Monday, 31 July 2017

On the way to the bus stop this morning I took a picture of where I’m staying. The building is kind of funky mixture of old and new. Again, I’m really liking the quietness and the beauty of the surrounding area. The room has everything I need – including a dishwasher – a rare find and very much appreciated!

Csabi and I boarded the bus to Workington. There are several buses that connect the various nearby towns and resorts. It seemed that most of the people on the bus were locals who take advantage of this service. Not crowded at all and no delays along the way.

Once we were in Workington, Csabi was interested in some new running shoes and I was looking for a new carry-on bag since the shoulder strap on my current bag broke just before I got to Keswick a few days ago. I found a replacement that should be able to hold my laptop and iPad – and odds and ends that I need while traveling if my suitcase is not with me. This bag cost me less than 15 pounds. Nice!

Csabi couldn’t find the exact pair of shoes that he wanted so decided to order from Amazon. He tried on the same brand, style and size at a store to confirm that he likes the fit.

We were getting a bit hungry and decided to eat at a family restaurant that Csabi had been to recently. Again I was reminded to be patient. Our order took nearly 20 minutes to get to us – and it was after 2:00 when the restaurant was almost empty. We both ordered the same thing, a tuna sandwich with coleslaw on whole wheat bread. Our sandwiches came on white bread but we didn’t care – we were starving! Yes, I’ll be patient.

To walk off the meal we headed out to the Irish Sea, about a 15 minute walk. We almost got to the sea, but must have taken a wrong turn and found ourselves at a dead end, but saw the sea from a distance. The harbor next to us was almost completely drained due to low tide. I saw a boat owner and asked about the tide and he said the high tide was at 6:00 p.m. and the harbor would rise nearly 7 meters (or over 21 feet) over the next few hours.

We returned to Workington’s bus station and were just in time to catch the bus back to Keswick. On the bus ride Csabi ordered his shoes from Amazon and I enjoyed the views from the bus window.

Was an ideal day for walking an enjoying the beautiful English countryside. It is just how you’d imagine it to look. We had a few laughs along the way when I saw some cows and said, “How Now Brown Cow”. Csabi had never heard that before and we kept repeating it when we saw a cow in a pasture. (A man in the seat in front of us turned around and smiled.)

When we got back to Keswick, about a 40 minute ride, we did some shopping at Booth’s then had some coffee and tea at their cafe. Csabi ordered a chocolate cake and offered me a few bites.

Not sure when I’ll see him again – especially given that I haven’t fully planned out the remainder of 2017. Perhaps in Edinburgh, Budapest, or London. Who knows!

When I got back to my room, after taking a nap, I made plans to visit Liverpool then take a ferry over to Isle of Man. Seems a bit last-minute, but it seems like something I’d like to do. So away I go tomorrow on a new adventure!

 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Got up and got ready to look around my new neighborhood. Decided to walk down to the lake, Derwentwater. I’m staying in the “suburb” of Keswick named Portinscale, as shown on the second map below. The lake is just down the road from where I’m staying.

General Area of Keswick 

Portinscale and Derwinwater

Nichol End Marine was about a 10 minute walk from where I’m staying. It was drizzling a bit but had my umbrella just in case. Since this area is a little remote from the busy town of Keswick, there was little traffic encountered along the way and minimal number of tourists.

By the time I got down to the lake there were patches of sunshine which offered some nice views of the surrounding hills.

The marina had a few docks and I walked down one and took the above picture.

The picture below shows the dock and the small nearby cafe.

I wasn’t too hungry so the bowl of chicken & vegetable soup (with bread) on the menu sounded perfect – and it was. Though, was concerned when my order wasn’t ready after 15 minutes and when I asked about it was assured it would be right out. Was thinking it was just a bowl of soup – get the bowl and ladle in the soup. Another reminder for me to be patient. The soup was terrific!

I walked back to my room and got ready to meet Csabi (my friend from Hungary) at the Keswick bus stop outside of Booth’s Market. He is working nearby and only needed to take a relatively short bus ride to where I’m staying.

