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The Old Fogies go to San Francisco – Part Two

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Before we started our trip, we had booked a whale watching trip around San Francisco Bay, we had always thought of trying one of these tours and the San Francisco tour was very reasonably priced. As we boarded the small vessel, our expectations were not that high but thought it would a nice trip out into the bay. The heavy mist and fog in the bay shrouded the city and the Golden Gate Bridge creating an eerie atmosphere as we made our way out into the bay.

Almost immediately, a shout went out and everyone rushed forward and peered into the distance and remarkably there was a humpback whale breaking the surface. What followed was almost three hours of sightings of humpbacks all across the bay.

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The Whale expert on board provided a commentary as the whales surfaced and dived, the boat was careful to keep a reasonable distance from the whales but nobody told the whales as one surfaced around twenty feet from the boat which shocked everyone and especially me who nearly dropped my camera, so I did not get that close up view. Thankfully our expert did get that shot which we publish below.

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Photo Whalegirl.org

Every now and again when you are travelling, you have that magical day that will stay with you for the rest of your life, our Whale Watching was one such day.

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The following day we followed a more traditional tourist path by visiting one of San Francisco’s main attractions, the island of Alcatraz. The tours leave Pier 33 and it advisable to arrive early as the queues begin to form to board the ferry. We had booked through the official Alcatraz Cruises website, if you thinking about going to Alcatraz be wary of tours that charge a large amount to go to Alcatraz and maybe a cruise around the harbour.

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For some reason, swarms of flies descended on the ferry as we boarded and were unwelcome travellers all the way across to the Island. Alcatraz became a military prison in 1907 and a maximum security penitentiary in 1934 and became part of American mythology because of the many films that have been made about the prison. When you arrive on the Island, you are shown to cell houses where you pick up the excellent audio tour which gives some background to the tour. Strangely, considering its reputation it was not the worst location in the world with the sights and sounds of San Francisco all around.

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That said, Block D where the most rebellious prisoners were sent is pretty grim and some of the stories from ex-prisoners suggest a violent environment at times. Outside of the prison is a variety of buildings, some that date back to when it was a military base in the 19th century.

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Another of the main attractions of San Francisco is the cable cars that trundle up the steepest hills. They maybe a relic of a bygone age, but they are very popular with long queues at certain junctions. There are three ways to travel in the cars, sitting inside, sitting outside on benches and for the brave, standing on the running board.

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Fares are quite expensive at $7, therefore if you want value for money do not use for short journeys but travel the entire route. When you do this you will see the cable car in all its glory, in some sections it is like a roller coaster moving up and down the hills. It is a major operation controlling the cable cars with a grip man and a conductor, it is entertaining watching the various manoeuvres and the way they turn the cars around at the turntables.

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On our final day in San Francisco, we thought we would travel on the bus to Golden Gate Park which is really not that close to the bridge but is one of the largest parks in the city. The bus ride took us through the former hippie enclave of Haight Ashbury which was a focal point of the Summer of Love in the 1960s. A few shops try to trade on its bohemian past and a few locals and visitors try to recreate the time by dressing up in their hippie gear.

When we arrived at the park, we thought we had been transported back into the sixties, with the smell of drugs and someone playing their bongo drums to a small stoned audience. This area of the park is called Hippie Hill and tends to attract an alternative crowd.

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This area is in complete contrast with the other parts of the park which is the location of the de Young Museum, a Shakespeare Garden, Botanical Gardens, a Dutch Windmill and a Japanese Tea Garden.

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When it was time to leave San Francisco, we thought we had only scratched the surface of an attractive and fascinating city. On the whole, the locals were very friendly but like many cities, San Francisco has a problem with the homeless and beggars especially around the Union Square area. Whilst some were quite inventive by having signs that read ‘ Money wanted for Weed, Why lie About It.’ Others had some severe mental health problems and needed attention that they clearly were not receiving.

