Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well, I've had a very busy couple of weeks and I've been traveling extensively (yes, I promise to sort out and post more pictures very soon).  I suppose it was just a matter of time before I got sick.  When I woke up this morning, my eyes were kind of glued shut and my throat hurt.  As the day progressed, my throat kept getting worse until it felt like it was completely closed.  I changed hotels today as Steve is coming in tonight and this is where we'll be for the rest of the time.  It's a completely different area of London called South Bank or Southwark (pronounced Suth-ick), and has a totally different feel.  I was in an older, more upscale residential area before whereas this is closer to the heart of London and is a bit livelier.

Anyway, I went to Westminster Abbey today, which was totally beautiful (and doesn't allow picture taking, although I sneaked in a few) but then came back to the hotel to rest.  Since my room wasn't ready yet, I sat in the pub all afternoon updating my journals.  Now, I'm in my room with some nice hot (very hot because it makes my throat feel better) cup of tea.

My room faces a back courtyard shared by several buildings and should, theoretically, be quiet.  However, there has been noise all afternoon and, at first, I thought they were setting up for a party or doing some construction.,  However, now I'm hearing someone say "And,,,action" so I'm wondering if it's a filming set for some tv show or something.  It's off to the side so I can't really get a great view -- just a bunch of lights and it looks like people dancing.

Ok, so I just called down to the desk to see if anyone could tell me what's going on.  Turns out that they're filming a Guinness commercial that will air in the U.S. in December.  Since it's not Johnny Depp or Colin Firth or anybody like that, I probably won't go check it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interesting Signs

These blue discs appear on the sides of buildings of note.  Generally, it's because someone famous lived there, but sometimes it's because a society was started in the building or something similar.

Pub where Charles Dickens used to hang out.

This was at Kensington Palace and the squirrel was just gnawing away at the metal leg of this sign.  You could hear his little teeth just grinding.

The entire city of London is monitored by closed circuit cameras.  They're at every intersection, on the corners of buildings, in hallways and the subways -- only the bathrooms are spared (I think).

The subway system is really old and most of the stations have no elevators or escalators, so you get used to going up and down a lot of stairs (a real pain with a lot of luggage, by the way).  In this case, though, the tracks were so far underground that there were warnings posted against trying to climb up to street level.  There is construction beginning for some of the stations to install "lifts" in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics.

Another of those blue discs -- this one commemorating the long-running play by Agatha Christie "'The Mousetrap".  It's now in it's 58th year.

Lots of public toilets over here, but it costs 30 pence (about 47 cents) to use them.  Pubs, restaurants, etc all have bathrooms available to customers, and I guess it's great that there are so many facilities available but 30p just to pee?!

My first thought, when I read this sign, was "what could have frightened the door?"  The English language cracks me up sometimes.  As Homer Simpson would say, "Why do I have to learn English?  I'm not going to England."

Another favorite pub of Charles Dickens (it's a wonder that he got any writing done at all!).  This one is tucked away down an alley in an area that, reportedly, he used as the inspiration for the counting house owned by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Some pictures with me in them (incl some repeats)

Relying on the kindness of strangers, as Tennessee Williams would say, doesn't always work well and it isn't necessarily easy to find a perch for the camera but I have managed to get a few shots with me in them.  These are from my first few days here (Wednesday the 8th thru Sunday the 12th).  I still need to sort out the ones taken last week and over this past weekend in York.

Having my first "high tea" at Kensington Palace.

A chilly day outside the Tower of London.

At The Grenardier pub

At Windsor Castle
Also at Windsor Castle

At Hampton Court Palace

Some Interesting Photos

This is the office building for the Mayor of London.  It's situated on the southern bank of the Thames in the area known as Southwark and is adjacent to the Tower Bridge.  This photo was taken from the Tower of London, so it's quite jarring to be in a structure dating back 1000 years looking across the river at a structure that has been dubbed "Darth Vader's helmet" by the locals.

This is the British Airways London Eye, or "eyesore" as our tour guide called it.  It was openned in 2000 for the celebration of the Millenium and has 32 pods, with each pod making a complete revolution in 30 minutes.  Right now, they're replacing the pods one by one -- you can see that one is missing at the 2 o'clock position.  I didn't go up in it, but I understand that you can see for up to 25 miles if the weather is clear.  It also sits on the southern side of the Thames near the new Globe Theatre (built to replicate the one from Shakespeare's day).

