Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A London Fix.

Last Friday we took “Chance” out of winter hibernation in Packet Boat marina and, on a cold morning, journeyed into London.


The four hour trip was not without it’s excitement when we came across a road block!  Doug managed to get the boat back to the bank and safely tied in.


Although all the pontoons in Paddington Basin have been set over to winter moorings there’s still the occasional space to be had and, with an over worked guardian angel taking care of us, we found a space on the concrete towards the far end of the basin.


The restoration of the basin at Paddington is now complete, and the extravagant “five finger” foot bridge at the lower end turns out to be well worth the expense when seen in it’s raised position.


It wasn’t long before we were having a social visit by some of the winter moorers.  Our first meeting with Jason (from one of the wide beams) sitting in the corner and our friends Emma and Nick(nb “Marpessa 2”) who popped in for a warming drink before going out for the evening. (Poor quality pic. we know – must be something to do with the warming drinks!)


On the morning of 21st we discovered a little birthday gift for Doug from Nick and Emma.  Thanks guys!


Getting out into Soho for some birthday celebrations we were joined by Josh and Steve and Anthony and Toby who also took time out to join us.


As well as Jonathan who arrived later!


Now for a few London “gems” we’ve discovered on our travels – this is the fantastic fire place in the Fountains Abbey pub in Paddington.  The pub was often frequented by Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin in St Mary’s Hospital opposite.


Contemporary architecture next to Moorgate tube station.


The stunning buildings in Throgmorton Street.


This wonderful carved red brickwork – just one of several dozen similar features on one lovely Victorian building.


A glinting “Gurkin” peeps through between it’s neighbours.


The stunning arcade of Leadenhall Market.


A cold Doug on our walk along the Thames.


Street cleaners going off duty – there must be a collective pronoun for this many street cleaners!


…. and finally, the back side of St Paul’s (if you pardon the description!).  Hard to believe that this beautiful building was spared during the London Blitz when all around it was ablaze.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Chores, “Chance” and Chatter

The last couple of weeks have been taken up with a lot of domestic chores – like plumbing in a new dishwasher! as the old one emitted a very large blue flash at Christmas, the day before we left for the States and Queen Mary 2 cruise. We have also been catching up with neighbours and friends afar (always a pleasure) and, of course, James had his own ‘chores’ to address – one of those was the reconditioning of the Taff rail wood on the back end of “Chance”.


Deciding to use gloss finish yacht varnish this time, with five coats they are looking magnificent. Good enough to see your face in and hopefully very capable of taking on the rigours of life of the waterways for another year.


With winter temperatures always against making a good job of things in the garage, the varnishing was done in the warm of the conservatory.


We popped up and spent last week end on “Chance” and, after spending so much time recently floating about on much larger craft, it was wonderful to look out on a calm and tranquil marina.


“Chance” has faired fantastically over the very bad winter so far and there was only the basic of jobs to be done to get things up and running and, deciding not to take “Chance” out of the marina, we enjoyed the week end with a couple of trips into London on the train.


On Wednesday this week we had a real treat, when Ian and Irene (nb Free Spirit) came down to visit us. Ostensibly to get a ring which we collected and brought back from Dubai for them (long story!), (You can read all about it here)their visit was something we’d looked forward to. Here’s Irene and Ian with Doug on beach at “The Bill” in sunny Selsey!  Irene, as usual, adorned by numerous cameras and ready for the next flora and fauna shot.


After a walk on the beach we took them to the nearby, delightful and picturesque Bosham. In summer months Bosham is usually heaving with tourists but on this occasion we had it virtually to ourselves.


With the tide out the acres of cold, grey mud still have a beauty all of their own.


With Irene’s help, we spotted a few different wading birds among the many of gulls and ducks who make this lovely area their home.


Inspired by Irene and her impressive camerawork (we now understand a little of how she gets those wonderful pictures on her blog site) James had a go at capturing some of this ancient village on film.




The church has the distinction of the grave of King Canute’s daughter within it’s walls.


Perished from the cold wind howling up from Chichester Harbour we took refuge in “Anchor Bleu” for a warm and a pint. The usually very helpful chalkboard, warning drivers who park their cars on the flats when the tide is out, that the tide will came back in at some stage (!), was lacking in it’s information.  As we’d parked in the danger zone we had to ask how long we’d got to enjoy our drinks. 