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Another issue for travellers is the public transport system that is a mixture of mainly BART trains, buses, street cars and cable cars. The complex system is not easy to navigate and makes getting around the city quite difficult. Taxis are generally available and are sometimes the better option for short distances.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies go to San Francisco – Part One

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After the rather sedate charms of Auckland it was time to move on to the United States and face the long flight to San Francisco. Anyone who is thinking about going to the States should be aware that it is often a complicated business nowadays. Before our trip, we went on the various websites to fill a variety of forms before being authorised to enter the country. Nevertheless, stories about long queues and people being refused entry for various reasons fill the newspapers. Therefore it was with some trepidation that we approached the customs and presented our documents, after being finger printed and questioned about how long we were staying in the country, we finally made it into the country.

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We had spent most of the day which was the 16th September in Auckland before we took the 11 hour flight to San Francisco, however because of the vagaries of time differences, we arrived in San Francisco in the afternoon of the 16th, meaning we would have roughly a 36 hour day.

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We decided to use the BART Train from the airport to Embarcadero Station and then get a taxi to the hotel which was situated on Nob Hill overlooking the city. Arriving at the station, we knew the hotel was not far away, so I suggested walking. Mrs Nice looked quizzically and said ‘ have you seen the hills.’ I replied yes but this way is quite flat and we should OK.

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Most couples will know that on holidays that one person can make a suggestion that seems reasonable but ends up disastrously. Well this was one of those occasions, the hills began to get steeper and the cases got heavier as we pushed on, but there was no turning back now as I said ‘it is just around the corner.’ Unfortunately around the corner was the steepest part and we struggled to the top, ‘that was not too bad’ I joked before looking at Mrs Nice’s red face and realising that she was not in a joking mood.

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Has I had shown, it is very easy to underestimate the hills of San Francisco and when we walked around the Nob Hill district, you did get a clear idea that this was not going to be a gentle stroll kind of place. Our hotel gave us a room overlooking the San Francisco skyline which is interesting rather than spectacular. The hotel was large with long corridors which reminded me of the Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ and especially the line ‘ this could be heaven or this could be hell’. The hotel was not heaven but it was well run with a laid back approach with gentle rock music playing in the lift and communal areas.

The following day, we decided to walk down the hill through Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf which is one of the main tourist attractions of San Francisco harbour. Unlike many other cities, San Francisco’s Chinatown covers quite a large area around Grant Avenue, it is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States and one of the most interesting with a number of old buildings as well as the more modern gift shops and restaurants.

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Fisherman’s Wharf and especially Pier 39 is like an old seaside resort with plenty of places to eat and drink. There are also a number of tourist attractions like the Aquarium of the Bay, Madame Tussauds and the Maritime National Historical Park with a range of old vessels. One more unusual aspects of Pier 39 is the large number of sea lions basking on the wooden boards in front of the pier. The sound of sea-lions snoring filled the air as the crowds gather around and take photographs.

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Unlike Sydney Harbour Bridge which is in the middle of city, San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge is around four miles from Fisherman’s Wharf. Riding a bicycle down and across the bridge is very popular with a number of cycle hire places doing brisk business.

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We decided we wanted a closer look at the bridge, but thought we would not walk the whole distance. So we began our walk from Fisherman’s Wharf passing Ghirardelli Square, Boudin Bakery, The Cannery before following the shoreline to the Aquatic park where it is safe to swim or paddle.

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Fort Mason is a redeveloped old Civil War era Military base, the very attractive Crissy Field is reclaimed wetlands where the local population come down for a barbecue on Sundays. We were so fascinated by these aspects of the walk that before we knew it we were at the Presidio area which takes you right up to the bridge itself.

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Arriving at the bridge, we stopped for an ice cream and went into the fascinating Fort Point National Historical site which is located underneath the bridge. Rangers point out some of the interesting facts about this Civil War fortification before you climb to the top of the structure to get great views of the bridge, the harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

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Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to Auckland

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After the sunshine of Sydney, we arrived to the rain of Auckland and we got our first view of New Zealand. Auckland airport is some way from the city and has rather limited transport options. One of the most popular shuttles is the Skybus which we boarded and made our way into the city.

