I have been trying to fit in a visit to the tomb of Richard III after having visited Bosworth Field where Richard was killed and Henry Lancaster acquired the throne of England by conquest. Leicester is only 55 minutes from Keresley in the Cotswolds so it was important that I take the time to visit.
The visitors centre is in part attached to the carpark in which Richard’s remains were excavated and alongside the Cathedral. The entrance is part of a new square developed because of the reburial of the remains. After paying the entrance fee, we sat through a video presenting the early life of Richard and the last days of Edward IV. After that there was a series of picture boards starting with the capture of the Woodvilles transporting the young Edward V and his brother Richard to London to be crowned (the lost boys in the Tower). Then Richard was crowned and he placed the boys in the Tower from whence they did not return (a mystery to this day) and from which Richard earned the reputation of a cruel king. The display had a computer programme which gave various facts around the missing boys and what may have actually have happened to them. It also identified those most likely to have killed the boys (motive, means and opportunity). No definite conclusion but interestingly a public voting system on the most likely villain for the missing boys acquitted Richard and accused the mother of Henry (Henry was hiding out in Brittany at this time).
The display then gave the story of the Battle of Bosworth Field and the achievements of Richard during his short reign (about 5 years). The display continues on the next floor where a guide shows you from a viewing platform the carpark where the excavation took place. The place where the remains were found is under cover and can be viewed through a glass floor. The rest of the display described the investigation and discovery of his remains. Interestingly and coincidentally there was an “R” painted on the bitumen in the carpark and the remains were found under the letter “R”. The “R” stood for reserved. The display included a scan of the bones showing the injuries he suffered in the battle (the wound that killed him and the wounds that were inflicted during the battle and one after he was dead), there was a suit of armour that is like the one worn by him, the facial reconstruction, his disfigured spine, and how they found his maternal relations to test the DNA. Fascinating!
We then went across to the Cathedral (St Martins at the time of Richard) where the Presbytery has been converted into a tomb room to hold the royal remains. We returned to the car passing the Guildhall which according to the historic information on the building claimed the hall had been constructed in 1390AD.
Despite some anxious moments over Kerry’s lost purse and my lost cap I am so glad I made the effort to go there. We have been living in that part of England where English history has been made everywhere we turn. Whether it be battle between Kings or the creation of the industrial revolution, it is all here.
Sunshine greets us at 7.30 am. Autumn is in full gear with the days being considerably shorter, the mornings colder and the hotel central heating overheating the room. However today may have some promise. We are going to Banbury which is famous for – the nursery rhyme
Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
No one knows what the rhyme is really saying and there have been a number of speculations about it. Whether the Cross is one of the three crosses destroyed by Protestants in the 1600s or the crossing of the Jurassic Way with an old Roman road no one is certain but it does not relate to the Cross at the crossing of the High St today nor does the bronze of the fair lady riding the white horse but both pretenders have some of the tourists fooled.
I had done some research and found that it was claimed that Oliver Cromwell planned his part of the Battle of Edge Hill from the Globe Room at the Yea Olde Reine Deer Inn so I thought a visit and soak in the atmosphere might be a good idea. But the pub did not open till 11.00am so we headed for the tourist information centre which was somewhat hard to find. We made our way to Castle Port Shopping Centre and behind the centre is the canal servicing Banbury and the canal boat basin and repair yards. One mariner was in the midst of sailing through the canal so we watched and helped raise the draw bridge, lower the lock waters and see the narrow boat safely on its way.
Now where were we? Yes the information centre. It is in the museum but what is this Tolley’s Slip and Repair yard – free to enter. So in we went and what a little jewel. History of the canal and industry in Banbury through the centuries. We chatted with the receptionist and the manager of the dry dock (even got to see inside the dry dock where they were repairing a boat). The industry is alive and well with many young people taking on apprenticeship but the problem for the industry is the repair of the old wooden work boats constructed with timber beams steamed to be bent into shape and shaped with an adze – very few shipwrights have those old skills as most new boats are built with steel). As the manager said “If you cut a piece of timber short you cannot add a bit on but cut steel short and you weld on the missing bit”.
