Sunday, July 31, 2016

Travelogue: Day 11 - Birthday at Highclere and Jane Austen's House!

Happy Birthday to Me! 
Wednesday, July 27

My birthday! After breakfast, we checked out promptly at 10 am. We had originally booked our tickets for 1 pm entry into the Castle thinking we could hike Beacon Hill and Watership Down and the grounds around Highclere before our entry. Since we had already done Beacon Hill and Watership Down, we asked the nice older gentleman at the ticket booth if we could change our time, and he said, "Sure!" So we walked in 20 minutes before its official opening. The people at each room of Highclere were so willing to answer any question, and there were stills of different scenes that had been shot in that particular room. It was like a dream to walk through these rooms that I have watched since 2011. (When I planned our "dream trip" in 2012, this was one of the destinations!) I loved the rich wood in the library. 

The Egyptian exhibit was also very interesting. After this, we wandered through the grounds and gardens. I especially loved the wildflower field that was in full bloom. I loved every minute of this. I am posting our approach because I totally geek out:


We tried to do the Highclere Walks, and the nice ticket man even gave us his only copy of the maps that I forgot to bring from home, but we could not find the trail. So we decided to leave, and the road they brought us out on went to our hike destination, and it was REALLY far away! So, we were glad we did not find the trail, and we got to see the Temple of Diana anyway.

Since we had extra time before we were to check in to St. Mary' Hall in Alton, we went to the Jane Austen Museum today rather than tomorrow. 

What a way to top off what was already a perfect birthday! 

The House was enchanting, and how great to see her writing desk! I went back into her room several times when it cleared of visitors. So cool! I bought a nice tea towel and chocolate. 

We arrived at the converted church to B&B, St. Mary's Hall (http://altonbedandbreakfast.co.uk/), by check in and were warmly greeted with tea by Jack and Joan. After settling in, we walked did the "Jane Austen Alton Trail" and found the place where Jane would catch the coaches to London:


Geek out! Walking where Jane had once walked was a total thrill. We ate dinner at Monty's downtown, and then George "force fed me semolina":

We settled into the cozy king size bed of "The Knight" room and watched BBC News (this place had the best TV selection of all the places we stayed)! 

PERFECT BIRTHDAY!!!! (IT ties for "best birthday ever with our time at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. four years ago!) 

Travelogue: Day 10 - Sunrise at Avebury, Beacon Hill, Watership Down, and Sunset at Stonehenge

Tuesday, July 26

We had set our alarm for 4:30 am to catch the sunrise and mist on the Avebury Stones, but George went to turn on our camera, and nothing! We had snapped away the night before, went in to shortly recharge before sunset, and went back out and shot a ton more pictures, but there was nothing this morning. We hoped it was just the battery. We had already been leaning toward NOT going to Bath as it was an hour backtrack and not on our "must see" list.  (Jane Austen lived there for nine weeks and hated it there.) Also, we did not feel like going back to a busy town with lots of tourists after being in the country and loving it!  So, that would give us some time to go to a camera shop in Swindon to troubleshoot the problem. 

But first, it was Avebury Stones with the iPhone! It made me wish I had purchased the iPhone lenses from Photo JoJo! Anywho, the iPhone did pretty well. Here is a video of the midst as the sun rose on the stones:





We came back to a great vegetarian English Breakfast (only difference was no bacon and veggie sausage instead of meat sausage). It was a lovely room with antique furniture throughout:


After a luxurious shower for George and bath for me with HEATED towels (not having to head off to Bath to beat the tourists had its advantages), it was off to Swindon. We would love to say that the Swindon camera shop could help us, but it was a short in the camera and NOT the battery. Oh well, first world problem. We walked away disappointed, but we had the iPhone 6 camera. Then we looked at each other and said, "Let's buy a little bit higher end point and shoot" so we bought a Nikon Cool Pix. It was great. Nothing can compare to a mirrorless Fuji, but it is a First World problem and no use crying over a shorted camera! (We only got two drops of rain on it before we put it back in its holder the night before. Plus, it is a water-resistant camera.)

Since we had skipped Bath, we made it early to Newberry and did the hiking we had hoped to do before our Highclere Castle entry on this day. The view of Highclere Castle from Beacon Hill (856 feet) was great and worth the straight up hike. The grave of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tut's Tomb, was on top. He died of a mosquito bite shortly after the tomb was discovered. Beacon Hill is also the site of an ancient hillfort built around 1000 B.C. that was inhabited by 2-3000 people. There are only marks left now. 

After this we hiked up to the site of the Watership Down Warren! There is a tree up there dedicated to the author who is still alive and lives in the area! We went to the side that caused you to go on a one lane road which is scary. I had originally planned to go to a parking lot on the other side and hike from that direction, but this involved a much shorter hike so it was nice. The area to the south contained all the farms and creeks described in the book. How fun!

The three miles down the hill on the one lane road was NOT FUN, and George put up with my stress and gasps when cars would come from other directions! 

After this, we went into our room at the Carnarvon Arms. We missed the lunch by five minutes (even though their literature says they serve food there all day). This hotel used to be the stables for Highclere Castle. We were in the new wing they built a year ago. The room was adequate but overpriced with no breakfast and the worst bed we slept on our whole trip. The toilet in the bathroom also ran into the sink. For something new, it was pretty poorly designed, but it was close to Highclere, and the place I wanted to stay at The Yew Tree Inn was full when I booked in February. 

Since we couldn't eat there, we decided to go to Stonehenge and eat there. That was the easiest driving we did. The "A" roads were great. We got to Stonehenge at 5 pm. We were joining the "Inner Circle Access" at 7:20, but that allowed us to go during general admission time where no one can go inside the circle so we could get pictures sans people walking through it. By the time we finished the exhibition piece and ate some food, most of the tourists were coming back from Stonehenge, and there was only four people on our bus! (The other two were also going on the Inner Circle Access, and we found out at the end that they were from Oregon, and he had gone to Oregon State!) Great time to go! By the time we finished looking at Stonehenge, there was hardly anyone there. Score!

Stonehenge is worth seeing. I wouldn't skip it if you are close. If you don't want to pay, there is a public access road that you can park on and then walk to the fence. You cannot see it from the other side however. We saw a couple climb the fence, but the attendant quickly apprehended then, and the girl LIED about having a ticket! 

