything on the iPad had to be deleted and then restored, which at least solved my original problem, but meant I lost my music in the process.
After that, we cruised around the shops, marvelling at the overwhelming array of merchandise and wondering how it all got sold. The weather deteriorated slowly until the rain was torrential and the thunder started. We adjourned to a cafe and had a late lunch before a bit more of a look at the shops, then hurrying back to the station to catch the 4.12pm train home. By this time, the weather had cleared somewhat and a bit of blue sky had made an appearance. The platform was very busy, but there was no problem getting a seat although the train was quite full.
After a restorative cup of tea at home with Des, we moved on to aperitifs, followed by dinner and a much needed early night.
It was another even wetter day today.
After a slow start, Min and I went for a little forage around the charity shops in Monmouth and I found some very good bargains, the shops here being even cheaper than those in N.Z.
We were out for a couple of hours, during which time it didn’t stop raining. We returned home and had a quiet remainder of the day.
It rained. All day. And only stopped in the evening when it was too late to do anything. It was, of course, typical English Spring Bank holiday weather!
It was another grey morning. As the gardens were open to the public today, Des had to go and sit in his shed and, hopefully, sell some plants, this morning, with Min taking over this afternoon.
For me, it was another lazy morning but after lunch, I walked down to Lydney Harbour, which was quite some way down the lane, across Lydney and then along the path close to the River Severn. By the time I got down there, the sun had made a brief appearance and there were a number of other people out for a stroll, although, admittedly, most of them had driven there and parked in the car park, making me feel very virtuous! Lydney used to be a port for transporting coal and has been restored in recent years.
By the time I returned to the house, it was after 4pm. The evening was beautiful after the dullness of the last couple of days, although it was a bit too late and not quite warm enough to sit outside.
The weather started much brighter today and Des, in his capacity as Head Gardener, gave Min the day off and obligingly said that he would man the shed for plant selling. We therefore decided to have an outing to Gloucester, hoping that the roads wouldn’t be too busy, as it was a Bank Holiday.
We arrived about 11.30am (not having hurried ourselves) and eventually found the car park Min was looking for. Luckily, the roads weren’t too busy and, once parked, we headed for the Cathedral where were quite a number of tourists. After a restorative coffee in a cafe housed in an old Tudor building, we had a wander round the Cathedral, admiring the stained class windows, the cloisters and the, now almost, white exterior, which was still in the process of being cleaned.
Our next stop was a small restaurant in another Tudor building, for a fish and chip lunch, which was really not what we needed but was most enjoyable!
We then decided we needed exercise, so made our way to the docks area, where the old warehouses have been transformed into offices and apartments, as well as a very large shopping centre. Neither of us was very inclined to shop though, so we admired the house boats, mingled with some of the other shoppers and stopped at the charity shops on the way back to the car.
The day started quite brightly and deteriorated into yet another grey day. Min and I drove into Chepstow this morning and had a wander around the charity and second hand shops, had a coffee, visited the supermarket and came home.
After a lot of fresh bread and wonderful cheese for lunch, we both decided that spending the afternoon lying down and reading would be an excellent idea. We roused ourselves at about 4pm and went to Taurus Crafts, which is a collection of small craft shops on the Estate. By the time we returned to the house, Des was home and we settled in for more good food, wine and watching TV. After all, what else is there to do on a grey, English summer’s day?