"The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow of a dull one"
Sid Ceasar, American comic actor
TRAVEL_ODDITIES

HOME MUSEUMS
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The little cottage near Cape Town where Cecil Rhodes decamped to holiday, and where he died aged 49...
posted by Richard Green on 19/08/2017
 

Rhodes' pretty little thatched cottage overlooking a road, railway line and the sea in Muizenberg. Photo My Bathroom Wall

Cecil Rhodes was a life-force that bestrode the African continent at the height of European colonialism. His amoral ambition and belief in the primacy of the British Empire lead him to enormous wealth and power, yet he chose to holiday in a little thatched cottage on the far False Bay side of Table Mountain. It's where he spent summer holidays, and where just three years after buying the cottage he died in the front bedroom, aged 49, in March 1902. 

In the current parlance Cecil Rhodes is toxic, largely because he thought the Anglo-Saxon race was superior to others, and his sculduggery and deciept - especially in connection with the Jameson Raid, which was a Rhodes backed dash and grab incursion into Paul Kruger's Transvaal Republic that hoped to usurp the Transvaal into the Empire. It ended ignominiously in the raiding party's surrender and Rhodes retiring his Prime Ministership. Looking back from 2017, Cecil Rhodes is far from likeable, but his life was a product of his times and no less remarkable for that.

Portrait by Mortimer Menpes, and Punch magazine's Colossus of Rhodes cartoon 

Places like his cottage have been given heightened significance recently due to various controversies around keeping statues and memorials now that their subjects are loathed by significant chunks of society. Student bodies have faught to remove Rhodes statues from their campuses - though ironically they're there because Rhodes played a large role in setting up academic institutions and providing the Rhodes Scholarships, some of which are still active today. The protests have become violent in the USA where many pro-Confederacy statues in the south are being removed from display.    

Yet a former home of a famous (or infamous) figure seems a useful tool for scholars in their attempt to understand the past, for historians amatuer and otherwise, and to curious tourists prepared to scratch historical underbellies rather than sit on a beach. A good home museum provides context to a life and unlike any bronze bust, presents rather than glorifies someone's life and times. Certainly this undervisted little museum and its volunteer staff feel a harmless enough illumination of this deeply controversial man. 

The original De Beers boardroom table is in the cottage/ Photo My Bathroom Wall

Rhodes was born a vicar's son in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop's Stortford on July 5 1853. He developed tuberculosis and arrived in South Africa at the age of 17 in order to nurse his health on his brother's cotton farm, but both brothers abandoned the farm in favour of chancing their arms at the Griqualand West diamond rush. 

They established claims and struck lucky, and by the time Cecil was 35 he'd added another million square miles of Africa to British control - which included the creation of Rhodesia (namesd after him, and now Zimbabwe), he controlled De Beers (one of the largest diamond companies in the world), was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, and was a good way to achieving his dream of a 'Cairo to Cape Town' railway running soley through territory of the British Empire.

He commissioned the young Herbert Baker, an English architect in the Arts and Craft Movement mould, to build the grand Groote Schuur in 1898 in Rondebosch, which was for a long time after his death the official residence of South Africa's president. But Rhodes had unusual tastes - his favourite lunch was cold mutton and champagne for example, and having cut his teeth rough-sleeping in Kimberly and the bush meant that he preferred the simplicity and almost Spartan surrounding of his Muizenberg cottage.

Is it me, or do Rhodes' legs look comically strewn over Jameson on his right. Photo My Bathroom Wall

It's the scale and atmosphere of the cottage that makes the impression, rather than the contents per se, feeling more of a museum than a home. But the property had fallen into extreme disrepeair after Rhodes' death and the contents have been added to from other Rhodes properties, including items likely to have been close to his heart, like his diamond-weighing scales and the personal carry chest that he first arrived to South Africa with. 