The subway system here is amazing.  There are a large number of trains running in every direction within London and the Greater London area.  I can't imagine anywhere that you'd want to go that you can't reach by train here.  The Underground also runs into the rail stations so you can connect with the trains that go elsewhere in the country and to France.   Sometimes there is a healthy space between the train and the platform, though, so you're constantly being reminded to "Mind the Gap".  There are even t-shirts printed with "Mind the Gap" on them.

There are a lot of parks scattered throughout London (like there are in New York), many of which were originally there for the king to use to hunt deer.  The really nice part is the fact that there are all kinds of chairs -- either stacked or already sitting out -- that are provided for people to use to enjoy the park.

I love these red phone booths -- it's one of the symbols of England, really.  This particular one reminds me of the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic when Mr. Weasley takes Harry Potter for his hearing with the Wizengamot in "HP and the Order of the Phoenix."

In front of St. Paul's Cathedral is a statue of Queen Anne, who was a bit of a tippler.  A children's rhyme after this statue was erected:

Poor Queen Anne, left in the lurch;
Facing toward a pub with her back to the church.

Even now she gets no respect as the birds perch on her head!

Day Off

Today has been an unusually fun day so far.  It's mid-afternoon and I'm at the hotel having my afternoon tea and just relaxing.

I was totally worn out last night and dropped off early.  Then, the jackhammers out in the street woke me this morning.  It's probably just as well so I could have a light breakfast.  As expected after forcing myself to a rigourous schedule these past two weeks, I really didn't feel very well when I got up:  very tired, headache, listless -- all of the signs of just being worn out.  I've also been eating far too many calories in all of these meals, so the pants that I brought along to wear to the wedding on Sunday would not begin to fit.  So, what can I do to fix all of that?  Shopping, of course.

The shops at Victoria Station were the first I came to, and it took a while but I found several things that I liked so....I took all of them.  Then, I found a small Sainsbury shop (that's a local grocer) and grabbed a bottle of diet Coke.  Already I'm feeling better! 

There's a small "garden" area behind this b&b with tables and chairs and a lovely breeze, so I decided to hang out there with my computer and journals.  I had had a great conversation on the train from York yesterday with a couple of football fans (soccer), and got some good tips for finding a game that we can attend later this week when Steve is here.  It took me forever to find a place online where I could order tickets without the restriction of having them delivered to my home address (my credit card billing address).  In the interim, communicating back and forth with Steve, it turns out that his friend Troy (who will also be here for the wedding) will be here Saturday with his wife and his parents, and they're also interested in going to a game.  So, on Saturday the six of us will be watching Fulham take on Everton.  Of course we'll be cheering for Fulham since we'll be in their stadium.

On the corner near my b&b is an Italian deli called La Bottega.  When I was here my first week I had gotten take-out there and today decided to just drop over there for a late lunch since I don't want to wander too far.  My objective today is restorative as I have plans to go to Buckingham Palace tomorrow and also intend to take part in a Jack the Ripper tour tomorrow evening.  Anyway, they have the most interesting foods at this deli.  Today, I had a wonderful salad of mixed greens, balsamic tomatoes, steamed cauliflower and broccoli -- topped with what I believe was a square of mozzarella wrapped with prosciutto.  It had been grilled lightly (just enough to melt the cheese and crisp up the prosciutto) and placed in the middle of the salad.  It was so much lighter than the foods I've been eating and I loved it.

Now, I'm going to work on my journals and photographs as I have some really fun photos from a walk I took in the City of London on Sunday.  That is the financial area of London so it's fairly deserted on a Sunday afternoon, but it's also the oldest part of London -- right near the Tower of London and also where Dickens spent a lot of time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Half Way Point

I realized that today is the 19th.  I arrived on the 8th and I'm leaving on the 28th so I've been here 11 of the 21 days so it's a bit more than half over.

It's Sunday evening at roughly 7:45 here, and I'm officially worn out.  I've been going until very late every night and getting up right away in the morning, walking all over the place (including stairs), and my body is telling me to take a rest.

So, that said, I'm tucking in early tonight as I have a lot of great pictures to go through and post tomorrow.