The Inner Access tour was totally worth it! There were 30 of us, with about ten being a "handfasting" wedding ceremony. It is a pagan tradition, and the woman wore a wedding dress. I talked to the person doing the ceremony on the bus. I guess there is something very special about doing it at Stonehenge. Traditionally, the couple's hands really were tied together (where we get the phrase "tying the knot") for a whole year. Then, they decided at the end of the year if they really wanted to stay together. 

We are so glad we did this. What an inside look, and the security guy, who brought us out and made sure we didn't touch the stones, was a wealth of knowledge! We loved it, and it is totally worth the extra money. I booked it before they even advertised it, and there were only nine spots left!

The easy trip back was marred by the fact that the main highway leading right up to our hotel was CLOSED for the night, and we had to take a detour for an HOUR over much smaller roads to get to it. Our Google maps brought us back to the road closure so we asked one of the road crew that we were lost because we were not from here. He said to turn off our "Sat Nav" (what they call Google maps and GPS devices) and "Just follow the yellow diamonds." It was an adventure, but we made it and had a drink at the bar to celebrate getting home safely!












Travelogue: Day 9 - Worcester Cathedral to Avebury Stones

Sunday, July 25: Worcester Cathedral to Avebury Stones

We ate breakfast at 7:30 am, served by the same guy who rented us the cycles. We were out and on the road by 8 am and traveled to Worcester to see the photograph that is part of the King John and the Magna Carta Exhibit. We had a bit of a problem figuring out our first "Pay and Display" parking lot, but a nice lady helped us. We didn't have a ton of coins (Note for travelers by car - make sure you have plenty of coins handy for this and always have your GPS or Google Maps go to the car park nearest your venue. You can never go directly to ANY venue unless it is a super small village.), but it was enough for a trip to the walk along the River Severn before the cathedral opened. Lovely! 

I really loved this cathedral. WOW! Vergers were so helpful and love to tell you a long story. We noticed they almost acts surprised when you want to know more. Then they get really excited and talk on and on about their subject. Very cute and a great way to get to know the locals! 

We went directly to our picture, and the verger said that I didn't have to pay the three pound photography fee! (Entry is free unless you want to take pictures there, but most abbeys and cathedrals charge and entry fee to view them.) I showed the verger my picture, and he was impressed. It is a very nice exhibition. I will try to embed the video here:


It is much nicer than I thought it would be! We had thought we would go on the 11 am "Turn up Tour," but the vergers were so informative we decided to do it ourselves. We were the first ones up to the Tower (built in 1374) and even got a "certificate" that said we completed the 235 steps to a beautiful view at the top. We were all alone up there for a while too! 

There was a one-way section of stairs at the very top. So we had to wait for people to come up before we could go down. It seemed like it was taking a very long time, but that was because the young man in the lead was blind! How admirable to climb all that way.

After this, the nice people in the cafe fixed us cream tea with scones to go, and we were on our way. the roads down to Avebury were wide and easy -- so much better than the ones that go through the Cotswold villages where people park their cars on the street, and there is not enough room for two way traffic! (1.2 miles around Worcester and up the Tower) 

We stopped off in the Cotswolds Water Park and took a little walk along one of the lakes formed from old rock quarries. We even went to the water ski place, but they were fully booked. Oh well!

After this, we made our way to the Avebury Stones where we spent the night in The Lodge Pelmet Room right in the middle of the stone circle. We came two hours too early, but she was home and let us check in early. 

Wow! Double Wow! This might be our favorite day. We spent from 3 pm to sunset hiking around the stones, "The Avenue," West Kennett Long Barrow (Neolithic tomb), and Silbury Hill. the light was superb for taking pictures and the light cast such wonderful shadows from the stones as the sun broke through the clouds! There were many people, but we had the West Kennett Long Barrow and Silbury Hill timed to make it there when the tour bus people were coming down the hill, away from it. We had them all to ourselves! 


There were hippy pagan worshippers singing high pitched songs with one woman dancing through the middle of the circle of held hands. 

We topped the evening off with "Pub Grub" at The Read Lion right next door to our B & B. Our table was a medieval well that the pub was built around. I had traditional "Sausage and Mash" and George had Steak and Ale Pie. 

We retired to our comfy "Pelmet Room" over looking the Neolithic Stones. What a great day! We took over 23,000 steps. (4.3 miles plus a two times around the Stone Circle that I cannot seem to plot on Google Maps) 


4.3 + 1.2 + probably about 2 miles around the stones = 7.5 miles

Travelogue: Day 8 - Biking the Cotswolds

Both our computer and our camera broke on Day 10, and I had only journaled on here up through Day 7. I journaled the old fashion way, handwriting in my journal, but I am now typing it in here!

(I will add pictures later.) 

Sunday, July 24: Biking the Cotswolds 33 miles!

I have dreamed of doing this since 2012 when I contacted Pedal England and Will Cairns. They had an amazing seven day guided bike trip (that I see is not on their itinerary anymore). We thought that seven days, just biking is more than we wanted so we settled for one day and self-guided. I think it was a great choice.

We got up at 6 am and met with the Cycle Cotswolds (http://www.cyclecotswolds.co.uk/) owner who is also part of the Volunteer Inn staff. This made is so simple instead of having to go to a separate place for our bikes. They were plenty tall enough and similar to our bikes at home (hybrid mountain bikes). He sold us maps (I thought he would have more detailed ones, but no. I could have printed what was already on the internet since his were the same) and rented us a set of panniers. We were set.

The nice breakfast lady let us eat the cold food already out for the breakfast that started at 7:30 and even let us take some food for the road. We were out the door by 7 am and rode up the biggest hill first! My bike had real difficulty getting to the "1" on the left gear shift, so I had to get off the bike and walk it up half the hill. We took a slight detour off the normal route to go to the Broadway Tower - a medieval looking tower build by some rich guy in 1799. It is the second highest point in the Costwolds, and we biked up to it. We had to go on an "A" road to do it (the busier roads), but it was early enough in the morning that it did not have too many cars. The midst was still rising. I had read on Trip Advisor that even if the gate is closed, you can still walk in before the grounds open. So, we did, and we were treated to a nice view. 

There looked like another way down on the map, but we could not be sure of the road and did not want to go down one from up there if it was the wrong one because we would have to climb back up if we were wrong! So, we took the way we came in, and the half mile on the "A" road was much busier by then but not so much so that it was scary.

After this, we got on the "B" road (less busy but sometimes very narrow for two way car traffic). We biked to see the lavender fields in full bloom. I smell people wearing lavender all over England, and it is lovely. 

