Monday, April 11, 2016

The OCC in Henley, day 3: Farewells and Lay Days

On Sunday morning, the breakfast hall was full of chatter as everyone convened for yet another round. Many people were heading home that day, and only a few stragglers were staying behind. There was pandemonium in the lobby as everyone tried to check out by 9 am, the earliest check out anyone had ever heard of.  But groups had formed in the dining hall and last minute questions, future plans, and pressing issues were discussed.

"I need to Skype with you this week,"  was a common theme for Committee members. "We're sailing from Iceland to Greenland in June. Do you have any advice?"  "We've got a full set of charts for Norway if you need them."  These were snippets of conversations floating in the air.

Then the good-byes started. We must have said good-bye to the same people five times over before it was all done. But we were among the lucky ones. We decided not to rush and to stay one additional day. We'd have time to explore Henley and relax for a day. What a novel idea.

Alex and Daria, Michael and Stephanie, and John van-S were the last remaining members who stayed an extra night. John and his wife stayed at Greenlands relaxing, while the others headed into Henley on their own. Alex and I walked, while Stephanie and Michael took a taxi. It was a beautiful day. Mild and sunny, after apparently several days of heavy rains and cold weather. We got lucky.

We walked past flocks of geese as slender skulls flowed past on the fast moving river. We walked over ingeniously designed wooden bridges that spanned inlets and rivulets along the riverside path. People were walking their dogs and talking non-stop on their mobiles. I wondered what they did before. Two dragon boats came by with tiers of paddlers. It was exciting. Then we came into Henley, with its ancient architecture and traditional flint and brick construction. Quite lovely.

The riverside in Henley is beautiful with islets in the middle of the river, barges and boats and passenger vessels of every size and description. Tourists milling about in droves. We wondered what it was like in July. It was a toss up: River tour or River and Rowing Museum?  The Rowing Museum won when we happened upon it right after the Hobbs Boat hub.

The first thing we saw in the museum was the delightful Wind in the Willows room. Essentially a winding diorama of life sized and miniature scenes and sculptures, we opted for the audio tour which basically reads the story as you walk the exhibit. Pure magic. I was transported into childhood and didn't want it to end. What sailor doesn't appreciate "messing about in boats"? I've written a separate blog post about the book and its author.

We had a late lunch in a lovely old pub and walked the town, stopping into the used book stores and charity shops as most of the other shops ware closed on a Sunday. We noticed the bus and asked if it stopped at Greenlands, which it did. So we headed back where we grabbed our books and a couple of drinks from the bar, then headed into the drawing room. No need for dinner. Cheese and crackers and some peanuts and drinks did the trick. We watched the evening set in on the banks of the river, and all was well.

We were leaving early in the morning. It had been a good day, a good weekend, and a good trip overall. New friends and old, that's what it's all about.

Notes on getting to and from Henley-on-Thames from Greenlands:

  • The walk from Greenlands to Henley is really lovely and worth the effort. It's only about 2 miles and we did it in about an hour, stopping to admire the rowers on the river, the wildlife, and the idyllic scenery. It is, however, quite wet and muddy in places so good footwear is advised. Walk from the main campus to the first gate, then walk across the field to the back of the wooded area near the river. You'll see an opening where you cross a wooden bridge. The path then proceeds from there along the river. The last part takes you inland to the main road around a private property development. We really enjoyed it. Note that the stately home you pass up a canal from the river as you cross a bridge with brick arch is the real Toad Hall. 
  • There is a bus from Henley to Greenlands that runs right from the main intersection in town to the back door of Greenlands. It costs £2.70. You need the hotel swipe card to open the gate at the back of the hotel property.  
  • A taxi can be ordered at the main desk at Greenlands and only takes about 10 minutes to arrive. Cost to town is about £5. The taxi stand in town is on the main square. Chiltern Cars 01 491 57 88 99 or 
  • Hobbs of Henley does every kind of boat rental you can imagine from a central location in Henley and their fleet is impressive. It's likely you can even get them to drop you at Greenlands. 

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