Daily Journal: Saturday 31 December 2016

The cold snap is over and the mild weather returns. Some of the fog from the last few days remains and it looks like we might get a little rain today.

Today I’m meeting Paula and her friend Cindy at her home in East Finchley. We had planned to visit Bletchley Park (Churchill’s Secret Intelligence and Computers Headquarters). After taking a wrong train I arrived almost 30 minutes late. (It happens….)  When I arrived, we decided to change plans. Cindy was not feeling 100%, so Paula and I decided to head to Hampstead – for no other reason than to have some tea and walk around and look in shop windows.

Directions to East Finchley

Directions to Hampstead

After tea, scones, croissants, and petting the stray cat that hangs around the shop, we walked around the village and up into the residential area. We came across a bakery that had many fun goodies to eat. We took pictures and kept walking. (My favorite were the porcupines.)

We found another bakery that had some sandwiches and other treats, so stopped there and made our purchases. From there we headed our separate ways to celebrate the coming new year.




Hampton Court Palace: 30 December 2016

Still cold today in London and foggy. Great to have some winter weather and to bundle up.

I had some errands near Leicester Square and came across the Chinese arch nearby.

Also took a picture of the crowds around Leicester Square.

Today’s adventure took me to Hampton Court Palace. Long story short about the palace: King Henry VIII took possession of the palace and started to add his preferences to the building. Later monarchs, mainly William and Mary, then George I & II, had their own improvement ideas as well. So, what you have now is an interesting combination of architecture – very much like Windsor Castle.

The palace is not located near a tube station, but there is a train station in the small village next to the palace. Was able to take a train from Waterloo Station directly to the palace and arrived 30 minutes later.

Coming up to the palace, I crossed over the Thames and saw the following scene of the palace (barely visible in the background) with reflections on the river. An interesting picture on this very foggy day.

As I approached the castle, I could make out the palace’s outline and realized how vast the building(s) were. I think all of the structures contained in the palace area are connected, but it was difficult to tell for sure.

I took an audio tour of the palace. There were three primary tours of the building: King Henry VIII, William and Mary, and George I & II (the Hanoverians). There were some other mini-tours as well. The following are some random pictures from what I saw. There was so much to see….

Henry VIII

Some of Mary II Porcelain Collection

Privy Gardens (William and Mary)

Picture in Men’s Room. Shows former fireplace opening, now covered up.

Astronomical Clock (16th Century)

Interior Courtyard


Dusk at Hampton Court Palace

Ice Skating at Hampton Court Palace

Made it home by 5:30 and saw that I walked 15,545 steps today. Nice!







Daily Journal: Thursday 29 December 2016

Woke up today and it was cold outside. Finally getting some cold weather that I remember from past Decembers. Soon after morning coffee, I had planned to visit the local laundry to wash clothes. On the way, there were several slick spots on the walkway from the morning frost. Had to be careful – my insurance isn’t that comprehensive. Glad to be able to get in and out of the laundry within 45 minutes so I could start the rest of my day.

Today I’m meeting up with Ben in Brixton where he lives. Brixton is just south of central London and easily accessible on the Victoria Line. When I arrived, Ben was there to greet me.

One of the first places we visited was a tribute to David Bowie who born and raised in Brixton. A tribute wall, dedicated to him, is not too far from the tube station. We also (perhaps I suggested) to visit his boyhood home, which Google said was located at 40 Stansfield Road, a short distance away. I have pictures of the tribute wall and his boyhood home (below).

I should have taken pictures of the various markets contained near the center of Brixton. A variety of shops and stalls that contained a variety of offerings.

Next we looked for a place to eat. Again, many places of great variety to choose from. We settled on a small pizza place in one of the market areas.

From there, Ben took me to a familiar-named place: Electric Avenue. (I found out later that this was the first market street to be lit by electricity.) Many may know this street from Eddy Grant’s song, Electric Avenue. I took some pictures of the street sign and the associated street.

We walked around some more, looking at the various architecture and street scenes. I can see why Brixton is now the place where the “cool kids” of London get to live. Diverse and interesting around every corner.

After Ben and I parted, I continued to walk around for the next hour before it started to get dark. I’m sure I didn’t see more than 1% of Brixton, but liked what I saw. Was good to get out of central London and explore more of surrounding areas. Thanks Ben!



Daily Journal: Wednesday 28 December 2016

I met Paula, as planned, at the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square at 12:30 today. First stop was to tour Westminster Abbey, then cross the street and tour the House of Parliament.

At Westminster Abbey, it was very crowded, I imagine because of the school Christmas holiday and families were touring together. We used audio guides along with a map of the building. Found out there were no maps in English, so Paula used a map printed in Spanish and I used a German version. We more or less toured at our own speed.

We saw a small part of the church when we attended the concert on the 23rd, so this was a great way to really see most of the building. Every step of the way we saw something historical and interesting. I compared it to living in a house for 1,000 years and you can imagine the quantity of things you would collect. This was my second tour of the church and I saw new things the second time around that I didn’t see the first time. My favorite is Elizabeth I tomb where her sister Mary is interred beneath her, but she was not specifically named anywhere in or on the tomb. The coronation chair (or St. Edward’s Chair or King Edward’s Chair) is also popular since it has been used for coronations for hundreds of years.

