Friday, 26 October 2018

Edinburgh, Scotland (23 Great King Street)

Can’t believe how much I slept last night. So quiet that my sleep was not disturbed and was able to sleep in until late morning. By the time I left the flat it was after 1:00 p.m.

My first destination was Bannatyne Health Club to renew my membership. Was easy to renew and one of the counter people remembered me from last year. I also got a few days in December for free. I’ll start working out this coming Monday.

My plan for later today is to make a Cottage Pie. I stopped by a nearby M&S store hoping to get most everything I need there. Was surprised they didn’t have any bay leaves or beef stock. One of the M&S staff recommended that I stop by the nearby Sainsbury store, which I did. One the way back to the flat I visited the Tesco store to pick up the heavier items so I wouldn’t have to carry them as far.

I had three days of travel blog updates to write and to start making the Cottage Pie. I had forgotten how much peeling and cutting prep work was involved. I ended up having dinner at 10:00 p.m. Boy was I hungry by then!

I watched a few more episodes of Salvation before going to bed. No plans for tomorrow, but have a few odds and ends to do that I’ll do from home.

Note: I’m not planning to post every day over the next six weeks. Time to rest from my travels. I’m planning to start using Instagram for my pictures. I work on the Instagram effort tomorrow. I’ll add a new link below when ready.

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Thursday, 25 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

The day has arrived. I’ll be in Edinburgh by late afternoon. But first I need to get packed and the place cleaned before we can leave for the train station. Csabi said my train stops at Milton Keynes on the way to Edinburgh and we planned to ride together at least until then. It wasn’t until we were close to getting on the train when I realized that I had booked a first class ticket. Csabi’s ticket was economy. Oh well, it was a good idea.

We were slightly delayed because there was a accident on the line further up. Someone got hit by a train. I didn’t ask if it was a fatality. We eventually got going about 10 minutes late. Csabi got off at his stop but I didn’t see him before the train pulled out of the station. He said he would try to visit me in Edinburgh.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful for me. Though some of the passengers had to get off at one station because our train was rerouted as a result of the earlier accident. I kept busy playing Hearts on my phone while I was served breakfast then lunch. All beverages were free too. By the time I reached Edinburgh I was full.

Was good to see my host Donna, her husband Adrien and their new baby, Emily. They were waiting for me at the flat. They had the floors refinished and painted the walls. I thought what they had was fine. They brought me my stock pot and baking pan, which they kept for me since last year. We had a good time catching up. I asked if they were going to teach Emily both English and French. Adrien, who is originally from France, said he has been trying. But Emily is only four months old. Guess it is too early to tell until she starts to speak.

The first thing I did was to go to the nearby store then take a nap. Would be nice if I could sleep on planes and trains. I had a good sleep then got up and started to unpack. I’ll be here for three weeks and then move to their other flat which is somewhat nearby.

Later I cooked  a chicken breast on the stove and also made mashed potatoes. Then watched more of Salvation. I probably stayed up longer than planned, but I didn’t care very much. I was enjoying the quiet of Edinburgh and I’m sure I’ll get a good nights sleep.

Tomorrow I’m planning to re-join the gym I have belonged to for the past two years, more grocery shopping and cooking a Cottage Pie. The weather is supposed to be mostly sunny. The expected high will be in the low 50’s. Perfect for me!

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Wednesday, 24 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

Today Csabi arrives from Milton-Keynes. I arrived the station about 10 minutes before his train pulled in. Was good to see him again. I hadn’t seen him since July when I visited him in Milton-Keynes. His English keeps getting better each time I see him.

From the train station we walked to a nearby Costa Coffee and talked while drinking our coffee. We then walked to Soho, which is a 30 minute walk. Along the way I saw a place that takes passport photos and went in to see about getting mine taken. I still need to get a new passport by the time I leave the U.K. It took about 15 minutes, but I left with two pictures. We each read the instructions for U.S. passport photos before I paid. While there I took a picture of Csabi for his U.S. lottery application using the same background screen. Csabi is applying again for the lottery which gives people living outside the U.S. an opportunity to emigrate there and start their careers in a new country and possibly become a U.S. citizen.

