Monday, July 24, 2017

HF Holidays walking tour to visit the Isle of Wight, for a solo traveler

Freshwater Bay house, photo from HF Holidays web site

View from the Freshwater Bay country house with HF Holidays

Isle of Wight, UK
On my third attempt to visit this island, only a 40 minute ferry ride from Lymington or a faster hydrofoil from Southampton, I was determined to spend a few days here with the HF Holidays group at one of their country houses.  A secondary benefit was visiting Lymington and attending the weekly market.

I would be staying at Freshwater Bay house as an 'independent walker', not part of the organized walks offered daily.  Although I thought I was a walker, I quickly found out that I would be outpaced by 80+ year old's who could go 6hr on a daily hike!  Later in this post you will see the 'simple walk to Yarmouth" that proved that daily walks around a city was not sufficient training for this adventure.

I had several goals for my visit to the Isle of Wight:
1.   to finally visit Osbourn House see photos of exterior here
2.   to visit the town of Yarmouth and villages that are linked by a handy 'island bus system'
3.   to experience a full board stay in a hotel.

With so many topics I have divided this post into segments so you can skip topics of no interest to you.

The Freshwater Bay House:

HF Holiday arranged a taxi/van service to pick up the ferry passengers joining the week long walks.   There was also a weekend festival in Yarmouth and made the transfer a little hectic!

After a quick check in at FBH we were served  afternoon tea.    This was my first opportunity to see who might be traveling solo on this 'vacation'.    There seemed to be a large number of couples and some groups all traveling together.   Many of the guests had stayed with HFH before and knew the routine.

The views from the hotel are wonderful.  There is a path along the caulk cliffs that are only a few feet from a bone shattering fall to the beach so we were told to pay attention on an 'introductory' walk before dinner.   Only 4 attendees so I was not hopeful to find many solo travelers. 

The house has several large lounges and sitting areas for any guests to use:   cards, board games, reading or chatting with other guests.  There is also a full bar

The dining room:   Large round tables are more inviting for guest to meet other travelers.
There was a couple traveling on a bed and breakfast plan and had their own table.

As a solo traveler eating with strangers is not easy for me but if you sit next to someone and say hello you just hope they don't tell you "You cant sit here, I am saving it'.     HFH  had a great policy that as you enter there is an employee who will happily seat you at a table. 

The bedrooms have been updated and feature new baths.   There is excellent wifi service in the rooms and I read that some rooms have ocean view.   Above if a double room and very spacious.

There are other activities for guests when you are not out on a hike.  The property has a large heated pool, some lawn games and extensive gardens.

The property is also a short walk to what I was told the only or last thatched roof church.  The next morning after breakfast, I set off to explore.   I would have enjoyed visiting during the wedding they had earlier in the day.
How lucky that the church was open and visitors were welcome to look around

Add caption

I have seen individual seat cushions in many churches in the UK.
Do the church members each needle point a cushion based on a specific pattern?

         From here I proceeded to the smallest book store and best cake/tea café on the same road.

It was very fortunate that there was ONE map of the Freshwater Bay area to purchase here or I would have wasted all day looking for the foot path!

Next my short hike to Yarmouth that took me ALL day and visiting Osbourn house!

Please return next week for the rest of the story.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Some places in London shared by a Local

Christine's Corner   

While the weather was good, the views were stunning and we walked around the entire cove

While on the Isle of Wight for a HF Holiday country house walk, I met a lovely woman
at the breakfast table one morning.   Most of the guests were British (I was the only American) and
I chatted with Christine about suggestions for places to visit in London that are not featured in most travel books.    
Below are a few of her suggestions.   As a London resident I hope she will continue to share unique places to add to my yearly visit to London.

Bunhill Fields Cemetery - burial place of Daniel Defoe, William Blake and others.
Abney Park Cemetery - burial place of William Booth. Lots of community activities take place here. Near to Stoke Newington Church Street - lots of nice shops and restaurants.

Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath - stately home bequeathed to the country, managed by English Heritage. Art gallery includes works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, among many others. Very nice cafe, beautiful vista from the house and, of course, walks on the Heath.

Wilton's Music Hall - rescued from dereliction- is now a theatre with bars and a cafe (not an actual music hall though!). Near to 'Battle of Cable Street' mural depicting locals taking on Oswald Mosley's  Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Also near to Jack the Ripper museum - a bit grim but very moving biographical information on the victims.

All Hallows by the Tower - very interesting crypt. Also quite near to the above.

St Olave's Church - very close to above. Samuel Pepys worshipped here. Both churches near to the Tower of London.
Where to Eat
Turkish Restaurants Green Lanes Harringay - lovely cheap fresh food, many restaurants to choose from. Nearest tube Manor House, Piccadilly Line.

Zedel - very reasonably priced, beautiful, art deco restaurant with street cafe, cabaret and American Bar. Bang in the middle of Piccadilly.

Thank you Christine, I look forward to many more posts
More on the HF Holiday stay soon.