It is past 11.00am and time to return to the Olde Reine Deer. We get there order some coffee and it is delivered to us in the Globe Room where it is said that Oliver Cromwell planned the attack on the Royalist Army marching on London. Well this may not be true because the Battle of Edge Hill took place outside nearby Kineton (you will have read my blog on Kineton Edge), it was the first battle of the first Civil war and occurred in October 1642 with Parliaments army lead by the Earl of Essex and the King’s army by his cousin Prince Rupert. Cromwell did not arrive in time to participate. Too much thinking at the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn perhaps. Anyway it was interesting to visit. The room contained a copy of the painting of Charles 1 and part of his Army in the field to give it some authenticity.
And so we leave Banbury and its romantic remembrances of Oliver Cromwell. Onto Burford. A tourist village. So we have lunch at the Mermaid and then visit the Oxford Shirt Shop and find something for someone for Xmas – shush it is a secret. When returning to the bus I spot the Cotswold Arms and the autumn colours of the vine draped over its rocky facade. Then onto Moreton-on-the-Marsh; another tourist village. We march up one side of the High Street (Kerry finds the scarf of her dreams for £3 quid) then march down the other side, a beer and Pimms with a bag of crisps in the Black Bear and around the block – I spot a hotel where they have preserved the old coach entrance and snap a photo and then before we are swept up by the bus I catch a glimpse of the Town hall standing solemnly and alone on an island in the High St.
The tour has ended and we will return home (the Novotel at Long Eaton) by our car and hopefully find something more interesting.
We have visited Stratford previously and took in the Shakespearean sites so this time we strolled looking at the architecture of the quaint old buildings. As you would expect they make a living out of having these old buildings for us to gawk at. However we started with a monument to theatre and then the birthplace of the bard – bloody tourists buggered up my photo. Onto the library and the Shakespeare Bookshop, a cafe and kebab shop. A jewellery workshop, the Shakespeare Charity Shop, and the Old Thatch Tavern. Whilst we were checking out the tavern the driver of a Ford Ka hesitated about running a yellow light. Not so the bus driver following who was unable to avoid the now stationary Ka and pushed it through the pedestrian crossing. Time we moved on.
Just across the road another monument. It looked like someone had chopped the top off city hall. Down the road we found Garrick Inn and beside that Harvard House. We then made our way to the Avon and the canal basin, then back past the Tudor Museum, and past the Bard’s House – no tourist queues. Enough site seeing – two pasties and the world’s thickest milkshake (4 scoops of ice cream and two teaspoons of instant coffee blended – one milkshake).
We returned to the bus but by 1.00pm our departure time two dopey old sheilas had not returned. Fifteen minutes later they wandered up – oh we thought it was 2.00pm they said. The bus driver makes a habit of not giving too much information which I find frustrating but this is why – dopey oldies who don’t pay attention or had the attention span of a gnat. We travel to Evesham. Never heard of it – neither had we. But it was founded in 700AD with a monastery which was destroyed in part during the reformation (Henry VIII’s answer to Rome about divorcing his first wife). So the town has old buildings like the Round house (its square actually), a remaining gate from the Norman period of 1130 AD two churches once part of the monastery, All Saints and St. Lawrences. The Abbey has gone but the land remains as parkland. After that we strolled through the town until joining our river cruise on a canal boat. Very relaxing. The following photos trace our path to the canal boat and up the river.
Back to the hotel to rest up for another hectic day tomorrow. We will visit three sleepy villages. If you suspect I am being sarcastic you are correct. The only good thing is that doing this tour is cheaper than staying in a hotel and buying meals but the boredom is mind numbing.