By this time we were both hungry and I asked if we could have Chinese food. Csabi said he was up for it and we went to my favorite place, Joy King Lau. We had a very full lunch and needed to walk it off. We walked over to Piccadilly where I wanted to see Fornum & Mason once again. I was fascinated by the place.

I was getting tired and asked if we could return to the flat. I had hoped that we could meet up with Prean and Viktor while we were out and about, but they were finishing up with an event and wouldn’t be available until later.

We didn’t hear back from Prean and Viktor until later and by then it was too late to venture out. Csabi and I went to a nearby store and bought a couple of sandwiches for dinner. We were still full from our late lunch.

We sat around and talked and started to watch a movie but Csabi was ready for sleep. It was probably a good time to call it a night. Tomorrow I leave for Edinburgh and still needed to pack and get the place in good shape before leaving. I’m so looking forward to being up in Edinburgh. (Something that I’ve been saying for the last few months.)

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

Thankfully no fire alarms sounded last night. Though the street work to replace the pavement started quite early, around 7:30 a.m. I’m certainly getting the full London experience. That is for sure.

Today I walked to the “Walkie Talkie” (20 Fenchurch Street Building) and took some pictures. The building is so massive, and is fitted between other large buildings, it is difficult to get a full picture of it.

I picked up a few items for dinner and returned to the flat. Around 5:30 the fire alarm went off again. The first place I visited was the pub next to where I was staying. I found out that they fixed the problem yesterday by turning off their alarm system. So when I was there, they didn’t have an alarm, just the building where I’m staying. So the problem was with something in my building.

The manager of the pub said I should call the fire department, which I did. They came around and found the problem, but not sure if this is what caused the issue the day before. Apparently, the fire alarm call button near the elevator was broken. One of the firemen put in a temporary replacement and they were able to reset the alarm. It was then quiet again.

I’ve started watching the second season of “Salvation” which I enjoyed several months back. I watched several episodes before going to bed. Looking forward to Csabi’s visit tomorrow. I’ll meet him at Euston station at 11:30. He will stay overnight and we will leave together in the morning. Except he is returning to Milton-Keynes and I’m off to Edinburgh.

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Monday, 22 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

I woke up and had a light breakfast. After milling around the flat for a couple of hours I got ready to go out for a walk. I walked over to the “Gherkin” building (formally known as 30 St. Mary Axe) which is only 100 yards away. Quite a sight when you leave the building where you’re staying and it stands out as one of first things you see.

I saw EAT deli (a local chain) across the street, and now being hungry again, thought I’d go in. Quite a name for a deli. You know right away they are in the food business. It was the middle of lunch time and all places to eat were full of business people ordering and eating their lunch. Another sunny and cool day and many were eating their lunch outside. I ordered a chicken pie with mash (mashed potatoes) and took it outside to eat.

Watching all of these business people walking about brought back memories when I worked. Now over two years ago when I retired. I had almost forgotten. Everything was so important and critical to one’s career. I saw men in blue suits and women wearing black for the most part. Everyone seemed very serious. Was I like that?

I pushed on and did some shopping. Picked up a glasses case to replace the one that was in the lost bag, toothpaste and a new brush, and a few items from a nearby Tesco.

As I approached the flat I saw the front door was open and two firemen were standing just inside the door. Then I heard the building’s fire alarm. I didn’t see any smoke so I guess the building wasn’t going up in flames.

When I got to the front door I asked what was going on. One of the firemen said the building alarm had gone off but there was no fire. The electrical panel was open and they said they couldn’t turn the alarm off. When I got up to the flat I called the building management company to report the situation and they didn’t seem to know anything about it. The person I spoke to asked that I check the batteries in my smoke alarm. It was then when I knew that this wasn’t going to be resolved soon. I repeated again that all of the fire alarms (not smoke detectors) were going off and it was very noisy. She said she would contact building maintenance to get them to have a look. I knew this was more than a maintenance people could handle. But I waited for a call back that never came.

I called again and spoke with someone else. She seemed to have a greater sense of urgency and said she would report it. It was then I called Booking.com and asked about my options to move, or to get them to escalate the issue. Then learned that I could be moved tomorrow, but not today.