Sunday in England

I'm traveling by train from York to London (high speed, non-stop bullet-type train taking approximately 2 hours) and enjoying the weekend crowd of folks making the trip.  The train is not crowded and I'm near two gentlemen who are rabid football (soccer) fans.  It was great fun to hear them talk football just like people back home do.  I also got a tip about getting tickets to see Fulham next Saturday.  [Steve:  both guys highly recommend it as a good stadium and the game will be a good match.]

I was reading the Sunday Times Magazine this morning and found a regular column called "Ask Dr Ozzy", which would be similar to an Ann Landers or Dr. Ruth type of feature.  I can't put all of them in, but I'll put one here for Shilo -- Ozzy's biggest fan.

I'm a heterosexual man but I found myself becoming aroused in the most embarrassing way while getting a Swedish rub-down from a male masseur.  Even worse:  it was a couple's massage and my wife was lying next to me.  She noticed and hasn't talked to me since.

"Tell her it was the thought of a menage a trois that set you off.  Actually, don't do that.  All I can say is, in future, you might want to try avoiding other blokes when you're down the parlour.  Personally, I couldn't think of anything more uncomfortable than being oiled down by some ex-Chippendale while Kenny G plays in the background.  Don't get me wrong:  I ain't got nothing against the gay community, but when someone says the word "Swedish", I think of Ulrika Jonsson, not Bjorn Borg."

He cracks me up.

It was raining when I got up in York this morning, but the weather in London appears to be clearer so I'm hoping to get out this afternoon and evening to do a little more sightseeing.  My list of things to see is longer than the days available in which to see them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some Random Observations

  • Surprisingly, the British speak in terms of miles instead of kilometers.
  • Bathroom linens rarely include washcloths -- just hand towels and bath towels.
  • Football is the term used by the British to mean soccer, and by the Australians to mean rugby.
  • The fields and pastures are primarily "fenced" in with stone walls -- some of which have mortar and others that are called dry stone walls where the stones have been piled so skillfully that they've survived for hundreds of years.
  • I haven't been anywhere where the drinking water has been bad (unlike traveling around the U.S.)
  • Contrary to what I had been told, those red telephone booths are everywhere over here.  I had been led to believe that they had been replaced with more modern ones.
  • The makes of cars here are not familiar.  There is the occasional Toyota or Nissan, but the vast majority are Renault, Vauxhall, and Peugeot.
  • Drinking tea here is done by adding milk, which reminds me of Grandma Henline who always added a large quantity of milk to her tea.
  • I'm staying down the road from The Old Gray Mare pub.  I could hear Daddy singing in my head every time I walked by it today.
  • I caught an episode of Law & Order:SVU last night and I was startled to see that the opening is entirely different.  It doesn't have that "ching ching" noise, and the music is not the same theme song at all.
  • Public transportation here is really excellent:  buses, subways, trains.  Even though there are definitely a lot of cars on the road (driving on the wrong side, of course), the public transit system is also packed.  Riding bicycles is also very popular and, as a matter of fact, people take their bikes right on the train and, then, ride from there.
  • While I was in London, I didn't really meet too many British people.  There are more immigrants in London than there are in the U.S., I think.  Upon leaving London, though, and traveling throughout the country, I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of really nice English people.  At the Old Rectory where I spent the one night, the lady that owns the place looks just like you'd expect an English country woman to look -- and it turns out that she's passionate about fox hunting.  Brilliant!  And she's in her 60's.
  • There is a distinctly different accent depending on where you're from in England.  The people in Yorkshire definitely have more of a Scottish sound, which makes sense since it's so far north.  There are also a lot of red-haired people in York!

Gastronomic Update

I know I've mentioned some of these things on Facebook, but I thought I'd capture my food and beverage journey to date.

A full English breakfast is HUGE!  I can't imagine eating like this every morning, but I don't mind doing it every morning while I'm here! ;)  Fruit, yogurt, cereal, juice all as starters, then hot cooked-to-order eggs, sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes, cooked mushrooms, baked beans, toast (with fresh jams and marmalade, plus tea or coffee or milk.  This particular one is from the Red Lion Inn in Lacock.  The best one I've had so far is at the Bloomsbury B&B in York - with home made blackberry jam.

