Thursday, 31 August 2017

Train from London to Cologne

This morning, think it was the sound of bells that woke me this morning. While the room is fairly soundproof, Cologne has a lot of churches – including the one across the street. Was ready for breakfast and found it was a step or two above what I’m used to. The servers were professional and very friendly. Good way to start the day.

Got myself ready and walked to the Cologne Cathedral which is also visible from my room. (See below.) I didn’t know if I wanted to visit the cathedral first or take a “hop on / hop off” bus. When I saw two of these buses waiting nearby on the side of the road, I figured they were waiting for me.

I first tried (the only time) one of these buses was when Mary (friend from Stornoway, Scotland) visited me in Dublin. She hadn’t been to Dublin, and was only in town for a few days, so figured it was a good way to see the city. I’m only in Cologne for a few days, and not knowing what I wanted to see, it was an excellent way to quickly soak it all in and learn more about the city.

Was an extensive tour that zig-zagged through the city on both sides of the Rhine. I didn’t realize how much of the city was destroyed during World War II. Though many of the old sections have been restored or were not affected. Many nice parks are throughout the city. Took a few pictures from the bus.

After the bus ride I walked into the cathedral which was just across the street from where they let us off. I stopped at the cathedral’s entrance.

Front of Door

From Wikipedia: Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus) It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day and currently the tallest twin-spired church at 515 feet tall. Construction of Cologne Cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880.

I took several pictures from inside. They don’t really show how very large it is inside. Beautiful and vast is about how I’d describe it. I’ll have to come back for another visit.

Window is made from small cut glass

Also by the cathedral were some pictures that showed the devastation after the war. Very sad to see the impact to this very old city.

Just relaxed this evening. The room I’m in is very quiet and roomy, with a nice view.

Tomorrow I’m planning to take a boat tour up and down the Rhine. Also to visit the church across the street and walk around some.

 

 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Travelling to Cologne, Germany today to hang out for a few days. Haven’t planned any details, but will go with the flow like I usually do.

Really an uneventful day. Which is a good thing I guess. I needed a haircut and got a recommendation from the doorman on where to go. It was a placed named, “Classic” and while it didn’t look classic (looked like a standard men’s barber shop), I’m very happy with the result. The guy who cut my hair helped me put on my coat, which was classy.

At St. Pancras Station I had time for coffee and a sandwich before leaving London. You can see that my suitcase, bag and coat are where they should be. I had a white coffee and a sandwich.

After we got underway and headed for the English Channel, I took a picture of a monitor that showed how fast we were going. The KPH (Kilometers per Hour) varied between 220 – 300 most of the way.

When I exited the train at Brussels I saw someone who locked their bags to the luggage rack. First time I’ve seen that. Most everyone puts their luggage on the rack, which may be quite a ways from where they are sitting.

All connections worked out as planned. No delays or issues. I’m still on “high alert” and pay attention to everything when I travel because its easy to get turned around or on the wrong train. Had a one hour layover in Brussels, where I stayed for a few weeks last year. Amazing that the train station layout came back to me.

After I got off the train in Cologne, I saw a number of people sitting on the steps of the Dominican Church of St. Andrew. It must be a “thing” where you show up at night. I’ll check it out later, but took a picture as a reminder.

Getting to the hotel was interesting. My GPS was at first showing me heading in the direction of the hotel, then showed I was walking away. (Maybe I was tired?) I knew it was very close to the train station so asked someone to point me in the right direction. Later, I was looking at my GPS location on Google Maps in my room and saw it moving around. I made a note of this in case it happens again.

Tomorrow I’m visiting some of the local sites in Cologne and for Sunday, I’d like to take a boat trip up (or down) the Rhine which goes through the city. It has been raining in the area but the weather forecast shows it will be improving.

 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Was up early today, then went back to bed. 6:00 a.m. is not a good time to start the day when you’re retired. (My new rule.) I did make it down for breakfast at 8:30 then started to get ready to visit the National Portrait Gallery and the Wallace Collection.

One of the things I needed to do to get ready was iron a shirt. Guess I’ll confess it now – for the past 25 years (prior to my departure June 2016) I hadn’t ironed a shirt. Didn’t even own an iron. Now I’m getting quite good working with a variety of irons – and a few even come equipped with a headlight. Look what I’ve been missing! Who knew?