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Making our way to the Mount Eden area, we had the first view of the volcanic cones that are dotted around the city. It is easy to mistake them for natural hills, but the shape is rather unusual and quite steep. Auckland is built on a volcanic field that has been active for over 90,000 years, surface features include cones, lakes, lagoons and islands. Rangitoto Island, in Waitematā was formed within the last 1000 years is one of Auckland’s most iconic natural features.

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The first impression of Auckland is rather underwhelming, in some ways resembling some of the smaller British cities. However, although it does not have many major attractions, we looked forward to exploring the city at a leisurely place. When we were planning our trip, we had considered Auckland to be an ideal place to relax before we arrived in the United States.

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Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and many visitors to New Zealand pass through its airport. If the city often looks quite British, this is become generations of British people have made their home in here. However in the last 30 years, the city has become a more diverse and multicultural city, Auckland is now home to the largest Polynesian population in the world and a large Asian community.

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Auckland is often known as the ‘City of Sails’ and a walk down the waterfront provides evidence why, with long stretches of marinas with a large number of vessels from Super yachts to heritage vessels. The waterfront also allows you a view of Auckland Harbour Bridge in the distance, the bridge which opened in 1959 is always considered unfavourably with Sydney but provides an important link between the Auckland city and the North Shore.

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One of Auckland’s major tourist attractions is the Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium which is located some way from the city centre but on a bright clear morning we decided it would be a good walk. Once past the city centre, you have a long walk past the port area before the scene changes with nice views across the harbour and small beaches on the way down to Tamaki Drive. The Aquarium was developed by New Zealand marine archaeologist and diver Kelly Tarlton and built in disused sewage storage tanks, one of its great innovations when it opened in 1985 was the curved tunnels that visitors walk down.

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When you arrive at the Aquarium, there is very little to see above ground, but you quickly descend into the attraction. The first section is the Antarctic area which includes a replica of the hut used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his tragic expedition to Antarctica and a colony of Antarctic penguins.

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Signs asked visitors ‘ Not to tease the Penguins’, we had visions of school parties dangling fish in front of the glass. In the main part of the aquarium, we jostled with school parties to view the sharks, stingrays and other marine life. Not feeling inclined to walk back, we used the free Shark bus shuttle back to the city centre.

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The University of Auckland is the largest university in New Zealand and students are catered for in a number of cafes, bars and small restaurants. A walk around the campus is interesting with a number of old government buildings used by the University. The campus is also close to the interesting Auckland Art Gallery, the very attractive Albert Park and the Auckland Domain.

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The Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park, and one of the largest in the city. It is built on the crater of the Pukekawa volcano. Walking past the tennis centre and bowling greens, you make your way through the park till you arrive at the Domain Wintergardens, with two glass houses full of exotic plants.

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The park is home to one of Auckland’s main tourist attractions, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which sits on a ridge with extensive views of the surrounding area.

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We had limited time in Auckland and were undecided whether to visit one of the Islands in the Hauraki Gulf or to take the short ferry ride across to Devonport on the North Shore. The weather forecast was variable, so we went to Devonport.

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Devonport is very attractive small town with plenty of antiques, gift and book shops with a number of cafes and restaurants. It has a strong naval history and hosts a naval base and the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. Towering over the town is Mount Victoria is the highest volcano on Auckland’s North Shore, a steep walk up its slopes are rewarded with stunning views of Waitematā Harbour, Hauraki Gulf and the Auckland skyline. For some reason there are number of toadstools on the peak and artillery emplacements with a disappearing gun.

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Like Sydney, Auckland has a strong bar and café culture which takes a pride in craft beer and quality coffee. Most of the shopping is centred on Queen Street and the Town Hall and Aotea Square are popular meeting places.