The narrow seaside strip at Muizenberg might seem an unlikely holiday venue for the imperial great and good, but the extention of the railway line from Cape Town to Muizenberg in 1882 led to many seaside cottages sprouting up in the area. Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, and Agatha Christie were regular visitors too - Christie heading here to surf most days while she stayed in Cape Town apparently.

The cottage's front death-bedroom and exterior. Photos My Bathroom Wall

After a funeral service the coffin was taken by special train to Cape Town, and the carriage was draped in black velvet and purple silk. Carrying many of his close friends, the train made its way north through South Africa and on into Bulawayo, then in Rhodesia, and then by ox-wagon to his resting place in the Matopo Hills along a 25-kilometres long roadway dug in the preceding days by a throng of Matabele workers. The coffin was then set into the dome of rock at 'World's View', or what locals call Marindidzimu - 'the haunt of the ancestral spirits'.  

***

One more thing....At this time of huge controversy in the US over its pro-Confederacy statues, the likenesses of Cecil Rhodes have also been envoloped in contentious fighting over their appropriateness in the 21st Century.

He was a man very concerned by his own legacy and despite being a mediocre student, put a great deal of thought, time and money into setting up an educational legacy.

Aerial view of the Rhodes Memorial at Cape Town's Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens 

Rhodes purchased Kirstenbosch in 1895 and was bequeathed to the nation in his will. Sir Herbert Baker and Rudyard Kipling chose the side on the slopes of the Devil's Peak, and Baker then designed the grandiose memorial that opened in 1912. The restaurant and tea room behind is well worth a visit Rhodes Memorial.

The thinking-pose statue of Rhodes on the day of its removal from the Cape Town University campus 

The bust of Rhodes inside the memorial has been vandalised, while the statue of Rhodes at the University of Cape Town's Jameson Hall steps became the focus of protests spearheaded by the 'Rhodes Must Fall' group, in March 2015. It has now been removed for 'safekeeping'.

The UK's Oriel College in Oxford also saw a campaign to remove the Rhodes statue there, but this was ultimately unsuccessful after pressure from donors threatening to withdraw their financial support to the college.
 

Rhodes protected by wire mesh - though probably from pigeons - at Oriel College Oxford

The Rhodes Museum in his home town of Bishop's Stortford illustrates the flux in feelings towards Rhodes. It incorporated the building where he was born, was only attracting a couple of visitors a week by the 1990s, and eventually closed and fell into disrepair. It's now the Rhodes Arts Complex and there's a plaque to commemorate his birth.

puzzle If visiting Cape Town you should definitely make the effort to drive the loop south around the Cape of Good Hope and the False Bay settlements of Simon's Town and Muizenberg. The large broad beach is home to surfing in South Africa and a great place to learn to surf. Surf schools include Gary's Surf School, Surf Shack, and Stoked Surf School. There are also many historic buildings, a surfie boho vibe, and good opportunities for whale watching, from stopping points on the coast road, or right from the beach. 
31 Cape Town Airport is 30 kilometres northeast of Muizenberg and handled 4.5 million passengers in 2016. There are flights across South Africa, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, with airlines including SA Express, Kulula, Mango and FlySafair.
weather The best time to visit the Cape Town area is during the dry summer months from October to April, with January and February being the warmest with an average of 25°C. Temperatures will likely be below 20 with more than 10 days rain per month in May-September. 
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The Rhodes Cottage is at 246 Main Road, in the small seaside village of Muizenberg, about a 30-minute drive south from Cape Town, or 20 minutes north from Simon's Town. See Muizenberg Tourism. Places to stay include the Bella Ev GuesthouseAdmiralty B&B, and the African Soul Surfer backpacker lodge.