My primary interest in visiting the National Portrait Gallery (collection size: 195,000 portraits!) was to see some of the early pictures in the collection. And I wasn’t disappointed. I saw the portrait of King Henry VII which is the earliest painting in the Gallery’s collection. The portrait, according to the inscription records, was painted on 29 October 1505. Many of the earlier portraits were of Engand’s kings and queens.

Below is a collection of some of the early kings and queens. We can only guess that some of the portraits were implied likenesses rather than from the subject sitting for the painting.

Queen Elizabeth I had several of her portraits on display.

Was interesting to see pictures, starting in the early 1700’s, of the English aristocrats in their finery, posing for their portrait. They definitely wanted to look their best.

There were some sculptures displayed with the portraits. I took a picture of a group of sculptures in an interesting grouping. I was thinking that it appears that they’re looking for something or someone.

Next time I’ll keep track of which galleries I walked through. So many rooms and found myself backtracking on what I had seen 10 minutes before. But I will be back. Really a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the UK.

After I had a quick bite, I visited the Wallace Collection. A private collection that was bequeathed to the nation and first opened to public view in 1900. The collection was mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford. (Seymour – same family as Jane Seymour) and one of the wealthiest families in England. 30 galleries display this vast collection. I had fun taking pictures of a few of the rooms. One chair caught my eye because of its legs.

After the Wallace Collection I went back to my hotel room to take a shower. The weather in London was humid and still a bit warm. Riding in the underground was hot too and I was soaking when I got back to my room.

I met Paula for dinner at a restaurant she knew about. Joy King Lau is near Leicester Square and serves a wide variety of dishes. Everything we ate was so good! And we both had desserts. Was a sad time for us. We have had a number of fun and interesting adventures while in London. I’m leaving London tomorrow and she is leaving London next week. We will meet up again!

I have the train and hotel in Cologne booked for tomorrow. Just need to get packed and get on the train. Next stop: Cologne, Germany.

 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Today I moved back to the Paddington Hilton. I’ll be here a couple of days before I leave for Cologne. Wanted to stay in London a couple extra days to squeeze in some more of the city. The weather has been fantastic and it seems everyone is outside enjoying it too.

Took my time packing – because I could. Actually, didn’t want to arrive at the Hilton too soon in case my room wasn’t ready, and if more rooms are available perhaps I could be upgraded.

Took extra time cleaning the flat because I was staying for free and because Prean and Viktor are friends too. I left at 1:00 and rolled my suitcase to Victoria Station – about 20 minutes away. Could have taken a taxi, but thought I could use the exercise. Even got to carry the suitcase down a couple of flights of stairs – more exercise.

When I arrived at the hotel I asked if my room could be upgraded. (Said with a big smile.) And got a “yes”! It wasn’t in the newer part of the hotel, but was happy with the size and comfort of the upgrade. Before unpacking I needed to have some lunch. Nice that a M&S is in the station below and picked up a sandwich. Ate the sandwich and took a long nap.

It was after 6:00 and decided to walk to Hyde Park then to the Speaker’s Corner and Marble Arch nearby. A beautiful evening for a walk. It was starting to cool off and as I was walking through the park the sun was starting to set.

When I was here last year I tried to find Speaker’s Corner. And this year I wasn’t doing any better. Guess you have to wait for a speaker to show up. From the reviews, Sunday is the prime day.

The Marble Arch has an interesting story. For about 10 years (1837 – 1847) its home was in front of Buckingham Palace and was the state entrance into the courtyard. It was in place when Victoria moved into the palace, but was moved when the section, where the well-known balcony is located, was built to hold Victoria and Albert’s growing family. Today it sits in a somewhat remote area in the NE corner of the park.

I was going to walk back to the hotel through the park. I got about 50 feet into the park and noticed only a few street lights. Perhaps walking along the main street would be better. Walked over 11,000 steps.

Tomorrow I’ll visit the National Portrait Gallery. It is known as the place where you’ll see famous faces by famous artists. Then planning to meet up with Paula to say good-bye before I leave on Wednesday.

 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Slept better last night. Was able to take care of a few things before I left for the day. Washed clothes, more travel planning, tossed out old SIM cards, and generally getting ready for some well-planned adventures over the next few weeks. Looking forward to meeting up with family and friends.