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Auckland is a very unusual place which manages to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Its location gives it the feeling of being on the edge of natural wilderness which we equated with Norway in some ways. The volcanic aspects of the city add to the sense that it not quite like many other cities. However, for British people especially, the city may seem very familiar and quite old fashioned. It is this paradox and the interesting mix of people that make Auckland well worth a visit for a few days and counters the view that it is the uninteresting gateway to the rest of New Zealand.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to Sydney

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After the high humidity of Hong Kong, it was with some relief to arrive to clear blues skies in Sydney. We arrived in early morning and the short train journey from the airport bought us to Circular Quay which provides wonderful views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

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We thought we would take a wander around the Royal Botanic Gardens and have breakfast before starting our day sightseeing. We found a café in the gardens and settled down to enjoy our breakfast, Mrs Nice was tucking into a muffin when I noticed a large bird perched on a chair behind her. ‘Big pigeons they have here’ I said nodding to the bird, Mrs Nice nearly dropped her muffin and let out a small shriek. The bird it turned out was a Australian White Ibis which are popular scroungers around the outside eating places in gardens and the nearby Domain.

The weather was quite warm in the day but at night the temperature dropped considerably and was quite chilly. One of the pleasures of Sydney is that it is an outdoor city where you can sit and watch the world go by. The array of bars cafes and restaurants near the Opera House did good business and provided a good variety of food and wonderful views of the harbour. The only downside was the legions of seagulls that hovered looking for food and would often swoop for a tasty morsel. Many regulars do not sit on the tables near the front, we learnt the hard way when a seagull perched on Mrs Nice’s head.

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With so much entertainment around the Sydney Harbour, we decided to explore this area first, from the Circular Quay we made our way to the Rocks. Both the Circular Quay and The Rocks are historically interesting being where the First Fleet arrived in 1788 and where the first British colony of New South Wales developed. Thankfully the violence and disease that the Rocks were infamous for over 100 years ago have been replaced by cafés, bars and restaurants with an eclectic market every weekend. After walking around The Rocks, we decided to take a closer look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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Climbing up the roadway that goes across the Bridge, the traffic was racing past but it is possible to walk across the Bridge along the pedestrian paths. Walking over the Bridge, you can really admire the engineering of the ‘Coathanger’ as it is known to the locals, the views over the Opera House and the harbour are spectacular, although wire fences which have been put up to deter would-be suicides ruin the effect a little bit.

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During our stay, we explored the very attractive Darling Harbour which is full of cafes, restaurants and attractions including Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney and the Australian National Maritime Museum which has a fleet of interesting historical ships in the harbour.

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Unlike most cities, the city centre is not the first port of call for visitors but still has a number of interesting sights including the Sydney Tower, the Town Hall, the poignant Anzac memorial, the Victoria Shopping arcade, St Mary’s Cathedral and the Australian Museum.

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We thought we would have a day out of Sydney and travel to Paramatta on the River Cat ferry. The fascinating trip up the Parramatta river illustrates how many people live near the water and have boats to enjoy the waterway. The ferry stops at a number of places including the Sydney Olympic Park. Another reason for going to Paramatta was that it is close to Rosehill Gardens Racecourse where we enjoyed a day at the races.

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Thinking we could not come to Sydney without visiting one of the famous beaches, we packed our swimwear and headed to Bondi Beach. Surprisingly it is quite difficult to get Bondi Beach, you have to take the train to Bondi Junction and then take a bus that snakes down to the beach. We went at the weekend and the queues for the buses were quite long even in the early morning, later in the day, they were all around the bus station.

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When you do arrive, you are stunned by the scene, Bondi Beach is famous for its bathing, swimming and surfing, the size of the waves are enormous which forced us not to practice our non-existent surfing skills. An added bonus was the annual Kite flying festival was taking place with hundreds of kites of all sizes filling the skies.

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We had high expectations of Sydney and were not disappointed, the laid back approach to life was illustrated by the numerous cafes and coffee shops dotted all around the city. If you would like to hear more of our Sydney adventures, read the upcoming Sydney articles on the blog.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies visit The Peak in Hong Kong

One of the main attractions of Hong Kong is The Peak also known as Victoria Peak which is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, at 552 m (1,811 ft).