Then, we went up and down rolling hills to a big dip down into Bourton-on-the-Water. it is supposedly a touristy town, but we got there before the people flooded the park by the waterway. Lovely place. We ate the "reduced for quick sale" food we bought the previous night at the food co-op along the peaceful water. Awww.

After this, we took a detour off the way we came to go to Lower and Upper Slaughters. They are sleepy little hamlets in the Cotswolds. The chain came off my bike during the big climb out of the Lower Slaughter but George fixed it quickly.

We biked back on the "B" roads back to Chipping Campden. They were much busier with car traffic on the way back, and two cars came way too close for comfort. I don't think I would have wanted to bike for seven days in that!

The most thrilling thing was going DOWN the long, steep hill we came up out of Chipping Campden on! Overall, the ride was beautiful, especially in old lane where the trees from each side of the road had come together to form an arch over the roadway. That was something I wished I had filmed, but I had no pockets to keep my iPhone, and I didn't want to hold it the entire ride. 


The weather was perfect - the hot days had passed, and it was mostly overcast and cool. We felt a few drops of rain but that was all. 

I wanted to take a shower, but the Volunteer Inn had no hot water so it ended up being a very cold one. We dressed up again and went to the Eight Bells Inn that was recommended by Rick Steves'. That was a treat. I had their traditional Sunday Roast (these happen all over England) that was delish. 


We stopped at another store and got ice cream and retired for the night. We had thought about enother sunset hike, but we were BUSHED from the bike. 


I caught up my journaling on the blog through Day 7 since we had a free evening. Little did I know that would be the last time I would use my NEW computer that we got specifically for this trip because it is so light weight. OH WELL! First world problem! 

Not much walking today other than in the towns we visited. But I would say 33 miles of biking up and down the Cotswold Hills was more than enough exercise for one day! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Travelogue: Day 7 - Stratford-Upon-Avon and Hike to Broad Campden

Saturday, July 23

We woke up in time to go to breakfast the next morning at 7:30 (since we booked this place in February, it became a bed and breakfast so we are getting a lower price and breakfast to boot). It was a full English Breakfast with yogurt, fruit, toast, cereal, coffee, tea, and orange juice. It is served by the sweetest little older woman. 

After this, we headed to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see all things Shakespeare. We got a bit lost because George plugged in Stratford-Upon-Avon instead of the Bridgeway Multistory Car Park we needed to get to. We go to George's place, and we had no idea where we were and could not reprogram our Google Map due to no Data signal. We asked around, and couple pointed us in the right direction. It required going into the traffic of the middle of town, but it was early enough that it was not too bad. We left it and went straight to Shakespeare's Birthplace. When we got there, one of the guides in the first room said that we were here before the 3000 people who would be there that day. YIKES! 

The highlight of the day was getting into the room where Shakespeare was actually born, and this sweet guide said it was the "center of the universe"! When I said I was going to film, he grabbed his mandolin and asked if he could sing a song. I was more than happy to oblige:


After this we walked out to the Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare's wife) Cottage. We walked around the grounds and admired all the wonderful flowers in bloom. Such a lovely spot! 

We walked back to Holy Trinity Church to see Shakespeare's Grave, but the church was closed due to a wedding, and there were hoards of people waiting so we went on to Hall's Croft: the home of Shakespeare's daughter and her doctor husband. It was a more upper class home and interesting to see the contrast with the simple farmhouse of Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare's birthplace. His father was a middle class glove maker.

After this we walked up to the doors of Holy Trinity Church. All the people who had been waiting were milling around the park and not waiting in line. As we walked up, it was five more minutes until the doors were to open for only one hour. We were third in line! Then, the first two did not turn toward Shakespeare's Grave so we got the Grave ALL TO OURSELVES without the hundreds of people behind us. It was thrilling. We had some questions about the church, and the helper (not sure if he was a vicar or not) was so enthusiastic to answer our questions! Actually, in every place we went, the people were almost shocked when we asked them questions, and they happily chattered away. I think some people just ignore these great resources standing in the room. For instance, the man at Hall Croft told me I was standing right where Shakespeare would have stood at the fire of his daughter's house. What a thrill to stand where Shakespeare stood!

After this we went to Harvard House. New Place (Shakespeare's home reconstructed) was supposed to be ready by our trip, but the deadline has been pushed back until maybe even Christmas. 

At that point, we had a choice to go to Mary Arden's Farm. Mary Arden was Shakespeare's mother and grew up about three miles out of town on a farm. I hear it is a great experience, especially for children; but the way to the farm put us right through the center of a Stratford-Upon-Avon traffic jam! So we opted for the easy left turn (lefts  in England are like right turns in the States) straight out of town and away from the traffic. I think it was a smart move. (4.7 miles of walking in here!) 

This day was the earliest we had ever settled in our room! We shopped for snacks for our bike ride the following day and went to Bangladeshi-Indian Food right here in the Inn! Seven Bangladeshi guys for Birmingham drive 40 minutes every night to work in this restaurant. They call it Indian but it is really Bangladeshi and was the BEST food! It was much better than Indian in my humble opinion. They brought us all sorts of things on top of what we order, including warm towels to wash our hands at the end of the meal!

After dinner, we went on a hike up to the charming town of Broad Campden and then on The Monarch's Way which is part of a 615 mile path that marks the journey of Charles II fleeing the Battle of Worcester! It brought us up to a beautiful spot overlooking the Cotswold Hills and a beautiful sunset. (1.1 miles to Broad Campden and probably a mile round trip up the hill and back on The Monarch's Way) 

Then it was to bed for our big biking day!

6.8 miles total for today. 






Travelogue: Day 6 - Oxford, Blenheim Palace, and Chipping Campden

Friday, July 22

We woke up super early and got to the Oxford Bus Company x90 by 6:30. It was a bit misty but felt great after all those days of blazing sun.

The bus was clean, comfortable, had plug-ins and wireless (although it said I had used my limit very early into the trip but did not pursue that). It was great to see the countryside for the first time. The drawback was the two girls that decided to polish their nails in the top of double decker bus without an option to open windows for ventilation. I was sick for about 30 minutes of the trip, but it was still a great trip.

We arrived in Oxford by 8:20, stored our luggage at the Backpacker's Hotel, and walked to a place for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went straight to the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin to climb the tower. WOW! Oxford is so beautiful architecturally. We met three girls who were in the UC system of California and had just spent four weeks study fantasy literature at Oxford. After we climbed the tower, they showed us where the lamppost and door were that inspired C.S. Lewis' Narnia. (Did I read that in my Inklings book? I don't remember.)