Victorian beach huts at Muizenberg, now a hip beach resort


A SPOT OF HISTORY
   5653 views   
After working in South Africa, Gandhi left India just once, for a three-month stay in Bromley-by-Bow...
posted by Richard Green on 10/08/2017
 

Gandhi being mobbed by cheering supporters in Canning Town, 1931

Of all the boroughs in all the world, Gandhi chose to stay in Bromley-by-Bow for 12 weeks when he visited for the London Conference in 1931. Long before the area to the north hosted to the 2012 Olympic Games, and before the Kray twins opened their infamous 'Double R Club at 145 Bow Road, the bane of the British Raj would rise early onto his west-facing roof terrace and stroll along the canal.

The outside of Kingsley Hall as it is today. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The round table talks in London were convened to discuss constitutional reforms in what was then British India, but Gandhi missed the first talks as he'd been imprisoned by the Raj authorities, owing to the Civil Disobedience that he fostered. However, in March 1931 Viceroy Irwin met Gandhi and agreed that he could take part in the second Round Table Conference if he halted the civil disobedience, to be held in London from 7 September to 1 December 1931. To ease the way the British freed 19,000 Congress members from prison and returned confiscated property.

Despite his fame and status as the Indian National Congress party leader he chose not to stay in the posh West End hotel offered to him by the British government. Instead - and displaying deft political antenna - he chose to stay among London's poorest people, in Bromley-by-Bow, and took up an invitation from Muriel Lister to stay at Kingsley Hall. He said that was 'doing the real round table work, getting to know the people of England'. 

Muriel Lister cheerily explains where Gandhi will stay during his time in London

While the press was dismissive, Pathe patronising, and Churchill downright rude, locals took Gandhi to their hearts and kids soon fell into calling him ' Uncle Gandhi'. In this rough and poor industrial area in the heart of the East End, his slight frame in sandals and wearing only a lion cloth, became a familiar figure, as he took time to mix with locals and took an early morning constitutional along the nearby canal. 

Kingsley Hall is on tiny Powis Road in Bromley-by-Bow and was founded in 1915 by Muriel Lester (she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) and her sister Doris. These pacifist and feminist sisters converted a small chapel into a community bulwark against grinding poverty with the help of their shipping magnate father Henry and their brother Kingsley's inheritance. They helped the local poor and gave shelter to the suffragettes (the east London H.Q. of her Women's Social and Political Union was nearby on the Bow Road), and helped to feed and water the 1936 Jarrow Marchers.

This Blue Plaque was unveiled in 1954 to commemorate Gandhi's stay at Kingsley Hall. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The stone laying ceremony for the current hall was attended by Sibil Thorndike (who Bernard Shaw wrote Joan especially for) and John Galsworthy (author of the Forsyte Saga) and it was opened in 1928.

Lylie Valentine became a worker in the nursery and in her pamphlet: Two Sisters and the Cockney Kids, tells of Gandhi’s 12-week East End sujorn. "....besides doing his work with the Government, he spent a lot of time with us. He visited the Nursery School and all the children called him Uncle Gandhi. At six o'clock each morning, after his prayers, he took his walk along the canal, talking to workmen on the way.... There was something about him that always lives with the people."

Gandhi posing with local children and Labour Party leader George Landsbury inside Kingsley Hall, 1931

It's nice to think of Gandhi wandering along the local canal. If he strolled five minutes east from Kingsley Hall he'd have come to the mill complex, or if northeast he'd have passed more factories in the area that's now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Lea Navigation, as the local canal is known, is a river that's been much altered by the need for waterborne transport during the Industrial Revolution and meets the River Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf - read about it on My Bathroom Wall.

Sadly the hall had fallen into disrepair by the time its modern day savour appeared on the scene. This was in 1980 when Sir Richard Attenburgh was scouting for authentic locations to use in his epic film, Gandhi, and thanks to his support the hall was renovated and re-opened in 1985.

Kingsley Hall in 2017 preparing for a Bengali wedding, and in 1931 with Gandhi and local pearly luminaries

The hall was later used by the Philadelphia Association, which was formed in 1965 by the Scottish psychiatrist R.D.Laing and colleagues. This controversial group believed in metanoia (self-healing) and though they eschewed most medication, they did occasional use small doses of LSD as therapy. The 2017 film 'Mad to be normal' follows Laing and his patients during their time based at Kingsley Hall. 