After an hour I went down again to the building lobby and saw that there were two electricians looking at the panel. They told me that the issue wasn’t with this building’s electrical panel, but the business next door. So I went next door and found that their alarm was more annoying than my building. They had called their electrician and he was driving to their location. They didn’t have the code to shut off the alarm. I knew this would get resolved somewhat soon because they had a wine bar with no customers. Well, did see their only customers. Two business men drinking beer but apparently they didn’t mind the noise.

An hour later the alarm stopped and it was like the world had gone quiet. Even the street noise was good to hear. During the alarm I just tried to keep busy so I wouldn’t be distracted. I was able to put a wet towel around the alarm outside my apartment and that helped a bit.

I could now get on with enjoying my evening. Not sure what I would have done if the alarm continued. Yes, I had excitement for the day, but I’d rather not. As I’m writing this I’m now putting together what I experienced earlier, watching the business people rushing around, like an alarm was going off. Then returning to the flat earlier and that same sense of urgency with real alarms. Guess this was something that I had to learn or experience today.

For whatever reason, after dinner, I was very tired and was in bed by 9:30. No plans again for tomorrow except to walk around some more.

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Sunday, 21 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

I thought I’d enjoy a quiet Sunday morning when at 8:00 a.m. construction or renovation began nearby. Really? On a Sunday morning? Welcome to London! Another city that never sleeps. Trash is picked up at around 3:00 and the street sweepers are either before or after that. Then people returning from some late night partying can occasionally be heard as well.

In the afternoon I walked around the neighborhood and took a few pictures. I’m trying to get to know this area better. The only time I visit the Tower Hill area is when I visit the Tower of London. This area now has many of the high-rise office buildings in London. Mostly finance-related. Including the “Gherkin” and the “Walkie Talkie”. Two iconic buildings near my flat. And more are under construction.

Today I walked a different route to the Tower Bridge area. Was a beautiful, yet cool, sunny day. Many people were out with friends and family to enjoy the sunshine. Aldgate, a defined neighborhood within Tower Hill, is nearby which is where a Roman gate once stood until 1761. This area is part of old London and the streets follow the old roads. Easy to get turned around while walking.

When I returned to the flat the construction noise had stopped and it was a good time for a nap.

Seemed that Sunday evening was a good time to get caught up with friends and was texting most of the evening. Spoke with Hussein who said the army called him up to put in 10 days training in Cairo. He was leaving by train at 1:00 a.m. In Egypt, if you are summoned, you are expected to be there. No excuses.

Glad I’m leaving time during this visit to relax and explore this part of the city when I feel like it. Think I’m getting settled in and even getting used to the new sounds. Tomorrow is Monday and people will be returning to their jobs, so the energy of the neighborhood will be much different.

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Saturday, 20 October 2018

London, England (18-20 Creechurch Lane)

After getting a fairly good sleep, I called building maintenance to see what they could do about fixing a few items today, especially the heating. Fortunately there was a space heater that I could use to heat part of the flat.

For breakfast I ate the leftover food from last night’s dinner. I was too lazy to go to the store, plus I wanted to wait here for the maintenance guy. In the meantime I discovered that the garbage disposal didn’t work.

The maintenance guy showed up a little after 1:00 and I showed him what I found to be fixed. I asked that he work on the heating first. He discovered that all of the heating registers had been turned off. Then, neither of us could find the switch to turn on the garbage disposal so I said that could wait. I’m accustomed to not having one. He fixed the lights in the bedroom. One light’s bulb was partially unscrewed and the other’s bulb had burned out. He couldn’t do anything about the elevator.

Later I walked around the neighborhood then went to the store to pick up some food supplies. Then managed to take an afternoon nap.

Later I posted an update to the travel blog. Uploading pictures didn’t go well, not sure what was going on there. But I eventually got them all uploaded. There are so many little things I will work on when I get to Edinburgh. I’m not able to concentrate on them now.