We met for coffee then decided to have dinner at my hotel’s restaurant. I hadn’t seen him since he left Budapest in April. His English is getting much better and enjoys the English countryside and the people.

There seems to be a pattern developing with my ability to order a meal without some issue. In this case I guess it was the server’s ability to understand our order. Csabi ordered duck with a side salad with no dressing and I had the turkey dinner. Both of us had water. After placing the order another server came by twice to confirm our order. Remembering to be patient, we waited for our dinner and were very pleased with everything we ate. Including the sticky toffee pudding.

Csabi

Turkey Dinner

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Tomorrow we’re taking the bus to Workington to do some shopping and a little sightseeing.

 

 

 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Was packed and on my way to the Manchester Piccadilly Station by 11:30. I’m on my way to the Lake District – about 3 hours away by train and bus. I’ll be joining thousands of people from the U.K and other countries who will enjoy the scenic beauty of the lakes and mountains in this region. There isn’t a train line directly to where I’m going so will take a bus to Keswick, one of the popular destination spots in the Lake District.

I get real cautious when making plans that involve two or more modes of transportation. I’d rather go to the airport, fly somewhere, then take a taxi to wherever I’m staying. For this trip, I’ll take a train to a small town, get on a bus, then will ride a taxi the rest of the way. The place where I’m staying is not part of Airbnb or the Hilton chain so keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll find everything in order when I get there.

Paddington Bear – Likes the View (Manchester)

Manchester Piccadilly Track #14

The train ride up was an experience. Given that the train was packed and I stood up for the first 90 minutes and near a couple with two very young children who cried and fussed the whole way. (Yes, the whole way.) Almost a repeat of my train ride up to Manchester yesterday. I now understand why our parents never took us on vacation or to restaurants (including weddings and funerals) until we were older – and I have no regrets.

When the train arrived in Penrith I found the bus stop where I’ll catch a bus to Keswick. Met an older couple who were traveling home and we struck up a conversation while waiting for the bus. I first learned that I was pronouncing Keswick wrong – you say it without the “w” – it is pronounced kes-ick. When we got on the bus, they helped watch my suitcase, which is on rollers, so it didn’t roll away. I love randomly meeting people like this. Like on the way from the train to the bus, I rode in an elevator with a couple (about my age) who had their bicycles and backpacks – they were spending the summer riding around England and happy as can be.

When I arrived in Keswick I was hungry. I immediately saw a hotel restaurant and went in asked if they were still serving lunch – and they were. I started off with a crab and lobster bisque, then cod and mash, and finished with a spice cake with a cream sauce topping. And a pint of beer.

Bisque

Cod and Mash (Mashed Potatoes)

Cake!

The restaurant was kind to call a taxi for me. The driver and I talked about the tourist business as he took me to the hotel. Guess that only January and February are slow months for them her in Keswick. Business picks up in March and remains so until November.

The taxi driver offered to wait for me in case I was not staying in the main building. After I finished registering, he drove me to my building, but it was up to me to find the room. The property looks like two manor homes, each converted to hotel rooms. Each room received a name – I got the “Grisedale Room” – or in this case, rooms: a nice sized bedroom; hallway; bath; living room and kitchen. Very quiet!

The hotel is located in a small village, but more like a hamlet – without a church or grocery. So I walked the mile into Keswick and shopped for groceries there. Picked up mainly items for breakfast since I’ll probably have lunch in Keswick as I’m walking around tomorrow and will have dinner with Csabi (from Hungary and now working in England) who is meeting me here later in the day.

The one mile path between the hotel and Keswick was interesting. Crossing a river on a footbridge, then walking along a pasture with a herd of grazing sheep. The view of the nearby hills was amazing as it became late afternoon.

When I returned to my room, I immediately took a shower to wash away the perspiration from lugging around a large suitcase and from the walk to and from the store. Finished unpacking and got hooked up to the WiFi.  Then took a nap.

It is nearly midnight and I haven’t heard a sound from my neighbors. Think I’ll like it here! I’m staying here until Tuesday, but still not 100% sure where I’m going next. Maybe the Isle of Man or just fly back to Dublin and start my road trip around the island.