Tuesday we visited the small village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Unfortunately it was raining steadily making it uncomfortable as for the first time we packed light – no umbrellas. It is nothing more than a pretty village and we have just about had our fill of pretty villages. Once again we were dumped there with free time. Now we cannot really complain. The tour has cost us £200 quid each and that is for the hotel and half board and the tours. So here are the photos of Bourton-on-the-Water.
For the afternoon we were dumped in Cheltenham – a mid-sized town with no special features. So we had lunch and kicked around killing time until the highlight of the day – our train trip. Our photos include a strange couple – a bull (note the appendage) and a rabbit seated romantically in the mall. The Municipal Offices suggest a grand town but not anymore.
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a thirteen mile long piece of historic steam railway starting at the Cheltenham Race Course and finishing at Toddington. All run by volunteers and starting from a discussion between two blokes in a pub at Broadway (they are renovating the old station at Broadway presently to extend the range of the train). After a boring day this little bit of excitement saw me running between windows with my camera like a cattle dog in the back of a ute. Here are the pictures.
After arriving at Toddington we were met by the bus and made our way back to the hotel for a good nights sleep ready for our visit to Stratford-on-Avon and Evesham.
We have just returned from Germany and have one day to finishing packing clean the flat say our farewells to our neighbours and move out to the Novotel Long Eaton for the night. Then we have to ready ourselves for Monday when we travel to Nottingham and catch a bus tour to the Cotswolds. We managed to accomplish all our preparation and spent the afternoon in front of the TV.
The next morning, Monday, was raining and grey. Not good. Then our cab did not arrive and to make matters worse when we contacted the base they told us he was just around the corner delayed by an accident. It was bullshit. We ended up driving to the hotel where the bus tour was to base itself for the week and meet the tour bus. In the end the cabbie may have done us a favour giving us more options than the bus tour.
We arrived at the Britannia Royal Court Hotel which is based on the former family home of William Hillman of Hillman cars fame. In 1894 Sir William built Keresley Hall and the family resided in it (8 daughters) until William and his wife died when the hall was sold. Between 1929 and 1968 it became a convalescent hospital after which it became the Royal Court Hotel.
We learned that the tour was visiting Leamington Spa that afternoon so we drove over to see what they were doing. Nothing. Precisely nothing. The bus had dropped them off with free time in the town and then dropped them at the hotel. This was to become a theme in this tour. One advantage we had was that we visited the old town hall and we were given a guided tour of the building just because we asked. Otherwise not much to report about Leamington.
Next morning we arose with the alarm to finish packing and put the cases outside the cabin have breakfast and get on the bus. Thus far on this trip our bus drivers had got lost three times and our tour guide Jill was found wanting in her knowledge outside of the script given to her by Shearings. So it should not come as a surprise that Jill forgot to tell those of us waiting in the lounge to board the coach leading to a late scramble to board the bus. Derek our new driver from Lancashire seemed a bit more positive in his knowledge so when we ended up at Monchau and not the retail designer outlet village that had been a feature of our return journey, there was consternation in the camp – Kerry let him know her opinion and she was right; they had changed the itinerary without informing us.
After sharing our opinion with Derek, we went off to view the village and a pretty village it is. Established in the 12th century the village had its glory during the 18th century making fine quality clothe and some of the buildings evidence the wealth of the town. Most of the village is original as it was saved from damage through the Second World War probably because it no longer had any commercial importance or strategic value. Our walk took in the oldest church, and the river that runs through it a cafe where we enjoyed goulash soup and a strudel, the into the oldest part of the town where we found a family of coffee blenders and some chocolatiers making chocolate with mustard from the local mustard factory, the Red House (an impressive 18th century mansion now a museum which closes at lunch time of course) and lots of other quaint buildings.