After this, we did our C.S. Lewis Self-Guided Walking Tour that I found on this website: 
http://www.cslewis.org/resource/walkguide/


The tour was SO FUN! We even got directed to the staircase where C.S. Lewis went to "Univ"! The student at the door did not know it until I told her, but she led me there. I know I couldn't go up and knock on the door of the room, but I wanted to see it! At least I got in the quad of the residence hall. You cannot do that when students are there. 


We even got to go to The Eagle and Child where the Inklings would meet. We would have eaten there, but it did not open until 12 noon, and we wanted to go to the opening of Magdalen College at that time. 

This college is beautiful! The highlight for us was to walk along Addison's Walk where C.S. Lewis began to turn to Christ! I made this video and started to cry. So moving to be there:
 to

After this, we walked through the HOARDS of tourist who had now entered the city to pick up our stored luggage and rental car for a trip to Blenheim Palace.

I know I have to think of another word other than WOW! Blenheim Palace was BEAUTIFUL. I especially loved the outside and the grounds. The State Rooms were definitely what we have seen in other palaces, but the grounds were phenomenal. There were lakes and fountains and temples. How does someone have the money to contain a place like this? The tour was very interesting. The main wife they talked about was Consuelo Vanderbilt who was encouraged to marry the Duke for the title and not for love. He got her money in the bargain. It was an unhappy married, and they eventually divorced. I liked her because she was 6 feet tall! By the way, Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim. (Did you know that Diana Spencer was related to Winston Churchill?) 

After lunch in the cafe, we looked at the grounds. It was getting very hot, and we are thankful that our rental car had air conditioning!

We arrived at the Volunteer Inn at 7 pm. The Inn was full of local playing cards, drinking beer, and making noise. It was what you see on TV! It is a great Inn, and I think it has less touristy traffic than the fancier places higher up on "High Street" because we are "Lower High Street." After check in, we walked on our first public footpath. In England, one is allowed to walk through people's land. So, we walked through a "kissing gate" and did a little loop. So fun!

We were so tired after a very early start to an eventful day, we hit the hay early!

7.7 miles of walking + the extensive grounds and inside Blenheim Palace!




London Log: Day 5 - Shakespeare's Globe, Buckingham Palace, Bus Tour Traffic, Imperial War Museum, and London Eye

After three days of waking up really early, we slept in until 7:45 am! The jet lag and time change finally caught up with us. Not to mention the 10-12 miles of walking we had done over the last three days!

We had planned to go and validate our Golden Tours Hop On Hop Off bus ticket at the main office that was only a five minute walk from our hotel room and on the way to the Tube Station, but we had no time! We quickly got ready and caught the 8:37 Tube to Shakespeare's Globe on the Thames. We got there at 9:15, and the first tour did not start until 9:30. We had just hoped to look at the exhibition before the tour, but that was OK since we did the City Cruise on Wednesday instead of Thursday so we had some "wiggle room"! 


We had a fabulous tour from a super enthusiastic young woman. We learned all about the Globe. It is not the original one but something as close to what they can conclude it looked like. The Brits did not see any need to rebuild it, and it took an American, Sam Wanamaker, and many years to make it happen! That story and the history of Shakespeare's time in London was great. 

After this, we rushed off by Tube to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Of course the majority of tourists in London had the same idea! It was still exciting to see it live though! 

Then we walked over to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace (the State Rooms opened the day after we left - shucks!) because they were displaying her collection of Scottish artists, and I am Scottish! Queen Victoria and Prince Albert certainly gave each other many paintings. :) 


One thing that was GREAT was that on the way to the Gallery, there was a man from Golden Tours who was issuing tickets! That is not one of their stops that they list as issuing them, but he did. So, it didn't matter that we slept in and didn't validate them in the early morning! Yahoo!

After the Queen's Gallery, we went to the Royal Mews. This is where they keep all the horses, carriages, and cars they use for official royal things. Some of those carriages were amazing! It was a quick tour but very interesting!


We wanted to take the Blue Line tour but had a bit of a wait so decided to get our lunch and eat it as we waited. I had the Chicken and Mushroom pie with chips and George had Fish and Chips (trying to eat British!). 

We had an excellent live tour guide for the Golden Tours Hop on Hop Off Tour. We had walked through many of those places, but it was nice to review them and see them from so high up. He had so many interesting things to add that we did not know. It was well worth it. Our only regret is that he warned us that the traffic in Southwark and approaching the Tower Bridge is usually really bad. He made a suggestion about where to get off to avoid this, and we did not heed it. We got caught in a terrible jam. Finally, he told us we could get off even if it was not an official stop. We walked to the next stop for the Orange line to take us to the Imperial War Museum, but we wait for an hour, and the bus never came (probably due to the horrible traffic coming over the bridge the other way). We should have not waited so long because we lost all of our "wiggle room"! So we dashed off to the Imperial War Museum on foot (not a really good direct Tube line), and we only had an hour to explore this excellent museum! Sadly, I thought they would not let us in past 5 pm so we worked up a sweat running, and I was mad that we waited so long at the bus stop before acting (another couple got off the Golden Tours bus 15 minutes after us and waited at the same stop but left 15 minutes before us - we just kept hoping). 

The Imperial War Museum is an in-depth look at World Wars I and II. We spent most of our time in World War I because much of World War II was covered in the Churchill War Rooms the day before. We probably could have spent 1 1/2 hours there, but we had enough time to see everything.

After this, we had a leisurely walk down toward the London Eye for our "Champagne Experience" for our 26th wedding anniversary. On the way, we stopped at a lovely Italian Restaurant. We told him we had limited time, and he was so quick! I especially liked that the restaurant was fully air-conditioned which was not the case in many places. After this we went to the London Eye. Since we paid more, they ushered us up to a nice little waiting room with comfortable couches. Then our guide brought us down to the Eye and past all the lines to our "bubble". There was quite a few people, eighteen to be exact, but it was nice to drink champagne and enjoy the skyline. There was no sunset due to the clouds, but it was still a very clear day. Some of the American boys were a bit immature, but they were nice. 

After this, we walked along the Thames and went beyond Westminster Bridge where there are no tourists. 


(I haven't post processed this, but I will put it up anyway to give a mood picture!)

