2018 – TORQUAY by Mary
Nine of us joined a group from the Isle of Wight for this trip to the Abbey Lawn Hotel in Torquay. The hotel was decorated for Christmas and we discovered that it was a tinsel and turkey weekend. We were the only coach party staying at the hotel, which had recently been refurbished, so we had very good service.
We decided to take the bus to Paignton on the Saturday and then travel on the steam train to Kingswear on the river Dart and then take the ferry over to Dartmouth. All went to plan and we all had an enjoyable if rather wet day. We returned to the hotel for a sherry and canape reception followed by Christmas Dinner. Afterwards there was an entertainer playing 60’s music and coffee and mince pies.
On the Sunday we split up, some people visiting Torre Abbey, others the Bygones Museum and others Cockington village. We returned home on the Monday after a very enjoyable break.
20 of us boarded the SS Waverley at the Hard on Thursday September 13. We had plenty of choice of seating, either on deck or in the comfortable lounges within the boat. The weather was glorious and the views throughout the trip were spectacular. We steamed out of Portsmouth Harbour waved on our way by spectators on the Round Tower. Our first stop was at Yarmouth where some passengers disembarked to spend the day on the Island while others joined the boat. We then carried on to Swanage passing by Hearst Castle, The Needles and Old Harry Rocks. We got off at Swanage and had 3 hours there while the boat carried on along the Jurassic Coast up to Lulworth Cove.
Most of us opted to have a meal while in Swanage although it was possible to eat in the restaurant on the boat. The popular option was fish and chips to either eat in or take away. Swanage was very busy as the steam train from Corfe Castle had just arrived as well as the Waverley passengers. We then made our way back along the pier to watch for the Waverley returning. It soon reappeared and picked us up and we steamed back to Portsmouth via Yarmouth with a glorious sun set behind us.
We arrived back about 8.00pm after a most enjoyable day.
We were so lucky to have had wonderful weather and everyone enjoyed the day.
At the end of August the Travel Group arranged a day visit to the Supreme Court in Westminster with a coach for transport. Twenty-four of us went. We were lucky as the weather was perfect as the earlier heat wave had abated.
The Supreme Court building looks onto Parliament Square facing the Houses of Parliament. The site has been devoted to law and justice for almost 1,000 years though the present building was only completed in 1913, designed in neo-gothic style.
Until 1965 the building was used by Middlesex County Council but this ceased after the creation of the Greater London Council. Instead, the building became a Court of Quarter Sessions and then a Crown Court. There were then seven courts with cells and jury rooms.
Later, however, the building was chosen to become the Supreme Court which is the ultimate court of appeal. Individuals cannot appeal to this court, which is only used when there is uncertainty about how the law should be applied. It determines points of law of general public interest.
A major refurbishment took place to restore the building’s former grandeur and to reduce the number of courtrooms to three. There are two impressive light wells covered with glass ceilings. The cafe is in one of these very pleasant spaces.
Our guide showed us the three court rooms, each very different in style. One of them is used as the Supreme Court not just for the UK but for a number of ex-colonies and dependent territories, mostly too small to be able to afford such facilities themselves. Examples are the Isle of Man, the Falkland Islands and Jamaica. In such cases the lawyers have to apply the law of those territories and must not impose UK law.
There is an impressive law library and we loved the carpet specially made for the Supreme Court, showing the Tudor rose, leek, thistle and flax flower. We did not all immediately recognise the flax and needed to be told.
The public is allowed to walk into the Supreme Court when it is in session to watch proceedings, but before our guided tour I don’t think any of us would have dared to just walk in. Now we might!
On the 15th July 2018 a group of eight went on a five day trip to Monet’s Garden and the Normandy Coast. We had a 7.05am start from Cosham taking us down to Folkestone for the channel Tunnel journey to Calais on the 11.36am crossing.
Once over the other side we had the usual comfort stops before making our way to Flibeaucourt for a ¾ hour stop to get a meal before going on down to the hotel in Rouen.
