Colleges, punts, bowler hats and gargoyles in Oxford

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC stayed in Abingdon for a week this month, using it as a central point from which to visit friends and family in England. One morning we found ourselves in the nearby big smoke: Oxford.

My impressions? Mellow stone. Autumn melancholy.

The book I’m in

Harvesting the Heart, by Jodi Picoult. This worm is an admirer of Jodi Picoult, and has spent time in a couple of her books. But Harvesting the Heart is not her best, I feel. Ms Picoult’s books are by their nature intense. Usually they have a flair and an interesting theme that lifts you out of the depression. This time, although I’m well into the book already, that flair has not yet appeared. I feel the urge to tell the characters to snap out of it and get on with life. Perhaps this worm is not in the mood for this book at the moment.

Travel tip

Go inside any of the buildings that grant you entry. The inside is as good as the out.

Recommended restaurant

Quod Brasserie, on the High Street in Oxford. Good service and reasonably good food, in the old banking hall of the Old Bank Hotel.

The photos

Me inside the Oxford Town Hall. Note the ominous creature looming over me. The TC does put me in the most awkward situations, for the sake of a holiday snap:

The Oxford government website describes the Town Hall as a “magnificent grade 2* Victorian building”. This worm wondered briefly about the meaning of “2*” and decided he gives it a grade 1^:

Another view of the inside of the town hall:

The modest entrance to Christ Church College:

Peering in to the quad, we encountered this dude, who was studiously not guarding the entrance. This worm admires the bowler hat and noncommittal slouch:

Moving on, we came across Magdalen College:

The college walls are encrusted with sculptures. Two people embrace:

Nearby a gargoyle grimaces:

Punts tethered on the River Cherwell, next to Magdalen College:

A poignant moment, courtesy of this worm – the punts are filled with water and autumn leaves, and shadowy reflections of the bare trees above:

The TC, bless her cotton socks, has visited Oxford a few times. She delights in telling us that, for her, the city is characterised by the mellow colour of the stone. Here is the museum:

Chequers Courtyard and The Chequers pub, which dates back to the 1500s:

The Chequers boasts a giant in its history, and is still haunted by the screams of dying monks from one of its less salubrious periods. The badge on the wall tells all:

The High Street, with a rare patch of colour complementing the usual stony grandeur:

Let’s leave the big smoke and take a look at the ducks in Abingdon, at the join of the rivers Thames and Ock:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Bletchley Park, home of the code breakers

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were bowling down the A421 in England, when we saw the sign for Bletchley Park. On a whim, and with half an hour to spare, we followed the sign.

Bletchley Park is where the British decryption experts worked during World War II, to decrypt signals from Germany and other Axis countries. The most famous German encryption machines were the Enigma machines.

The museum at Bletchley Park has a number of German Enigma machines, as well as some British encoders. It also has the Turing Bombe – that’s the machine they used to decode the Enigma codes during World War II.

This worm wishes we had had longer to examine the machines and read all the information in more detail.

My impressions? Intensely interesting to see the machines and read the information provided. Also eery to walk around the grounds and see the mansion and the huts where everything happened.

The book I’m in

Terror’s Reach, by Tom Bale. Good fast action, with believable characters. An author to find more of.

Travel tip

Drop in on Bletchley Park if you have time. It’s well worth it.

The photos

Me with one of the German Enigma encoders:

Another of the Enigma machines, this one used by the Abwehr (Secret Service):

The Turing Bombe was designed by Alan Turing to decode messages from the German Enigma machine. Experts at Bletchley Park are currently rebuilding the Bombe, so there was a group of people buzzing around it, fiddling with wires and watching the bits and bobs turn.

The other side of the Bombe, with the back open for inspection:

A British Typex encoder:

Hut 4, next to the Bletchley manor:

The manor:

That’s all for today, dudes.

A cathedral, a cinema and a ghost in Salisbury

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC wandered the streets of Salisbury in England for a few hours, ooh-ing and aah-ing over its architectural cuteness. We strolled into the cathedral close at eventide, became enthralled in its grandeur, and came back the next morning for more.

My impressions? So much history and beauty – worth a longer visit than we had time for.