This is a Ploughman's Lunch -- although a fancier version than what the average worker expects in the pubs.  Basically, it's just hunks of cheese (the light colored wedges) raw onions, big wedges of brown bread, and a pickle.  This one also contains some raw vegetables and pickled onions.  A real blue collar version is just buttered bread, raw onions, and slabs of the local cheese.  This bread was one of the best I've ever had.  The meal is from the Brethren's Kitchen at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.

My first pint -- from the Shakespeare Pub in London right across the street from Victoria Station.  I believe it's Kronenberg.  This is a lager, which is served cold.  Other choices are:  bitter (dark) or stout (very dark).  There is also shandy (1/2 beer and 1/2 Sprite -- although they refer to the Sprite as lemonade).   The glasses are made specially for beer from the tap and come in pint and 1/2 pint sizes.  Cider, which I'm drinking this evening, generally comes in cans and is only 6% alcohol with a very definite flavor of apples.  The one I had earlier this week was called Strongbow, and the one this evening is Scrumpy Jack.

Dinner at The Grenardier Pub in London started with this wonderful salad of greens, apples, walnuts and Stilton cheese.  It was followed by a pie of chicken, mushrooms, and brie covered by a puff pastry, and with a side of mashed potatoes.

This was my first formal afternoon tea -- a Champagne Tea at the Orangery (a type of hothouse kept on big estates) of Kensington Palace.  Always served with three layers:  finger sandwiches on the bottom, a scone (to be eaten with clotted cream and jam) on the second layer, and pastries at the top.  You eat from the bottom up.  Clotted cream has the consistency of butter, but is a bit lighter in color and tastes more like a sweet cream.  It's in or on most of the desserts here.

I also had fish and chips while at Hampton Court, and I found it to be no different than what we're used to.  The chips (big french fries) are to be eaten with a sprinkle of malt vinegar, but I didn't do that.  Oddly, fish and chips here is always served with a side of peas -- usually mushy peas that are intentionally mushy.  I've also had a bakewell cake (named for the town of Bakewell where it originated) that is a bit like our pound cake.  It has a very dense, moist consistency and is sometimes layered with cream and jam.  The one I had was lemon and was absolutely wonderful.  There have also been some fabulous soups -- one was mushroom (pureed like a bisque) with chunks of bacon, and a potato/leek that was also almost like a bisque.  Both were really, really good and served with wonderful brown bread.

No steak and kidney pie yet, or kippers.  Lamb is very popular over here and there are fields of sheep everywhere, although I have not had any lamb as yet.  I also want to have a Yorkshire Pudding and something made with Treacle (which I understand is actually molasses) and a Fool (a light cream dessert whipped up with fruit).  I did have fresh figs for breakfast one morning, picked from the tree right outside the house.  They were ripe and wonderful, although I had to ask for instructions as to how to eat them.  Note:  there were many people from Australia on the tour and I saw the correct way to eat kiwi.  You just slice off the end, and eat it with a spoon as though it were a cup of ice cream.  Just dip into it while keeping the skin intact.

The cookies are called biscuits over here and they're all really good.  Potato chips are called crisps and come in a variety of interesting flavors (flame-grilled steak, oriental ribs) as well as some more well-known flavors such as cheese, salt, etc.  Yesterday, I saw one in Bloody Mary flavor.

One day, I ate at a McDonald's and the food tasted the same as in America, but the menu is considerably less varied with no grilled choices.  There are also Starbucks scattered about, and it seems to be identical to those in America.  [Note:  while we talk about being from the US, everyone here refers to us as being from America].  I was particularly thrilled to find that they had real diet Coke here, as opposed to some version that would not taste the same.  One other beverage that I really enjoyed is Elderflower Presse.  It's almost clear and slightly carbonated and is made from the elderflower.  I'm guessing that's the flower from the bush that supplies elderberries.  Anyway, it's very refreshing.

I have 10 days left (including one that will be in Paris and another at a wedding), so I'm hoping that I'll enjoy many other interesting foods and beverages.

Lacock Village and Abbey

So, I'm settled into a wonderful B&B in York, with Agatha Christie on the tv and Scrumpy Jack cider on my bedside table.  All ready to do some reporting!

This past week has been a bit of a fantasy actually, and I've had very little connectivity or time to update the blog so I'll try to do a lot of catch-up.

