Thursday, May 22, 2014

London to home

May 21

Although I went to bed at 11:15, I could not get to sleep.  Got up around 12:00 and played games on the computer for awhile.  Got back in bed and could not get comfortable.  At 12:40 I propped the pillows against the wall behind the bed and slept sitting up until a little after 3.  From then on I woke up every 10-15 minutes to look at the time.  Gave up and got dressed before 5:00.

At 5:40 Gary started taking the suitcases down.  Luckily the lift was still working.  At about 5:45 the driver from Smiths for Airports arrived.  The bags were quickly stowed and we were off to the airport.  Traffic was light and we made it in a little over a half an hour. 

Carolyn and Gary were able to check in at the kiosk but for some reason I had to go to the assistance desk.  I actually was finished long before Carolyn and Gary because the bag check-in line they were in was really slow.

Then I had to find the Customs desk to have my VAT form stamped and then to the post box to send it.   From there we had to go down to catch the train to the B concourse.  Then to our gate which of course, was the last one.

The plane (a 747) was fairly full and lucky me got next to a six month old baby!  He only cried for about half the flight but he wasn't wailing and he had a really cute toothless grin.

I was able to doze for awhile and I hope I did not snore.  I was the first row in Premium Economy and there was no place to put my book or iPad down to get it out of the way.  On the plus side, there was plenty of leg room.

We landed on time (12:45) but by the time we got into the airport, had our six pieces of luggage appear on the carousel, Gary got the car and it was loaded, it was about 2:20.  Traffic was bad on I-95 so we didn't get to my house until 4:30.  Now I have four large cases to unpack - my goal is to get them all unpacked by July (can you guess I don't like unpacking).

The three blue cases in the back are mine as well as the large black one on the seat and the small blue one you can't see.

I can't believe this amazing adventure has come to an end (even if I do still feel the ship rocking from time to time).  I have been to some incredible places and met wonderful people. 

I want to thank you all for following along through the goods days and the not so good (sick) days.  I really enjoyed working on the blog. Thanks to all who have left comments - I did read them all even if I did not have the chance to respond.

I hope to be able to do another World Voyage in a few years, so for now, smooth sailing until next time! 
London - May 20

I was able to check in and get my seat for the flight home at 9:45.  After that we went to Patisserie Valerie for brunch.

Carolyn wanted to get a special kind of candy so we went to a little shop on St. Christopher's Place.  It opens onto Oxford Street in a little passage that you could totally miss if you were not looking for it.  No wonder it took me so many trips to finally find it!  There were all kinds of cute shops and caf├ęs hidden behind H&M and the Gap.

We took the bus out to Notting Hill and walked around.  Bought a couple of things (including a massive meringue) and then decided to have a late lunch at one of the eateries on St. Christopher's Place.  We chose "Cafe Creperie".  I had a delicious bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives crepe.

Back to the flat to finish packing.  Went out about 8:30 to get the £5 deposit on our Oyster Cards     refunded.  Picked up sandwiches and crisps at Sainsbury's to go with our meringue.

lunch spot

masssive meringue (note the size compared to the Coke lid)

Monday, May 19, 2014

London - May 18 and 19

Sunday, May 18

Left around 10:30 to have brunch at Patisserie Valerie.  Love their "Mango Tango" tea that comes from an Irish company called Suki.

We then went back to Covent Garden and Carolyn and Gary bought a couple of things.  We then took a bus to Parliament Square.  I sent the intrepid duo off to see the Churchill War Rooms.  I sat in the square and people watched.  There were a group of bicyclists with fold up bikes that were interesting to watch being unfolded.

A man took my picture and then sat down next to me and asked if I wanted a cigarette.  When I declined he wandered off and took pictures of other people.  Bizarre!

Back to the flat around 6:00.  Went back to the Spaghetti House for dinner around 9:00.

Monday, May 19

Left the flat at 9:00 for Paddington Station.  We took the 9:59 train to Oxford.  Rode the HoHo bus around the city and heard about some of the famous colleges that are part of the University.

The Ashmolean Museum is closed on Mondays so we decided to visit Christ Church College.  It was used for some filming in the Harry Potter series.  The Hall (where the students dine) was amazing.

We then looked for a place to eat and ended up at the Organic Deli Cafe.  We then walked back to the train station and took the 5:01 back to Paddington.  It was a very nice, new train and even air conditioned.

We decided to eat leftovers tonight.  We had parts of two pizzas and two sandwiches as well as the rest of our pastries.