The Hotel could not have been situated in a better location for us, but it was not the best hotel we have stayed in. I personally thought that it did not cater for the over 65’s (more of an over night stay) and the lay out of the hotel was far from perfect. I did mention it to Angela Holidays on our return and put it on trip adviser. To make matters worse they were doing some sort of pipe work in the road right outside the entrance, there was a dirty big hole.
The first night we arrived we got taken to a very nice restaurant just about a five minute walk from the hotel. Outside the restaurant was a large screen where masses of people congregated watching the football World cup final as France were playing. As we were having our meal the news came through that France had beaten Croatia. It was nice to see the French rejoicing their victory win, but it became manic.
In the morning we all drifted down for breakfast, all feeling very tired through lack of sleep as the celebrations went on until about 3am and we had to have the windows closed. To make matters worse we had no air conditioning but after a nice continental breakfast and caffeine we were ready to start the tour to the Benedictine Abbey at Fecamp. The Abbey was first founded in 658 but the Abbey was destroyed by the Vikings.
The Abbey was rebuilt by Richard the 1st of Normandy and became famous for the Benedictine herbal liqueur based on brandy. It was Dom Bernardo Vincelli who was supposed to have come from Venice and created this herbal medicine made out of 27 herbs and spices.
This was a fantastic building and very impressive and they still distilled there. We were shown the distillery on our tour round the Abbey. We spent a long time looking at all the Icons and paintings. To finish the tour we ended up sampling one of the liqueurs and of course a visit to the shop.
After leaving the Abbey we drove to the lovely holiday seaside resort of Etretat where we spent the rest of the day. Etretat is famous for its chalk cliffs which form arches going out into the sea. The scenery around this area attracts artists and Monet came to paint here.
Two World War 1 pilots attempted to make a non-stop flight from Paris to New York and their plane was lost and this was the last place it was sighted. There is a monument constructed by the museum here, as the first monument got destroyed during German occupation in World War 2. We were spoilt for choice for restaurants and shops. It was a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon before we drove back to our next stop which was Jumieges. It was Michaels idea (he was our guide for the holiday, but he is also a driver for Angela Holidays) was a pity it was just a whistle-stop visit as this place had quite a few places some of us would have liked to visit. On the notice board outside the Abbey was some information saying this was the place William 7th Duke of Normandy (1027-1068) set his stamp on history on the stamp of the Dutchy of Normandy and England. Time was against us as we would have had to pay to visit the sights here and would not have seen everything, but most of us enjoyed having an ice-cream.
On the way back to the hotel Michael suggested he and Paul took us on a walking tour of Rouen in the evening. By this he could point out places of interest we could explore on the free time we had on our last day and places we could eat. Once back at the hotel some of us just had enough time to drop off some belongings and start the walk.
On day 3 – We visited Monet’s garden at Giverney. It was a blessing we had already got the groups tickets as the queue to get in was long. It was very tranquil walking around the lake with all the waterlilies in bloom. When you came to the bridges there was a bit of a hold up because of people with their selfie sticks. Once in the garden some of the walkways had been cordoned off to stop people walking which was a rather a pity as, when we visited once before you could roam everywhere. It was easy walking around the house, which still had its` lovely vibrant colours and I noticed things I had missed on my last visit. Monet’s bedroom was painted yellow with a lovely view of his garden, whilst his wife was painted a very pleasing to the eye blue. Then it was time to hit the shop which was much bigger and then the hard choices of what to buy.
Once outside his house the queue was horrendous, so we timed that just right as we had plenty of time to explore. Spoilt again for choice for restaurants. We walked up the only narrow street to the church Eglise Sainte-de Giverny where Monet is buried with his family. This is a beautiful little church in a quaint peaceful village. We also found in the church yard a plot which had Union Jacks flying and buried there were seven British airman who crashed near Giverny. On the grave is a war memorial in the shape of a propeller of a Lancaster bomber.