One thing that I’ve been putting off is getting the face of my old phone fixed. I had dropped it in Westminster Abbey last December and now I can’t see anything on the display. Really handy to have a second phone ready to go if I need it. I’ll be able to get it back when I return to London at the end of September.

The only thing I had planned for today was to tour Clarence House, now home of Prince Charles and Camilla but was also the home of the Queen Mother for 50 years. Paula gave it rave reviews – so followed up on her recommendation.

I walked though St. James’s Park and over a bridge that spans the park’s lake. A beautiful day and people, like me, were enjoying the warm (but not too warm) weather. I took pictures each direction from the bridge, then when I got to The Mall, took a picture of the Victoria statue and Buckingham Palace.

Clarence House has been lived in by many members of the royal family since the early 1800’s. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip lived there before she became queen. Princess Margaret too with the Queen Mother before she married. It is physically connected to St. James’s Palace, which now a working palace rather than a home for the royal family, but is the actual palace of the Royal Court of St. James. Confusing? Yes!

It was a guided tour through the “state” rooms of the home. The ones that guests who are invited get to see. And tourists like us. The group was small and we could interact with the guide. So much history in the house and looks very much like when the Queen Mother lived there, with a few exceptions. Many interesting stories about most everything hanging on the walls, furniture, and layout of the rooms. Considering all that occurred in her 50 years there, it is a living museum. I sent a Thank You to Paula for her recommendation. A hidden treasure for those who are interested in 20th century royal history.

After the tour I walked around, looking for inspiration for what to do next. Covent Garden came to mind and proceeded to walk in that direction. At Trafalgar Square I saw The National Gallery. To be honest, I was thinking about finding a men’s room and knew there would be one there. But I hadn’t visited this museum, so in I went.

Took a picture of the building against the fountain at Trafalgar Square. There seem to be places in the city that I’m drawn to, and this was one of them.

After entering The National Gallery I forgot all about the men’s room and walked through room after room of amazing works of art – over 2,300 in the collection. I found a few that were of interest. I saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and asked a guide about it. She said that there are five versions of this painting, all by Van Gogh, and this was one of them. I had seen another at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There is a Facebook page that has all 5 painting displayed. Who knew? The other was a room-sized picture of Charles I on a horse.

At the end of an hour, I was done. Good time to find a men’s room and move on to Covent Garden. The Portrait Gallery is close by – maybe I’ll visit there before I leave London in a few days.

I remember walking to Covent Garden to meet Paula last December for a Christmas recital at St. Paul’s Church (not the Cathedral) and hadn’t been back there since. Today was Sunday and must have been a day when many were in their finest upscale clothes. I walked through the market and then knew I was getting hungry.

I was thinking about Italy and saw on Facebook that Tom and Dana had arrived in Italy for their 25th wedding anniversary. I’ll be joining them week after next in Monterosso, Italy. Now I’m looking for an Italian restaurant. Found Cicchetti and it looked like what I was looking for – and was pleasantly surprised. The staff were all Italian, very formal and welcoming. Small dishes, but the food was perfection. Even better with a good glass of Chianti.

Olives and Bread, Crab & Avocado Salad, Risotto with Lobster

I took my time walking to the Embankment Station for the ride back to the flat. Wanted to enjoy the fine weather along the way. While walking I knew that my time in London was coming to a close and I’m okay with that. I’m beginning to know when it’s time to move on.

Tomorrow I’ll move back into the Paddington Hilton so my room is available for an Airbnb visitor to Prean and Viktor’s flat. Also meeting up with Paula too.

 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Got up several times during the night, but think I eventually got some good sleep before starting the day. Ironed some shirts, sent a payment to American Express, then was ready to visit the British Museum.

Has been helpful to have a U.K. American Express since it makes it easier to make contact payments by holding the card next to the payment device. I can’t do this with my U.S. cards here and required to sign the receipt before the payment is complete. I also can use this card for the underground, but it is more cost-effective to use an Oyster card to get a travel discount. The Oyster card can be topped off in many locations and used for most transportation in the city.

When I arrived at the British Museum there was a long line to get in. The gate attendant asked if I was traveling alone, and when I said I was, he directed me to another line (with no people in it) that got me in the museum within a minute. I took a picture of the long queue of people waiting to get in. Was almost like being a VIP.

Front of British Museum

Long Queue

Took a picture of a sign, then noticed people not paying any attention to the sign. Guess I prefer to play by the rules.