Back to Tuesday:  we were in Lacock where the entire village is owned by the National Trust.  As a result, no electrical lines, tv antennas, billboards, etc are allowed in order to keep the authenticity of the village.  As a result, the village is used extensively for filming of movies and tv shows.  The village, set in Wessex, dates from the 13th century and is full of wonderfully historical buildings. 

For instance, there is a tithe barn that was used to store the grains that the landowners would have to pay as their rent, or tithe, to the gentry that owned the area. 

Behind the barn (and attached to it) is the "lock up".   Apparently, in medieval days, there were no police or sheriffs in the towns so, when someone would get out of control, the judge or magistrate would have the person thrown into the lock up overnight.  It's a truly horrible little space with only a very tiny little window (about 6 inches square) to allow a little fresh air.

Lacock Abbey was used for Harry Potter and, unfortunately, it was drizzling when we were there so my photos aren't as bright as I would have liked but, if you use your imagination, you can imagine Hogwarts.

With a bit of snow in the courtyard, this is the common area of Hogwarts.

One of the hallways at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Professor Snape's dungeon classroom:

This house was also used in Harry Potter, but I can't remember where (and this tour was for Pride & Prejudice, not Harry Potter so they didn't know either).  It must have been either Tom Riddle's house or maybe the home of the Gaunts.  Or maybe Horace Slughorn.  I'll have to go back and watch my movies now.  It was definitely one of the more recent ones.

So, Lacock was a wonderful little town with cobbled streets and charming little shops.  I stayed at the Red Lion Inn and Pub, which used to be an old coaching station where people would stay while on their journey through the country.  Like everywhere I've stayed, a full English breakfast is provided in the morning.  There is fruit, juice, and cereal, and you can also order a hot breakfast including any or all of the following:  eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, cooked mushrooms, baked beans, and toast.  Plus tea and coffee, of course.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Short and Sweet Catch-Up

I'm going to do a short summary of the past few days as I know I've fallen behind.  The days kept getting longer and longer as I tried to fill them from morning to night, leaving little time for recording.

On Saturday, I took the train to Windsor to see Windsor Castle.  On the train, were a whole bunch of people and many of them exited at Twickenham -- all wearing rugby shirts.  It turns out that there was a huge rugby tournament going on that day and, later, I heard yells coming from pubs as one team or another scored.

I broke down and went to McDonald's for lunch when I got to Windsor -- primarily because I didn't want to spend a lot of time eating.  Getting a real diet Coke was so nice, but their idea of large over here is more like our medium size in America.  Menu items are similar, but there are far fewer choices and, apparently, no one likes grilled chicken here -- only fried.

Windsor Castle was absolutely amazing -- by far my favorite of everything I've seen.  It's enormous and beautiful and looks like you'd expect a castle to look.  St. George's Chapel is the burial site of Henry VIII and the parents of the current Queen, and it is just the most beautiful cathedral!  The State Apartments are also open to the public, and many of the paintings of past monarchs hang there. 

On Sunday, I took the train again to Hampton Court.  This one was built by Cardinal Wolesey during the reign of Henry VIII (he must have been a very rich cardinal), and eventually "gifted" it to Henry when he fell out of favor.  Didn't do any good -- he was thrown into prison anyway.  The grounds are astonishingly huge.  I don't think I've ever seen such a large building that wasn't occupied as a government office.  There were characters wandering about the grounds so, on occasion, the King would wander through the room you were in and it was important that you stop whatever you were doing and bow.  It was a hoot.  In this particular palace, the Great Hall was the most impressive room for me.

Because I'll be returning to the same B&B in London when I get back there on Sunday, I was able to leave a duffle bag full of stuff there (thankfully) so the luggage I'm carrying with me now is manageable.  Of course, as I keep filling it with things that I'm buying, it will undoubtedly get heavier.

I left London yesterday for Bath.  I'm joining a Pride & Prejudice tour that will be visiting the sites used in the filming of my favorite BBC adaptation of P&P.  Turns out there will be 36 of us on this tour -- the largest group they've ever had.  It is so much fun for me to be able to discuss not only P&P, but all of the Jane Austen books and films with others who share my enthusiasm.  There are even 3 men in the group -- 2 who enjoy P&P, and 1 who came along on condition that he gets to attend a soccer game and stop in Monte Carlo on the way home.  All very nice people.