The book I’m in

The Dark Tide, by Andrew Gross. A good thriller with engaging characters.

Travel tip

You don’t need any travel tips from me when in Britain. Everyone you meet will delight in telling you how to get from A to B. Britons will also exhibit a healthy distrust of GPS devices (sat navs).

Recommended accommodation

Cathedral View, 83 Exeter Street, Salisbury. Wenda and Steve put a great deal of love and care into making their guest house a welcoming, comfortable home from home.

The photos

Me inside the walls of Salisbury cathedral:

Salisbury cathedral, officially named the Cathedral of Saint Mary, was built between 1220 and 1258. This makes it a medieval building, and 750 years old. Here is the main entrance to the cathedral, known as the west front, with the spire behind:

The architectural style of the cathedral is early English gothic. This worm admires the clean, sweeping lines of the building and the eye candy added by the sculptures and other decorations. Here is a view looking down the nave (the main hall) towards the altar:

Zooming in on part of a stained glass window:

Another hall in the cathedral:

Outside the cathedral, the streets of Salisbury beckon. This is the Lazy Cow, opposite the entrance to the cathedral close in St John’s Street:

Me, the TC, and the “TC once removed” went to the Odeon cinema in Salisbury. (We watched the latest James Bond film, Sky Fall. This worm gives credit to Daniel Craig, Judy Dench and the team for a good job well done.) The cinema is said to be haunted:

The entrance to the Odeon cinema is the Hall of John Halle, a fifteenth-century Tudor banqueting hall. Here is a closer view:

We did not meet any ghosts in the cinema. In the cathedral, we did find a tomb or two. This one belongs to Thomas Bennett, who lived in the sixteenth century and was secretary to Cardinal Wolsey:

Shadows and shivers. This is one of the many sculptures on the outside walls of the cathedral:

We encountered a weird cloaked figure with glowing blue eyes roaming around the cathedral close. This worm is sure it was real flesh and blood, not a ghost, but close enough to give the TC a delightfully shivery feeling:

Seen from the outside at night, the inside of the cathedral offers a safe haven:

Farewell beauteous building:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Shivering at Stonehenge

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were bowling merrily down the A344 and there it was, right there: Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is an archaeological site and monument in Wiltshire, England, not far from Salisbury. Its most striking feature is a ring of large standing stones, some connected by lintels to form huge doorways.

My impressions? Majesty and mystery.

The book I’m in

The Dark Tide, by Andrew Gross. A good thriller with engaging characters.

Travel tip

It’s cold and windy on the downs. Wrap up well. The TC had red ears and a red nose by the time she had finished taking photographs. She professed herself quite dizzy with wonder. This worm thinks it was the extreme cold that had affected her brain.

The photos

Me at Stonehenge. Like the TC, I tend to lose focus when exposed to extreme cold:

Stonehenge was built at some time, by someone, somehow, and for some reason. No-one can quite define the “some”s. Archaeologists play it safe by saying the stones were placed in the period from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The earth bank around the outside of the stones was constructed around 3100 BC. That makes the site 5000 years old.

This worm suggests we all agree that Stonehenge was built in 4 VLTA (a very long time ago).

The stones are enormous.

There is much debate about how men of old moved them around and placed them with such precision.

Stonehenge may have been a burial ground, a temple, a celestial clock, a social project intended to unify neighbouring peoples, a time machine… Whatever it’s purpose, it is majestic and intensely interesting.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Grand Place, Manneken Pis and rainbows in Brussels

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC hopped over the border from the Netherlands into Brussels, before catching the Eurostar train to London.  Brussels is chaotic, gorgeous, and mostly friendly but sometimes not.

My impressions? Grubbiness and gold.

The book I’m in

Poet’s Cottage, by Josephine Pennicott. A delightfully rambling tale of ghosts, heartbreaks and triumphs, set in rural Tasmania.

Travel tip

An essential fact to know when in Belgium is that everything has two names: one in Dutch (Flemish) and one in French. Until you appreciate this fact, you will find yourself getting very confused and becoming very lost.

Recommended accommodation

Pantone Hotel, 1 Place Loix, Saint-Gilles, Brussels. When reserving a room, you can choose a colour as well as the usual bath/shower and single/double options.

Recommended restaurant

Houtsiplou café-restaurant, 9 Place Rouppe, Brussels. Cheerful and fast service, great atmosphere, good food. Photos below.

The photos

Me and Manneken Pis in Brussels:

A row of windmills looms over the road on the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. The blades were turning in eye-catching synchronisation as we approached:

We dropped in for a quick lunch at Houtsiplou café-restaurant:

Houtsiplou is cheerful and friendly, in tune with the mural on the wall inside:

The wall in the ladies’ toilet at Houtsiplou is covered with blackboard. Pots of chalks stand at hand. The TC, bless her heart, decided to draw a picture of me. Can you imagine! She’s no artist at the best of times. When the “TC once removed” saw the drawing, his immediate impression was that this worm is sitting on the loo. The TC hastened to assure him that the rounded protuberance at the bottom of the drawing is part of this worm’s body.

Ceci n’est pas moi:

Nearer the centre of the city, a view “above”:

The buildings aggrandise and the crowd buzzes as you approach the Grand Place:

The Grand Place (Grote Markt) is huge, magnificent, and not a little tawdry:

The Grand Place is the central market square of Brussels, surrounded by grand buildings, many of them decked out in gold. Here is another side of the square:

A gold-leafed statue of Charles of Lorraine tops the Maison de Brasseurs in the Grand Place:

More of the buildings surrounding the Grand Place:

A few blocks away, Manneken Pis holds court in his little alcove. Strange, that so many crowds of people flock to see this small, rather insignificant statue in its grungy surrounds:

Like everything else in Brussels, Manneken Pis has a French name as well as a Dutch one. His is le Petit Julien. This venerable little chap is made of bronze, and has inhabited his alcove since 1618 or 1619. A closer view:

The view from our room at the Pantone Hotel – a rainstorm drifts in across the rooftops of Brussels:

Ten minutes after the rainstorm, the late sun and a rainbow light up the scene:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Beauty and history in Groningen, Netherlands

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a couple of days visiting friends in Smilde and Assen. We stayed overnight in the university city of Groningen. It’s another place where the TC and the “TC once removed” have lived in years gone by.

My impressions? A place to keep coming back to. The northern city of Groningen is slightly more austere than Utrecht and Amsterdam, but beautiful and gezellig (welcoming) too.

The book I’m in

Poet’s Cottage, by Josephine Pennicott. A delightfully rambling tale of ghosts, heartbreaks and triumphs, set in rural Tasmania.

Travel tip

Buy a freshly-baked gevulde koek at the market and eat it on the spot. It’s a delicious, melt-in-the-mouth biscuit filled with almond paste. Ideally, the weather is cold and the koek is warm, soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Recommended accommodation

Hotel Corps de Garde, Oude Boteringestraat 74, Groningen. Get an attic room if you can, for the atmosphere, wooden beams and rooftop views. Photos below.

Recommended restaurant

Drie Gezusters, on the Grote Markt (big market square) in Groningen. Good food and great service in a lovely old building. We went up to the first floor. Photo of the building below.

The photos

Me in Groningen. Notice the window shutters on the building behind me, with their typical Groningen colours and design:

A canal in Groningen, on the Lopendediep at the top of Oude Boteringestraat:

More of the canal:

Hotel Corps de Garde, also at the top of Oude Boteringestraat:

The hotel is one of the oldest properties in Groningen. The current building was erected in 1634, to house military and city guards. It occupies the area where the thirteenth-century town wall once stood.

This is an attic room in the hotel:

Bicycles going down Oude Boteringestraat towards the city centre:

An old court house in Oude Boteringestraat:

The oldest part of the court house was built at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Here’s another view of it:

Bikes parked in front the University of Groningen:

The Martinitoren (Martini tower), on the central market square (Grote Markt) in Groningen, was built between 1469 and 1482:

The Goudkantoor (Gold Office) on the Grote Markt was originally built for the tax collector of Groningen province, then later housed the office that authenticated gold and silver. It’s now a restaurant:

Buildings on one side of the Grote Markt, including the Drie Gezusters restaurant and pub:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Published in: on 8 November 2012 at 3:25 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Oudegracht and Dom in Utrecht, Netherlands

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a few hours in Utrecht, seeing old friends and strolling along the Oudegracht. That’s the old canal that runs through the centre of the city.