Queen Elizabeth I Tomb (with Queen Mary)

Coronation Chair

From Westminster Abbey, we had a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament – just across the street. You can see a little of the Abbey in the picture below, peaking out from behind the Houses of Parliament.  

The Elizabeth Tower with Big Ben inside. Soon to be under maintenance for the next three years starting next month, January 2017.

House of Lords

House of Commons

Westminster Hall (oldest part of the buildings)

More of Westminster Hall and surrounding views below. This was the only place where we could take pictures.



Daily Journal: 27 December 2016

Today I shopped and also got clipped and trimmed. After waking up and getting out the door, I headed off to Kings Road, just up the street.

First I got a pedicure (clipped) then a haircut (trimmed). Next, checked to see how much it would cost to get the screen on my phone replaced. Shopped at Marks and Spencer for some t-shirts and socks. More shopping at the Gap.

From Kings Road, took the tube to Soho and picked up coffee at Illy’s then headed to the Samsung store to pick up my new phone. After extensive research yesterday, I decided on the Samsung Galaxy 7. The sales professional at the store helped me set up the phone quickly and I was out the door before you could say, “Bob’s your uncle.”

All of this took 4 hours and now I’m home eating dinner and finishing up planning my next adventures.

This is what I have planned so far:

Leaving London for Paris: 3 January

Paris: Staying at Juliana Paris 3 – 6 January

Leaving Paris for Zurich 6 January

Zurich: Staying at Renaissance Zurich Tower 6 January

Leaving Zurich for Zermat 7 January

Zermatt: Staying at Granite House 7 – 14 January

Planning trip to Egypt between 14 – 31 January (Cairo then to Luxor)

Budapest: Staying from 1 February to April 30

All for today. Now I get to play with my new phone. WooHoo!



Daily Journal: 26 December 2016

Prean and Viktor left this morning to spend the day with friends in Sussex.  I got ready to do some shopping (actually more looking than shopping) in the Kensington and Soho areas.

On my way to Kensington, I found myself near Eaton Place which was the fictional location of Upstairs, Downstairs – the predecessor of Downton Abbey. Sort of fictional since they used the outside of the real 65 Eaton Place for the exterior shots but put a “1” in front of the “65” to throw off people, like me, from taking pictures of the house.

Neighborhood of 165 Eaton Place.

65 Eaton Place.

From there, I walked by the Natural History Museum (again) and took a picture to show another angle of this magnificent building and the blue sky. A great day for a walk.

My primary mission was to find a few phone stores to investigate purchasing a new phone. I dropped my current phone when I was at Westminster Abbey on the hard stone floor, and even though my phone is fairly sturdy, that was took much for it. The crack is very slight, but think I should replace it since I rely on it so much. Phone still works though. I visited four different stores, so now I’m ready to make my informed purchase tomorrow when the stores are not so busy.

Given that today was the day after Christmas, the stores were having their major sales. Oxford Street was packed with shoppers – even more so than the days leading up to Christmas. It was slow going, but made it to where I needed to be.

While visiting Whole Foods, I took a picture of pomegranates and their cost. This would be a little more than $2 in the U.S. so think this is a good deal. Most food items are priced comparably to most items in the U.S.

Just made plans to tour the Parliament Building and Westminster Abbey on Wednesday.





Merry Christmas: 25 December 2016

If there was a theme for this year’s Christmas, it would be: “An Abundance of Food for All”

We got up and opened gifts. I gave stockings for Prean and Viktor and loaded them up with various Christmas goodies. They gave to me a very nice cashmere scarf and some Merino Wool socks. Nice!

We decided that the Brussels Sprout stalk that Prean bought the day before would be our tree.

Now that we have the shopping done, the tree, and the gifts out of the way, the next thing to do was to start cooking.

After opening gifts, I made some French Toast, including a selection of Canadian maple syrup, raspberry jam, and strawberry Jam. I was going to make baked French Toast but decided to do on the stove instead. Think it turned out well.

After a couple of helpings of french toast, we decided to go for a walk and check out Victoria Station, which was closed due to Christmas. This is a station that handles around 100,000 passengers a day and to see it empty was very interesting.

Before we left, we tried on our scarfs.

Empty Victoria Station

After walking around some we found ourselves in front of Westminster Cathedral Catholic Church, which is one of the oldest Catholic churches in England. We went inside and listed to part of the Christmas service.

We returned home and had some mulled wine and a treat that Viktor had warmed up earlier.

After a nap we enjoyed a meal that Prean prepared. The turkey purchased the day before was an heirloom turkey which was all dark meat that was very tender and flavorful. With potatoes, vegetables, and sweet potato fries.

Viktor was ready to eat.

Then the Christmas pudding….

After all this, we watched the movie, “Auntie Mame” which was a lot of fun to watch. Took a break during the movie and ate some biscuits with cheese.