We were ok for time so our ceaseless conversation continued as our bodies regained some feeling. The rest of Ian and Irene’s woefully short visit was a great joy.  We had a wonderful meal in the evening at The Seal in Selsey and we retired to our beds just after midnight – four very happy chaps!

Thanks Irene and Ian for your delightful company (and the fab coffee and walnut cake!) and we look forward to meeting you somewhere on the water in the next couple of months.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sky High – and our final fling!

On Sunday we took the metro to the Dubai Marina …………P1000661

………. where the buildings are amazing.  This little group look a bit like the ‘New York, New York’ hotel in Las Vegas but even bigger (if that’s possible).  The building on the left must have warped in the heat!


We took the monorail through the famous “Palm”.  The Atlantis Hotel right at the end is definitely all that it’s cracked up to be – spectacular.


This is one of the Palm “leaves” and on the far right, in the distance, the Burj al Arab.


Close up of the Burj al Arab.

In the afternoon we went on a Sand Safari and it was a absolute hoot!  With six passengers in each of the two 4 x 4’s we had a whale of time.


Luckily we were the trailing vehicle so we could see what was happening to the wagon in front.  James also got the front seat and so got some great pics.


Half way through the “sandy” bit we stopped for a photo shoot.


We also had time for a bit of quiet reflexion as we looked across this amazing landscape.


Then it was back on the road again!  This really was the angle of the vehicle and it wasn’t the most precarious angle we achieved either!


After the desert run we ended up in a camp for a BBQ and a chat with the other passengers.  The whole adventure was absolutely brilliant and we were looked after very well indeed.  Getting back at 9:30 in the evening we were shattered – but what a fantastic day!

Monday was our last full day in Dubai and we’d pre-booked some tickets to go up the Burj Khalifa.   At 828 metres it holds the record for the world’s tallest building but we didn’t go right to the top. Instead, the viewing gallery is on the 124th floor with another 40 floors still remaining!


However, the height above the ground was tremendous and we looked down on some very tall skyscrapers which looked really quite short!  This is looking down on the huge lake in front of the building and the equipment for the dancing fountains.  It’s almost impossible to pick out the people below.


Looking east.


Looking up from the viewing gallery on the 124th floor. How much higher?!



James seems to have finally conquered his fear of heights!


Looking out to sea with “The World” in the distance.


Looking towards the cruise terminal and port area.



You can just make out the cars on the roads.


The heat haze restricts the view towards the Burj al Arab and The Palm  ……


…….. but we could, with a zoom, get a fairly good view of the poor old QE2 now languishing in the port area.


We didn’t take this photo but Dubai is going to look fantastic when it’s finished.


Our final port of call during the daytime was the Mall of the Emirates and the massive indoor ski slopes there.  It’s all just so surreal!


Having a wander round the Souks near the hotel in the evening (yes Peter and Margaret) we are staying in the Arabian Courtyard Hotel – you guessed right!) looking for something to eat, one of the traders took pity on Doug and retied his head dress for him!


This is “our” Souk (nearest to the hotel) in the evening.  We run the gauntlet every time we walk down it – the traders know us by now and pick on us and try to dress us up as we walk along. It’s all a bit of fun!


The last part of our evening we popped down to the Burj Khalifa to watch the fountains perform in the dark.  There’s a display every half an hour with alternating western and traditional music.


The Burj itself is equally impressive with it’s own light displays.




And one last pic of the aquarium as we made our way through the Dubai Mall to get the metro back to the hotel – they really don’t do things by halves!

Well, our time in Dubai is over for now.  We’ve really enjoyed our five days but it really wasn’t quite long enough.  Everyone is so polite it’s almost surreal. Young people give up their seats on the metro for the older ones (ask James!) and we’ve seen many wallets sticking out of back pockets (possibly it’s too dangerous to be a criminal here!)  The locals in the old city seem to be delighted when we dress like them and ask to share their tables.  It’s a very different world.  It’s been a fantastic six weeks since we first arrived in Las Vegas on Boxing Day and now we have to get back home for a while (and enjoy the UK weather!)