 

Friday, 28 July 2017

I could have easily stayed a few more days at the Bailbrook House Hotel. The staff there were almost as welcoming and service-oriented as the Luxor Hilton. But I’ve made plans to move on and perhaps I’ll return for another visit. Checkout from the hotel took less than a minute and my taxi was waiting for me too. Wow!

Love it when travel connections work out well. I walked into the Bath train station, purchased my ticket to Manchester and literally walked up to the platform and onto the train. From there, a short trip to Bristol and had time to order a coffee before boarding the connecting train to Manchester.

The only hiccup was the child, a few seats away, who either talked loudly or cried all the way to Manchester – for 3 hours. At one point I got up and walked around to get away from the situation. I could have moved seats but the train was full and there were no other seats. The mother and daughter got off at the stop before Manchester and I got the feeling that spontaneous applause was imminent.

The hotel in Manchester was just a few minutes walk from the train station. Checking in took only a few minutes. (A landmark day when checking out and checking in were record times.) Love my room! Not too big, great view, at the end of a hall (quiet) and on an upper floor (minimal traffic noise). Perfect! Think I’ll delay checkout tomorrow until the last possible moment.

The reception desk apologized for the rainy weather as I was checking in. I couldn’t help but laugh. (Little do they know…)

Room with a View

Tomorrow, the journey to Keswick (Lake District) will take about 3 hours. I’ll make a couple of transfers but there is enough time between each transfer – so think I’ll be fine.

Was able to successfully publish a travel blog post today and it looks like my technical issue has been resolved. So happy about this. Sometimes, when there is a technology issue, resolution is sometimes a time-consuming effort. All is well…

 

 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

After a good breakfast in the hotel, it was time to explore Bath – the home of the ancient 2,000 year old Roman baths. To get into the city, and being almost 2 miles away, the hotel concierge mentioned that down the road from the hotel I can hop on a tour boat. This boat will take me into the center of town as well as enjoying the sites along the Avon River. (Found out on the boat trip that this isn’t the Shakespeare Stratford-upon-Avon river – that the word “avon” is the Celtic word for river. People like the Romans, when asking the locals about the name of a river, the Celtic citizen would reply, “avon”. So many rivers, as a result, are named “Avon” throughout England.)

As a side note, my Grandfather Marsh was born in Bath, NY in 1879. His great-grandparents emigrated to Bath from Connecticut in 1838 and bought land that was part of the Pulteney Association, named for Sir William Johnstone Pulteney of Bath, England who invested in this section of Steuben County, and the town of Bath was named after the town in England. This is my connection to this town. As far as I know, I’m the first Marsh from Bath, N.Y. to visit.

After a short walk to the old mills along the Avon I found the landing where we were to meet the tour boat. Very peaceful there – with the gentle falls and slow moving river. Right on time the boat arrived and we got on for a relatively short ride into Bath. Along the way we learned more of this area’s history.

Old Mill 

When arriving in Bath by the tour boat I found a bridge that dropped me off near the Bath Abbey which was also near the Roman Baths. I first visited the Abbey – which was good sized with many memorials on the walls and stayed for part of the service that had already started when I arrived.

The Roman Baths are the most popular local attraction. The lines to get in were not too long (getting there early in the day is recommended) so I was able to start my tour in less than 20 minutes after I arrived. As can be imagined, there have been changes to the baths over the years. In the late 1800’s the area was enclosed inside a Victorian superstructure. Still in evidence are stones and building foundations from Roman times that are now 12 feet underground. I should have asked if the water back in the Roman times was green as pictured below.

Large Roman Bath

Roman Relics

Minerva

Note: The object pictured above is of Minerva, the same deity as the Greek Athena. The gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva is one of the best known objects from Roman Britain. Its discovery in 1727 was an early indication that the Roman site at Bath was not a typical settlement. Gilt bronze sculptures are rare finds from Roman Britain as only two other fragments are known. 

After the tour I was getting tired but first I needed to get a haircut. While walking around I found a Turkish barber shop and was able to be seated without waiting. The barber took his time and did a thorough job on my hair – both on my head and also trimmed my ears and eyebrows.