On the way back to the hotel we took a route where the Tour de France had taken place and had cycles hanging in the trees and bales of hay shaped into bikes .We had a short stop at Les Andelys and the on to a place called Bienvenu sur Coteau which was a beauty spot with views that stretched for miles and no one else in sight .This place is preserving vegetal and animal species which are going extinct .You could follow a nature trail that took you to Chateau Gaillard. I understand it to be a ruined medieval castle and construction began in 1196 by Richard the Lionheart .It would have been a nice walk there if we had, had the time but it would have been hard work walking back up the hill.
On the last full day, we visited the Rouen Botanical Gardens. It was quite pleasant with ponds and roses but little else there, as most of it was closed or the plants were out of season or had died. When we got back to the hotel it was free time to look around Rouen. As the hotel was situated in the heart of the city we had time to look around but had to plan what to go and visit first. The first stop was to look at the Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral as we could see the spires from the hotel. All around the outside of the Cathedral was very elaborate with the masonry and statues. It was free to get into the Cathedral but very little information. We saw the tomb of Richard the Lion Heart but only his heart was encased there. There is also a very decorative staircase known as Escalier des Libraires.
We walked passed the Law Courts which were built in in the late middle ages and stood and read up on the history of the restoration of the building after some of it got bombed in 1944 which had a devastating effect on the law court but it all looked closed up.
We next visited the Jeanne D ’Arc church which was a very strange building from the outside. I did read that it was to represent flames and a boat and with a bit of imagination, I could see it. We went and saw the tall cross where she got burnt before we had paid our entrance fee. Once inside, it was very light and had beautiful stained windows. When you looked up to the ceiling you could see the resemblance of the bottom of a boat. We spent a good hour in here as it was so cool and peaceful.
After that we went and had a snack before we walked to see the towns clock (Gros-Horologe). This is supposed to be one of the oldest working clocks in Europe. It was placed in an arch way. Beneath the dial they have chariots with different gods that can be seen on different days of the week and with them signs of the zodiac which illustrate various trades. As this is in an archway in a narrow street you must be careful as there is oncoming traffic.
Before returning to the hotel we had a walk around to see Vieux Rouen houses which are 13th Century and are half timbered which had survived the second world war. The last visit was to yet another church called Saint Maclou. To me it was in rather a seedy part of the town. Reading about it the church was used by drapers, dryers and families of merchants. Yet again it was built in a flamboyant style like the Court of Palais of Justice and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It had a very morbid past.This church was used to bury the victims of the black death. As this church was having restoration done we missed the bones etc that were in the church and the court yard. By this time, it was time to return to the hotel for a rest before going to the light show.
We went to a restaurant where we could sit and wait to go and watch the show. They used the east side of the Cathedral to project a sound and laser light show starting at 10pm from June to September. The show we saw was Vikings and William the Conqueror.
On the day we had to return we left the hotel just after 9 am to start our visit to Abbeville which was a very nice town with seating around a nice square and fountain. Much to one’s delight it was market day so there were some bargains to have here. We started to walk to the information centre but on the way we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having a good read it was supposed to be on this spot that the first crusades left in 1098. Apart from the French Revolution when the spire made of wood and lead was removed not much changed until the two world wars. During WW1 the painted church windows were blown out and in WW2 the steeple was destroyed and the southern aisle was partly damaged and the church windows were blown out once again. This church had some nice pieces of furniture.
We would have gone to the Belfry and the Boucher-de-Perthes but unfortunately it was closed. The last visit was to another Saint Vulfran church. The stained windows were vibrant colours and pleasant to look at. To the right of the alter there was a hollow in the wall and I could not make it out as whether it was an old font or something that had been taken out of the wall. On the way out we noticed some old solid wood doors and when you viewed them from the outside they had some tremendous carvings on them. By this time we were churched out and went and had a coffee to await the coach to take us to Calais for the approx. 2pm Euro train to take us back to Folkstone.