We then had a wearisome drive to our hotel arriving at 7.30 pm because of traffic. After a good night rest (the first time in a bed larger than a ships bunk for 6 nights) we boarded the coach only to learn that the refugees had been rioting at Calais again. Despite this the bus driver insisted on stopping at a duty free store for all the addicts to stock up on nicotine (one woman had the habit so badly that even though the weather got mist and freezing winds , she would stand outside the hotel sucking on a ciggie chain smoking rather than forsake the ciggie and join us inside). Our worries about the ferry and delays proved unfounded but the French are taking it more seriously. Two police were posted at our hotel to stay with the bus overnight to ensure no illegals hid on the vehicle. We boarded the ferry on time and at this rate we expect to be at Long Eaton by 6.00pm tomorrow will be a busy day finishing the packing and moving out of our home for the last 18 months.
The following morning was grey and cold with a wind to ensure we stayed in the lounge bar. Only those with a nicotine addiction braved the cold. We were awoken by the sound of the crew casting off at 6.00am and pushed out of bed by the shudder of the diesels rumbling to life. We are returning to Cologne and our trip back to the UK this time aided by the river flowing towards the sea. After breakfast we settle into a sunny spot in the lounge. The mist stayed in Rudeschimer and now in Koblenz the sun is shining but the wind remains cold and the sun deck the haunt of those unfortunate addicts. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of the Koblenz Brewery and hoped to see some more things to record but I am pretty weary of this boat travel by now and turn to my book regarding theology and a university in Toronto.
When in Cologne previously Kerry had developed the plan of walking to the cable car across the river and visiting the zoo. We docked in Cologne about 2.00pm. Straight away we set about walking to the cable car and the zoo. Great plan but the walk proved very challenging. We walked along the river with the old city watching our progress.
After 45 minutes we encountered a park which seemed oddly located in the industrial end of Cologne (Kholn to the Germans) whilst reasonably maintained seemed to be a bit forgotten. Another 15 minutes walking negotiating the park we found the cable car terminus. It too looked somewhat decayed. We did not have to wait too long before we were high above the freeway and bridge crossing the Rhine with magnificent views of the city and up the river towards Koblenz. We even discovered that the park was more alive than we thought. Beside the terminus was a building so covered with vine we thought it abandoned but once we were in the air we could this was an indoor pool and aquatic area. Dozens of people were sunning themselves on banana lounges and splashing about in the pool. Outside the pool a miniature train was chugging around the park with joyous Kholners riding its miniature carriages.
Our ride ended opposite the Cologne Zoo – set on the outskirts of the city in the suburbia of the city. The zoo did not appear any different to other zoos from the outside but inside the first animals were domestic pigs, sheep, goats and rabbits. Kerry did not see this as she was headed in the opposite direction – so I popped over to look at the Persian Onagers grazing beside the ablution block. Kerry re-joined me and we moved in an anticlockwise direction through the zoo’s exhibits. We had limited time so we pushed on determined to see as much of a difference as the zoo had to show. What followed? The meerkats, the raccoons, the sun bear, the cheetah, the grizzly bear, the red panda (the poor thing was curious to talk to Kerry and got zapped by the electric fence containing it causing it to rush up a tree), tapir and capybara, giant anteater, the tiger, the leopard (he seemed obsessed with the snow leopard in the opposite cage but when we looked for it, the snow leopard was not there – maybe he knew something about its whereabouts), the gibbon ( the zoo has a number of enclosed environments to suit various animals and this created a dramatic cave like atmosphere or jungle path for the visitor to feel like an explorer), elephants (we had to skip the great apes because of time), oh some homo sapiens dwellings but they weren’t coming out for pictures today, Californian seals, Przewalski’s horses, bison, rhino, giraffe, hippos (but they too were camera shy so I pictured the enclosure) and crocodiles (Africans not the big saltys from Australia so I did not bother with a picture) and Kerry’s favourite the Flamingos.
We finished in the zoo about 5.30pm and with sore feet contemplated the walk home. We had passed the light rail on the way so after some enquiries we tried our hand at negotiating the Cologne trams. Without any trouble we made our way to the centre of the old city leaving us only a 45 minute walk back to the boat. We crossed the main railway bridge (now called the Lock Bridge because of all the Love Locks now hanging from the railings – thousands of them). We got back to ship to shower and go to dinner. Pretty good effort but we fell asleep very quickly that night.