It was a lovely walk home through the quieter part of London south of our hotel. We stopped at the Sainsbury Local for treats (ice cream for me and chocolate bar for George).

We only walked 7.8 miles this day with additional walking through the Globe, Buckingham Palace's Gallery and Mews, and Imperial War Museum.

London Log: Day 4 - Westminster, Winston, Galleries, and City Cruise

Wednesday, July 20

I am so behind in my London Log because we have been busy! I started this while still in London, but now it is July 24th, and I must record before the memories fade!

Wednesday was . . . 
Two "W" things: Westminster Abbey and Winston (Churchill) War Rooms.
Two Galleries: National Gallery and Courtauld
Two "C" things: City Cruise, Covent Garden, and Charing Cross Road #84

I listened to a YouTube video that said that The Regency Cafe was the #1 rated restaurant in London, and it was only a 12 minutes away from our hotel room. We went there on our way to Westminster Abbey, but it was JAMMED packed! It is a little hole in the way, mom and pop type of place with traditional English food. We were sorry to miss it, but we had to get on to our exciting date at the Abbey!

We got there early (since we had planned to eat breakfast), and we stopped to get a coffee for George at a street barista, and we struck up a lovely conversation with a woman from Anaheim! She has lived here for 30 years and works as director of promotions for the Abbey. She recommended we go to the cafe outside the cloisters of the Abbey. We knew that there was a cafe inside, but we did not know it opened BEFORE the Abbey. Score! We had our first traditional English Breakfast! This one even include blood pudding which I later learned was actually pig's blood!


The breakfast was pretty amazing, and I didn't mind the blood pudding whatsoever!

We got into the London Pass line which was longer than the regular line to buy tickets, but I think they let all the London Pass people in first. I had put my app on and had my London Pass ready to go, but then it was asking me for a verification code. What? I must have accidentally deleted the tickets while it was open! No worries, George had the London Pass letter. I had made copies of all my letters that included my codes and confirmation numbers for just such an occasion! My hard copy was kept by the woman in the London Pass office when we went to pick up our copies of the guidebooks, but I told George to bring his. Brilliant! Only George only brought it on Tuesday and did not see any need to bring it on Wednesday. Woops! Well, I had also sent all the confirmation letters in on email, but my iPhone had deleted mine. George had his, but every time I went to make his screen bigger so I could read the numbers, it started to scroll down to the next email (the disadvantages of me having an iPhone and George having an android). I started getting very anxious as the line was starting to move as the doors opened. But never fear! We got the numbers off his phone and written down for future disasters just as we came to the front of the line. (After stressing about it, I prayed instead of panicked.) What is weird is that I had every other confirmation number ALSO in our itinerary, but this was the only one I did not put in there. 


Anyway. "W" is for Westminster, but it is also for WOW! We could take no pictures, but it was so solemn and lovely
. I was able to see some of my favorite peep's graves or memorials (and I am not going to list them because there were LOTS). There are not words to describe the wonder of being in that place. I especially liked that they pause once an hour for all the visitors and clergy to stop for silent prayer. How cool!  


The second WOW of the the day was the Winston Churchill's War Rooms. That was fascinating, and there was no line when we went in at about 11 am. We met some people at Blenheim Palace later on in the week, and they said they did not go in because the line was so long. So glad we did it in the morning. The earlier one can do these things the better. These War Room were the center of military operations during World War II and the Blitz. Hundreds of people lived underground for six years! Many worked and then went home, but many stayed in the bunker and slept. All the original things were all intact. The audio commentary was fascinating and included excerpts of interviews with people who had worked there. The exhibition was very good, and it made me wish we had more people like Churchill to lead our world like he did during World War II.


After this, we headed up to the National Gallery. It was room after room of beautiful paintings. I was spellbound. I did follow Rick Steves' highlights because you could spend hours and hours in there! I would stop at a painting that he recommended and then I would listen to the audio commentary we got with our London Pass. One fun thing: we saw the Della Francesco Nativity painting that Cora and Bricker looked at in an episode of Downton Abbey. Our laugh of the day was this:




Here was are in the one of the best art galleries in the world, and these teenagers are all sitting looking at their phones and not even looking at the paintings! We saw this in more than one room in the National Gallery! Youth is wasted on the young. I was the same when I was young. My mom took me to the Prado in Spain, and I was bored stiff. I would die to go to the Prado again!


We both laughed so George snapped this picture with me standing in the background! After we did that, we had a very long conversation with the guard. He said this happens all the time. He says that people also just walk into his room, turn their video on and just go in a circle filming the paintings and not even looking at them! We all three had a very good laugh! 


We had planned to have tea there, but we decided to move on to the Courtauld since we had such a big breakfast.  


The Courtauld Gallery was a precious delight. It is much smaller with hardly any people. I would say that 90% of it contained paintings we really enjoyed. It had Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. You can read about it HERE. This was a lovely gallery and possibly my favorite of the six that we visited (Tate Britain and Modern, National, National Portrait, Queen's, and Courtauld).


The weather was great, and we were not so sure about how it would be on Thursday so we decided to walk to Westminster Pier for a City Cruise (part of our London Pass). There was a huge line, but we managed to get our 24 hour ticket and knew we could use it before 4:30 on Thursday if we did not make it on the boat, but we did. There was a ton of teenagers, but there was also a lovely Muslim family from Birmingham that we talked to. I should also mention that we walked along the north bank of the Thames, and every bar was filled with young London professionals in their dress shirts and pants drinking and visiting after work. 


We went to dinner at Wagamana Noodle Bar at the Tower. They are a chain in London, and we had hoped to eat there at least once. It was great!


We decided to walk over to see Covent Garden and other things as we made our way to 84 Charing Cross Road. I had read the famous book by Helen Hanff about it, and sadly, it is no longer a rare book shop but a McDonald's! It has a different address now, but George noticed that there was a plaque on the wall commemorating that this is indeed the spot of 84 Charing Cross, and the McDonald's worker said there were always people coming to look at it. Funny!


We were on our way home on the Tube, but silly me decided that if we got off at Hyde Park Corner station, we could walk through Hyde Park even though we had walked so much already! Hyde was filled with people, but it was exciting and beautiful (then we found out there had been a major clash with police the day before)! 


Here is our sunset walk:


 

Of course, we had to walk to the Peter Pan Statue for another Literature Geek Out about J.M. Barrie's classic! It is also the site where Mary breaks up with Tony in Downton Abbey! 

