Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Hilton Kensington (London, England)

Tuesday was my travel day from Plymouth to London. As usual I was up early to clean and pack so I could be ready by 9:30. My Airbnb host said she would like to meet up before I leave for the train station. We had a great chat before she called for my taxi. When the taxi arrived we hugged and I was on my way.

Fairly uneventful going from Plymouth to London. It didn’t seem like the trip took nearby three hours but it did and we pulled into Paddington station on time. From Paddington I took the underground to Notting Hill and from there to Shepherd’s Bush station and walked the short distance to the hotel. For dinner I picked up few items from a local Waitrose and I was all set. Tomorrow I’ll leave for Arundel where I’ll meet up with Paula.

Wednesday morning I was up and ready for my Hilton breakfast. No changes from the last time I was here. Yesterday I found out that I’m on my tenth stay at this Hilton. By now I know my way around fairly well.

As I was leaving to meet the train to Arundel at Victoria station it was good that I thought the train at 9:26 instead of 9:36. It gave me the extra boost to hurry up to get ready and leave the hotel so I can make the connections that would get me to Victoria station.

Once on the train I needed to move a few times to ensure that I was in the part of the train that was going to Arundel. The train separated just after the Gatwick airport stop and we continued on our journey to Arundel.

The station in Arundel is a bit of a walk from the town center but it was good day for a walk and I met up with Paula at the town’s museum. We sat and talked on a nearby park bench before she suggested we tour the nearby castle. She had mentioned earlier that we could tour a nearby castle and true to my pattern of not doing any research beforehand we walked up to the castle.

I thought it was probably ruins of some ancient castle but I was surprised to learn that it was quite large and quite up-to-date since it was the current home of the Duke of Norfolk and his family. This is why I don’t do research beforehand. I like to be surprised. We bought our tickets and a cart took us old folk up the hill to the castle entrance.

It was nearby 1:00 when we arrived at the castle and saw that there was a full cafeteria near the entrance. We decided to have a bite to eat before starting our tour. We found a good selection of food and sat down and talked for nearly an hour before we decided we should start walking around the castle.

The section of the castle we toured were the castle’s “state rooms” and used for official guests, like the Queen, and also guest bedrooms. The Duke and his family currently live in the east wing of the castle. I figured out why the Duke of Norfolk was familiar, the current Duke’s father directed the coordination for both George VI and the current Queen. The Duke of Norfolk is considered to be one of the highest ranking Dukes. No wonder this castle was so big.

After our tour we walked over to a nearby tea shop and had afternoon tea and talked some more. Paula hasn’t made any final decisions about meeting up with me in August, but we talked about the various options and she will make a decision in the next few weeks.

My trip back to London was, for the most part, was uneventful. Though I took the wrong train from Victoria and had to back track a little before getting on a train where I could transfer to the line that stopped at a station near by hotel.

I had picked up a sandwich at Victoria station and I was set for the evening. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow. I’ll wait and see what I feel like doing once I wake up tomorrow.

Monday, 27 May 2019

9 Gascoyne Place (Plymouth, England)

I’m enjoying my new mobility now that the issues with my back and leg seem to be resolved, for the most part. Still a little bit of discomfort but I’m doing so much better. I enjoyed a lazy morning after I made breakfast. Just to relish being pain free.

Once I got myself pulled together and left the flat I headed towards the harbor which is the more historical part of Plymouth. It was about a 10 minute walk down the hill to the harbor from where I’m staying. You can tell that boating is popular here. Not only recreational but there are fishing boats and several ferries too.

Until I started investigating Plymouth I forgot that this was where the Mayflower and Speedwell departed and then returned when the Speedwell started to leak. As a result, I saw many references to the Mayflower. No one knows exactly where the Mayflower was docked since the harbor has changed so much over the last 400 years. Next year is the 400th anniversary.

There are many restaurants around the harbor and this being a U.K. Bank Holiday (Monday) there were many people walking around with friends and family. The weather was partly cloudy so a great day to be out and about.