On the way back, we did the usual comfort stop at Cobham so some people could buy milk etc if needed. We arrived back in Cosham about 7.30 pm, all thoroughly exhausted.
Eight of us boarded Gosport Ferry Company’s boat from the Gosport Ferry Pontoon for their annual cruise around the four sea forts, finishing with a trip around the harbour.
We were lucky with the weather and the mild sea state. In turn Nomansland, St Helens, Horse Sand and Spit Forts were viewed.
They were built in the 1860s to defend the Spithead anchorage and keep an enemy out of gunnery range of the dockyard, manned by the Royal Artillery, they were later sold.
Nomansland, Horse Sand and Spit Forts are owned by Clarenco as ‘Island Retreats’ and were put on sale earlier this year for a guide price of eleven million pounds.
There are occasional hazards, in June 2018 a member of staff at Nomansland fell off the fort early one morning and had to be rescued by Bembridge Lifeboat.
St Helens is the smallest of the forts and was added after the building of Sturbridge Fort (Off Ryde) and was abandoned due to problems with securing adequate foundations. It is derelict, but the outside can be viewed close-up every August when the low Spring tide allows one to walk out to it from the Isle of Wight.
Personally, Horse Sand Fort was the most interesting as it is un-restored and a tattered skull and crossbones flag flew from its flagpole.
Newer features were the two sets of yellow marker posts used to delineate the dredged channel for the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers, now a handy perch for Cormorants.
We proceeded up the harbour and passed HMS Kent, HMS St Albans and HMS Queen Elizabeth amongst other vessels.
There is another set of yellow marker posts towards the top end of the harbour.
The commentary was mostly very accurate accommodating those who wanted detailed information about the forts.
The stone round tower in the Dockyard that we passed, was actually built in the 1840’s and was constructed well after the Napoleonic Wars, no French POW’s being employed. This was about the only factual error.
A most enjoyable trip.
On yet another wonderfully warm day, a group of thirteen of us arrived at the Tudor House.
The house was amazing from the outside and was situated very near to the Roman walls and a lovely church. Originally three dwellings it is now an imposing building with a banquet hall.
Our guide took us all around the house, even to places that most people do not get to see like the attic and the cellars. It was a really informative and interesting visit and we enjoyed hearing lots of anecdotal information about the lives of the people that had lived there. The gardens were planted in the Tudor style and were delightful.
Most of us ended our trip with a cream tea or quiche, which was very enjoyable.
Many thanks to Judy for arranging the trip.
On July 3rd 2018 Val and Ken organised for twelve of us to go on the Medina River Cruise, again, and we would all like to say a big thank you to both of them for doing so.
During a relentlessly hot spell of weather, I think most of us were very grateful to escape Portsmouth and get some fresh sea breeze. It was just what we all needed!
On the way to the Isle of Wight it’s always nice to have a commentary of the things around us. It is so easy to take things for granted and it helps to refresh us of what is on offer around us.
The captain took us round Spitbank Fort twice, giving us ample opportunity to take photos, and we finished off with an interesting tour around Portsmouth Harbour, where we were told about the various Royal Navy ships that were docked.
It was nice to see HMS Queen Elizabeth, the new aircraft carrier, as I don’t think many of us had seen her before, and it was incredible to see it close up and get get a sense of just how big she really is!
On the 17th May a group of sixteen of us went to visit the Milestones Museum near Basingstoke. The weather was kind to us but unfortunately we were inside. None of us quite knew what to expect when going there, but once there we ended up being pleasantly surprised.
It took us right back in time and how things would have been from approximately 1840 to the late 1960’s .it was nice looking at all the different things and and taking us back to ones child hood.
They had an old fashioned sweet shop where some of us brought some sweets and most of all a pub. In there they sold lots of old fashioned drinks that we used to drink as children .With the Co-op shop some even remembered their divided number.if not theirs, their mothers.
We can recommend the restaurant as most of us thought it was good value for money and it saved cooking when we got home.