We walked 10 miles, and I wished we had taken the Tube for some of our connections, but it was such a beautiful day! We figured when you added on all the walking we did in the sites we visited, it was closer to 12 miles! Lots of walking for our Wednesday! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

London Log: Day 3 - Tower, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, Southwark, Victoria and Albert, and Kensington

I am always so tempted to add pictures to these posts, but they do take forever to load from our good camera because they are big files, but my iPhone pics are quick but not as good quality. I want to review the day and then maybe I will add more photos later when I get back to better internet.

Tuesday, July 19

Tuesday was about three "T's" in a row: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Tate Modern!

We woke up but not quite as early this day. We took the 27 minute Tube to Tower Hill. We looked at a section of what remains of the original Roman Wall of the city of Londinium. Then we waited for All Hallows Church by the Tower to open. We saw an older gentleman coming toward us with tea in his hand and keys around his neck, and we knew he was the man to watch. He opened up the church, and we had it all to ourselves for half an hour. It was probably my favorite part of the day. What a rich history. There was a lovely little crypt museum at the bottom. William Penn was baptized and John Quincy Adams was married in this church. It has some of an original Roman floor! What I loved was some time of quiet reflection in the church before the busy day started in earnest. 

After this, we went to wait in line for the Tower of London, and guess who was first in line? The Weavers! We had the sweetest little family of four from Hong Kong behind us, and they pulled out their Rick Steves: London book so I had to pull out mine, and we laughed! They got it off of Amazon, but they did not know about his show! So I enlightened them. :) The Tower opened, and we used our London Pass for the first time without a hitch. (I had read on TripAdvisor that they had to enter in your numbers, and it was a pain and did not save you time, but that is a very old post because now they just use phones and scan your code on your mobile app, simple!) We headed straight for the Crown Jewels via Jean Southworth's excellent advice, and guess who was first in line? The Weavers. Actually, there was no line and we rolled right in and were amazed. That is an amazingly impressive display of gold and jewels! The woman in the exhibit was super friendly and explained about the world's largest cut diamond that I had missed on my first go around, and she told us that we were more than welcome to go back through the exhibit. So, we did! WOW! It was better the second time. These jewels were definitely the HIGHLIGHT of the Tower of London! 

After this we walked on the second half of the Tower Wall. There were many towers that had held prisoners, and that was interesting! We also learned about how they did warfare from the defensive towers.


After this, we waited out at the moat for the Beefeater Tour. He was so cute. He said that health and safety was making him take all of us out of the sun and into the church. There were far more people than the church could hold, and he was not walking us around. I am not sure what a Beefeater Tour should look like, but the church was echoing and hot, and I could barely understand what he was saying. So, we exited after fifteen minutes and went on to other things like the White Tower. 

The White Tower contained many, many stairs. I am thinking it is good we did London young. I don't think it would be easy doing this as a retired person! I especially enjoyed seeing how King Henry VIII's armor got bigger and bigger as he aged! It was many floors of displays. I got a bit overwhelmed with all of the displays. 

After this, we went to the Bloody Tower where there were replicas of what they did for torture. They said that torture was not as common in Britain. 

We also went to the Beauchamp Tower where they housed Very Important Prisoners. The walls were covered with messages-graffiti carved into the stone by the many prisoners. Each was numbered, and I am glad Rick's book gave highlights of the ones to watch. The last enemy of the state imprisoned there was Nazi Rudolf Hess who parachuted into a field, held for four days in the Tower in 1941, and was later given a life sentence. 


The most sobering spot was the scaffold site in the Tower Green. Whenever I have seen it depicted in movies, it has always looked smaller and more enclosed, but this is a wide spot where I am sure was filled with people. Just makes me said, especially for Anne Boleyn, whose only crime was not bearing a son and falling out of Henry VIII's favor. 

After this, it was on to the Tower Bridge Experience. Rick doesn't really give this credit, but we loved it. The walkways have see-through glass sections, and that was so scary! The most touching part of the day was when the worker there took my hand to help we walk on top without fear! The other touching thing were the elementary school kids who walked hand in hand bravely and the one boy who just could not do it, and they did not make him do it. It was so sweet!

We thought it might be too hot to do the Bankside Walk recommended in Rick's book so we thought we would just walk along the river, but it ended up curving away from the river and into the Borough Market and Neal's Yard Dairy anyway!  I saw a huge line and thought, "Oh no! 'Rick Steves effect,' but the people were all waiting in line for ice cream next store (It was 92 at that time.)! I walked in to a friendly man offering me goat cheese and cherries and a warm and wonderful smile on a hot summer day! (Have I mentioned that I love the British?) That was so fun and the only well air-conditioned place we walked into that day! We sampled all sorts of cheeses and bought some for our breakfast the next morning. English cheese is amazing, by the way! One last thing, we also saw "Nancy's Steps" near the London Bridge where Nancy sealed her fate in Oliver Twist! There is a whole Charles Dickens free audiotour online, but it was just too hot to walk farther into that end of town. 

After this we made our way to the Tate Modern. This is the most visited modern art gallery in the world! They just opened a new wing. I found the layout really confusing, especially if you want to see specific pieces. We looked for the Cezanne and Matisse, but it was to no avail. We asked a worker, and he said that they were part of the collection but were not on display. He suggested the Courtauld Gallery, and we are going there on Wednesday! The good thing about the new wing is the 10th floor viewing balcony! Amazing new view of the Thames and the city. All in all, we were a bit underwhelmed. We are not big modern art kind of people, but the massive structure made of old radios was sort of cool. :)

After this, we got back on track by going to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We walked across the Millenium Pedestrian Bridge to a Tube station on the other side, but it was very hot, and we know that it has been recommended that we take at least one cab ride, and it was hot! The good news: we had a great cabbie who was the same age as George and also lived with his "Mum" while he worked in the city during the week and went home to his wife on the week-end (What is a week-end? Quoting Violet Crawley, but I digress) like George does! :) It was a delightful ride, but the bad news is that most London cabs do not have air-conditioning! Who knew?

We arrived at the Victoria and Albert and had the free Cream Tea offered with the London Pass. What a delightful room to drink tea! The whole museum architecture itself it amazing. I was not as keen on going to this one, but I liked it very much! We saw the casket of the remains of St. Thomas Becket, Da Vinci's sketchbook, The Boar and Bear Tapestry, Tippoo's Tiger, and a copy of Michelangelo's David. It is huge, but there was not= fig leaf behind it as Rick suggested. Did they take it away? 