I settled on a restaurant that declared that the cod used for fish and chips was sustainable. Not sure exactly what that meant but the restaurant looked somewhat popular and I placed an order of fish and chips. What I got served was nearly one half of a fish, or so it seemed since it was so large. A very filling lunch!

I walked around the harbor a bit longer then saw a place that was serving ice cream made with local Cornwall cream. Apparently the dairy products in this part of England are considered to be top grade and the ice cream is well-known. I ordered “Cornwall Vanilla” in a wafer cone. Delicious! From there, I climbed up a hill for a better view. Not wanting to over exert myself, I started my return to the flat.

I’m very happy that my back and leg are returning to normal. I was getting a bit concerned. I’m generally in excellent health and not a good sport when I comes to being restricted by an ailment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll continue to improve.

Tomorrow I leave for London. I’m thinking about returning to Plymouth later this year or next year. And will be sure to rent this flat again. It suits me very well! I’ll be sure to tell my Airbnb host how much I enjoy staying here when I see her tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

9 Gascoyne Place (Plymouth, England)

I was up early and ready to visit Penzance today. Of course I started the day with hash browns and fried eggs. I found a grater in the cupboard that is much better than the one I bought in Montpellier, which made grating the potatoes easier.

After I got ready I left the flat and went down to the street to call for a taxi. I’m still feeling quite a bit of pain in my left leg and thought it best to take a taxi to the train station. I could walk there in 20 minutes, but not today.

I found a seat on the train and settled in for the nearly two hour trip to Penzance. Along the way I saw many fields, mostly devoted to cows and sheep. Like my trip yesterday, I could see the ocean every so often. Looking at the map, it is difficult to tell if I’m seeing where the English Channel meets the Atlantic or if what I’m seeing is considered to be the Atlantic. Or it could be considered the Celtic Sea.

Once I arrived at Penzance I noticed my leg was really hurting. I had to sit down several times to do a few stretching exercises so I could walk out of the train station. From Penzance I was thinking of taking either a taxi or a bus to Lands End – the most westerly point of England. I had thought it would be at least £50 for a round trip, but this was just a guess. Well, I guessed correctly. This was the exact amount quoted to me by a taxi driver who I talked with while in the queue at the station.

As I was sitting at the bus stop I could see that fog was rolling in and that, in addition to the pain in my leg, caused me to question if I should attempt to travel to Lands End. Maybe I should return to Plymouth? Going with my hunch, I opted to return to Plymouth. Too many indicators that told me that returning to Plymouth was the right choice.

I booked a return ticket to Plymouth then and there. The next train was due in 30 minutes and I used this time to order a take away from a nearby food vendor. I’ll eat this on the train. I ordered a tuna with cucumber sandwich on whole wheat bread, a can of lemonade, and a Snickers bar.

When I returned to my flat in Plymouth I did a few more stretching exercises, drank some tea, ate two pieces of toast and took a nap. When I woke up I got right out of bed without any pain in my leg. Nothing! I wrote up a blog posting and then made dinner – a toasted cheddar cheese sandwich.

I watched some TV for a couple of hours then went to bed. My leg and back were still doing very well. Perhaps a little tingling, but that was all. We’ll see tomorrow if I’m healing. As for tomorrow, I’m planning to walk to the old part of Plymouth, around the harbor, to see the local historical sites.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Doubletree Hotel (London, England)

On Friday I didn’t do much. My back and leg are still not working right and I hung around the hotel most of the day. Exercising seems to work but every so often it becomes too painful to walk. Continuing to exercise and resting is probably best. Tomorrow I leave to Plymouth.

On Saturday I woke up early and my “condition” seemed to be in check as I packed to leave the hotel. My goal was to catch the 11:11 underground from nearby Angel station to Paddington station where my train will depart for Plymouth. I had to rush a little but made the train just fine.