Being tired, I just wanted to find a taxi and head back to the hotel. Seems that most taxis you need to call. Once I found a number to call a taxi was there within a few minutes. I asked the driver if he wouldn’t mind driving by the Royal Crescent. I got out a took some pictures. Very impressive!

When I returned to the hotel I immediately took a nap. I couldn’t keep my eyes opened. Think I slept for a couple of hours. When I woke I took care of some bookkeeping and called my cousin Donna then made reservations for my trip to Manchester tomorrow. Then went down and had afternoon tea in the lounge.

After tea I returned to my room and spend the next couple of hours working with technical support who help maintain my travel blog. The web application has been “complaining” about uploading pictures. Sometimes it works and sometimes it didn’t. Collaborating with remote technical support can be a challenge – and probably more of a challenge because I know just enough to make me dangerous. I kept asking them to slow down and explain their technical jargon as it related to their application. Eventually I was satisfied and tried their solution. Having over a year’s worth of text and pictures in their application – the loss would be difficult to accept.

Was still tired after dinner and it wasn’t long before I was in bed. The hotel bed was so comfortable I almost didn’t want to fall asleep. Nice to enjoy the comfort.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Time to say good-bye to London. Did I see everything I’d like to? Probably not, but I enjoyed my time in London visiting friends and I didn’t care. Guess I’ll have to return. Darn!

Room service showed up on time, then showered, dressed, packed and out the door before 11:30. Tried to explain how the Hilton Honors program worked to the person at the front desk, but guess he was new so let it go. I’m really racking up the points and will use them for another stay.

The taxi got me to the station on time, purchased my ticket to Bath and was on the train with time to spare. A young man offered to lift my suitcase into the luggage rack, so I let him. (I could have done it myself, but when someone offers, would be impolite to decline.) Was surprised at the short distance between London and Bath. Before I knew it we pulled into the Bath station and I was out the door, found a taxi and was on my way to the hotel.

The hotel I selected was in an old estate home that was converted into a hotel. It had great reviews and when entering and meeting the receptionist and concierge I could see why. The interior was well-appointed and the staff exceptionally helpful and welcoming. Which shows the difference between a Hilton and a place like this. The concierge listened to what my interests were then took a local map and made notes on it for my later reference – then escorted me to my room.

Link to Bailbrook House

After only being in the hotel and my room for less than 30 minutes, I decided I could stay comfortably here for many days. I took a nap on the exceptionally comfortable bed and only when I got hungry did I get up and go down to one of the lounge rooms for afternoon tea.

Later, after a dinner of braised beef in the conservatory, I returned to my room and updated my travel blog, answered email and text messages. After I was in bed I noticed a light from the bathroom. It was a night light – the first I’ve seen in a hotel or Airbnb! It is the little things that make traveling special.

 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Paula had suggested visiting Chartwell today, Churchill’s home for over 40 years. It is located not too far from London near Westerham, Kent.

To get there we met at the London Bridge station, bought tickets, and waited to board the train to Oxted (train station nearest to Chartwell). Today we had a new experience, I think for the both of us. It came time for us to board the train but had no idea which track it was on – the reader board for this trip didn’t update and the train was due to leave. We eventually found the train but not until we ran up and down a few flights of stairs. Good exercise!

After we boarded we struck up a conversation with a woman who was heading in our direction. She had lived in German and also Nepal and had several stories to share with us. I can’t remember all that we talked about but it kept us occupied until we arrived at our stop.

We hadn’t planned (or at least I hadn’t) on how to get from the train station in Oxted to Chartwell. Guess there was a bus but we found a taxi who could take us. We arrived at Chartwell and found it quite busy with other visitors who probably came by car? Paula purchased a National Trust membership which will give her free access to hundreds of places free of charge. (Perhaps I should become a member too.)

Paula saw that there was a presentation in Churchill’s studio where he painted. (He was a fairly accomplished amateur painter.) It turned out to be a great place to start our tour. The presenter was very knowledgeable and story-teller who gave us helpful insight and background information about Chartwell and Churchill as well. I had many questions after his presentation. One question was about the disposition of his portrait that Churchill’s peers commissioned for him when he retired in 1954. (Lady Churchill had it burned in the compost heap beyond the gardens. Confirmed by the gardener who did the deed.) I shared with the presenter that Churchill and FDR were distant cousins.