In direct contrast to my modest accommodations last night in the converted coach house, I have a room at the Red Lion in Lacock this evening with a view down the very street where P&P was filmed.  Additionally, some of the Harry Potter scenes were filmed down the street at the abbey.  Tonight, we're having a large group dinner at a local home that was used in the filming of P&P.  There are several members of the Jane Asten Society of North America here with us, and they've brought Regency dress that they'll be wearing this evening.

This tour was kind of expensive and I was a bit apprehensive about whether it would be worthwhile.  So far, it has been absolutely fantastic and I'm thoroughly enjoying every second.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Some people go to the big city and get mugged.  Some fall down stairs or have traffic accidents.  I get bug bites.  Sigh!

Yesterday, while on that double-decker bus, I felt what I assumed was someone sticking a needle in the side of my neck.  Since we were near Embassy Row, I thought maybe I was the victim of espionage.  I slapped at it and it turned out to be a itty, bitty bug.  I have no idea what it was since I pretty much obliterated it when I hit it.  Then, another one got me under the chin and another on my chest.  It was like a red-hot coal -- like a sting. 

They didn't bother me at all yesterday -- just turned a little red.  Now, today, I have these big itchy welts with an additional one on the side of my thumb.  I could have stayed home if I was going to get attacked by bugs; at least I know how to handle bites/stings from American bugs!

Great day today at the Tower of London.  Saw the Crown Jewels and the spot where the beheadings took place -- pretty cool.  The Tower is a royal property so it's guarded by the guys with the big fur hats.  Interestingly, those guys carry fully automatic weapons as they do their little march.  This guy is guarding the Crown Jewels, though, so I'm guessing he's pretty serious about that weapon.  Maybe more so than guarding the Royal Family!

The place has a bunch of cannons all over the place and I wanted to bring one home for Dad, but I couldn't figure out how to get it in my bag.  Managed to find a couple things in the gift shop for myself, though.  

Also took a little boat cruise on the Thames and later (after I did a little laundry) found this really great pub with fabulous food!  I had a salad that Susie would die for; it had apples, walnuts and Stilton cheese.  Stilton is the best bleu cheese I've ever had.  Also had a cottage pie made with chicken, mushrooms and cheese (brie) baked under a beautiful puff pastry.  Good thing I did so much walking today (over 15 miles / a little more than 20,000 steps). 

Virtuously, I declined dessert.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow so I may have to wait and make my plans on the fly.  I had intended to go to Winchester to see the cathedral and to Windsor to see the castle.  Both of those would entail being outdoors quite a bit so it may end up being a day for the museums or one of the cathedrals here in London.

Oh,and speaking of food,  I finally got my full English breakfast this morning.  If I went for the whole thing, it would have been eggs, bacon (more like ham, really), sausage, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, and toast.  I passed on the baked beans and sausages.  I also thought "This is England; you should have orange marmalade on your toast."  I tried it years ago and didn't like it, but I decided that my taste buds have matured.  So I put it on and tried it and......hated it still.  Strawberry jam is so much better!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Long, long Day

It's almost midnight here and I hope to get up early tomorrow so this will need to be short.  I took over 150 pictures today and I'll need to sort through them before posting anyway. 

This day started out poorly as I overslept.  I was totally exhausted last night so, instead of getting to my tour bus by 8:30, it was 11:30.  I also missed the big English breakfast that I was counting on.  However, I did have a nice afternoon tea at Kensington Palace and did see an incredible amount on the tour buses, so it really was a good day.

On a whim, I decided to jump off the bus in Picadilly and get a ticket for the theatre at one of those 1/2 price places.  It was really fun and a great evening.

But, now I'm really worn out and still have to plan my day tomorrow.  I'm going to the Tower of London (where the really good beheadings took place) and will probably be there a good bit of the day.  I'm hoping to also catch a Jack the Ripper walk and a Thames cruise.  We'll see how much I can actually get in tomorrow.