When I was checking out of the hotel the clerk at the receptionist desk asked me about my stay. I had to say something about the housekeepers on my floor. A few days ago while I was waiting for them to finish with my room I heard their supervisor asking them to be quiet, but only when I pointed out that they were talking loudly. That didn’t seem to have any effect. Of all of the many wonderful things Hilton does well, this is an area of improvement in several of their properties. If this was a one or two star hotel I could understand, perhaps.

All in all, I was ready for my journey to Plymouth. The trip took nearly three hours since it wasn’t an express train. We made all the stops along the way. As we traveled I could see the southern coast on occasion but mostly I saw fields and an occasional small town. Beautiful green rolling hills.

When I arrived in Plymouth I took a taxi to the Airbnb flat and met the host. She showed me around the flat, located in a building from the early 1800s. Very nice place, neat and clean, and many goodies to enjoy. Think I’ll like it here.

After a nap I walked down to a nearby grocery and bought potatoes and eggs for my morning breakfast and then, on a recommendation from Maxine, my Airbnb host, I walked over to a Chinese restaurant and ordered food for dinner. A very popular place! During the short time I was there I saw three different drivers come in and collect food orders.

When I returned home I saw that they gave me very generous portions. How will I eat all of this? Well, I did and was very full when I finished. I could see why this restaurant is popular.

Tomorrow I leave for Penzance. I really want to see Lands End, which is the most westerly point of England. It will be a two-hour trip but I’ll see more of this part of England along the way.

Thought about my mom today. May 25 is her birthday and she would have turned 90.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Doubletree Hotel (London, England)

I’ve been staying, for the most part, around the Islington area. Still sometimes painful at times to walk, though it seems to be getting a little better every day if I do my stretching exercises.

On Tuesday I went to Sloan Square (Chelsea) and had a pedicure, on Wednesday I just walked around the neighborhood and tried out a new fish and chips restaurant. On Thursday I met up with Csabi who came into London on his day off.

Was good to see Csabi again, and like all good friends we picked up where we left off. After we had coffee I suggested we visit St. Paul’s because he has never been there. Before we went into the Cathedral we had lunch at a nearby M&S.

Since I’ve been to St. Paul’s a few times I was able to give Csabi a fairly detailed tour of the Cathedral. While I certainly don’t know as much as the people who give the tours, I knew that what little I did know would be enough for Csabi. He was awestruck (as I still am) at the size of the place and the artwork and design of the interior.

The other reason I gave him the tour was because he had timed tickets for us to visit the Sky Garden, a viewing floor located in the “Walkie Talkie” (20 Fenchurch) building near Tower Hill. What an wonderful view from up there! After we walked around and took pictures we sat down and enjoyed a snack of raspberry muffins and water.

We parted ways since he was going to meet a friend in another part of London. It was good to see him again. Maybe I’ll see him again next week when I return to London after my visit to Plymouth.

Tomorrow I may go over to Kensignton Palace to see an exhibition or stay around the hotel and continue to exercise and rest.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Doubletree Hotel (London, England)

Yesterday I went over to Buckingham Palace as planned. Always good to check in there while I’m in London. Was a fairly quiet Sunday and many people were out with friends and family in both Green Park and St. James’ Park. While I was in St. James’ Park one of the marching bands came through with at least 200 men, both in uniform and suits, marched by as I was resting on a park bench. I later read that Prince Andrew was honoring veterans at the end of the parade.

It feels good being back in London again. I haven’t been here since the first week of January. I was thinking back on when I first visited London almost three years ago. I was still very much intimidated by the underground back then. Now I use my phone to get me through the turnstiles rather than use an Oyster card and can read the route maps.

Today I took the underground to Oxford Street and Soho and walked around. Another area that I like to visit. I found a place where I ordered a hamburger and rested there while I ate my lunch. I saw a BBC program a few months ago about the pickpockets that frequent the area, so I was on the lookout for them.

Later I finalized plans for the rest of my stay. I leave for Plymouth on Saturday for a few days. I’ve always wanted to visit that part of England and this is more of an exploratory visit. My cousin Glenn visited this area last year and enjoyed his stay there. I may return next year about this time, before I leave for Russia.