Studio and Service Buildings

From there we walked around the extensive gardens that surround the main house and saw many familiar plants and were introduced to many new varieties. If I understood correctly, the estate has been maintained as it was when the Churchill’s lived there. If so, what an amazing place to call home.

Our tour of the house didn’t start until 2:00 so we had time to grab a bite in the cafe. We then waited at the home’s front entrance until it was time to enter. The home’s interior was fundamentally intact though some of the bedrooms were converted into display rooms and offices. We also learned that the home was closed up during World War II.

The old kitchen was presented as it would have been when the Churchill’s lived there in the early years. A more modern kitchen was installed in the floor above sometime later. The home seemed very well suited for entertaining visitors and official guests as well as a true home for the Churchill children. Many tributes and accolades were displayed throughout the home.

We ended our visit to Chartwell by sitting in a spot underneath a large tree not far from the house. Our view of the lawn below and the hills beyond was relaxing. We noted that this is pretty grand for a couple of kids from a small town in Oregon.

After some time under the tree we saw that we were the last people in the area and thought that we’d better leave before we were escorted out by security. When we arrived at the visitor center, it looked like they were closing down and getting ready for home. One of the staff was kind to call us a taxi and we were able to enjoy more of the surroundings while we waited.

On the train back into London we both were very tired. Paula excused herself and took a nap and I got a little rest until we were close to Victoria station, our final stop.

I grabbed a burger at Victoria station before I got on the underground. Felt like I was dragging myself through the lobby as I returned to the hotel. I was able to compose an update to my blog for my adventures from Monday then was in bed soon after that.

Tomorrow I leave for Bath where I’ll stay for a couple of nights before heading up to the Lake District and visit my Hungarian friend Csabi.

 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Met up with Viktor again this morning. We decided to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral this morning and otherwise hang out in that part of London. The underground stop for St. Paul’s in on the Central line so easy to get to from my hotel.

This was my third time at St. Paul’s. Each time I visit I find something else to admire. This time I focused my attention on the art incorporated into the ceilings. Of course, being with someone who has never been there provides an opportunity to see the building from another perspective.

We approached one of the guides who are able to answer most questions about the cathedral. I asked him to explain an important part of the cathedral’s history during World War II when Churchill was adamant that during the German bombing raids, St. Paul’s must be protected. It was important to Churchill that the symbol of London, if not England, remain standing to show the resilience of the country and its people.

We had lunch in the cathedral’s cafe and then continued our tour. We learned that Evensong (a service of evening prayer, psalms, and canticles in the Anglican Church) was at 5:00 p.m. and planned to return at that time. A choir from Philadelphia is taking the place of the St. Paul’s choir during services while they take a summer break.

We left the cathedral and went across the street to have coffee and tea and continue our discussions from Saturday. We are both interested in higher consciousness, Maslow’s hierachy of needs, and education reform. We then started getting a bit goofy when discussing the differences and similarities between “Amen” and “And So It Is” – then added “Bob’s Your Uncle” to the mix. Guess you had to be there…

We realized that it was several minutes past 5:00 and quickly headed back to St. Paul’s for the service. Words can not describe the sound of the choir and organ in the cathedral. After the service we sat there in gratitude until we were ready to leave.

After walking down Fleet Street (the London street known for printing and publishing, we were ready for dinner. Viktor suggested pizza and we were off. Right after we found a store with a Paddington Bear display we found a place to eat.

We ordered a pizza to share and Viktor had cannelloni and my side dish was a pint of beer. We definitely picked the right place to eat.

After dinner it was time to say good-bye and look forward to when we would meet again. Prean, who was to return to London today, is now staying another week in Rwanda. I’ll plan to return to London when he isn’t traveling. (Or they can visit me?) Viktor sent him many pictures so he would be included – as much as one can when you’re over 6,000 miles away.

Was able to post another blog update when I got home then went to bed. Tomorrow I’m meeting Paula in the London Bridge station and we’ll take the train to Chartwell, Churchill’s home for 40 years.