In the 19th century, the Peak attracted European residents who enjoyed the panoramic views over the city and its coolness especially in the searing heat of the summer. However its steepness was a problem and many of the residents would hire or own Sedan Chairs which would be carried by locals. There was an increase in residential development with the opening of the Peak Tram in 1888.

The Peak Tram is a funicular railway in Hong Kong, which carries passengers to the upper levels of the Peak. The Peak Tram is another of Hong Kong’s attractions which transports of seven million passengers a year.

We joined the queue at the lower terminus station and looked at the The Peak Tram Historical Gallery where over 200 pieces of memorabilia of the Tram and Hong Kong are exhibited. The station has a single track, with platforms on both sides. One platform is used for boarding, the other for exiting the tram.

There was some excitement as the Tram arrived and boarding took place, the Peak Tram’s route covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) and an elevation of just under 400 metres (1,312 ft), initially there is little to see but as the Tram climbs, more panoramic views appear. Near to the top, there is more excitement with the ‘The Peak Tram illusion’, this illusion occurs on the uphill journey when the high rises of Hong Kong on the right ride of the tram appear to fall toward The Peak. This illusion is due to the tilt of the tram and the reclining body position of passengers inside the tram.

Arriving at the top, you enter the Peak Tower shopping and leisure complex which has numerous food options, shops,  Madame Tussauds and the Sky Terrace where you can enjoy 360 degree views for a fee.

Residents were originally drawn to the Peak because of its views and coolness and we looked forward to escaping the hot humid conditions with a walk around the summit of the Peak. One of the most popular walks is the loop along Lugard Road and Harlech Road which takes you on a circuit around the summit.

Moving away from the crowds at Peak Tower, you enter a different sort of wonderland full of strange tree foundations and waterfalls. Gradually views of Pok Fu Lam reservoir and the the outlying islands appear.

For many decades, the residents of the Peak were European and often part of the colonial administrative elite, however since the handover of Hong Kong it has been wealthy Chinese who have paid large amounts of money to buy properties on Peak making them some of the most expensive in the world. For all the wealth, access to the properties is problematic with narrow, steep tracks to overcome.

With the only the odd walker and jogger, the walk was a pleasant change from the frantic pace of the city with a number of vantage spots along the way to enjoy the fantastic views and information boards that give information about trees and wildlife.

Towards the end of the walk, you are rewarded with spectacular views of Kowloon, New Territories and the harbour before arriving back at the Peak Tower complex.

After a few days of high humidity and crowds, the Peak was a welcome change of pace and with some reluctance we made our way back to the Tram and frantic city streets.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies have a Day at the Races at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong

If there is one thing the Old Fogies enjoy, it is a day at the races and we were fortunate to be in Hong Kong at a time when the horse racing season began. Hong Kong has two race courses, Happy Valley and Sha Tin which offers top quality horse racing.

Sha Tin was built-in the New Territories district in the 1970s on reclaimed land and is located against a dramatic backdrop of high rises and hills. The racecourse was originally built with capacity for 35,000 and one grandstand, it now has capacity for 85,000 and two grandstands and considered one of the great racecourses in the world.

Fortunately, although the Sha Tin racecourse is in the New Territories, it is quite easy to get to using the MTR train system with a stop opposite the racecourse. We arrived fairly early and joined a heavy throng of racegoers making their way to the course. Overseas visitors can join the many locals in the main stand or pay extra for a guest badge which gives you more access to different parts of the course.

Entering the course, there were gongs to ring for good luck, feeling we would use all the luck we could get we banged away until we became part of a media scrum and faced with TV cameras and photographers. Thinking we had perhaps overdone the gongs, we were little concerned that we had upset somebody. However it quickly became clear that we were of interest with the local media because they were anxious to show overseas visitors enjoying a day at the races. Mrs Nice in particular seemed to be enjoying all the attention flitting from interview to interview, she even managed to sidle into my interview and take over.

