Week 25 - 28 - Starting to feel like the character “Wheres Wally"

photo 1[1]141019 1 Oxford the view from our hotel141019 2 High St Oxford141019 3 Oxford Home of Harry Potter141020 15 Walking tour of Oxford Bridge of Sighs 1914141020 1 Broad St Oxford Autumn leaves

It is hard to believe it is four weeks since we hauled Katherine out onto the hard, packed up her interior and headed off with our suitcases for some land touring.

Stop 1: Oxford in England

With the weather closing in and so much of the United Kingdom to explore it is at times hard to know where to start. So we generally relied on word of mouth and a recommendation. Dee and David Murray live in the area of Oxford and at the X-yacht regatta in Yarmouth had recommended it as a definite area to visit. Good enough for us - visit we did. 

With two nights to spare before an impending air flight we headed for Oxford, a relatively short drive of around 120km north of Hamble - well short in distance perhaps not so short in time given the fact that the British roads really are full of traffic all the time.

Oxford is renown for Oxford University - the oldest university apparently in English speaking history. It also happens to be the home of Harry Potter - and as we wandered the streets on the walking tour taking in the sites of the inner city university halls it really did feel like the character of Harry Potter could have been dwelling amongst the old building halls. Interestingly on further investigation we found out that JK Rowling did not study at Oxford but was in fact declined and studied at the University of Exeter - guess this is an example of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story or sale of merchandise. 

Had the summer sun shone for just one more day we would have managed a photo of the infamous punts on the River Thames, but then, that is now just an excuse for us to have to return to visit this very picturesque city. 

Stop 2: Mexico 


Perhaps land touring is the wrong description for Mexico. We stayed in the area of Puerto Morelos National Park - listed as the second largest reef in the world. For us the attraction was the services offered by Cesar Garcia the manager and instructor of the local dive centre and the fact that the dive sites ranging from 8m to 30m were no more than 20 minutes by boat away from the dive centre. Over 12 days we undertook 11 dives working on the obtainment of our Advanced Open Water Dive certification. If we were truly honest we would confess there were actually three objectives. 1. After a bad experience in Spain Lee needed to confirm that diving was something she could achieve - No doubts now. 2. Andrew wanted to further develop his skill of underwater photography - the photos I think speak for themselves. 3. Certification - Done and dusted.


We were totally spoilt throughout the experience with just the two of us diving on most occasions along with Julio our boat captain and Christen who was undertaking his Diver Master certification. Though we could not compare Mexico with the coral reef of the Great Barrier Reef we have to say we have never been exposed before to so much fish life. Balls of colourful fish, lobsters always in pairs and so huge they definitely made one hungry, large sting ray and the list just goes on. The final achievement of the week was to dive to 30 meters (well Lee’s watch read 27m) onto the wreck of a C56 patrol boat. Certainly a high to finish what had been an incredibly successful week of developing skills underwater - and of course the ultimate bonus we passed our Advanced Open Water Certification.

Stop 3: Louisiana with friends Jim and Cathy Blackwell

141106 8 New Orleans141106 11 Joey Ks more New Orleans food141106 1 Cafe Du Monde New Orleans141106 16 New Orleans Famers Market141107 4 The Natchez Paddle Steamer New Orleans141108 1 Downtown Port Allen Andrew141107 22 Nottoway Plantation 1859 White Castle Louisiana141108 24 LSUs marching band

At the beginning of the year after spending some time with Jim and Cathy on their Texas ranch Lee happened to mention New Orleans was on the bucket list of places to visit. So the plan was hatched to visit New Orleans, travel a little bit of country Louisiana tracing the homelands of Jim and Cathy before taking on the experience of watching their College Football team LSU (Louisiana State University). What a week of food, sights and sound experiences - can’t thank our hosts enough! 

Arriving into Houston our first meal was from Goode Co BBQ - overflowing with meat from BBQ ribs to smoked turkey and an awesomely rich Pecan Pie - this was a definite sign of things to come. 