My impressions? Utrecht rivals Amsterdam in beauty and grace.

The book I’m in

Poet’s Cottage, by Josephine Pennicott. A delightfully rambling tale of ghosts, heartbreaks and triumphs, set in rural Tasmania.

Travel tip

Europe is the place to experience the precious variety of life. Visiting friends in Europe is a way to appreciate that variety fully.

The photos

Me in a café overlooking the Oudegracht:

The Domtoren, or Dom Tower, was built between 1321 and 1382. It’s part of St Martin’s Cathedral, although the link between the church building and the tower was never completed. As a result, the Domtoren is a free standing tower:

The TC and her companion (let’s call him the “TC once removed”) indulged in plenty of reminiscences about the days when they used to live near Utrecht. Walking around the base of the tower, they exclaimed repeatedly how cold and windy it was in this particular spot in the city, and that is was always thus. Yet how beautiful. It struck this worm that people have been making similar comments for more than 600 years.

Buttresses on St Martin’s Cathedral, next to the Domtoren:

A sobering sight – a statue of Anne Frank, with fresh flowers tucked into her elbow:

The Oudegracht in Utrecht:

Amsterdamned is a Dutch movie made in 1988 by Dick Maas. It’s about a serial killer who roams the canals of Amsterdam in a scuba diving suit, emerging from the water to drag his victims to a nasty, watery death. The Dutch are rather fond of their classic horror thriller. This worm would call it cheesy. But good.

Why mention the movie in this post about Utrecht? The speedboat chase in Amsterdamned was filmed in the canals of  Utrecht, not Amsterdam. Utrecht is unique in having the lower-level promenade along the sides of the Oudegracht, making for a spectacular chase scene. The original purpose of the promenade, now lined with restaurants, was to provide wharves for unloading goods from boats into the warehouses along the banks.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Bushwacker cocktails in Amsterdam, Netherlands

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC paid a flying visit to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, so that the TC could mix cocktails for her colleagues in Atlassian’s Amsterdam office. Atlassian is the collective name for a group of smart people who write software. Some of them write documentation too.

My impressions? The TC says Amsterdam is the most beautiful city in the world. This worm is attempts to avoid such extravagances of praise, but has to concede that the TC may in this case be right. This worm must remark, however, that the TC is apt to say the same of Utrecht. More about Utrecht in a later post.

The book I’m in

Poet’s Cottage, by Josephine Pennicott. A delightfully rambling tale of ghosts, heartbreaks and triumphs, set in rural Tasmania.

Travel tip

Even if you have only a few hours to spare, pay a visit to Amsterdam. Walk along the canals, admire the fearless cheek of the cyclists, and eat a freshly-baked stroopwafel.

The photos

This worm didn’t have time to pose for a photograph in Amsterdam. Instead, feast your eyes on this Bushwacker cocktail, one of many that the TC mixed for the Amsterdam Atlassians:

Did you spot the canal? There are a few of those in Amsterdam.

At night the bridge arches are lit with many small bulbs:

Large windows glow in the grand buildings lining the canals:

Aha, the TC succeeded in taking a photograph without a canal. Tram lines in an early morning street scene:

Bikes on a boat on a canal – the red boats on the right offer a parking area for bikes (fietsenstalling):

Boats, bikes and lamp posts, seen through the window of a breakfast café:

Another three-arched bridge:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Autumn in Wiesbaden, Germany

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in Wiesbaden, Germany, where she will be attending a conference for the next few days. We took advantage of some free time before the conference started, to see this spa town in its autumn colours.

My impressions? Quiet beauty and comfort.

Recommended café

L’Art Sucré, Am Römertor 7, Wiesbaden, for chocolate treats and other süßen Kleinigkeiten.

The book I’m in

The Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. Funny, full of action, with a touch of darkness and not a little magic.

Travel tip

Dress in layers for an autumnal Wiesbaden. It’s surprisingly warm during the day.

