When my son got in to Oxford University one of the first observations from other family members was “Well of course you’ll be supporting Oxford in the Boat Race now.”
I was astounded! My answer was immediate and unequivocal, rejecting all their pre-suppositions and expectations of parental support: Absolutely no way! Once a Light Blue always a Light Blue!
So this Easter Day for the first time a sporting event, the 159th University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, will, in our household, be followed keenly but firmly from opposite sides of the fence or River.
My son, possibly in a desperate attempt to sway me, has taken up rowing for Trinity College (the dark blue one), with accompanying mother’s-heart-strings-tugging freezing 6am starts on the Isis, punishing training schedules and extraordinary fridge-emptying food consumption. There’s even the added emotional enticement of a 2012 Olympic medal winning member of his college, Constantine Loulondis, rowing in the Oxford Boat, plus the memory of last year’s Oxford crew’s traumatic loss, which they will be desperate to rectify.
Fortunately said-son will be keeping his distance standing somewhere on the (freezing) banks of the Thames this afternoon while I will be watching in front of a warm fire. The main thing is that now he is at Oxford he completely understands my point of view.
Meanwhile, away from the sporting rivalry, I love both Oxford and Cambridge as two very beautiful, very different places to visit. And as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide qualified to take groups to Oxford, and as an Alumna of Cambridge able to take guests back there too I enjoy sharing the best of worlds…
… apart from today. Although in my heart of hearts, having now seen the work and commitment my son puts in to row at college level, I am just totally in awe of the sporting ability and dedication of both crews.
Besides, whatever the outcome in the rowing, Cambridge won the Varsity Football yesterday…
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Blue Badge Tourist Guides, Events, Home, Family & Fun, London
Tagged 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race, Cambridge Tours, Cambridge University Boat Club, Constantin Louloudis, Oxford University Boat Club, OxfordTours, University Boat Race
Highlights of The Tourism Alliance’s UK Tourism Statistics 2013 make great reading for us as Blue Badge Tourist Guides in London and South East England!
Tourism accounted for over one third of all new jobs created in the UK in 2012.
Tourism is the UK’s third biggest employment sector, employing nearly 3 million people.
The UK is the world’s seventh most important international tourism destination both by visitor numbers and visitor expenditure.
Tourism is also the UK’s sixth largest export earner, accounting for nearly 5% of total exports.
A study commissioned by VisitBritain and its partners in the GREAT campaign suggests the UK’s sporting and cultural credentials have significantly improved thanks to the hosting of the London 2012 Games.
For the first time ever, Britain has made it into the top 10 of most welcoming nations in 9th place.
Amongst the studies, 63% of respondents now want to visit Britain with 75% looking beyond London.
Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain said: “London’s hosting of the Games, the amazing opening and closing ceremonies and the warmth of welcome shown to our international visitors have combined to boost our global image.”
And finally…according to Travel Mole a record number of cruise passengers visited the UK during 2012.
CruiseBritain said more than 100 ships from 47 cruise lines visited the UK last year bringing a record 723,000 passengers on day trips, a rise of 11%. 2012 also saw 962,000 passengers begin their cruises at a UK port, a 10% increase on 2011.
Here’s to a great 2013 for everyone in the UK’s fantastic tourism industry!
Now that the Olympic Park is back in the news again and we are in for eleven days of spectacular sporting feats of endurance and courage with the Paralympic Games, can I put in a plea for the Park plantings? The wild flower plantings in the Queen Elizabeth II Park are one of the most commented upon aspects of the park after the sport. South East Tour Guides spend much time travelling on Britain’s motorways and I am wondering whether a leaf (sorry) can be taken out of the Park book to brighten them up. Motorway verges are one of the first views that many of our overseas visitors have of the English countryside and we could make them so very much prettier than the ubiquitous elder and ragwort currently allows.
This may be deemed very irresponsible by some, but I put out a plea to all who read this blog to obtain a packet of British wildflower seeds and next time you are travelling on a favourite motorway, open the packet and scatter the seeds. We could fill the verges with native plants & brighten up these newest of wildlife refuges for the delight of all.