The Islamic Art room was closed for renovation though, but that is OK. My favorite part of this museum was the large, dimly lit room devoted to Raphael's Tapestry Cartoons depicting scenes from Acts (appealing to my Bible nerd tendencies). We sat on a bench and just took it all in. It was a delightful calm moment for us. As we sat there, we realized we could probably make it to Kensington Palace before they closed. I was not sure of the last admission time. So we were taking a risk, but it was not that far with most of it being through the shade of Kensington Gardens. We hoofed it, but the guard said it was closed. I said, "When is your last admission time." He said, "5:00 pm," and George chimed in that it was 4:57 pm. He said, "Do you have a London Pass?" I said, "Yes," and he let us come in. (Have I mentioned that I think English people are really nice, friendly, and very helpful?) 

Then the attendant kindly told us how to use our last hour most efficiently, and it was great. They will be closing down the King's Apartments for renovation in the near future so I am glad we got in there and saw how they lived. We really liked the "Victoria Revealed" part because we have seen two movies on the life of Queen Victoria, and I kept seeing Victoria Hamilton and Emily Blunt in my mind as I walked through the rooms! 

After this, we strolled over to The Orangery (Queen Anne had this built in 1704 in order to grow citrus.) and into the gardens near the buildings that are closed off to the public after closing. We made this just in time to hear that all was closing. Whew! 

We walked home and stopped by Harrod's to see the Diana memorial and look at the Food Court. Amazing! There were so many rich Saudi women there too.

We walked home via 65 Eaton Place (of Upstairs, Downstairs infamy) and saw it was under renovation and had scaffolding all over it! Of well, all the residences look exactly the same so it was not hard for us to imagine visiting the Bellamys! (Or would we have been visiting Rose and Hudson downstairs?)  After this, we stopped in Victoria for some healthy dinner after failing to find Italian food. I had a scrumptious Salmon Superfood Salad, and George had Moroccan meatballs. 

We watched the British news (so interesting to hear their perspective of the Republican National Convention) and a competition to find a child genius in England. Fascinating. 

We fell fast asleep in no time. (Could we possibly be tired after today?)

7.3 miles and inside walking! (I added 2.7 miles because of all the difference places and Tower of London was LOTS of walking on the grounds!) 

London Log: Day 2 - Abbey Road, London Bridge, Sky Garden, Saint Paul's, British Museum and Library

What a day! Of course, I woke up extra, extra early. I waited for George to wake up, and we were out of the room by 5:15 and on the N16 bus to Abbey Road! 

I wanted to get there to take the iconic picture before rush hour. It was great to take our first Double Decker Bus ride in London! (We took one in Singapore once, but that does not count!) 


How fun to get there via bus. We went by all the Arabic restaurants near Marble Arch, and we met a nice Algerian man visiting on holiday. 

We got to the road with no traffic! There was the CUTEST little Japanese family of four that was trying to take the picture with the mom setting up the camera on a chair, clicking the self timer, and running over to the road. It did not work! So, OF COURSE, we offered to take their adorable picture of all four crossing the road like the FAB FOUR! 

Then it was my turn:


Oh the thrill of fulfilling a dream! Then we walked over by Paul McCartney's house. He wasn't up yet. I am sure he would have invited us for tea had he been awake. :) (Speaking of tea, our room has Twinning Everyday in our room, and it is the best tea!)

Then, we took the Tube to London Bridge where we walked out to the center and took in the Thames.





Then, we walked over to the Leadenhall Market. It is this lovely piece of historical architecture in the middle of the big skyscrapers or London. I am not a big Harry Potter expert, but this is Diagon Alley in the films.




After this, we had more time since we started so early. We had tickets to enter the Sky Garden at 12:45, but they have free walk ups from 7-10. We were there right at 7 am so we were the first to take in the amazing view from the 35th floor of the "Walkie Talkie" building without the crowds. (I have heard that even with a designated ticket time, there is a line that can take up to 30 minutes.) WOW and double WOW! It was a clear morning in London and spectacular.




The new buildings are required to have free green space, but they could not fit it in, so they did it on top of the building! (I really want to show you, but the pictures are taking forever to load with the free hotel internet. I could pay more, but I don't want to.) 


Then we took in the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666 where most of London burned. Then we took the Rick Steves "City Walk" until we got to One New Change Shopping Center. You can go up to the rooftop terrace, and feast on spectacular view of St. Paul's from there. We ate our breakfast and marveled!

Then, we went into St. Paul's! We got there a bit early so the man in charge let us go to the service that was just concluding. So lovely! St. Paul's is amazing. The American Chapel to US soldiers from Britain was touching. 

We stopped by the Tourist Information Center to pick up a free map and continued our our City Walk down to Dr. Johnson's House. Dr. Johnson wrote the first English dictionary, and it was just great to sit in the room where he wrote it! We also saw one of the few houses (stores) that survived the Great Fire at 17 Fleet Street. We also looked into Twinings Tea. 

From there we stopped by to pick up our "hard" copies of the London Pass Guidebook. They had a downloadable one, but I like the physical ones much more! While there (on Charing Cross Road), I noticed that the National Portrait Gallery was right next door, and we were ahead of schedule due to seeing the Sky Garden so early instead of at our 12:45 time slot. So, we popped in to FEAST on so many wonderful portraits. My favorite was of Henry VIII with a small portrait of Anne Boleyn right next to it. I sent a photo of it to my childhood friend, Sue Brock. When we were in 6th grade we got hooked on the PBS Henry VIII drama. (Could this have been the beginning of my fascination with all things British?) We wanted to write a book about him and his six wives. I even went to the El Segundo Library and did research!
Loved this quieter venue compared to the hustle and bustle outside near Leicester Square.




Then, we walked 20 minutes through Piccadilly Circus, the "Time Square" of London and a bit too busy for my taste! We arrived a very special place: Handel House! OK, he wasn't a Brit, but he lived much of his life in a flat on Brook Street, and this is where he composed Messiah, and if you read this blog or 3yearbiblebookclub.blogspot.com, you know I am a head-over-heals Handel fan! To sit in his composing room made me weep. He wrote Messiah here! I had to pause and take it all in. It is a simple little museum with no bells or whistles, but I loved it. What is so fascinating is that Jimi Hendrix lived in the same flat house (only many, many years later, obviously). Just this year, they opened his flat as a museum too. I know very little about him, but I do remember when he died when I was 11 years old. We went up to his flat, and we were surprised at how much we enjoyed learning about him. What I LOVED were all the actual album covers he had in his apartment and displayed on the wall. Guess what? He had TWO Handel's Messiah albums, and they looked very well-worn! I wonder if Hendrix knew that he shared the same address with Handel? I should have asked the people in the museum about that!

