Living in Henley-on-Thames

Well, we’ve been in Henley-on-Thames for a while now and it has been absolutely lovely. So far this is the nicest part of the UK that we’ve been to. It is the epitome of picturesque. A living postcard. The people so far have been absolutely lovely and friendly (even the unfriendly ones) and the views and sights are gorgeous. Annmarie has been contemplating whether or not it might be feasible to simply live in the hotel. I’m thinking that cost wise it might not be the best of ideas.The drive down on Sunday was kinda nice in that it would have been my Dad’s 70th birthday. As such, since we were starting out the day in Derby we scooted across to a town called Ilkeston, which is where my parents were living when my brother Peter was born (he was delivered in a hospital in Nottingham, thus making him a Pom 😉 and where my Dad worked for a while as a lawyer. When we got to the hotel in Henley, I had a pint of Carlsberg, which I think was one of his favourite beers. I was also driving a Peugeot and he happened to love French cars. All quite appropriate I think.

The business side of the trip has been a mixed success. The training course I’ve been sent on has was a bit of a miss start and was eventually cut short. The original trainer organised for the course from Paris was sick at the last minute and a replacement was arranged from Bristol. A charming, likeable guy who is one of the main UK solutions developer. We went through the scripting training quite quickly (good thing too, since the first day was started 2 hours late) and there were few real problems during this. The second part of the course was using products that had been updated and as the trainer wasn’t really familiar with the updates, they felt it was better to leave that part till later. So the training course finished on Wednesday instead of Friday. Still, this wasn’t a huge problem for us as since Thursday would have been a washout work wise with us needing to get back to Glasgow, we decided to take the last two days off and stay in Henley till the end of the week.

Up until now we’ve been staying in the Milsoms hotel above the Loch Fyne restaurant on the main street, but when the course was interrupted, Lexmark cancelled the remaining couple of nights at the hotel and I hadn’t quite talked to them quickly enough to get the room for the remaining nights. Friday and Saturday were fine, but Thursday night was booked solid. So we booked the Friday and Saturday and the receptionist (a really nice Canadian lady) found us a small guest house B&B called Alushta about 3 streets away for the other night. The B&B is also really nice, I definitely recommend it if you need to book into one here. It is run by a very nice Russian lady. We were actually sorry that we had only opted to stay for one night, but unfortunately the Loch Fyne restaurant won out in the end (and the B&B said no takeaway food in the rooms, so that kinda limited us with the kids).

So right now the others are asleep and I’m writing this up quickly. Unfortunately the Milsoms has neither Internet nor a phone in the room (but I was informed that is coming in a short while as so many guest request it) so I haven’t had a chance to post any blog posts (or check email, so I’m a bit askew till I get back on-line 😉 . Tomorrow however we will be back in the Milsoms and Annmarie can once more get smoked haddock and poached egg for breakfast (a bonus of staying in a hotel above a seafood restaurant).

While we’ve been up here (and while I’ve been sheltering away in Lexmark HQ, studying the arcane secrets of their Document Solutions Server scripting language) Annmarie has been exploring the surrounding county and beyond. She and the guys have been to Windsor (didn’t see any royals, but the castle had quite a police presence apparently), had a peek at Eton, and wandered around Henley. They’ve seen a rowing/boating museum with a Wind in the Willows exhibition. They’ve also seen ducks and swans and quite a few other things.

After the finish of my day yesterday, we drove up to Maidenhead and had dinner with Paul, who was down there seeing a client (all very hush hush of course, being in the IT security biz and all). It was nice, we found a nice Italian restaurant and had pasta and pizza. We were joined by one of Paul’s colleagues, a nice guy called Tim. It was great catching up with Paul.