These days Kingsley Hall is used as a wedding venue, and many community groups meet there. There is also a simple cafe that opens on Tuesdays.

Back in 1931 unrest continued to grip India during the conference, which wasn't helped by the then Labour government fell two weeks before the start of the meetings. The conference achieved little and Gandhi and other Congress leaders were arrested on their return to India. 

Alas the tree that Gandhi is seen here planting was destroyed during the Blitz

One more thing....If Gandhi felt pekish for a 'Ruby Murray' - Cockney rhyming slang for a curry - he didn't have far to go. In fact Britain's love affair with Indian cuisine began long before Gandhi's visit, and long before his fist stay in the city as a student in 1888 even.

It's thought that the first time curry appeared on the menu was at the Norris Street Coffee House on London's Haymarket in 1773, which even then offered to “at the shortest notice (send) ready dressed curry and rice, also India pilaws, to any part of the town.” And then the first place owned and run by an Indian was the Hindoostane Coffee House, set up by Sake Dean Mahomed in 1810 on Marylebone's George Street, which according to the original Epicure's Almanack of 1815 - London's first restaurant guide - was decorated with 'Chinese pictures and other Asiatic embellishments, representing views in India, oriental sports, and groups of natives decorated the walls'.

The oldest surviving Indian restaurant is Veeraswamy (99-101 Regent Street, London). It was founded by a retired Indian Army officer called Edward Palmer in 1926, himself the grandson of an English general and an Indian princess. He'd been promoting Indian food since 1896 and was called in as an advisor by the Indian government to the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park, and was a hit with British visitors serving 500 curries a day. The Regent Street restaurant was and is high end, and in 1936 published recipe's in its Indian Cookery for Use in All Countries.  It now has been given a Michelin Star in its 2017 guide.

It is even possible that the tradition of drinking lager with a curry is related to Prince Axel of Denmark's visit to the Veeraswamy-connected Indian restaurant at the British Empire Exhibition on 2 May 1924. He enjoyed his meal enough to later visited the Regent Street restaurant, when he was supposed to have brought a barrel of his native Carlsberg with him. He sent a barrel of Carlsberg to the restaurant for years thereafter, which proved popular enough for the restaurant to start importing Carlsberg itself, and when its waiters moved on to other Indian restaurants, they started serving Carlsberg as well.

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Kingsley Hall is five minutes walk from Bromley-by-Bow tube station on the District and Hammersmith & City Lines. Also see the Gandhi Foundation, and the House Mill


JOURNEYS
   4525 views   
Two holidays for the price of one; the art of the stopover...
posted by Richard Green on 03/08/2017
 

It’s long made sense to slice the slog in half and recuperate along the way, but a stopover is also a great money saver. Often it doesn’t cost you any more to get off the aircraft for a day or two – aside from hotel and sightseeing expenses. Some airlines even offer discounted hotel rates to encourage you to stay, and either way a stopover lets you experience somewhere new for a fraction of the cost of a separate trip.

You can book stopover flights via websites with ‘multi-sector search engines’ but this is one of those times when a travel agent can really ease the passage. They can search out the best deals on more complex itineraries and help with hotels and tours, too.

Taking the long journey between Europe and Australia as an example, while the most popular places to break your journey in are Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and increasingly Dubai, there are actually at least 20 other stopovers destinations to choose from.  

Aside from flying to Australia, it makes good sense to think about stopping off on the way on any long haul trip. On a holiday to Hong Kong it works like this. For a start, forget BA or Cathay Pacific who fly direct - where’s the fun in that? Think instead of all the places between the UK and where you’re going that you have always wanted to visit. If it’s Sri Lanka you’ve thought of, then Sri Lankan Airlines will happily oblige, if it was Dubai, then Emirates will be only too pleased, and if Istanbul, try Turkish Airlines. These are just three, but there are plenty more airlines out there, eager as anything to offer you a holiday on your way.

