Monday, August 2, 2010

UK July 2010

You can see some pictures here at

We arrived in London on Wednesday June 23 via Bangkok and Frankfurt on Lufthansa (great deal and good service).  Immediately getting into the swing of things Virginia (Vivienne’s sister) and Pierre (husband) hosted a dinner party attended by a number of Vivienne’s old Welsh friends.  This was the first of 30 non-alcoholic free nights.

The next day I had lunch with Ken Ghata at the Travellers Club in London.  Ken not only bought my book but also has recommended it
After lunch I went to the British Library at Kings Cross which I confess is unappealing building on the outside but it had a wonderful exhibition called Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art which was recommended in the Australian Financial Review.

That evening we caught up with the Mayers and Arnolds at Annies
Just behind Strand-on-the Green which has become a local institution which serves excellent tucker.

On Friday we drove down to Cornwall to the cottage we had rented at Rinsey Cove.  Lovely cottage and combined with great weather meant it was a terrific 7 days.  (The irony was that the owners were in Sydney freezing to death).   Rinsey Cove is between Porthleven and Penszance.  We walked to Porthleven (3.5 miles) finishing with a Newlyn crab salad at The Ship Inn, and then went back another day to watch England be humiliated by Germany at The Harbour Inn.  Other highlights were watching West Side Story at the Minack Theatre.  which is a open air theatre on the Cornwall coast.  This brought back memories because in July 1968 I acted on the Minack stage in The Crucible in the major role of Judge Hathorne. We did the other tourist things such as visiting St. Michaels Mount and the seal sanctuary.  On the tennis front After halving the first day 1 set each Pierre  beat me the second day in a titanic set 8-6.  However the best memory for me was sitting out in the garden in the afternoon or evening, sipping rose and enjoying a very pleasant meal conversation. 

After the week in Cornwall we started on our drive to Edinburgh.  First stop was Gurrow Point, home of Peter Mackie and Sally in Dittisham Devon.  Dittisham was described by the Times as the best riverfront village in Britain and Gurrow Point comprises a magnificent house in 80 acres at least a kilometre of prime river frontage.  Sally and Peter were terrific hosts and besides a great lunch and dinner, it turned out that an old boyfriend of Vivienne’s and his wife were running a B&B across the river so the next day we hopped in the boat and motored across for coffee.

We then spent a night in Bath, eating at the Beaujolais Bistro Bar which was absolutely buzzing.  The Lonely Planet guide to Britain says if you have only one day in the UK then the place to visit is Bath.  As an old Sulian few things beat walking around Bath on bright, sunny Sunday morning around the Circus and Royal Crescent and then strolling through Victoria Park.

We visited my parents’ grave and then went on to the Vale of Glamorgan to visit the graves of Vivienne’s parents.  We stayed the night at the The Great Barn Guest House, Lillypot, Bonvilston,  which is run by Nina Sue and David, again related to Vivienne.  The Great Barn is a great place to stay.  That night we had dinner with Vivienne’s good friend Jane Taylor at a Loch Fyne restaurant on the Cowbridge bypass.  While it has had mixed reviews our meal wasn’t bad.

We then went to meet Nick Gomershall and his partner Brigitte at The Oxfordshire Golf Club for a game of golf followed by a great BBQ at his home.  Again a terrific meal followed the next day doing some video clips etc.  Nick distributes Empathy Selling in the UK. 

That night we went to dinner at the Sir Charles Napier pub in Chinnor.  This is one of the great pubs of England; the food and scuptures were brilliant.  Napier was the man who, after relieving the siege of Sind, sent Queen Victoria a telegram reading simply ‘peccavi’ or I have sinned.   Nick (a former LBS alumni) and JoJo Cross were also came and we had a fabulous night with yours truly finding some great bargains on the wine list.  We had a superb Argentinean Malbec for only £19.

The next day we drove to the Lake District.  We spent two nights at The Punchbowl Inn in Crosthwaite
This pub was voted the best pub in England by readers of The Times and 2009 Pub of the Year by the Michelin Guide.  The food and ambiance were again excellent..  This was followed by one night at The Drunken Duck in Ambleside. 
Personally I would have rated it on a par with the Punchbowl.  Either way both pubs are well worth a visit.  Neither Vivienne nor I, despite growing up in Britain, had never visited the Lake District. It must be the most attractive area in England, and now I understand why the Romantic Poets loved it.  Of course the weather must be a challenge but that did not seem to stop the walkers who were everywhere.  We did our walking playing golf at the Windemere Golf Course.

Finally we made our way to Edinburgh which again was a first visit for both of us.  Edinburgh is certainly worth a visit but by now we were in northern latitudes and the weather was noticeably bleaker and the days longer.  The sun rose at 4:30am and set around 10pm.
We now commenced the playing of golf starting with 4 rounds in 4 days at Carnoustie (very tough), Gullane (easier but not by much), North Berwick (until you have lobbed over a wall onto a green you have not lived), and Kingsbarns (spectacularly beautiful but the weather was awful.)  The round at Kingsbarns was played on the same Wednesday St. Andrews was hosting the Champion of Champions contest over 4 holes prior to the start of The Open.  It was not held because the weather was so bad.  Meanwhile about 30 minutes drive away yours truly (Vivienne wimped out) played 18 holes in my new rain jacket from the Lake District.
38 points and the best round I played all week!!

While staying in Edinburgh we had dinner at Greywalls  which abuts the 9th tee at Muirfield.  Our hosts were Giles Weaver (another ex LBS alumni) and his wife Ros.  The grandfather invented Horlicks and with the proceeds of the royalties bought Greywalls and Ros ran the hotel until recently.  Now it is managed independently and has a Chez Roux restaurant which is part of the legendary Roux Brothers operation who are the finest chefs in England.  I had Albert Roux’s SoufflĂ© Suissesse for starter and I can safely say that it was the best starter I have ever had in my life.

We then moved to Anstruther staying at the Craw’s Nest Hotel.  We spent three days watching The Open and played rounds at Ludin Links (dangerous – one of my playing partners took a direct hit by golf ball) and Gleaneagles (site of the 2014 Ryder Cup).  My take on St. Andrews is that it is small (94 acres compared to 150 acres for the normal golf course), flat so not suitable for spectators (the best strategy is to sit in a stand and watch the field go through) and easy when there is no wind but a killer when it is blowing (but so is any golf course). The shape is typical links (out for nine holes and then back) except holes 7 to 11 are played crossing one another.  However it was great fun to go there and it is not often you see Tiger Woods get a double bogey.  (definitely not a happy camper).

We finished the trip with a great dinner at Rusacks hotel which looks over the 18th and 1st holes.  Vivienne won the ladies competition.  Great 10 days and well done to Mike and Bede of Teed-Up who organised it.

In summary:

Go to Britain in the summer; the weather can be very good and the countryside is stunning.

Cornwall, The Lake District and Edinburgh are well worth a visit.

The food has improved unbelievably and given the exchange rate very good value indeed.

While gloomy about the future most people are happy Cameron has got in believing the government needed to be changed. 

Chris Golis Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence website:

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