The museum is vast. But I guess “vast” would be an understatement. I thought the Victoria and Albert Museum had a large collection. This one holds some of the same type of collections, but so much more. Wikipedia says, “… dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.”

The “lobby” was the first thing that got my attention. Well-designed and functional. On the ground floor I walked through some of the galleries and looked for items that were unique. Having been through similar museums in other countries, I had seen many versions of what was on display here. Though, having the collections displayed in a new venue helped keep my attention.

Egyptian Statue

British Museum “Lobby”

After about an hour I was ready to take a break. There was a nice restaurant on the third floor so went up there to sit and have some tea. I would have liked to have had a salad but all they were serving was tea and treats. So much for having just a salad. Darn!

Earl Grey Tea and Victoria Sponge Cake

There were two items that I wanted to see before leaving. The Rosetta Stone and the Lewis Chessmen (or Ulg Chessmen). My friend Mary, from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, told me about them when I was there last October.

Lewis Chessmen: Wikipedia: “A group of distinctive 12th-century chess pieces, most of which are carved in walrus ivory. Discovered in 1831 on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, they may constitute some of the few complete, surviving medieval chess sets.” Most of the pieces are in the British Museum (pictured below) and 11 of the pieces are at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Rosetta Stone: Wikipedia: Is a granodiorite stele, found in 1799, inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic script and Demotic script, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. Thus, was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. (Its dimensions are about 4′ x 1′)

Rosetta Stone

The museum was going to close soon and not being one who likes to be ushered out of a building, I left for home. (Always good to know when to leave. Appropriate for visiting museums and visiting friends and family too.)

One other thing I’ve been wanting to do was to get my glasses adjusted. I sat on them a couple of months ago and have had to keep adjusting them on my face so they aren’t crooked. Found a nearby Boots Optician shop and they made some adjustments – though they were concerned that it might break the frames. My sunglasses have the same perception, which is only really needed to read anything up close. I could use “cheaters” reading glasses, but then I’d have to take on and off when I wanted to use my phone. Think I should order a spare pair of glasses soon?

After getting home and taking a shower, I worked on my blog, texted some friends, then had something to eat before bed.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with Zsolti and planning to visit Kew Gardens near Richmond.

 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Last day in Newburg. After Paula and I got ready and packed, we took a walk around the Victoria Park across the street then had breakfast at the tea shop along the canal. This was the same place where we had tea on Wednesday. Food was terrific and we enjoyed watching the swans and ducks play in the canal while we ate. What a great way to start the day and to have an interesting traveling companion to enjoy it with made it more even more special.

Paula saw first-hand how particular I am when leaving an Airbnb. And thankful that she is the same way. I just can’t leave any mess when I leave a place. I’d like to think we were staying in a friend’s home and would like to show respect to the host. Our mom taught us this when we were traveling and also Uncle Glenn and Aunt Polly when we went camping – always clean up after yourself and don’t leave it for someone else to do it for you. There was a time, somewhat recently, when I was so dogged tired at the end of the day, that I just left clothes where they were before going to bed.

Paula arranged for a taxi and he got us to the station with enough time to catch the next train. In about an hour we were back in London. After we said our good-byes, I took a taxi to Prean and Viktor’s where I’ll stay for the next few days while they are out of town.

When I arrived at their flat I saw someone at the kitchen table on a conference call with his PC open and two screens active. We made a quick introduction then he finished up his call. I was expecting to perhaps see the housekeeper getting my bed and the flat ready, but who was this guy? He was there, with Prean’s okay, because he could hook up an extra monitor to work on his project. Then saw the housekeeper and we sorted everything out. I had to run an errand and eat a little lunch and they will finish up and be out of the flat when I returned.

After a nap I did some shopping, took a shower and finished unpacking. I met up with my friend Zsolti later on. When I eventually went to bed was too tired to sleep. (Yes, that is possible.) I got up and did more travel planning and read about the hurricane in Texas – then was ready to sleep.

Tomorrow I’m planning to visit the British Museum. I know it will take a few days to walk through it, but will see as much as I can before I leave later this coming week.

 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

We planned to wake up at 6:00 a.m. ensure we have any early start for our visit to Highclere Castle. I didn’t wake until 6:15, but this gave Paula and Sue time to get themselves organized without me getting in the way. (I overslept.) We manged to get showed, dressed and fed then out of the door by 8:00 as planned.