Just think of the benefits of two-holidays-in-one. You’ll save a packet compared to visiting both separately, squeeze more precious tanning time from your annual leave, and cause a dinner party plate-wobble when you say you’re off on a 10 day trip with a twist next week; “oh yes, for a spot of Safari in Kenya, and a dive or two in the Seychelles”.

Their haste might well land you in Vancouver, Mauritius or Istanbul; but instead of making a bee-line for the baggage carousel and the beach, you’ll be just changing planes there, probably nose-pressing the windows and daydreaming about what might have been.

 

Practicalitiles: Suss the weather in both places (there’s little point stopping off mid rainy season), check the waiting times at the stopover airport (you don’t want to be hanging around for half a day on the way home), beware of bank holidays and festivals that might make hotel rates skyrocket, and ask whether you’ll need a visa. Also, remember that it might make more sense to stop off on the way back – you might not feel like Hong Kong after a week on a Sri Lankan beach, but the other way round is perfect.

Stopover friendly airlines: airlines with specific stopover programemes - that will ensure you won't pay extra for stopping on the fare, and will sometimes help with cheaper hotel rates and excursions too - include Air China, Air France, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair, Japan Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish Airways.


TRAVEL NEWS
   7701 views   
The Writing's on My Bathroom Wall - travel news 4th August 2017
posted by Richard Green on 03/08/2017
 
33 Stopover for 'free' and for longer in Lisbon or Porto

To celebrate the first anniversary of TAP Air Portugal's stopover programme, the airline is to increase the duration of possible stopovers from three to five days, plus will allow a break in the journey on one-way fares too. Stopover packages are offered by several airlines and allow you to break a long-haul journey with a stop on the way for no extra air fare charge. TAP's new rules start in September.

  For more info see TAP Portugal Stopover
33 New boutique hotel opens in the Sri Lankan Highlands

The Sri Lankan Highlands are a gorgeously atmospheric blend of misty hills, historic settlements, and tea plantations. The new 5-room Camellia Hills, overlooking the Castlereigh Reservoir, has fine views, a swimming pool, and top notch service that includes a personalised butler, all meals, afternoon tea and other drinks. It's either a six-hour drive from Colombo, or a 30-minute scenic flight on a Cinnamon Air seaplane - see MyBathroomWall for a guide to seaplane flying.

 

For more info see http://www.srilankacollection.com/camellia-hills.


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Canberra 5th Australian destination for Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways is to become the second airline to offer a long haul service from Australia's capital, Canberra, after Singapore Airlines, which flies there from Singapore. The daily Qatar Airways flights from Canberra to Doha touchdown in Sydney en route and will run from the 13th of February 2018.

It will save time and hassle on the route, as the Qatar Boeing 777 will stay on the ground in Sydney for just an hour, as against the next fastest 2-3 hours if - as now - you have to change planes.

 

See Qatar Airways and Visit Canberra


33 Old airport terminal - one careful owner - going cheap

Heathrow Airport is selling off Terminal 1 check-in desk by check-in desk. The venerable terminal opened in 1968, closed in 2015, and the sale includes everything from large chunks of terminal infrastructure (baggage carousels, travelators or a jetty anyone?), to the distinctive BAA yellow and black signage and London-themed artwork that was formerly displayed in the T1.

It's likely that some smaller airports may grab a baggage belt bargain, but don't be too surprised if your Shoreditch barber sits you at a check-in desk later in the year.

 

See the catalogue here http://cagp.com/events/heathrow-airport-terminal-1/


34 Travel armageddon looming?

Additional security checks at European airports are causing huge immigration delays for passengers, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) predict a 3.7% rise in air fares and hotel rates, and the Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary, has crept from under his bushel to warn of no flights operating to or from the UK for a period post Brexit. 


 
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