For reference I take two significant plantings from the past:
Miss Wilmott’s Ghost, also known as the plant Eryngium, named after Ellen Willmott, the devoted 19th-century English garden enthusiast, who was so taken by the plant that she would carry seeds with her & scatter them in gardens she found boring. The following year the plant, the ghost of Miss Wilmott, appeared.
The Sydney Oak at Penshurst Place in Kent , said to be possibly over 1,000 years old, or maybe just 500 years old and have been planted to commemorate the birth of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, the acorns of which have been taken & planted all over the world by enterprising members of the Sydney family.
So, as a personal tribute to the legacy of the Olympics 2012, I hereby scatter my packet of wildflower seeds on a small patch of motorway just north of Dover - welcome to the Garden of England – and enjoy for many years to come!
Blue Badge tourist guide
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Events, Home, Family & Fun
Tagged Blue Badge tourist guide, British, Dover, legacy, Miss Willmott, motorways, Olympic s 2012, Paralympics, Penshurst Place, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, The Garden of England, wildflower meadows
My mole who has been beavering away (one at a time with the metaphors, please. Ed) at the Olympic Park became mute about ten days ago after he had witnessed a practice for the Opening Ceremony. When badgered (Not again! Ed) to provide details the response was “It’s classified information, mother” which was galling to say the least.
After the official practice run he was sufficiently awestruck to make the comment “It makes me proud to be British” which for a teenager concerned with coolness of image is praise indeed. But that was it – not a word more! I was tempted to get him up against a wall with arm behind back to extract information from him but as he is a foot taller than me I thought the action futile.
Then, during the Opening Ceremony he finds himself in a Press Box….the luck some people have!
Anyway, a few phone pictures to capture the event for which we are all proud to be British.
Blue Badge tourist guide
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Events, Home, Family & Fun
Tagged Blue Badge tourist guide, British, doves, fireworks, industrial revolution, NHS, Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012, Olympic Park, prectice event
It’s been a good week for catching up with colleagues from our Blue Badge Tourist Guides training course.
We’ve all been bumping into each other at Dover Cruise Terminal, Canterbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle and in the cobbled streets of Rye as we introduced some of the first cruise visitors of the season to the delights of Kent’s coastline, beautiful countryside and historic sites.
I’ve taken some lovely groups of people on full and half-day excursions out of Dover on behalf of InterCruises and we have been so lucky with the weather – yesterday in Rye we even had sunshine! Not surprisingly there were a few bemused faces as I explained that despite six weeks of rain almost every day the South East is officially a drought area; although, as I only found out myself recently, anyone who holds a disabled parking Blue Badge is normally exempt from the hosepipe ban. Unfortunately, however, it seems that the authorities will take a dim view of anyone hiring their granny out to water someone else’s garden!
Our visitors are catching on to the excitement of the UK’s big Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games year and we are looking forward to sharing some of the forthcoming events with them. In the meantime one of our favourites is imminent – The 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. More about that next week as in the meantime we have some related rather early morning starts to get through!
Posted in 2012 Olympics, International Links, Kent, Local Visits, Royal Family
Tagged 2012 Olympic Games, Blue Badge Tourist Guides, Canterbury tours, Chelsea Flower Show 2012, cruise Excursions, Diamond jubilee, Dover Cruise Terminal, Intercruises, Leeds Castle Tours, Rye Tours
What an eventful weekend of sport we had over Easter. With a house full of family ranging from 92 years down to 4 months there was something to complement everyone’s enjoyment of far too much chocolate.
Living in the South East of England, which is generally accepted to be where cricket started back in the 17th Century, we were naturally delighted that England is still the world’s number 1-ranked Test team after their victory against Sri Lanka in the final Test of the series, marked by Kevin Pietersen’s wonderful 6 from the last ball following his brilliant first innings 151. (It’s amazing what having a son does to the cricket knowledge/interest of one of four girls – although we did in fact play cricket at my all girls school back in the dark ages of my youth..)