Before bed I hooked up my laptop to the TV and watched a few shows. Watching TV makes me tired, or perhaps I just get bored and then I get tired. In any case, I didn’t stay up too late. I’ll probably walk around some more tomorrow and take it easy. I’m getting good at that.

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Friday, 19 October 2018

Beaumont, Jersey (La Ruelle es Ruaux)

Was up at 8:00 to get ready for my flight back to London. I’m still trying to find ways to get everything in my new suitcase. It was a bit of a struggle, but think I’m getting better. I didn’t have to sit on it to get it zipped up – that’s always a good sign.

Jeremy took me to the airport at 12:15 and got there in plenty of time for check-in and to go through security. Our flight took off on time and since I selected a window seat, and since it was a clear and sunny day, I took pictures of Jersey as we took off. Also took pictures of us flying over Isle of Wight where Corrine and I visited a couple of weeks before and also the English countryside as we approached Gatwick airport.

Was an easy ride from Gatwick into London via the Gatwick Express. Took the underground from Victoria to East Aldgate station. My Booking.com information told me to check-in at one address, which was new to me, but I rolled my suitcase there anyway. This is when things went a little (not too much) sideways. The check-in was at the management company that handles the bookings and the person I spoke with was not clear about the process.

Then, it was during the check-in process when I found out that the building where the flat was located was about a 10 – 15 minute walk from where I checked in. Then, the process for getting into the building and then into my flat was not clear and asked for an explanation. She couldn’t explain the directions on the card she gave me or which of the three keys I was given unlocked which door because she had never been inside the building. She had to ask her manager. Once she was able to give me a full description I went outside and called an Uber.

I’m glad I asked for clarification about entering the building and the flat. As I walked into the building with another guest, she told me the elevator didn’t work. This would mean that I would have to carry my luggage up two full flights of stairs. So, within 30 minutes, three issues came up.

Once I got into the flat I found that the lights would not work in the bedroom and the heating wasn’t working. (Issues #4 and #5) I didn’t have time to figure out either of these issues because I was planning to meet my friend Sam at 7:00. I left the flat and hoped there wouldn’t be any more surprises when I returned.

At least I had a good night out with Sam and we talked and had a couple of drinks at a Soho pub before finding a place to eat. The streets were packed with people this time of night and many places had lines that went out the door. Sam suggested a restaurant that served Malaysian / Singapore food. Excellent choice – the food there was very good.

I decided not to call the 24/7 maintenance when I got back to the flat. I’ll decided to take care of it tomorrow. Thankfully I had enough blankets to keep me warm during the night.

Not sure what I’ll do tomorrow. I’ll need some food and will probably wash clothes. And maybe explore the neighborhood as well. But #1 on the list will be to call the building’s maintenance.

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Thursday, 18 October 2018

Beaumont, Jersey (La Ruelle es Ruaux)

Today I was up early so Jeremy could take me to the harbor to catch the ferry to Guernsey. We left a little after 8:00, and because of traffic, we didn’t arrive at the harbor until 8:30. My ferry was scheduled to leave at 9:10.

I needed to get a ticket from the counter when I arrived and showed the clerk my on-line purchase. He then gave me the unfortunate news. My tickets were for October 23rd. Somehow I had managed to put in the wrong date when I ordered on-line. Now what? He then suggested I spend the day in St Malo, France. He could convert my ticket into tickets that would get me over to St. Malo and back again later in the afternoon. I asked him to make the changes. Sometimes you have to be flexible.

I was the last person on the ferry and we were soon underway. I had no time to do any research on this town beforehand so I tried to find out as much as I could once I got seated. I found out that it is a port city in Brittany, there is an old town that is surrounded by tall granite walls. It was home once to privateers (pirates approved by the king). The principle building is  the Saint-Malo Cathedral.

Once we landed I walked over to the nearby old town. This part of the city looks like it is fairly intact. The buildings look to be mostly from the 1700’s and there are many shops along two of the main streets that run through the town. Also many restaurants that serve crepes.

I took my time, since I had between 4 – 5 hours to explore today, walking through the streets. Beyond the shops, walking towards the channel waters, was the city wall. From there you could see two forts out in the water. One was Fort National and the other, Grand Bé. The clouds from this morning were burning off and enjoyed my time looking out from the old town walls and smelling the fresh marine air.