I would like to end by thanking C&R travel for taking us
After an other silly time of 4.05am pick up, I did have a bad start as my over night suit case which was packed full got left behind ( thank-you very much Citywide for your help ) We left for the 9.45am crossing from Dover to Calais. We made a few comfort stops through out the journey until we reached our over night stay at the Mercure Forbach.
The journey through France was dark, raining the whole way and dank. At breakfast most people complained of being stiff from sleeping so well. There was one incident with one in our party with the soak away in their shower as the water came from under the shower cubicle and out into their bedroom.
We made an 8.30 start on the second leg of our journey. The French call traffic bottlenecks, cork stops Bouchon which we hit.
Still raining and dark at 11.45am as we went through Strasbourg and Basel. Just after leaving Basil we stopped a couple of time for a comfort and refreshment stops as we did not reach our destination until 7pm it literary rained all the way down so we did not see anything of the landscapes, only plenty of flooding.
When we arrived, we had just enough time for a hot drink, shower and a quick dash to the bar as all drinks were inclusive from 6-9:30. We also had one bottle of red and one of white the table.
On the first day at Feidkirch (Austria) we made our way to Thusis and here we boarded the Berninia Express. It caused quite a bit of excitement for some of us as it arrived on time a pushing snow off the rail track as it arrived at the platform we were on. Once we got seated the adventure began.
The journey took us into the Engadin Valley high in the Southern Alps. Grisons is the largest of the 22 Swiss cantons with 150 valleys We passed through Chur, then over the Julian Pass to St Moritz, Pontresina, over the panoramic Bernina passes. We then went via the Engadin region and then over the magnificent stretch over the Albula pass to Tiefencastle until we reached Tirano Italy. The whole way we had beautiful blue skies and the scenery was stunning and we think the heavens were looking down on us for this journey. We went past some lovely little hamlets set in photograph scenery and watched people skiing and ski surfing. We spent a few hours in Italy before returning to Feidkirch. That day we did four countries. Austria Switzerland Liechtenstein and Italy.
Thanks to the staff at Angela Holidays for organising the holiday and a special thank-you to Avril and Steve for looking after us.
2018 Eastbourne – by Julie
One cold, wet and windy weekend in February a small group of us went to the Imperial hotel in Eastbourne.
We were really pleased with the hotel and our rooms and once unpacked, we went for a walk along the pier to the Victorian Tea Rooms which we had discovered on a previous trip. The weather was kind to us, if rather cold, and we retired to our rooms to gird our loins for an evening of Rock and Roll.
Saturday was increasingly wetter but a group of us boarded the bus to Hastings for an interesting visit. We went up to the top on the railway but the rain came in at that point so we visited old Hastings.
The hotel was good value and the staff were lovely. All in all a good weekend and great company.
On Friday 9th March twelve of us met at the Old Post Office to go up to the Royal Albert Hall. We made a comfort stop at the Guildford Cathedral refectory which we did not think was a good idea. It was manic there, with far too many people queuing up for coffee/teas also not enough toilet facilities for the of amount of people visiting there.
We were dropped off right outside the Royal Albert Hall and had four hours to kill before the performance. Some of us would have liked to pay to have had a tour around the Hall but by the time we arrived we had missed the last tour of the day.
Seven of us made our way up to Marks and Spencer’s Kensington High street to be fed and watered and to keep out of the rain. We made our way back for ½ hour before the performance started so we could buy CD’s and programmes etc and have a look around the ground level.
When we took our seats, we sat and admired the beauty of the hall and when we stood up for the National Anthem human nature made us turn around to see who may be in the Royal Box.
The show was well worth the money and the Portsmouth and Gosport Royal Marines made this country proud.
When we came out it was still raining and the coach driver true to his word picked us up very near to the Hall as possible, so we did not have to walk very far. He made good progress on the return journey and got us home about 12.30am. All lifts given to people who lived on their own. In all we had a nice time.