When the movie finished, we decided to have the remaining pudding.

Had a great Christmas this year in London. Maybe a repeat next year?




Christmas Eve: 24 December 2016 (Saturday)

We went to the nearby public market early this morning to pick up supplies for today and tomorrow. The market was not full of vendors today, probably because of this being Christmas Eve. We found a few items we needed, such as turkey, vegetables, apple juice, eggs, bread, etc.

After shopping, Prean thought we should have some mulled wine so we stopped off at a local pub and celebrated our shopping experience. Then, they showed me the retail shop they are fixing up – very interesting.

Got back to the flat and they took off in one direction and I was to meet Paula at Portobello Road Market at 1:00. Had coffee and a snack with her before doing some serious shopping. Found this sign by the register – probably many have already seen, but still very cleaver.

Decided to take some random pictures of the market.

We each found some things to buy just as many of the stalls were closing up. Took some pictures of the Notting Hill area. Some beautiful homes.

Tomorrow, all of the tube, bus, and train lines are not operating. You can reserve a taxi if you need one, but the whole city is quiet for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!





Daily Journal: 23 December 2016 (Friday)

Slow start this morning – which is just fine. Have been out late every evening this week and need to recharge the batteries. But first, do some laundry since everything will be closed on the 25th and the 26th is also a holiday (Boxing Day).

Later, I met Paula at 3:00 at Trafalgar Square as planned. We were to see a service at St. Martin-in-the- Fields, but their Evensong for that evening was postponed for a children’s program. So, decided to have some tea and talk about our options. A picture of Trafalgar Square below.

Saw some lights on the way to tea.

After discussion at tea, and a variety of other subjects, we decided to walk over to Westminster Abbey for their candlelight service of lessons and carols, which started at 6:00 p.m. When we arrived, we found out we needed to have printed tickets. So we waited in the non-ticket holder line and eventually got in. (I like when it works out like that.)

Tonight’s service was my 4th service this week, but this was the most formal by far. The choir was pitch-perfect. I can’t describe the acoustics – perhaps “sweet” is a good word. The history of the building is literally jaw-dropping as you look around. The service lasted a little over an hour and contained many sacred songs and familiar carols. Our candles were lit as we sang, “Deck the Halls”.

Program from the candlelight service.

After we left, I took pictures of the abbey, then walking to the underground station took some pictures of Big Ben. (To add to my collection.) I’ll have to visit here again because starting in January, the tower, clock and bells will be undergoing a 3-year maintenance project.

Streets were wet after a brief rain shower.

What a week it has been with services and music this week. Five different venues and each with their own special message, song, and spirit of the Christmas season.



Daily Journal: 22 December 2016 (Thursday)

The days leading up to Christmas remain mild and without rain (or snow). Storm Barbara is expected to only affect the northern parts of the UK and Ireland and perhaps we can expect some rain on Saturday in London.

After some false starts leaving the flat, I managed to get on the road by 2:00 p.m. My first stop was to the local library to print, sign, and scan some documents. Then I was free to do some exploring.

My first stop was Green Park. The sun was just starting to set as I took the picture below. The park is bounded on the south by Constitution Hill, on the east by the pedestrian Queen’s Walk, and on the north by Piccadilly. It meets St. James’s Park at Queen’s Gardens.

I walked down Queen’s Walk to Trafalgar Square.

The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square has been donated to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo, Norway each year since 1947 – as a token of gratitude for the British support during World War II. (And this year this tree was voted London’s Least Christmassy Tree.)

Nearby is St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church. There has been a church on this site since at least 1222. The present building was constructed in a Neoclassical design by James Gibbs in 1722 – 1726.

The plan this evening was to meet Paula at 4:30 and have dinner before attending the Christmas program at The Actor’s Church (St. Paul’s Church) in Covent Garden. On the way there, I saw the building where “The Lady” is published. (For those who watched Downton Abby, you might find this interesting.)

The Actor’s Church (St. Paul’s Church) in Covent Garden, completed in 1633, was the first entirely new church to be built in London since the Reformation. Again, since it was dark, I’m relying again on Google to provide a picture of the outside of the church.

Tonight, we are attending a benefit Christmas concert for Cerebra, “A Celebration of Christmas and Love with Music and Song”. The performers tonight are the Hywel Girls Choir & Hywel Boy Singers and the Angelicus Chorale – John Hywel Williams, MBE, Conductor. The music was a blend of traditional Christmas music, classical, and popular songs from the Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. Also a few sing-alongs too. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Amazing talent by young singers from ages 7 – 14 who memorized the words and music to the 20+ songs performed this evening. The standing ovation at the conclusion of the performance was well-earned.

We took pictures of the plaques on the walls of actors and performers associated with the church.

In attendance were Chelsea Pensioners in their red coats. We had a chance to talk to one of them during intermission. The picture below shows the Pensioners and our conductor, John Hywel Williams, MBE.

After the performance we walked to the tube station, but on the way we decided to find “Seven Dials” and take a picture.

Found a shop with an interesting chandelier. Also took pictures of street lighting and the Christmas Tree in Covent Gardens.