On route the next day to New Orleans the “tick the box of food tradition” continued with our first stop being road side at the Rice Palace where crawfish Po Boys were the selection of choice. Apparently Po Boys started back in the day of the great depression when a restaurant would hand out to the Poor Boys some bread and left over filling. The crawfish we tasted definitely wasn’t left over! Simply superb. 

Onto New Orleans where Cathy had organised our accommodation at Place De Arms in the French quarter. The building was once the site of a school in New Orleans and was perfectly located for our short stay to walk the French Quarter, stroll Bourbon Street at night, take in the sounds of Jackson Square, peruse the French Market and the diversity of shops throughout the quarter. 

Our dining experiences in New Orleans were as diversified as the people, from the elegant Galatoires where dress coats were mandatory (thankfully they have extras on hand for guests without coats), to the musical buffet of the Mississippi Steam Boat Natchez to the local feel of the Joey K cafe. We ate everything local we could discover from the turtle soup, shrimp étouffée, to beans and rice.  No calories were spared! 

Thanks to Jim and Cathy our tour from New Orleans to Port Allen took in the historical plantation of Nottaway, where one could have easily expected Scarlett Ohara to have waltzed down the balustrade.  Instead we had beautiful bridal parties and attendants wandering the gardens. One of the interesting facts that came out of Nottaway was that its recent restoration was thanks to our surprise its last owner - John Ramsay - an Australian - need to google that one. 

The final highlight of our Louisiana stay was to witness the event of a college football game. Now we just happened to have landed in on the “Game of the Year”. Louisiana versus Alabama. To say Louisiana State University fans are supportive would be an understatement. 94000 fans packed the stadium, I think equally that number set up their bbq’s in a tradition called tail gating and partied the entire day leading up to the event. We captured a glimpse of Mike the Tiger - yes they have their own live tiger in an enclosure on campus - and as if in anticipation of the upcoming match he was pacing his enclosure with a look of determination. 

141108 19 LSU Football the support Team

LSU fans could not have asked for more from their team taking the then Number 4 team and holding them to 17 all at full time. Unfortunately in the overtime Alabama moved ahead by one touch down, final score 24 - 17. We can now say we have witnessed College football at its greatest - the purple and gold, the enthusiasm and the noise of the fans is something that will be remembered. 

All too soon our tour of Louisiana was over but then again perhaps that was a good thing - with the consumption of such delicious foods we would soon have to book ourselves in as excess luggage! 

Stop 4: Bath England

141114 4 Bath Abbey141114 7 Pulteney Bridge141115 1 The Circus Bath141115 27 The Roman Baths Bath

Returning from the US to the UK and a little jet lagged we had just a couple of nights spare before the long haul home to Australia. The question was - where to go. So again using the recommendation of this time a local hairdresser we embarked for Bath.

Bath is a historical city in the area of Somerset. We found a hotel as close to the centre of the town as was practical so that we could park the car for our entire stay and walk. Though only a short visit we did manage to achieve the viewing of three of the prime tourist spots. The Roman Baths, The Abbey with its tower and Pulteney Bridge. That aside we both agreed that simply walking the historical streets of Bath was in itself a real highlight. 

The Abbey offered a tower tour which in itself offered a view of Bath. Our two guides that guided us to the tower top up the 212 steps, provided information about the bells which we rang no doubt to the frustration of some local residents, were so professional., informative and relaxed that Id have to recommend this tour to anyone in the area. 

The Roman Baths were far more than what we had envisaged and with the evening light provided a beautiful backdrop in which to view the ruins which were very extensive. 

Bath truly was a special city filled with both historical ruins, and modern eclectic shops. A great place to wander and spend some time. 

Where to next:

So now we are homeward bound. 

Having checked once more on Katherine we are heading home to Darwin Australia where we look forward to catching up with our sons, family and friends.

 (Click for lots more Photos)

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain