We left Wealden mid-morning and said goodbye to the coast. I planned to go via Salisbury where we would have lunch and have a quick look around but we weren’t even half-way to Salisbury when I began hearing hunger pains from the back seat of the car so we stopped in at McDonalds for lunch. It was a big occasion as it was Daniel’s first Big Mac. I guess a time comes when you can’t just give the kids jam sandwiches when you take them to McD’s. It would only be one week later when Amy, on her 9th birthday, was to also undergo this momentous occasion of having her first Big Mac. Eventually we arrived at Salisbury where we spent an enjoyable hour or so wandering around. Here are a few photos of the town and cathedral.

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This cathedral is home to the famous Magna Carta, the Greater Charter, a document that outlines the powers and limits of the monarchy. The copy at Salisbury Cathedral is the best preserved of the four remaining original exemplars.

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While we were at Salisbury I found out that Stonehenge was only about 8 miles away. I expected to need to make a day trip to Stonehenge from our next house but as it was just up the road we seized the opportunity and set off just after 4pm. Ten minutes later we drove over a ridge and lo and behold, Stonehenge was in front of us. What as awesome sight. The weather was perfect for wandering around and the sun for a change was in a good direction for photos of the stones.

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I remember visiting Stonehenge the first time and how disappointed I was but this time I thoroughly enjoyed it. We arrived at the perfect time with not too many other tourists crowding around. We listened to the audio guide and made the most of the fresh air.

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We were only half way to Noss Mayo near Plymouth, our destination so had another three hours to go. We piled back in the car and set off. As we got closer to Noss Mayo the road became narrower. I began to think about swapping our rental car with a smaller one. These are two way roads but only as wide as one narrow lane with stone walls on either side covered with hedge to give you a false feeling of safety.

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If a bus comes you let it go first …

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There are no street numbers in Noss Mayo only house names. After six hours of being in the car I was ready to simply find our house and get settled in. Unfortunately I initially drove up the wrong road but after retracing our steps I found the correct road and carefully drove along. The hilliness of this place reminded me of Wellington hillside housing and associated steep roads and driveways. The first things I noticed after finding our house was that the driveway, short but steep, had war-wounds gorged out of it where cars had scraped in attempts to drive up. Our car is so wide I was concerned I’d either hit the concrete bank on one side or drive over the edge on the other side. After surveying my options I drove slowly up the first part of the driveway as close as I could to the concrete bank in an effort to avoid the tracks my predecessors had taken. About half way up I lost traction and my wheels began spinning. I reversed a little and this time applied more acceleration and almost made it to the mid-way point where a neighbour’s parking space was where I planned have a break in my driveway attempt. After a little more wheel spinning I successfully made it into the park space and began working out how to get to our correct parking space in front of our house garage. By the time I parked I was ready to keep the car there for the entire week and just walk everywhere. How I would get out I had no idea. Looking back I don’t know what the fuss was as by the end of the week I could almost drive up in one go with no wheel spinning and my eyes closed.

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After unpacking I decided to go across the road to visit the neighbour and find out about nearby places to buy groceries. I was warmly greeted by Trish who was very helpful and enthusiastically told me the places to visit and gave me a run down on the village. Trish and her husband Brain had fond memories of their three month visit to New Zealand some years ago. We booked a date later in the week for us to come over for dinner which ended up being a highlight of the week for us.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly good the week we were in Noss Mayo, however we did get out a few times, once waking in the mud from one side of the river to the other at low tide and another time walking another visitor, Daniele from Italy, home in the rain with his kids. Later in the week on our walk back from Newton Ferrers we meet Daniele’s wife watching her kids playing on a small jetty. Daniel and Amy joined in and they had a lovely time in the wind collecting up the seaweed.

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Karen and I spent most of the week indoors working on phase three of our itinerary, our last three months in Europe. It’s a very time consuming and at times depressing job especially when you would rather be outside visiting the sights. The bad weather helped us to not get too despondent. The awesome news in this space is that Karen will finally get her cruise! I thought the Gondola ride in Venice would be sufficient and ease off the pressure but sadly I had to admit defeat and agree to a 7 day cruise. So In November we fly back to Venice for one night (now that will be fun) then we board the MSC Musica and float around to Bari, Katakolon, Mykonos, Santorini, Pireaus (port for Athens) , Corf and a one night stop at Dubrovnik in Croatia of all places then back to Venice! It’s a quick cruise with not long at any of the ports but that’s fine with me. Let’s get back to solid ground more permanently as soon as we can.

While staying in Noss Mayo we had a day visit to a seaside village named Looe in Cornwall and then, nearby to Looe, the unique village of Polperro. On the way we had an hour or so quick visit to the historical part of Plymouth – sadly too much of that time was spent in shops but all was not lost as we finished up the shopping with a good Mocha at a Pub/Café:

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Just before moving on from Plymouth we raced our way to the Hoe where Sir Francis Drake is said to have played bowls in 1588 while waiting for the tide to change so he could sail out to fight against the Spanish Armada.

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Looe was a real hit with Daniel and Amy because after parking our car we caught a small motor boat over to the other side of the river inlet and they both were permitted to have a go a steering – Daniel even steered the boat alongside the wharf.

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A real beach …

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We made our way to the beach not hoping for much but we were delighted to discover a sandy beach! I had only planned to spend an hour at Looe but Daniel and Amy were having so much fun we decided to forget our great plan of driving around the Cornwell for the day and stay on the beach. I had to take the boat ride back to the other side to feed the parking meter and in the process I met a couple from Australia who were staying in Polperro. Prior speaking to them I couldn’t really be bothered going to Polperro but with their encouragement I felt we had no choice.

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Toward the end of our day we made the short trip to Polperro and found the carpark we were told you had to park in because they do not permit cars (from tourists) in the village. We almost changed our mind but I asked a few people who were returning to their cars if it was worthwhile and they reassured us that it was. Happy with the survey we began our walk into the village. I am pleased to say it was definitely worth the effort and we would have missed out badly if we didn’t go. The village reminded me of Mykonos, an English version of a small Greek village but without the nice warm temperatures that go with Greece. Here are a few photos:

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The next day we had dinner with our neighbours Trish and Brian. The meal was restaurant quality, (they use to run a hotel and I think Brian trained as a chef) a wonderful sauce (which I now have the recipe for) on roasted chicken, roasted potatoes cooked perfectly, cauliflower with cheese sauce followed by an apple steam pudding … The company was delightful, we enjoyed talking with them although Daniel and Amy seemed to be on turbo charge and kept them busy with their stories. Later we also went down stairs to take a look at Brian’s model train set – he use to drive the real thing.

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Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers over the river are picturesque and one of those places we really would like to come back to again someday. It would have been nice to see them in the sun but nevertheless we enjoyed our stay in this small hillside community overlooking the river estuary.

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(Week 17: Saturday 9 June 2012 – Saturday 16 June 2012)