Thanks to Gary for some of these pictures (my camera was on the wrong setting and I did not notice so my pics were not so great).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

London - May 16 and 17

Friday, May 16

Today was the day for the Tower of London.  We set out about 10:30.  Gary has not been able to send e-mails from his iPad so we made a stop at the Apple store.  Unfortunately, they were not able to solve the problem so back on the bus to Trafalgar Square where we changed to the 15 bus to the Tower.

We ate at "Eat" which has sandwiches and other things (mostly pre-packaged).  We all had sandwiches (I had a really good egg mayonnaise).

I left the intrepid duo to do their thing about 1:00.  I had finished my book yesterday and needed to get another one so I went to Foyle's.  It is a great bookstore on Charing Cross Road.  I found two books from authors I like and then took the bus back to the Tower.  Sat out in the sun reading and people watching and had a really good ice cream cone.

The temperature has finally warmed up into the high 60s/low 70sF (20-22C).

When Carolyn and Gary were finished we took two busses back to the flat.  We rested for awhile and then headed back to The Tyburn for dinner.  Watched the news and made it an early night (I was in bed by 11:15!).

Saturday, May 17

Decided to take it easy today.  The Tower of London slowed down the intrepid duo with all the spiral (and otherwise) staircases.

Went out around ten for a late breakfast at Patisserie Valerie (Carolyn had pancakes and Gary and I had the bacon, eggs, and toast).  They have a take away special of four slices of pastry for £10 so we brought back a box for nibbling on later.

I suggested we go for a walk (surprisingly, yes, it was me who made that suggestion) around the block.  We walked up to Bryanston Square and then back down Seymour Place.  There are a couple of pricey restaurants around the corner from us with lots of quail and lamb on the menu.  One is a Basque tapas restaurant.  There are also two pubs around the corner - too bad we are not big drinkers!
Bryanston Square

We had our own afternoon tea with the pastries from this morning - the only thing missing was the cucumber sandwiches!

A little about our flat.  We chose the area near Marble Arch for its convenience to bus lines.  We are close to Oxford Street and Edgeware Road.  The flat has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room/dining room area and a modern kitchen.  The kitchen has an apartment sized dishwasher and a washer/dryer combo.  The front-loading washer/dryer combo is very common here and maximizes the space in many older buildings and small flats.  It likely also saves on water but I doubt on electricity.  The interior is small and holds less than my apartment sized washer at home.  The regular cycle lasts for two hours and twenty minutes.  Drying time for a load is between two hours and four for a load depending on the fiber content.  It also beeps frequently!  We have yet to figure out the exact length of time between the end of the wash or dry and when the door will open and release your clothes.

We decided to go back to Leicester Square for dinner.  We ate at a Chinese restaurant which was very popular with the local Chinese.  Watched some TV and went to bed early.

Friday, May 16, 2014

London - May 14 and 15

Wednesday, May 14

Woke up about 4:45 (it was already light out) and took close to an hour to get back to sleep.  Awoke again a little after 8:00.  We left before 10 to go to Windsor.  First a bus to Paddington Station and then the train.  We were able to get a group discount and the three of us got same day return tickets for a total of  £20.25.

To get to Windsor you have to change trains at Slough for the Windsor and Eton Central Station.  It is a small train (2-3 coaches) and Slough to Windsor takes under ten minutes.  Finally arrived around 11:30 and then looked for a good place to eat.   Ended up at "Latino" which featured Greek and Cypriot food.  I had the souvlaki and it was very good.

Carolyn and Gary went off to explore the Castle while I wandered down the pedestrian shopping street.  Looked in a few stores but no purchases (remember the overweight suitcase).  Then walked down the main street and had a Coke at McDonald's.  Finally I found a bench in the sun in the shopping arcade outside the station.  I read for awhile and people watched for some time (there were a number of groups of French school children).

We took the 4:30 train back and after making the connections we arrived back at the flat around 5:45.

After some discussion we decided to go to Piccadilly Circus and walk over to Leicester Square to find some place to eat.  We left about 9:00 and finally decided on "Muriel's Kitchen" for dinner.  Carolyn and Gary shared a pizza and I had a very good chicken Caesar salad.  On the way back we stopped at M&M World - four floors of anything and everything M&M.  We returned around 11:00. (I am working on making them night owls.)

Thursday, May 15

Left around ten for Gary and Carolyn to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  I knew I could not do the walk and stand for over an hour so we went to Victoria Station and I sent them to the ceremony.  I stayed in the train station and read some of my book and people watched.

When they returned we decided to eat in "The Shakespeare" pub.  After a good lunch we set out for Westminster Abbey.  I was going to go in but when I saw the senior rate was £15 I decided not to (I have been in maybe six or seven times).  I sat in Parliament Square.  It is amazing to sit in one place and see (and hear) Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

After their visit we walked to Westminster Pier and toook a river cruise down to Greenwich and back.  I had seen a TV show about the old docks of London on the ship and it was interesting to see where some of them were located.