We took the Tube to the famous British Museum. This is a place that you want to get to early in the day, but it was more of a priority for us to get to Saint Paul's early as it also gets very crowded, and we loved having it quiet for our climb to the top of the dome! So, the British Museum was amazing, but a little claustrophobically crowded for me. The history was amazing, but I kept thinking, "They stole all this stuff from other countries!" I guess some of those artifacts from Iraq would have been destroyed by ISIS, but still: THEY STOLE THEM! Just sayin'!

It was not very well air-conditioned in the British Library. A little digression: air-conditioning really is not very good here in any of the public places. George keeps telling me that is not usually that hot here, but it is not hot for too long in Oregon, but all the stores are air-conditioned. Not here. 

I am thankful our room has good air-conditioning though. Can I say SCORE on that account? I was going to book one of Rick Steves' Bed and Breakfast suggestions, but I knew we would be here in July and none of them had air-conditioning and were several floors up. With the window open on a hot night, the street noise would be difficult. I know it doesn't happen that often, but it could. Guess what, we have had the first and second hottest days of the year (88 and 92) while we have been here. So, I am thankful for GOOD air-conditioning in the Premier Inn London Victoria!


After seeing so many amazing artifacts in the British Library, we went up to the restaurant outside the Reading Room and had our FIRST proper English cream tea. Delightful!

After this, we took a walk to the British Library. I had checked the website, and I thought it was open until 8pm, but it was only open until 6 pm. We had to rush to see the things in the special reading room that houses some very important manuscripts. My favorite was the Codex Sinaiticus that dates back to AD 350 and one of the oldest complete Bibles in existence. (Now, you know I am not only a nerd about all things British but am also a BIBLE NERD!). It was so worth it to make the trek there just to see that amazing sacred text!  

As you can see, we had a very busy day! We took the Tube's 23 minute direct route back to Victoria Station during RUSH HOUR, but it was somewhat invigorating to go along with the throng; the teeming mass of humanity going about their everyday life. Coming out into the massive Victoria Station hall was amazing. We just moved along with all of them and were not "rocks in the river" of their life stream. We figured out how we erred in getting off of the Victoria train when were first arrived and made it back to our hotel much more efficiently! We managed to find a local grocery store and even got to see all the workers run after someone who tried to steal packages of meat. 

We came back to our room and feasted on our grocery find and could barely keep our eyes open before we fell asleep at 8 pm! (Thus why this is two days late. I kept falling asleep while I was typing!) 

8.1 miles + inside walking in the large British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and British Library. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

London Log: Day 1 - Arrival, Tate Britain, Westminster Walk

London Log Day 1

We had a seamlessly easy trip across the pond from Portland to Seattle to London. Our first glimpse was of the London Eye along the River Thames. I cried. I have dreamed about going here for so many years that it is really a dream come true.

Based on the good information I got from YouTube and from TripAdvisor. We also had a seamless trip through Immigration and right on to the Underground. It was a LONG hike down to the belly of the Heathrow Beast. There was only one Oyster Card station open, and a person was explaining to her friends what it was and asking what kind of thing they should buy. I asked politely, “We know exactly what we want, do you mind if we just get it really quick?” They were great. By the time we had finished there was a long line waiting for the one kiosk. Thank you sweet little Japanese woman in the YouTube video that explained exactly how to get one!
We hoped on the nearly empty Piccadilly Line and got our first glimpse of London when it popped up above ground. We got off at Hammersmith and truly walked only about ten feet to the other side of the platform to catch the District line to Victoria. The whole thing was quick and seamless. Thank you Trip Adviser people.

The only wrinkle was we could have exited at Victoria on either side of the train. We picked the one that did not come out onto Wilton Road, but the opposite side of Victoria Station. So we had to walk the long way around to find our lovely Premier Inn Room. The good news is we saw where we need to pick up our Golden Tour tickets on Thursday.

We had already done checked in to our hotel online from the States. There was a helpful girl who brought us to the kiosk, and we only had to submit our last name, and our key cards were delivered through a machine!

John William Waterhouse - The Lady of Shalott - Google Art ProjectWe quickly changed because the weather was a comfortable 75, and we were dressed for the cold plane. We were out of our room and on the road, walking to the Tate Britain for the hour of its time. We got to see William Blake’s special room! We also got to see many of my favorite artists like Copley, Gainsborough, and Millais. I especially loved Ophelia by Millais and The Lady of Shalott by Waterhous. Also, the people in the museum were SO friendly and helpful.

Here is a silly thing I have I have noticed about Brits: they smell nice! People in the States do not wear scents anymore for fear or causing someone with allergies to have problems. I love the lovely perfumes that wafted by as women walked by me! Funny thing to notice. 

After this, we walked down to Westminster Abbey to see if we could see the last part of the free Sunday Organ concert, but they had closed the door. We were outside with the HORDES of people, but everyone was happy and polite. The sun was hitting Big Ben’s gold in an amazing way. We took pictures.
They we walked out into the middle of the Thames on the Westminster Bridge and listened to Wordsworth’s poem about it. I listened to an audio tour called the “Westminster Walk” while George read it in our book. We walked from the middle of the bridge, past the statue of the Celtic woman who resisted the Romans, Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, the memorial to World War I and II soldiers, the Banqueting House, 10 Downing Street, and Trafalgar Square. Then we walked down the Mall and through St. James Park. There were throngs of people picnicking, but it was great.

Then we realized we were hungry and that we needed money. So, we Googled for an ATM and ended up going by this great Pub. We got the money and ate at the Pub. We had our first installment of “Pub Grub” at The Albert in Westminster. Wow! So good. We shared a Steak and Ale Pie, and the pastry crust was perfection! We also tried hard ciders from Sweden.

We ran into two people from Texas visiting for work as they walked to Victoria Station, and we walked back to our hotel not far away.

We unpacked and took showers and now George is fast asleep, and I am not far behind.

Such a perfect London Day 1!

Walked 4.8 miles + Walking in airport to Tube station + Tate Britain for 1 hour

Tuesday Ten Minute Freewrite

I am going to go great guns for 10 minutes on this freewrite. I am meeting with a person (not sure if she wants direction - she just wanted ...