London weather

I'm on my hop on/ hop off tour and it just started Pouring! Fortunately, 4 rows up top are under a roof and I was able to squeeze in at the back. Getting a little damp but not bad.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Day

It's roughly 4:30 in the afternoon here and I'm about ready to say "cheerio".  I had hoped to sleep on the plane over here (having only gotten 3 hours sleep the night before I left), but it was just too uncomfortable.  So I watched "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (great movie) and listened to music.  We got here a bit early this morning and, then, I was shocked to go to passport control and get into a line that went down 3 hallways.  Fully expecting to be there for two hours, I was pleasantly surprised when they moved it right along and I was out in around 40 minutes.  Luggage arrived and was undamaged (and also not dirty -- which was surprising).  Before leaving home, I had ordered a Travel Card which gives me unlimited travel on the underground and buses and the water taxi on the Thames, so I was able to jump on the train headed toward my hotel.  The subway system here is amazing!  Both the trains and the stations are clean and have maps and announcements that you can actually understand.  Unfortunately, the stations don't have lifts, so I had to lug my suitcases up several flights of stairs when I changed trains.  Eventually, though, I got to Victoria Station -- which is my home base for this week.

I'm staying at a bed and breakfast a few blocks from Victoria -- it's called the B&b Belgravia and it's on a narrow street full of these row houses.  There are 4 floors (I'm on the top floor -- to quote Richard Gere "because it's the best"), but they don't say it that way here.  The lowest floor here is the garden level and it's actually partially below ground, then there's the ground floor, the first floor, and the second floor.  I'm pretty pleased with it as I have quite a bit of room, and both a tub and shower.  Apparently, that's a bit of a surprise when you get rooms here.

After checking in, I decided to just jump on the Underground and go over a couple more stops so I got out at Westminster.  When I walked out of the station, I was literally standing across the street from Big Ben and Parliament.  I took a picture with my cell phone for Facebook, but the quality isn't very good so I'll get better pictures.  It was pretty stunning, though -- a really beautiful thing.

Ordered a ploughman's lunch and a pint at The Shakespeare pub, but I wouldn't recommend it.  The place is obviously for tourists and I was really hungry or would have moved on.  I'm hoping for better starting with a full English breakfast tomorrow morning.  I'm going on one of those red double-decker hop on/hop off buses tomorrow so I'm thinking that a big breakfast might just hold me 'til tea time.  I sure hope the weather cooperates.  It apparently rained this morning before our flight got in.  When we landed it was quite foggy, which was cool -- very Sherlock Holmes / Jack the Ripper - ish.  Then, in was beautiful all day, but started raining just a big ago.  Fortunately, I was inside getting my computer hooked up and didn't have to deal with it.  This b&b has big windows in the bedroom and bathroom that open all the way, so I can lean out and watch the traffic and the people.

Serious lack of trash cans in this city.  I just wanted to get rid of some gum and couldn't find any trash cans in the subway station nor anywhere on the street.  You'd think the city would be overrun with litter, but it isn't.

Ok, this is going to sound a little lame, but it's exciting for me.  I really like this British Tv series called Midsomer Murders (kind of a Murder, She Wrote type of show but maybe a bit more gruesome), but I always have to wait for the shows to come out on DVD so I'm generally watching them a year or so later.  I was debating whether I should go do something tonight or get some badly needed rest so I'll be rarin' to go tomorrow.  It turns out that the season premiere of Midsomer Murders is on TV tonight -- so now I can watch it in real time for once!

England is famous for it's black cabs and I intend to ride in one while I'm here.  Here's one going by in front of my open window in the rain, and a shot down the street toward the intersection.

Long flight

I can't believe it's only 11:30 am here. It feels like I've already put in a full day. Got here way early so my room isn't ready. Guess I'll grab some lunch - need to find a cool pub.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On my Way!

all checked in at the airport. Had to remove a couple of books from my suitcase to make the weight limit. At least there's no charge for the first checked bag on Int'l flights. From here to Detroit and on to Heathrow around 6 Central Time.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting down to the wire

So, I'm all packed.  I can't believe I only have one suitcase for three weeks, and most of the space is taken up with toiletries, electronics, etc.  Guess I'll be doing laundry periodically!

Steve gave me the website for the estate we'll be visiting for the wedding:

Looks pretty elegant and I'm pretty excited to be going there, although I can already tell that I'll be seriously under-dressed.  I just can't fit much more into my suitcase!  Maybe I'll get a great hat while in England as it appears that everyone wears hats at these dressy functions!