The hot humid weather and media attention had us scuttling into the main stand and looking for some refreshments. Mrs Nice was tempted with some beef with rice and bought it over to the table, the tasty morsels of beef were few and hid big chunks of gristle in the sauce. It seemed to be a local delicacy which our fellow diners devoured with relish. We managed to eat the rice and vegetables, the gristle remained on the plate.

The Season Opening meeting is one of the main racedays and the racecourse arranged for entertainment in the parade ring, acrobats and Chinese Lions appeared for a routine before the jockeys came into the ring to line up before the senior members of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A large Gong appeared which was struck in a ceremonial way to officially mark the start of a new season.

After the entertainment it was time for the serious racing business to begin and the horses began to appear for the first race. One of the reasons we enjoy racing is that it attracts a wide range of people and the crowd is often entertaining in its own right. The Hong Kong crowd differed considerably from your normal British crowd who often see a day at the races as a day out to socialise and have a good time. In Hong Kong, there is a social aspect but betting is taken very seriously and many people spend a lot of time studying form.

Perhaps we did not study form enough, for after a series of losing small wagers on the first few races, we made our way to the exit, banging a few gongs and touching the lucky horses on our way.

If you visit Hong Kong, a visit to Sha Tin or Happy Valley will be full of entertainment, both horse and human related. It is a great way to mix with the locals and see the Hong Kong population at play. The racecourses cater for overseas visitors with special tickets and access to different areas of the racecourse.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

 

The Old Fogies go to Hong Kong

 

We arrived in Hong Kong, the first destination of our round the world trip after a tiring overnight flight from London. Although quite weary, we were feeling extremely pleased with ourselves after surviving the first long flight on our journey.

Fortunately, Hong Kong International Airport is not too far from the centre of Hong Kong and the Airport Express train provides a quick and comfortable journey to the Hong Kong station stop. From this station there are a series of free shuttle buses that will take you particular hotels. We had decided to stay at a hotel that was a little way out from the Central district but had good transport connections.

Our traveling up this point had been quite smooth and straightforward, however this was due to change as the coach got snarled up in traffic. The roads were busy and the heat was beginning to build, after about an hour we finally arrived at the hotel. It was only when we got off the coach that we realised how hot and steamy it was, fortunately the hotel was air-conditioned so we stepped through its doors and embraced the coolness.

In the foyer was a board with information about typhoons, one had hit Hong Kong and Macau a few weeks before causing considerable damage especially in Macau. We had intended to visit Macau, however it was still struggling to deal with the damage and therefore we decided not to travel there.

Hong Kong in September can be really hot and steamy, but we were shocked by humidity levels of 98%, Mr Curmudgeon said that he did not believe humidity could be so high, we moan in London when it is about 25%!

Hot and steamy weather with high humidity became the theme of our stay in Hong Kong and any sightseeing was combined with going inside buildings to enjoy the air conditioning.

Hong Kong is an extremely interesting place that is going through its own transition from British colonial outpost to part of the Chinese empire. Recent demonstrations in Hong Kong suggest that this change is not without its conflicts, however there is a sense that Hong Kong is changing at a frantic pace.

Part of that change is the importance of commerce, large shopping areas dominate much of the Central and Kowloon areas with a large number of luxury brand shops. In contrast, the old Hong Kong neighbourhoods have a large number of traditional markets especially in Kowloon which cater for a wide range of tastes.

Even if Hong Kong is geared towards retail and commerce, there is plenty to interest the traveller. The Star Ferry and Peak Tram are historical relics of Hong Kong’s colonial past and the architecture is a mix of old and modern.

Surprisingly, Hong Kong is not just an urban landscape but is surrounded by natural landscapes with many walks and parks that will take you away from the high rises. Even in the Central area, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the Peak.

A trip to one of the racecourses will allow visitors to see the locals at play enjoying top class horse racing. Our visit to Sha Tin provided lots of fun and entertainment in a unique setting located in the New Territories.