Tonight I spoke with Paula and we’re making plans to meet up in Ireland for a couple of weeks in August. She will be in England later this week and I’ll see her one day next week to outline our travel plans.

As for the rest of this year, I’m starting to make plans, at a very high level, of where I’d like to visit. Then I started to fill in spots for next year as well. There are some places that I’d still like to visit while I’m over here. October 2020 is still my target for when I return to the U.S. for at least six months. I spoke with my brother about some of the logistics of acquiring furniture (minimal) for my stay and he said he would help.

Tomorrow I’ll visit King’s Road (Chelsea) and hopefully get a pedicure. It is expected to be a sunny day.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

9 Place d’Ariane (Serris, France)

I was up early this morning so I’d would be ready to meet up with Rick, Aletha and James at 9:00 to order their Uber for the airport. I received a text from Aletha saying that their flight was delayed. Fortunately, this put their departure at the same time as mine.

It all worked out well. Their Uber showed up very quickly and we said our goodbyes and they were off to the airport. I wheeled my suitcase across the square to the train station and started my journey to the Gare du Nord station where the Eurostar departs for London. Timing-wise I had no margin for error since I was leaving at 10:30 for a 12:13 train and had two transfers.

I arrived at Gare du Nord just about when I expected, though I had to find, then walk to the platform. It turns out the train I arrived on was at the lowest level of the station and I needed to go up four flights to get to the Eurostar area. In addition I needed to pass through security and Passport Control. At security the Eurostar people were very helpful to ensure that I got to the platform on time. And I was on board about 10 minutes before we were scheduled to depart. I was relieved that I didn’t have to do anything extraordinary to meet the train.

The journey from Paris to London is about two hours, with no stops. The train slows down to 100 mph when it goes through the Channel Tunnel but otherwise it travels at around 180 mph. I bought a sandwich and a bottle of water at the station before leaving Paris and seemingly before I knew it we were rolling into London’s St. Pancras station.

As I got off the train my leg started to bother me again. It must have been from sitting so long, though I did get up a couple of times to move about. I’m getting concerned that my sciatica nerve issue with my back is not getting any better. I was getting better for awhile, but I think the bed in Serris was too soft for me. Also, since I’ve been trying to sleep on my left side, I don’t think that helped out either. Guess I need to start doing some exercises to put everything back as it was. And go back to sleeping on my right side.

I was able to take the underground from St. Pancras/King’s Cross to the underground station that is minutes from my hotel. Within 15 minutes I was in my room at the Doubletree in Islington.

After I took a long nap I walked over to the nearby Marks & Spencer and bought a sandwich and beer. I wasn’t really that hungry but thought I’d better has someone to eat when I was.

After posting two blog updates yesterday I was looking forward to watch The Crown which was available via the ITV Player. The third season of The Crown wasn’t available to watch outside the U.S. or the U.K. I figured out how to mirror the broadcast from my phone to the TV in my room. I could have watched from my laptop but watching on a big screen TV is better.

After watching a couple of episodes I was ready for bed. Ironically the episodes that I watched had to do with the effect of King Louis Philippe’s abdication as a result of the French Revolution of 1848. He left France and stayed with Victoria and Albert, though this caused some problems with the people of England who were not, at the time, very happy with the oppressive working conditions in England.

My left leg bothered me several times during the night. I’ll continue doing exercises to reduce the numbness and pain. I’ll probably visit a specialist in Edinburgh if the pain continues.

Tomorrow I’ll visit Buckingham Palace and walk in nearby Green Park and St. James’ Park. And nap too.

Friday, 17 May 2019

9 Place d’Ariane (Serris, France)

I’m combining Thursday and Friday postings into one. I’ve caught a cold and not feeling 100%. Right now, I have a runny nose and sneeze every so often, but no sore throat or cough.