 

 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Meeting up with Ben this morning at 11:30 in Windsor – just west of London.

I’ve met with Ben several times since I’ve started traveling. I originally met him through his sister a few years ago and we enjoy getting caught up when I’m in the London area. He is now working in the Windsor area so a good excuse to see Windsor Castle again.

To get to Windsor I took the underground to Paddington Station and from there I took the overground national rail to Slough, then changed to a spur line train that services the Windsor / Eton area.

Today, given my experiences of yesterday, I left early to ensure I didn’t feel I was rushed. I did a funny thing by forgetting which stop to transfer to get me to Paddington, so I had to go back up to where I could get a cell signal again. Glad I had the extra time. When I got to Paddington was able to get the correct ticket from the machine (sometimes not so easy) and quickly found the track that had the train for Slough / Windsor with 15 minutes to spare!

We agreed on a meeting point in Windsor then walked to a coffee shop where we could talk. I suggested a place away from other visitors and he found the perfect spot. I disclosed that I wanted to walk the length of the Long Walk after our visit.

Ben has extensive travel experience and is interested in my travels. Of course we talked about a wide-range of topics as well and I learned about his new job. After about 2+ hours I think we were both ready to move on. He to enjoy his weekend and me to walk the Long Walk. Ben escorted me to the starting point of the Long Walk.

The Long Walk: “The most well-know image of Windsor Great Park is arguably the iconic view down the Long Walk, towards Windsor Castle at the far end. This tree-lined avenue stretches down towards the ancient fortress, illustrating the regal grandeur and Royal heritage of Windsor Great Park.” The Queen, when heads of state visit, uses this road to enter Windsor Castle. I took a couple of pictures that show what these visitors see as they approach the castle. If they stay overnight, they are put into the rooms above the archway that leads into the main castle courtyard.

The walk is nearly 3 miles and extends from Windsor Castle (the formal entrance) to the copper statue of King George III. I had forgotten that the very large statue of King George III on his horse was at the far end – to me, from a distance, it looked like a very odd tree and wasn’t until I got closer did I realize what it was.

Windsor Castle is next to the town of Windsor. (See below.)

Entrance to Windsor Castle from The Long Walk

Being Sunday, there were a number of families, couples, and people with their dogs. As I got further away from the castle the number of people decreased to the point that there was just a few of us along the road. The last segment of the walk goes through the Deer Park, which is home to around 500 Red Deer who roam freely in the enclosed area. The Great Park is around 5,000 acres.

Statue of King George III 

I made it to the end of the walk then turned around for the walk back. Then I had a dilemma. I felt the need to find a restroom. But where? There was nothing available from one end of the walk to the other except for a house which I suspect was for a park ranger. I couldn’t see me walking up to their door to ask to use their bathroom.  Being from a small town I had no problem with going outdoors – though on the Queen’s estate and not knowing where the security cameras were located, I decided to find a tree in a discreet location. After I took care of business I was able to enjoy the rest of the walk.

View of Windsor Castle from the King George III Statue

About 500 yards from the end I saw a pub to my left that looked inviting. I was getting hungry and place to sit down for a rest. Think it was the pub’s name that got my attention.

The Windsor Castle Pub

When I saw the menu I knew what I wanted. A good Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding and all the trimmings. The pub was filled with locals which made it all the better – to see them enjoying the company of their friends and family.

After I finished my walk I spoke with some people who were waiting at the gate. From what I understand, the Queen will be moving to the castle while Buckingham Palace is being renovated. Think we were all looking for any movement from the castle. All we saw was a guard marching back and forth.

Just as I was walking toward the train station, I needed to find a restroom. (Yes, again!) Guess the beer I had at the pub was the culprit. I thought a cup of tea was a good idea so I stopped in a restaurant and ordered a tea and used their restroom. Had a talk with the guy working behind the bar about life in Windsor.

Again I forget which train station would take me back to Slough and ended up at the wrong station. I did this back in December too. A good way to see more of Windsor I figured. (There are two rail stations in Windsor.) I found the correct station 10 minutes before the train to Slough arrived.