As a Cambridge girl I was pleased that The Light Blues won Saturday’s 158th University Boat Race, although unfortunately the circumstances were not the best with that swimmer stopping the race followed by the collision, Oxford’s broken oar and then the really worrying collapse of their bow oarsman.
Meanwhile my ex-golfing (and qualified pilot!) 92 year old mother-in-law loved watching the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament from Augusta, although sadly Lee Westwood’s promising start was eclipsed by Bubba Watson’s astounding winning play-off shot late last night to snatch victory from Louis Oosthuizen. Westwood HAS to win a Major soon – hopefully 2012 will be his year.
Most exciting of all was the British Team’s fantastic performance in the 2012 World Track Cycling Championships in Melbourne. From the 10 events which make up the programme for the 2012 Olympic Games in just over three months time, British riders took five gold medals including an unbelievable last split-second victory by Sir Chris Hoy in the Keirin.
Having recently seen the amazing looking Olympic Velodrome close-up for ourselves during a tour right inside the Olympic Park (we were on our Blue Badge Tourist Guides Olympic venues training course and can report that the Park is looking amazing) it is great to think that TeamGB’s track cyclists’ preparation seems to be going so well.
It is going to be a wonderful summer of sport – and remember if you are in the South East and want to explore the region’s cricket heritage or the 2012 Venues we will be delighted to take you to see some of our favourite sporting locations.
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Events, Home, Family & Fun
Tagged 2012 Masters Golf Tournament, 2012 World Track Cycling Championships, Blue Badge Tourist Guides Olympic Venues, Bubba Watson Masters, Cambridge University Boat Race, Kevin Pietersen Man of the match, Lee Westwood, Olympic Park Tour, Olympic Velodrome, Sir Chris Hoy Keirin, Sri Lanka Test, T, University Boat Race, World No.1 Cricket Team
The Olympic & Paralympic Games dates are coming up fast which will provide us with a very exciting summer and the legacy they leave will remain for generations. Take a tour of the Olympic venues and see for yourself how an area east of London has been transformed.
A neglected industrial waste-ground suffering from an earlier industrial age when stewardship of the land was not a priority, has been regenerated into an environmentally clean urban space.
A toxic marsh area has been transformed into 250 acres of leisure, living and working space.
This is re-generation in a form and scale not previously seen and will challenge your pre-conceptions of the London East End for years to come.
Below are the Royal Docks nearby to the Olympic Park which may have worked as a catalyst for the Olympic Vision. You can tour the area contrasting ancient history with modern interpretations to see how a truly great city continually re-invents itself.
South East Tour Guides have now completed their training to guide around the Olympic venues in London and what a venue to finish with – just look at that view! This picture was taken from Greenwich Observatory where the Prime Meridian of the World lies, looking down over the park to The Queen’s House, the River Thames & then over the water to the great city of London. Far to the left, with a little imagination, you can just make out the office tower affectionately known by Londoners as The Gherkin; Canary Wharf in the centre; & the O2 Centre on the extreme right.
If you have tickets for the Olympic Equestrian Events you are in for a real treat combining fantastic horsemanship with beautiful cityscapes, an unusual juxtaposition only possible in the newly named Royal Borough of Greenwich.
If you prefer your sport a little wetter but no less lively, then look out onto the Thames on Wednesday 25 July 2012 for The Arrival Parade of an entire flotilla of around 20 Tall Ships sailing in convoy into London to inaugurate the spectacular maritime event Sail Royal Greenwich 2012. The fleet will be accompanied by up to 200 smaller vessels. The Tall Ships will gather in the Thames estuary in Gravesend, Tilbury before sailing into Greenwich.
The first to arrive seen on the Thames this week under power, is Thalassa, & I’ve sneaked in a copied picture of her under sail.
Horses : tall ships- both poetry in motion, impossible to choose between them.