Returned back to the flat about 7 and contemplated what to do about dinner.  Finally, at about 9, we started walking and ended up at an Italian restaurant called "Prezzo" down the street from us.  I had really good spaghetti and meatballs and Carolyn and Gary had salads.  We got back around 10:45.

Scenes along the River Thames

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

London - May 12 and 13

Monday, May 12

Carolyn and Gary went for breakfast around 9:00 (I was just waking up) and then explored the neighborhood.  When they returned we weighed my suitcases.  One was at about 43 pounds, one at 48 and the third was 55 - uh, oh.  I am going to have to do some reshuffling and maybe trash some things.

We all finally set out around noon for Harrods.  After marveling at the food hall we went to the bookstore and I found an M.C. Beaton book I had not read.  Then we went to the Harrods Shop and looked at all the merchandise.  Carolyn and Gary bought a few things, I refrained (thanks to the weight of my bags).

Then we walked down to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I sat in the garden and had a coke and a scone and read my book while Carolyn and Gary looked all over the museum.  We met back up around 4:30 and sat in the beautiful cafe room (which housed the world's first museum restaurant).  Then bussed back to Edgeware Road.  We ate at a pub called "The Tyburn".  Good fish and chips.  While we were in the pub it started raining and was drizzling as we walked the short block back to the flat.

When we arrived the lift had been fixed!  Made my day.

Tuesday, May 13

Another lazy morning (Gary went to the local convenience store and picked up a few things).  It rained off and on so we decided to go to a matinee.  Set off just before noon to Piccadilly Circus and then walked to the Piccadilly Theatre to buy tickets for "Jersey Boys".  We were able to get good seats in the stalls for £27.50 thanks to being over 60.  While we were buying the tickets there was a downpour and hailstorm.

We asked the young man who sold us the tickets a good place for lunch.  He suggested a number of local places and we settled on Bill's.  We had a good lunch and then Eton Mess for dessert.  I do not know how I have been to Britain so many times and had never heard of it before this trip.  It has three of my favorites - strawberries, cream and meringue.

The show was very good and when we came out the sun was shining brightly.  Back to the flat and we ate leftovers for dinner.

outside of Bill's

inside of Bill's

Jersey Boys

Sunday, May 11, 2014

London - May 10 & 11

Saturday, May 10

Carolyn and Gary went out for breakfast and I did not feel like a hike up and down the stairs (or breakfast either for that matter) so I stayed in the flat.

When they returned we decided to go to the British Museum since it was threatening rain.  A quick bus ride and we were there.  Started by visiting the Rosetta Stone and then the Elgin Marbles.  Then it was upstairs for a walk through all of the rooms.

I took the bus back to the flat and Carolyn and Gary went to look at Hamley's, the largest and oldest toy store in the world.

About 7:30 we headed to our nearest restaurant, Spaghetti House, for dinner.  It was very good.  I had seafood ravioli and Carolyn and Gary had spaghetti.

Stayed up until a little after 11:00.

Monumental Carillon Clock from 1589 (still works) at the British Museum

Sunday, May 11

Another day with a threat of rain and high temperatures only around 55F/13C.  We headed out about 10:00 and had a late breakfast at Patisserie Valerie which is only about a block away.  I had a tasty ham and cheese croissant.

Then it was off to Petticoat Lane.  The fastest way was to take the tube - the Central line runs between Marble Arch (our closest tube station) and Liverpool Street Station.  I have a phobia about down escalators (no doubt it has something to do with my fear of heights) and the one at Marble Arch is very steep and very fast.  I walked down the stairs and there were about 125 of them (I think maybe more).  It probably took me as long to get down the stairs as the tube ride took.  Likely it was my last tube ride.

We walked all over Petticoat Lane but only bought a few souvenirs.  Had something to drink at the McDonald's at the Liverpool Street Station.  Then on the 23 bus to Covent Garden.  Looked at all the arts and crafts (I did not buy anything).  As we were walking to Leicester Square we spotted Cafe Pacifico.  I had eaten there back in 1986 and 1987 and remembered it being good.  I hadn't had any Mexican food in ages so we decided to have an early dinner.  A huge amount of good food (the only thing I did not like was the refried beans).

Walked through Leicester Square over to Piccadilly Circus and caught the bus back to Marble Arch.  Stopped to pick up a newspaper and we were back "home" a little after 6.  We were all a bit tired so we read papers, surfed the internet, played computer games and moaned and groaned about body aches (well, that was mainly me).

Gary watched some football (soccer to the Americans) and to bed about 11.

Cafe Pacifico

Petticoat Lane

Street Performer