View of Windsor Castle from a Windsor Town Park

The ride to Slough takes about 10 minutes and the ride from Slough to London is about 30 or so minutes – maybe less. Made all of the underground connections back to Holland Park and was at the hotel in less than 20 minutes.

Tomorrow, Viktor and I will meet for one last time before I travel from London to Bath. Also, I made arrangements to Paula on Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Today I’m meeting up with Viktor again and we’re going to leave earlier (as oppossed to our later start yesterday) so we can visit the Tower of London and ride the London Eye. Our plan was to meet at the Churchill statue across from Big Ben. Well, that was the plan. Viktor was able to get there okay on time. Me – I was having to navigate around a closure of the underground line to Westminster. I ended up taking a taxi. On the way, I did go by Buckingham Palace and saw a little of the Changing of the Guard – so not a total miss.

I sometimes get too confident of my navigation abilities. I can usually work around issues, but sometimes this hubris of mine does not work in my favor. Afterwards I try to reflect on what I could have done differently to improve the outcome. Invariably it boils down to the fact that I do not know all the answers. In this case, keeping in mind that I’m in a crowded and big city who is hosting many, many tourists. This ain’t Portland.

Given the number of people who also want to ride the London Eye, I purchased “Fast Track” tickets earlier in the morning – which will get us through the line much quicker. Was not able to get an earlier time and when I met up with Viktor, he was okay with going to the Tower of London first and then the London Eye.

We were able to get to the Tower of London, purchase tickets, and join our tour within an hour. I had been on the tour last year, but there is so much to see, it really is good to go again. The tower was started in 1066 – actually earlier if you count the years the site was used by the Romans. A Beefeater guides the group through the high points of the tower and then releases us to explore on our own. The Beefeaters are comprised of retired military and are excellent hosts, guides, and guards of the Tower of London.

After we finished with the tour we headed towards the Crown Jewels, the most popular exhibit. When you actually see the collection, there is so much “bling” it hardly seems real. (Some have said that the “real” collection is hidden at another location.) The main collection is set up in a long case and you can take a moving path on either side of the display that make sure everyone gets a chance to view all of the sparkling crowns and other regalia. We went down both sides twice. The Imperial Crown (the one the queen wears when opening Parliament) is displayed separately. (Not able to take pictures.)

Next, we walked through the White Tower (built in 1066), which was used in later years for to house the local armory. Quite a display of armor on the main floor. We both agreed that wearing the heavy suits of armor must have been a real test of strength. What would happen if they fell off their horse? We were having too much fun – perhaps because we were hungry and looking forward to having some lunch.

White Tower

Model of the head of Queen Elizabeth I

We ate there in the tower’s cafe because we wanted so see a little more before leaving. Impressed with the variety of quality of what we were served.

After going through the mint, as we exited, it was starting to rain. We waited in a shelter for the rain to let up, but it never did. It was a good solid rain. We ran down to the gift shop who was in the process of restocking their supply of umbrellas and ponchos. I got the umbrella and Viktor got the poncho.

While we were waiting, a group of guards marched by.

We had just enough time to get to the London Eye. When we got there, even with the rain, the number of people in line was staggering. Those who did not have tickets, or had tickets that were not “Fast Track” were in line for hours. Hours! In the Fast Track line we struck up a conversation with two women from Long Island. Always fun to meet new people. They were good sports about the weather and we joined them in the London Eye pod.

Even through the weather, the views from the London Eye were amazing. You can see Buckingham Palace in the center of the picture.

Westminster Palace (under renovation) pictured below.

After being in the rain for the last few hours, we both wanted to get warm and dry. Viktor led us to a tea room in the Corinthia. Viktor had green tea and I had the house blend of breakfast tea and a club sandwich. We were each given our own large pot of tea. We were there two and a half hours talking and laughing. I’ll have to go back.

The only picture I took of our time at the Corinthia was a picture of the men’s urinals. Who designs these things? (You have to aim over the glass partition.)

It was getting late and we were tired. When I got back to my hotel room it was hard to keep my eyes open. Tomorrow I’ll take a train to Windsor and meet up with Ben.