The drive to Highclere from Newbury is about a 15 to 20 minute drive by car. Sue drove to Newbury last night so she drove us there, with me serving as navigator using Sue’s iPad. Really very easy to navigate around the roundabouts (thanks to Sue) and didn’t make any wrong turns. As we got closer to Highclere, there were specific signs that directed us to the entrance and parking.

As we drove into the estate, we were excited to see Highclere from a distance. We agreed it probably looked a bit smaller from this initial perspective. We were the first ones, other than those who worked there, to arrive and the parking attendant showed Sue where to park and where to get tickets. We took several pictures as we got out of the car and while walking to the ticket booth. Being early, we were assured that we would have tickets for today’s visit.

Philip, Paula, and Sue

We could hardly wait to start the tour of Highclere. We were first in the queue and visited with some of the others waiting with us. We weren’t exactly sure when the doors would be opened, but just after 9:00 we were let us. Being “Downton” regular watchers, we were on high alert to find familiar items from the series. We went from the entryway to the library.

As we waited outside, I took pictures of the front entrance area, the doors, and the door knockers.

Knocker (Wolf with Leg of Deer)

The library looks just about like it did in the series. Red furniture and many books lining the walls – floor to ceiling. Some of the furniture was moved around for the series, but it was essentially how it looked on TV. The guide noted that all of the electrical plugins were masked as well as any room sensors that would give away that the room was not part of the early 20th century.

Another room of great interest was the large dinning room. The room looks exactly like it did on TV. Notable exception is that a tablecloth was used for the Downton dinners to protect the table, whereas the family does not use a tablecloth. The extremely large portrait of Charles I dominates the room.

We passed through a couple of other rooms before we went upstairs. We didn’t take the grand staircase, but an alternate staircase the family and guests use. The bedrooms that were open to the tour were good-sized and furnished as they were 100 years ago. Most of the bedrooms from the series were shown. We learned that the house bedrooms were used for filming for the first couple of seasons but eventually were duplicated in a studio for the later years. Sue and I commented on the smell of the rooms – not a dank smell – perhaps just that they were old. Some had full bathrooms and others just a sink. Our favorite was Pamuk’s red bedroom.

We could look over the gallery balcony, from the bedroom floor, to the open lobby room, then we walked down the main staircase to the first floor saloon that is open to the skylight above. We stayed here to take it all in. It must have been very impressive to anyone who entered the home, and a unique feature as well.

The home tour was complete. We now went downstairs to visit the Egyptian portion of the tour. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon was an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist who participated and also funded the King Tut discovery. On display were some of the original items that remained in the family after a majority were sold to pay for the death taxes of the 5th Earl. Another room contained replicas of several items from the King Tut expedition.

After some tea we explored the parklands and gardens that surround the house. We walked through several hidden gardens and down tree-lines paths. Everything was in perfect condition. We walked up to the “folly” that was used several times during the series – the Jackdaw’s Castle. Fun to take pictures from there. This folly can be seen by the house and from the folly the house is framed beautifully.

Jackdaw’s Castle

View to Highclere

Sue and Paula

We continued to walk around the house and we all agreed that it had been a long day. I wanted to take one more picture. The view of the castle from the opening of the show, with Lord Grantham and his dog, Isis.

Downton Abby Opening

When we got back to Newbury, we had to say good-bye to Sue who need to get back. It was a pleasure to meet her and thankful that Paula asked her to join us. We made a great travel team. Perhaps we can do this again!

Later, Paula and I went out for dinner then took an evening walk. We both agree that aside from visiting Highclere Castle, Newburg would be a great place to visit, shop, and relax. I took a picture of the canal.

We will be returning to London tomorrow. Perhaps we will get in another walk in the morning.

 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

After a good night’s sleep I woke up hungry. It wasn’t long before I was downstairs standing in the breakfast buffet line. Maybe my eyes were too big and  I really loaded up my plate. Was justified because I knew we would still be traveling on the train during lunchtime and would need the extra nourishment? (Also had a bowl of Special K.)

Was an interesting view from the lounge into Paddington. (The Hilton is connected directly to the station.) Watching the people, mostly leaving for work. A guilty pleasure being retired is observing others heading to their jobs.