Since getting off the course I’ve had a bit of an opportunity to see some of the area too. Actually some of the bits of being down here I’ve enjoyed the most is the country drives. The smaller roads are really nice and a pleasure to drive through. Not the bigger motorways (they’re of course just motorways) but the back roads, the A and B routes. There are some that are tree lined and meander alongside rivers. I get the impression of being in a fancy car ad sometimes and it’s really starting to stir the car ownership bug in me. I’m even thinking that a coupé cabriolet hard top convertible would be nice (a Peugeot 307 cc to be precise). I guess I can start that mid-life crisis early.

The drive we had today was really nice. We went up to Oxford and had a walk around. It was quite rainy and a bit cold but it was still a nice day. Usually in Glasgow, the rain will come and go during the day so this happening in Oxford was no great blow to us. However, unlike in Glasgow between the rain was bursts of sunshine instead of just grey skies. Oxford was quite beautiful but didn’t stack up quite so well after Henley. Still a nice day was had by all and we even found a lovely French bakery/confectioner called Maison Blanc. All the buildings of the various Universities and Colleges were great too, but we failed to find the old street that my Mum had told us about where all the buildings on it are from the 1800s or something (must ask her what that was again).

Anyway, it is late at night and I need to get to sleep as we are thinking of driving down to Windsor tomorrow (unfortunately they moved the wedding so we won’t see it then) and then maybe have a longer peep at Eton.

Made it to Derby, just…

Well we’ve made it down on our first leg of the trip to Derby. We’ve got our little suite in the Stuart Hotel and everyone who isn’t an Internet addict is asleep in their beds. The trip down ended up being one of turmoil and tragedy.Getting down to Peugeot was fine, the car was waiting and ready (a nice 5 door 307 turbo diesel, bright blue, which Willow likes) and there was no issues getting going. I popped up to the library of Alliance Française to return some books and to borrow some more, then it was off back home to pick up the guys. The drive back across the city centre (the bit which would take me about 12 minutes to walk) took about 45 minutes to drive due to road works.

So we headed off quite late, then missed the turnoff to the M74, took a back round about route to get back onto the M74 and instantly hit road works. Once we got onto the smaller roads to Dumfries and Galloway, things got moving a bit better as we switched to a less used road with no works.

Halfway down, Gabriel decides to throw up in the back and we had to stop to clean it up (poor guy). Luckily the farm house that we stopped in front of had two lovely ladies that work as nurses in local nursing homes and they offered to help clean up and let the kids sit for a minute and look at their cats and sheep (I think Gabriel liked the sheep, but Willow preferred the cats). They were absolutely lovely and if we have time on the way back we might try to stop off and give them a present.

So we get to Dumfries very late and give up on going to the Galloway Ice-cream factory and cafe in Gatehouse of Fleet. Annmarie did find some of their ice-cream in the local Tesco so that was something. Now leaving Dumfries at about 4:30 we started the long road to Derby. The Derby trip was largely uneventful but after the late start, far too long, almost got lost around Stoke-on-Trent and ended up getting to the hotel at about 11:30 (meal breaks, toilet breaks and getting lost really add time to trip).

At the very least, I had lots of fun. And really that’s the important thing, kinda.

Heading south again

Well we’re off again. I only seem to write up something when we go somewhere. But then again, this is meant to be a travel journal.

It’s very late and I’m about to head off to bed because in the morning I’m off to pick up a car from Peugeot, a nice (hopefully diesel) 307. Once acquired, we will be driving down to Henley-on-Thames in England (it’s in Oxfordshire, just north of Reading for anyone who knows). We’re going a day early, and on the way down we are hoping to stop off in Galloway to get some ice-cream. Then it’s a night in Derby before heading off to Henley-on-Thames. The hotel in Henley look very nice, very swish.

I’m actually heading down to do some developer training at the Lexmark offices in Marlow. They are paying for the hotel and the car, which is nice, and Annmarie and the kids thought they’d come along too.

Anyway, it should be a nice time for all of us, and actually I wouldn’t mind spending the week strolling round a quiet English town, but someone’s gotta work.