We did feel that we had only scratched the surface in the few days we had in Hong Kong and would like to return and discover more of a fascinating place in which the West meets East in a number of interesting ways. Hong Kong can seem very familiar due to its British colonial past, however there are other aspects that reflect more Chinese influence that are less familiar and can surprise visitors.

For more details of our trip, read our individual posts about Hong Kong which charts our visits to some of its attractions and more unusual aspects.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies Travel Round the World

It has long been an ambition of Mr Curmudgeon to travel around the world, one day when coming out of the post office, he suggested it again. I think he was surprised to hear me agreeing with him.

September 2017 was the chosen month to do this and Mr Curmudgeon started planning our trip in July. He is excellent at booking holidays, and although this was a bit daunting he started booking. There was much discussion of the places we were going to travel to, Sydney Australia was a definite as was New York, but we were undecided on the other venues.

We looked at Dubai then Sydney, Singapore then Sydney, I especially was enamoured by visiting Raffles Hotel there, but in the end our chosen first venue was Hong Kong. This now Chinese city was going to be interesting as it would be the only official non-English speaking, although there is still a lot of English spoken there.   After Sydney we decided to travel to the New Zealand City of Auckland, which on the face of it did not have many spectacular sites, but seemed a good place to capture our breath before tackling North America.

Again, much discussion on where to go in North America before travelling to New York, Vancouver was discussed but the travelling was so difficult so we decided on San Francisco and then to New York our final venue before travelling home.

I was a bit apprehensive as we had not undertaken a long-haul flight before, and we are getting on a bit, when Mr Curmudgeon told me it would be 12 hours to Hong Kong I started getting really nervous, that’s seemed like a long time being very inactive, and I started to get concerned about things, for example what about DVT (deep vein thrombosis), would I be able to sleep, would I cope,  I did not share all my concerns with Mr Curmudgeon as he sometimes gets frustrated with me if I start panicking.

The surprising thing was that travelling from Auckland to San Francisco would mean crossing the international date line, this meant that September 16th would be an extraordinary long day of 36 hours but never mind I had to get Hong Kong out of the way first.

After everything was booked, the next step was deciding what to take, what would the weather be like, would we need a mix of warm clothing as well as summer clothing. Packing our suitcases became a real discussion, with Mr Curmudgeon telling me off for taking so much.

September 1st dawned bright and clear, OMG today was the day, having checked everything around the house, clearing out the fridge and just doing that final check we were ready to depart to Heathrow, I cannot wait for the Elizabeth line when it will take only 25 minutes but the trek to Heathrow took us about an hour.

After the check-in, we went to the gate and Mr Curmudgeon took some photos of our BA plane, it was an Airbus so very modern but definitely not sleek looking.

There was no going back now we started boarding we were on our way – OMG what had I let myself in for.

Look out for posts from our trip we had some great fun and want to share it with you.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to Glasgow

Like many grandparents, we have our grandchildren for a period over the summer holidays. Generally we try to take them on a traditional British seaside holiday, however the eldest granddaughter who is ten has decided that beach holidays are ‘boring’.

Looking for places to visit with plenty of variety led us to decide on Glasgow. Although for many, this may not be an obvious choice, we have previous experiences in the city that led us to believe that Glasgow is a family friendly city with plenty of attractive options. Flying from London to Glasgow takes around an hour which provided an easy travel option for the children and reduces our stress levels. A short coach ride from Glasgow delivered us to our hotel with the room that had a pleasant view overlooking the Clyde.

The weather forecast for the week was not too encouraging; however we had plans that included both indoor and outside attractions. One of the great attractions of visiting Glasgow is the large number of options in Glasgow and in the surrounding area. The long sandy beaches of Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Loch Lomond are relatively short train rides away.