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Events
Tagged Canary wharf, London, O2 centre, Olympic Equestrian Events, Queen's house, River Thames, Royal borough of Greenwich, Sail Royal Greenwich 2012, tall ships, the Gherkin
This week has been marvellous for its spring weather & South East Tour Guides have been fortunate enough to be spending the time at the Olympic Park, and it is truly inspiring. We have been sped around the Park in a little pink bus getting to know all the different buildings; tramped the perimeter & recce-ed the local area with a fine toothcomb; and we love it all.Here are just a few photos to show you how things are shaping up for the Olympic Games.
The Olympic Rings are currently residing in the King George V Docks, waiting in the wings to be floated back up the River Thames to adorn London Bridge.
The Aquatics Centre shows off
the daffodils in the bottom left of
the frame -there really is intention for this Olympic Park to be a long-term legacy to London, why else plant bulbs which will be well & truly over by August? They will be bright & cheerful again next year– a reassuring sign of the promised forward planning.
And so that you can say you saw it here first (we do go that extra mile just for you Dear Reader) here’s the grass inside the Olympic Athletics Stadium; home grown in Scunthorpe.
And finally just because we can and we’re proud ………
Ciao Dear Readers!
I have just returned after a lovely stay in Italy, based in Milan (no – before you ask inexplicably I was neither in nor at Milan Fashion Week). I was visiting the now very grown up children, with their own children, who I looked after as an au-pair several decades ago, while brushing up my Italian skills with a whole week of speaking no English whatsoever. I even got through Gone with The Wind in Italian. A long film at the best of times , but with Italian style frequent advert breaks….
I practised my vocabulary by telling anyone who would listen all about my job as a South East England Blue Badge Guide and the many fascinating places they would be able to visit should they drop into Kent sometime.
I obviously made a strong impression since, as I write, I am dimly aware of a flurry of flight bookings and am braced for an impending influx of my Italian friends requiring a very personal guided tour of South East England.
First off – the nine year old son of my one time ‘ littlest Italian bambino’ (now 6 foot 2..) is obsessed with mazes and he may now be arriving ‘in famiglia’ in August to check out those near where I live at Hever Castle, and an easy outing away at Hampton Court Palace and Leeds Castle.
Meanwhile the fascination with all things to do with our Royal Family among people without their own continues. While in Italy I was cross- examined on every detail of The Royal Wedding, the changes to the Royal Succession, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the – in their opinion – ‘new improved’ Prince Harry (who during my visit was ‘beating’ Usain Bolt in the 100 metres in Jamaica so was hot news).
The teenage daughters of ‘my little Italian charge now mother of two’ are therefore planning their visit for a personalised guided tour of Windsor Castle, and in particular the Queen’s Dolls House. No doubt they will also expect the odd trip to Harrods and Buckingham Palace thrown in as well – anywhere they may dream of catching a glimpse of a member of the Royal Family and in particular the aforementioned eligible Prince.
Kensington Palace which re-opens in just a couple of weeks on 26 March after extensive re-furbishment will obviously be a must for them and it will give me an excuse to visit it too, although I may not be able to organise tea with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
These visits from Italy may clash with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and/or The Olympic Games at a time when we Blue Badge Guides are likely to be busier than ever – but there will always be time for my Italian family.
This coming week Dawn and I are briefly abandoning our guiding duties to do a course specifically on guiding at the 2012 Olympic Venues. We will therefore be able to take my Italians for a Blue Badge Guide experience of the Olympic Park too. Although possibly not while Usain Bolt is running the 100 metres for real, no doubt with Prince Harry watching – sadly I’m not going to be able to get them tickets for that!
Alla prossima volta
Posted in 2012 Olympics, Home, Family & Fun, International Links, Local Visits, Royal Family
Tagged 2012 Olympic 100 metres, 2012 Olympics, Blue Badge Guides, Diamond jubilee, Duchess of Cambridge, Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle Maze, Italy, Kensington Palace, Leeds castle, Mazes, Milan Fashion Week, Olympic Park, Olympic Venue Tours, Prince Harry Jamaica, South East Blue Badge Guides, The Royal Family, The Royal Wedding, themed olympic tours, Usain Bolt, Windsor Castle