Thought I had plenty of time between breakfast and when I to meet Paula. But after I published my update from yesterday, showering and packing it was 11:15 and still needed to check out. Timing was perfect for meeting Paula at 11:30.

We are getting good at buying our train tickets. We were through the line before we realized it and on the train soon after that, then in Newburg in about an hour. Our Airbnb check-in time was 2:00 which gave us time for a quick lunch. I asked the host’s helper if she could come by where we were having lunch and guide us to the flat. She showed up just as we were finishing.

After a quick tour of the flat we both agreed that it was well-appointed and clean. Quiet too. After we got hooked up to the WiFi I decided to take a nap. Perhaps we will have tea later.

When I got up from my nap, Paula had heard from her friend Sue who will join us later at around 5:00. The three of us will visit Highclere Castle tomorrow.

While waiting for Sue to arrive we walked over to a tea shop located next to the canal. Of course we had cake with our tea. Paula had a carrot cake and I had a lemon drizzle. Many birds in the area. Pigeons, ducks and some swans. Before too long we heard from Sue who just arrived, so we walked back to meet up with her and help her get settled. First time meeting Sue and think we hit it off.

After Sue arrived we talked for about an hour then thought about dinner. We found a place nearby where we could talk and enjoy each other’s company. Also planning our visit to Highclere Castle tomorrow. Up at 6:00 a.m.!

 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

I woke up and drank some coffee, a banana, and a yogurt, but was still hungry. That being the case, I got dressed and walked to McDonald’s and ordered an Egg McMuffin and a hash brown. There was a clue that today was going to be an auspicious day.  My number was ‘000’ and the receipt was only a scrap of paper. (In many new McDonald’s you place your order and pay on touch screen kiosk, a receipt is printed with a number, and you look on the reader board to see when your order is ready.)

I returned to my flat by walking through some side streets and then along the river just to see new neighborhoods. When I returned home I did some packing then left to visit the Chesea Physic Garden, a 10 minute walk away.

Along my walk I passed a statue of Sir Thomas Moore. It caught my eye so I took a picture. It was almost hidden but for some reason I took the picture.

The Chesea Physic Garden was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in 1873. This physic garden is among the oldest botanical gardens in Britain, after the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.

You might not know there was a formal garden since it’s behind a tall brick wall. No big sign, just a small opening to walk through with a small sign almost hidden by a bush. There were several people, including me, who were looking for the entrance at the same time. Once you enter the space opens up and you see a very large and spacious garden.

I walked up and down the paths and saw a variety of plant species that were well labeled and in groups by type or use of plant. There was another section that contained another collection by various regions of the world. Some of the plants gave off a strong almost medicinal smell.

While resting on a bench I saw a group of women sharing lunch together. Was fun to listen to their conversation. They sounded very posh and proper. (I should have joined them to learn who they where.)

It was time to leave the gardens. Still needed to finish packing for my move into the Paddington Hilton for one night. Since there a day between my stay in Chelsea and the two nights in Newbury I needed a place to stay Tuesday night. The train for Newbury was leaving from Paddington Station, so for convenience I decided to stay next door to the station in the Hilton.

I took some pictures on the way back to the Chelsea flat.

Below is a picture of my suitcase, travel bag, and coat. This is how I put everything together when I travel. I know where everything is and know that I’m ready when I see this configuration. (Think I need a new suitcase.)

I hailed a taxi to take me from Chelsea to Paddington. The driver and I were talking about living in London and as we passed the Prince Albert monument along the way I commented that it was my favorite in London. He said his was the Sir Thomas Moore statue in Chelsea. I couldn’t believe it. It was the same statue that I saw earlier. I showed him the picture to confirm. The odds of this happening was very remote since there are statues almost every few feet (or it seems so anyway).

We arrived at the hotel and I went inside to check in. I asked to stay in the tower section of the hotel since it was more modern and guaranteed to be soundproof since we’re next to the station. The porter took my suitcase and we took a very long walk and it took two elevators to get to my room. Wish I had brought along some breadcrumbs to mark where we had walked.

The room was perfect. I almost immediately took a nap.  From “roughing it” in an Airbnb for the past week, it was nice to have a space that was clean, modern, and no chance to a leaking ceiling.

Relaxed the rest of the evening and bought some food from the M&S downstairs.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Paula and we’re headed to Newbury for a couple of days to visit Highclere Castle, as many people would now recognize as Downton Abby.