The photos

Me at Kochbrunnen in Wiesbaden, German. This is one of the spas in the town. You can actually drink the water, from a couple of spouts in the little pavilion visible in this photograph. The TC, cautious as she is, did not try it.

The Heidenmauer, a Roman wall built by the emperor Valentinian in 364 AD:

Some architecture that’s slightly newer: Der Eimer (The Bucket) seems squished and skew amongst the other buildings:

Autumn leaves on the walk towards the Nerobergbahn:

The Nerobergbahn is a water-powered funicular railway that takes you up the Neroberg hill in the middle of Wiesbaden. It was opened in 1888. Here is the Nerobergbahn carriage at its top station:

Before the carriage goes down the hill, its water tanks are filled with water to make sure it is heavier than the upward-bound carriage. It then pulls the other carriage up the hill on a steel cable. The water is discharged at the bottom of the hill, and pumped back up to the top.

The driver carefully monitors the water meter on the way down the hill:

Passing the other carriage:

A view of Wiesbaden from the top of the Neroberg:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Published in: on 23 October 2012 at 2:47 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Temples of Bangkok

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

One night in Bangkok… Well, to be exact, it was two halves of a night, separated by a full day. Me and the TC spent 24 hours in the city of angels, on our way from Australia to Germany.

City of angels? That’s a translation of the first part of Bangkok’s real name, as it’s known to people in Thailand. Here is the full name of the city:

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

Me and the TC spent the day on a guided tour of three temples: Wat Traimit, Wat Pho, and the Marble Temple. The images of the Buddha in the temples are quite breathtaking. We saw a bit of the bustling city from the windows of the bus. Colour, food, smiles, and ramshackle poverty.

My impressions? A merry mix of magnificence and mundanity.

The book I’m in

The Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. Funny, full of action, with a touch of darkness and not a little magic.

Travel tip

When visiting temples, wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Especially if you have a few feet.

The photos

Me keeping a low profile at Wat Pho:

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit is the home of the Golden Buddha statue:

The image of the Golden Buddha is very beautiful and very impressive indeed. At a height of 3 metres, it towers over you. At 5.5 tonnes of solid gold, it is the biggest solid gold statue in the world, and the one with the highest intrinsic value: around $250 million. I was surprised at the low level of security around the statue. I suppose it would be hard to steal!

When first built, 700 years ago, the statue was encased in a layer of plaster, presumably to hide the valuable gold. Only in 1955, when people were moving the statue to its new home at Wat Traimit, did they chip the casing by mistake and discover the pure gold underneath. “Wat Traimit is a lucky temple,” remarked our guide. This worm was rather taken with the statue’s noble profile:

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is a complex of temples, pagodas and galleries. It also houses the original college of Thai massage. Here is the entrance to Wat Pho:

The image of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho exudes serenity:

All round the Reclining Buddha are murals depicting the life of Buddha. This is just a small part of one of the scenes, partly picked out in gold leaf:

The feet of the Reclining Buddha image give an idea of its scale:

The bottoms of the feet are inlaid with mother of pearl:

Here is a close up view of one of the mother-of-pearl scenes on the feet:

Another lovely image of the Buddha at Wat Pho:

Wat Pho is a garden of pagodas:

A closer look at some of the tiling on a pagoda:

There’s so much to see, sometimes it’s hard to know which way to turn:

Twirling rooftops:

Dragons and flowers:

At the school of Thai massage within the grounds of Wat Pho, murals depict the human anatomy demonstrating massage techniques:

A closer look at a diagram for massage students:

Small statues in the garden, also demonstrating Thai massage:

Marble Temple

The Marble Temple is made of Italian marble:

This worm found the windows intriguing: they’re stained glass, in the Italian style, but depicting Thai scenes:

Here is the gorgeous image of the Buddha in the Marble Temple:

This statue is a copy of the image in Northern Thailand, the Phra Buddha Chinnarat, which our guide says is the most beautiful image of Buddha in the world. Here is a closer look at the image in the Marble Temple:

Bringing us back to earth, the Marble Temple has more than 50 images of the Buddha, including this one of Buddha the aesthete:

This worm is drawn by some of the statues’ eyes:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers