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It took us 23 hours for the flights from Sydney to London, including a 90 minute transit through Dubai for me to eat a piece of Banoffe pie! (I’m kidding about the reason for the transit in Dubai, but the Banoffe pie at 1am was memorable!) We each slept about 7 hours of the trip, but of course we had been up for some 9 hours prior to flying, and I had used the hotel gym to wear myself out and compensate for the bum-numbing hours ahead.

We arrived at Heathrow about 20 minutes early, and to our shock were through immigration and customs in record time! I guess a person has to catch a break eventually, we’ve certainly had a couple of hideous transits through Heathrow in the past. We hot-footed to the central bus terminal in the Heathrow area, but trust me it is a bit of a hike. We chalked it up to our fitness for the day, or so we thought!

The bus ride to Oxford was 1.5 hours, and with available free wireless we could catch up on our media contacts during the ride. We walked five blocks in Oxford to the Avis car rental, only to find out on arrival they had moved about three or four blocks back the direction from which we had come. It left us wondering why their confirmation email the week prior had omitted this particular bit of information. Thank God for whoever invented suitcases with wheels!

Once we were in the rental car and out of Oxford on our way to Bristol, we thought the hard part was behind us. It turns out Bristol is probably the most difficult city in England to find one’s way around. No kidding. I mean to tell you this is one tough nut to crack. We had the address of our hotel but just could not reconcile the actual roads to those on the map. So we gave up and found a place to have lunch. Good lunch. Back to the task at hand.

Eventually we found the Avon Gorge Hotel, but you wouldn’t find it by accident. It is situated on the edge of a cliff overlooking the gorge of the Avon River. To the front is a narrow street that was filled with a wedding party spilling out of the hotel, when we arrived. To the back was a very steep driveway and the only parking space within coo-ee was at the very bottom. So up the very long and very steep driveway we once again trailed our suitcases to check into the hotel. I called this my 60/60 reality check. At the age of sixty and weighing sixty kilos, I was pulling a suitcase weighing 18.5kg plus a travel case carry on that must weigh at least a couple more kilos, easily a third of my body weight, up a very steep (San Francisco steep) incline. The old girl still has it.

Once checked in we took the cases down the hallway, up in the lift, down the stairs, down another hallway, down more stairs, through the fire door, down more stairs, down more stairs, and around a corner and there was our secluded, quiet little room on the garden… filled with cooking smells from the kitchen above! Neither of us had the energy to complain or move the bags further, we just hoped that the travel gods would look after us somehow.

I rang my blogging friend J who we had arranged to meet once we realised she lived exactly on our way to South Wales from Oxford. She graciously offered to come and be our guide for a walk with us to keep ourselves awake and have as much sunlight as possible so we could get over the jet lag. Once back at the hotel, we farewelled J, and slipped into the White Lion Bar and had a Guinness, a cider and a meal. The good Karma was with us and by the time we were ready for bed, most of the cooking smells in our room had dissipated. We slept well, and deservedly so, don’t you think?

Next morning we had a delicious breakfast highlighted by a decadent, gooey chocolate muffin in the Bridge Cafe at the Avon Gorge Hotel. Actually I made Don eat the muffin so I could have a taste. He didn’t argue. We checked out of the hotel and met friend J again and followed in our car to her home where she had prepared a lovely morning tea of berries and homemade cake. I tried clotted cream for the first time. Artery clogging goodness if ever there was some.

After a chatty visit and tour of the garden we bade our friends farewell and headed off West to start our adventure in Wales.
(Again I ask your indulgence as I am learning on the move. Am having problems placing my photos in the text using my iPad, which is why they are lined up at the end. And why they have not retained the captions I don’t know. If anyone has tips for me, I would appreciate it)