…and the first week away
We left our house at about 6pm after a chaotic day of final packing (ie. shove everything that we didn’t know what to do with into the car) and heading out to Reading to stay in a hotel for the night. We settled on Reading as somewhere out of London, but not too much of a drive – good planning as we were both pretty shattered by the time we got there.
Next morning we set off down the M4 for Newquay, with, for the first, but not last, time, no idea where we were staying that night.
We got to Newquay at about 4pm and set about finding a hotel for the night. First impressions were that seaside towns are not at their best in mid-November with a cold wind blowing. We found a reasonable place to stay after looking at quite a few rooms – quality and price didn’t seem to be related. After settling in (that means carrying tons of luggage up two flight of narrow stairs) we headed out to explore the town. After walking a couple of miles and finding most of it shut, and the streets deserted, we found a pub for a couple of drinks – we might not be very good at quickly sussing out what is going on in a place, but we do have a good knack for finding nice pubs!
The staff at the pub pointed us the direction of an internet cafe that we wandered off to use: we were hoping to be able to book an hotel for Hong Kong, but it seems Newquay is entering the competition for world’s slowest internet connection, so after a frustrating hour we called it quits and headed to another pub for dinner (and more beer – to save time, and my typing, just assume that beer is consumed regularly most days: you won’t be far wrong).
After a nights sleep interupted only by all the pensioners in the hotel having a rightous party till 2am, we awoke to a gorgeous view over the bay out of our window:
After breakfast we headed off on the short drive to the Eden project, which for those that don’t know, is an old quarry that has been re-built with two huge biospheres in it that re-create tropical and sub-tropical climates and house representative examples of the plant life found in such climates: they don’t do rare or exotic plants, more the workaday ones that we all rely on for day to day products. Its a stunning site and well worth a visit. We were lucky in that it wasn’t very busy so we had a great few hours wandering around – going from the cold outside of a November day in Cornwall to the tropical biosphere was a bit of a shock tho’. And Carlton TV were all over the place filming something so that was a bit distracting. Click here for a picture of the site from the entrance.
Lapford, near Crediton, near Exeter
From the Eden Project we’ve come to a small village outside Exeter to visit our friends Tim and Lorna who we’ve not seen in far too long. Unfortunately the B&B we are staying in for the night is closed up when we arrive at 3pm, so we head back out of Lapford to find somewhere to have a drink and a late lunch. The first place we stop at has a sign outside saying “Open all day for food and drink”, but they obviously use a different version of the language out here in the countryside as “all day” doesn’t seem to include 3-5pm when they are shut. Helpfully the landlord points us in the direction of Crediton where there is a Wetherspoon’s – brand name chain pubs: kindof naff, but you know they’ll be open. Lunch and coffee later, and a quick stop to buy something to re-attach the car’s rear view mirror which fell off when I bashed my head into it, we head back to our B&B which is open now. A very small family run pub with a couple of rooms upstairs: we don’t even get a key for the room!
Once we are settled in (I think the landlord thought we were staying a month the amount of stuff we brought in from the car) and freshened up we head over to Tim and Lornas’s for a great evening of food, drink and chat. A very nice house they have, but it started a trend for me of low bathroom doors that I keep cracking my head into. Thats my excuse for a sore head in the morning anyway….
After yet another full English breakfast in the morning (I never thought I could have too many, but I’m starting to wonder by now…) we load up and head back towards London for our final four nights in the UK.
We’ve booked ourselves into an hotel near to Gatwick for four nights so we can sort through all our stuff and do the final packing before flying out on Monday. Fortunately the room was quite large so we were able to get most of the stuff out of the car to sort through. The hotel is attached to an old manor house pub with log fires and all the trimmings – but more low ceilings, so more sore heads for Richard. We had a fairly relaxing few days, although there was an undercurrent of panic until we finally booked an hotel in Hong Kong on the Saturday morning, and saw Jo’s parents over the weekend and offloaded all the extra stuff we had onto them (many thanks once again!). We dropped the car off with Debbie and suddenly we were down to just the stuff we were taking with us.
I think Jo’s expression is a fair indicator of how much we are looking forward to carrying all that around for two years. Despite what all the books say, and what all our friends who’ve done this before said, we still don’t seemed to have managed to thin down what we are taking to what we will need. Oh well, Taxi is the one word understood everywhere so we’ll manage, somehow!
And so to Heathrow to leave. But first we have a great lunch at a carvery – can’t beat a stomach full of British beef for a last meal. Its a bit of a squash getting everything into Diana’s car, but the journey is short so we manage. We say our goodbyes and we are now on our own (well, apart from the mound of luggage – really must give it a name, as it will be a central part of our lives for so long – assuming it doesn’t decide to take a different flight to us, or get itself stolen). We are flying from terminal 4, which doesn’t have much to offer you if you are hanging around for several hours, but we have things to do like getting some foreign currency (bad idea to do it at the airport: worst exchange rates on the planet) and buying even more things to carry around for ages.
After some final, final goodbyes on the phone its 9pm and time to fly. We can both thouroughly recommend flying BA’s World Traveller Plus – so much more space, it’s almost (but not quite) comfortable. Loads of movies on the plane as well: but for some reason we decided to watch Tomb Raider: oh dear, oh dear – at least it put us to sleep for a few hours tho’.
Finally we land. This is it. We are really away now. Six thousand miles, 8 time zones and a different continent, it must be Hong Kong.
Odds and sods I didn’t mention above: Trailfinders being very annoying and making us come in and see them to show the credit card that the ticket was booked on. Quantas adding extras to the price of the ticket every five minutes for stupid reasons. Premier Lodge hotel at Gatwick using expensive phonecards for the room phone that are not a multiple of the minute cost so you always waste some (and not having a supply of cards in). Bungee jumping going on outside the pub where we went with Diana and Debbie. Travel insurance companies whose websites don’t mention fully the restrictions, so you almost buy a useless policy (mentioning no names, but they have an irritating red telephone in their ads). Columbus Direct travel insurance: patient through all our questions, and e-mailing the policy out straight away. Natwest being sneaky and changing their contents insurance policy so it became useless to us (I know we should, but do you read the full document every time they send it to you?). Nationwide doing contents insurance cheaper and better than Natwest. Jo getting photographed by a Gatso – but fortunately not getting a ticket.
Enough: we’ve left the UK and it’s haphazard approach to customer service behind, and we’re in Hong Kong.