I was thinking that I should find a restroom and also an ATM to get some Euros. Neither were in abundance, but it gave me time to walk around some more. I visited the town’s large cathedral before continuing my walk. I finally found a restroom but it didn’t open until 1:30. I decided to have something to eat in the meantime.

I found a restaurant that was off the main street and where I could sit and people watch. Of course the menu was completely in French so I had to translate most of it using my phone. I eventually decided to order Croque Monsieur, or the French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and a salad. They also served fortified cider, which came with the meal.

I was full once I finished lunch but sat there and enjoyed my view of this part of the town until I felt it was time to move on. I had time to look around for another hour before I thought I should walk back to the port to catch the ferry.

At around 3:30 I walked to the port, got my ticket and waited to board the ferry back to Jersey. I didn’t want to miss the ferry, otherwise I would need to spend the night in St. Malo. After awhile we got underway and I was on my way back to Jersey. The captain announced we should have a smooth trip back to Jersey, but it got a bit rough as we got near to Jersey because a storm was passing through. The boat really rocked. I went to the men’s room and I guess one of the passengers was getting a bit sea sick. Glad I don’t have that problem.

When we got off the ship we needed to go through Passport Control. I was a little concerned because there wasn’t much space for the more stamps in my passport. The agent asked me a number of questions about the length of my stay in the U.K. but it seemed to satisfy him to see the spreadsheet that I maintain where I keep try of my stays. He had never seen a spreadsheet like mine before. Though most people that he sees are holiday travelers, not full time travelers. In the end he was satisfied and I was on my way to find a taxi.

The taxi driver was very talkative and just when I was getting out of the taxi he starts talking about Trump. I managed to get away before the conversation got too deep.

Again I was very tired from my travels today and took a nap before making dinner. I didn’t feel like writing my travel blog and went to bed early. I’ll write my travel blog tomorrow before leaving for the airport. My plane doesn’t take off until early afternoon.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Beaumont, Jersey (La Ruelle es Ruaux)

Today I’m touring Jersey with assistance from Jeremy, my host’s husband. We’re meeting at 10:00 and will visit locations he thinks will tell the story of Jersey and give me insight on life on this island.

We first drove over to the harbor where he worked for several years. From there we could see Elizabeth Castle (Elizabeth I, not the current Queen). The castle has been out in the harbor for centuries and over the years it has been modified and built out. The Nazi’s, during their occupation, made modifications that are still visible today. We didn’t go out to the castle, but I was okay with the view from the harbor.

Our tour took us mostly around the perimeter of the island. So many of the Nazi towers can still be seen at regular intervals. Some are built into the hillsides and some are out in the water. I had no idea that Jersey, and nearby Guernsey, were so heavily armed during WWII.

I took a number of pictures during our tour of the island’s perimeter. The landscape changes depending on which direction you’re facing. What you find constant is the rocky shore, and as a result, a number of lighthouses and buoy markers are in place to warn ships of the dangers of getting too close. In some locations, during low tide, you can walk out on the rocks.

Aside from fishing, the main crop of the island is the Jersey Royal potato which has a Protected Designation of Origin. Jeremy told me that seaweed is collected to cover the potatoes while they grow, which could be why they are so special. I’ll have to find these potatoes during my stay in Edinburgh and give them a try.

Not all the beaches are rock-infested and many, particularly on the south side of the island, are wide sandy beaches. Though in these cases the rocks that surround the island can be seen just offshore. Several towns around the island were built to accommodate travelers from the Victorian era onwards. Similar to Douglas on Isle of Man.

By the time our tour was over my head was filled with information about the island. Jeremy had tons of information to share during our tour. He definitely exceeded my expectations.

When we got back he helped me book tickets for my ferry ride to Guernsey tomorrow. Guernsey is somewhat similar to Jersey, but has a well-developed town that has a number of interesting shops. I should find my visit there relaxing.

I was very tired after the tour and took a long nap before preparing dinner. I didn’t stay up too long since I had to be up early for my ferry to Guernsey tomorrow.

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