Our first day was centred on one of the most popular green spaces in the city, Glasgow Green was given to the people of the 15th century and its wide open expanses have been much-loved by the population of the city since. With a number of parks with Glasgow Green it is well attended by families with children. One of the main buildings on Glasgow Green is the People’s Place which was built as a cultural centre for workers in 1898 and now is a museum which tells the history of the city. Attached to the back of the palace is the Winter Gardens which is a huge conservatory where you can enjoy a food and drink break in very pleasant surroundings.

The next day we decided to take the train to Balloch which is situated near to Loch Lomond, the inexpensive train fare called Kids Go Free illustrated the family friendly ethos of the city where children are often allowed in a number of attractions free if you produce your ticket.

The local boat runs a one hour cruise around the south part of Loch Lomond which allows visitors to enjoy the stunning scenery in relative comfort. The loch is not the only attraction, there is a small area with children rides, a shopping area, cafés and a large Sea Life Aquarium.

The threatened rain finally appeared on our third day but we were prepared to use the day to visit some of the Glasgow’s museums and attractions. Before the rain started in earnest, we walked along the riverside and explained to the children the importance of shipbuilding and trade to the city. Across the river from the BBC Scotland building is the iconic Clyde Auditorium which is locally known as the Armadillo.

Our first stop was at the Glasgow Science Centre which is not a museum but features a large number of exhibits that explain the science of the body and other scientific principles. The centre caters for all age groups with plenty of interactive displays that keep entertained for hours. Near to the centre is a planetarium, an IMAX cinema and Glasgow Tower.

Around a half hour walk away from the Science Centre is the new Riverside Museum in a stunning building designed by Zaha Hadid. Although the museum building is ultra-modern, the exhibits are transport relics of the past.

To finish our museum day, we made our way to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its eclectic collection.

Our final major visit was to Pollock Country Park which situated around ten minutes by train from the City Centre. The Park is built around the 18th century Pollock House and its attractive gardens, however the park offers a wide range of outside delights with woodland walks, cycle paths, heavy horses and Highland cattle.

Glasgow has a number of interesting locations dotted around the city including Merchant City, West End and the area around the Cathedral.

One of the major pleasures of visiting Glasgow is the people themselves, they create a friendly and genuine atmosphere which permeates all aspects of the city. If you are looking for a family holiday with a difference, Glasgow can offer plenty of options which should appeal to kids of all ages.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

A Trip to Pollok Country Park

Pollok Country Park is Glasgow’s largest park and the only Country Park within Glasgow. You can take a train from Glasgow Central Station and arrive at Pollokstown West in around 10 minutes, from the station it is a short walk to the Country Park.

This magnificent park was once part of the Old Pollok estate and was the ancestral home of the Maxwell Family for seven centuries. The parkland and house was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1966 by the Maxwell Family and since then has become a firm favourite with the people of Glasgow and visitors.

Walking along the main path to Pollok House, visitors can admire the Highland cattle grazing in the fields or enter into the extensive woodland walks.

Behind the house and across the attractive bridge is a field that is home to a number of Shire or Heavy horses.

The Park has been the site of castles dating back to 1160 which have been destroyed over the centuries. The main building in the Park is now Pollok House which was built in 1752 and became the Maxwell family’s main residence. Pollok House is considered one of Glasgow’s most elegant family homes and is surrounded by Walled and Woodland Gardens.

The Walled Garden features mature yew hedges which section the garden into compartments containing seasonal bedding, collections of plants such as Hosta’s, Fuschia’s and herbaceous displays.

The Woodland garden contains many Rhododendron species collected by Sir John Stirling Maxwell who was a Rhododendron breeder and expert.

The Country Park also has a play park, a Countryside Ranger Centre, woodland walks, riverside walks, picnic areas and cycling paths.

Also within the parks grounds you can find the world famous Burrell Art Collection, although it is currently closed for refurbishment.

If you have had enough of Glasgow’s urban delights, in ten minutes you can be in the country with a trip to Pollok Country Park which attracts walkers, joggers, cyclists and families. The numerous attractions provide plenty of interest but most people come to the park to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside setting.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.