Back to the boat for a rest then after that we prowl Drosselgasse for a nice restaurant. Drosselgasse is the local tourist strip containing all the authentic German restaurants and all serving traditional foods and the local specialty – Rudeschiemer Kaffe – a liqueured coffee. We ended up at the International – Bie Hollerne where two rather Asian entertainers appeared to be enjoying a karaoke night singing English and German tunes with an electronic keyboard and electronic backing. The food was traditional German with lots of sauerkraut and potatoes. I picked a shwineaxe and Kerry selected a veal schnitzel. The schnitzel was melt in your mouth but my schwineaxe stunned me. About 1/2 a kilo of pork joint baked with crackling on a bed of sauerkraut with mashed potato. Well I struggled and I was beaten – no way was I going to eat all of that.
Of course we had to try the coffee. It is served in a traditional pink and white cup into which blocks of sugar and the local brandy Asbach are placed. The waiter then lights the brandy melting the sugar pours black coffee over the flaming sugar and finishes with a scoop of cream. Delicious.
After loosening the top button on my trousers we headed for the boat and a peaceful night free of boat noise and trains rattling by. Well the boat was quiet but even though we were some distance from the train they could be clearly heard echoing through the valley.
The following morning we sail to Rudeshiemer. Clear blue sky and a chilling breeze keep us inside the main lounge where the tour Manager drones on about the features we are passing. The most interesting fact to me was that the river is very low and many of the rocks normally covered are exposed. The Rhine is a very busy waterway. Apart from the tour boats there are dozens of barges carrying industrial goods and on both sides of the river goods trains rattle past very regularly – at sometimes every 15 minutes.
We seem to be entering the major grape growing region as vineyards now appear covering the surrounding hills stretching for miles. Interspersed amongst the vineyards are the ruins of castles and castles still in use today. These castles were used like customs houses collecting tariffs from the merchants and sailors plying the Rhine. In one case they had a novel if somewhat terrorising system for recalcitrants – a cage hung high over the river into which the recalcitrant would be placed until he or she paid up.
As we approached Rudeschiemer there appeared high on the hill another large and grandiose monument. Little did I know then that we would be walking to that monument later that day. We docked at Rudeschiemer during lunch. They have so many tourist boats they have developed docks for day trippers and overnight river boats. The village itself is stretched along the banks underneath the vineyards whilst on the other side of the river is Binger which appears to have the benefit of a wide plain behind it. Not so as we will see later. We walked up through the village to find a chairlift as we had decided against the organised tour and instead planned to trip over the mountain to Assmannshausen then take a boat (yes another boat) back to Rudeschiemer. We walked through the main square where they were giving the trees their winter haircut and found the chairlift kiosk very quickly. The gondolas are designed for two people and are open so the trip was very different from our previous trip on the Ropewalk. The gondola climbed out of the village giving breathtaking views of the Rhine and the vineyards.
At the terminus on top of the mountain there are numerous walking tracks but the main track is past a mock roman temple type structure Tempel Rebenhaus again giving magnificent views of the river around to that massive monument Niederwald Denkmal I mentioned. The track wound through a park now over grown into a forest for 45 minutes with viewing points and points of interest along the way. The track was shaded by mature trees and the sunlight filtered through at times brilliantly and other times it could get quite chill. We came across Rossel an old watch tower which gave us a very different view of Binger than what could be seen from the river.
We also came across a historic Zauberhohle – a stone tunnel the purpose of which I cannot guess. The English translation was “enchanted cave” and the notice board said there was an historical explanation at the rear exit. Kerry switched on the light on her IPhone and we wound through the Zauberhohle exiting at a newly built round room but no historical explanation could be found. Oh well one of the mysteries of life.
After the enchanted cave we passed a hotel in what appeared to be the wilderness but in fact was just off a well formed road and around to the next chairlift taking us down to Assmannshausen. These were open chairs and they glided through the forest until reaching a long drop down to the village. Stunning views once again – vineyards the river and the village. In the village was the picture book you hear about. Quaint German buildings all nestled together with narrow roads intersecting (but watch out for the school bus charging through). We stopped at the Krone Hotel (Crown I expect) and there sample the pinot noir from Hollenberg (the local vineyard) and the Riesling from the nearby village of Losch. The pinot was silky and delicate and the Riesling was dry and lightly fruity. Oh and we also had a piece of plum cake to share.
We could see the ferry terminal from our table in the forecourt of the Krone and thought there would be no trouble to get there for the 4.30 ferry. Except the highway between us and the river. After negotiating our way across the road and under the traffic barrier we caught the ferry to return to Rudeschiemer passing as we did a lonely small vineyard high on a hill, the Rossel, the Mouses Tower outside Binger and the vast stretches of terraced vineyards.
The boat sails at 10.30pm for Koblenz and whilst Kerry pretends to sleep I start this blog. It will be a rough night with the motor noise and things shaking through the night.
We are woken by the silence. The ship’s engines have stopped. We have arrived in Koblenz. Koblenz is at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. After breakfast and a consultation with the tour manager we decide to go it alone. Map in hand we head for the Oberes Mittelrheintal a complex of stately buildings in the centre of medieval Koblenz. On one of the houses is a clock with a face below. The eyes in the faces move with the second hand and on the hour the faces extends its tongue – I don’t know why but it does. Alongside it is the local church (note two bell towers they are very big on twin bell towers) and nearby an impressive school.
The tour manager gave us a few clues as to what to look for and one was the pissing boy. We did not find the boy but may have found his father hard at work selling his wares. Then another church and a walking tour of Americans – weren’t we lucky. A little further along we came across a monument which represent the time line for Koblenz’s history.
Time is getting on and we want to visit the Skyrope and the castle across the Rhine. So we head for the river and find the Skyrope (a cable car) but it doesn’t open till 9.30am. As we wait Martin and Christine (co adventurers on the boat) turn up. It was their idea to go to the castle and not the tour offered by the boat so we join them in a trip up to the castle and then they headed off to view the park around the castle whilst we visited the castle. On the way up we could soon why this site was chosen for the castle – it commands the confluence of the two rivers.
Whilst most of the castle structure remains, the internal areas have been largely converted to various uses. The castle appears to be based on the Dutch design of a star shape with a gate separated from the main gate by a moat. Where once you would have entered the castle by coming through the barbican and climbing the steep hill to the castle gates; these days you came directly into the old fortifications. The castle is now a number of things from military museum to commercial. One of the displays was a trip around the world and through history with Play Mobil figures. In the court yard you have the best views of Koblenz and the two rivers and the old path climbing the hill.
We must return to the boat by 11.30 or miss the boat. So we take the return trip with the Ropewalk and walk to the junction of the two rivers where a bloody big monument has been erected. It appears to celebrate the first unification of the Germanic states. The horse a top the monument column was so real to life it even had the world’s biggest brass balls. Kerry had heard or read that there was even a memorial to the third reunification – parts of the Berlin wall.
We made it to our boat in plenty of time. One thing that we find strange is the dining room is located on the water line as you will see in the following photos. Some people are getting sea sick every time another boat passes. We retire for lunch and the boat sails to Boppard a charming little village just designed for trapping tourists. So we take the unconventional route behind the town to avoid the tourist shops. We were excited to discover an ancient tower now converted into a home and shop – quite unique. This lead us to the main square and the local church again with twin bell towers – what is it about twin bell towers. Digging around in the back streets we found parts of the old city wall still standing and now incorporated into houses and other buildings, the last remaining city gate and a variety of buildings dating from the 16th century. Not much else to report on Boppard. It has a chair lift but it did not seem to have anything other than views to visit.
Now it is time for a kip then shower time and dinner. Hard life!