On Thursday we returned to the Disneyland complex and went through Walt Disney Studios. Similar to Disneyland, but more focused on Disney’s film projects. There were a couple of fun rides that we went on and also a tram, similar to the one found when you visit Universal Studios where you visit the back lot.

I returned to my flat early afternoon to rest while Rick, Aletha and James continued to shop, go on rides and enjoy the park. We’re meeting up again at 5:00 for dinner in the park.

Aletha treated us to a very nice dinner and afterwards I returned to the flat via the shuttle bus, which takes less than 10 minutes per trip. I must have been feeling the early signs of a cold since I was so tired.

I returned on the 9:30 shuttle to join them for the evening’s light show that started at 10:30. I really liked the show which featured songs from several of Disney’s movies. I think Rick wanted to see more fireworks but the laser lights displayed on the Sleeping Beauty castle were very well done. My favorite was the Star Wars sequence. (Of course.) We were all very tired as we caught the last shuttle back to town.

On Friday we went to the Palace of Versailles. It was fairly easy to get to from where we’re staying. Because everyone was tired from the night before we selected to enter the palace with 11:00 tickets so everyone could get a little extra sleep.

Even though this was my second time touring the palace it still is a great place to visit. I employed a few techniques to help move along Rick and Aletha without being too much of a pest. I tried to explain that there are many rooms to visit. Around 2:00 we were getting hungry and had lunch at one of the palace’s cafes. We toured a few more rooms in the palace then moved outside to the gardens. After all this the time was approaching 5:00.

The return trip was a little more stressful since we were traveling during rush hour. There was one train that was packed and we had to wait for several trains to pass before we could get to the next transfer point. Our lodgings are in the suburbs on the east side of Paris and Versailles is on the west side. It was an adventure for the three of them since they haven’t seen how rush hour works in a very big city.

We were all very tired when we returned to Serris. James slept on the train from Paris to Serris. The three of them went off to have dinner at a local place and I picked up a sandwich from the nearby grocery. But I didn’t eat the sandwich until around midnight. When I returned to my room I had a small glass of beer and then took a very long nap. When I woke I was ready to eat.

Tomorrow Rick, Aletha and James return to the U.S. and I will take Eurostar to London. We’re all leaving about the same time. I’ll order an Uber for them and make sure they get to the right terminal. I think they can handle it from there.

I haven’t planned much for my stay in London. The first few days I’ll mostly rest and take care of my cold, then perhaps I’ll visit Cornwall for a few days. We will see.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

9 Place d’Ariane (Serris, France)

Today we’re visiting the Louvre museum. I managed to get three online tickets for us adults and found that James, being under 18, was going to be admitted for free. Another morning of hash browns and fried eggs. What a great way to start the day!

Was another beautiful day as we took the RER into Paris. We were nearly 800 meters away from the museum but that gave us time to walk in Paris and enjoy the sites before we arrived at the museum.

Again, because this wasn’t peak season, we got into the museum fairly quickly. Our first stop was to see the Mona Lisa. Just before we got there I decided to walk around on my own. Rick and Aletha, since this was their first time, wanted to walk around more slowly.

We met up for lunch and Aletha asked if James could go with me since museums are not too exciting for a 12 year old. I said sure and we planned to meet up again at 3:00. I didn’t order anything where they were eating so James and I found our own place to eat. We found another restaurant in a food court and I ordered lasagna and chocolate cake. James helped me eat both selections. From there we went outside and walked around before meeting up with Rick and Aletha.

We surprised Rick and Aletha with some souvenirs that I bought for James from a street vendor. James and I saw how happy another vendor was when someone bought items from them (since they hear the word “no” all day long). We bought a few items from another vendor so he could have at least one sale for the day. James was delighted with his Eiffel Tower souvenir and key chains.

After we met up with Rick and Aletha they went off to explore the gardens of the Louvre while I rested and posted pictures to Instagram. Then we walked back to the RER station for our return trip to Serris. It was during rush hour and the train was packed. We picked up a few items at McDonald’s and ate them on the train once we could find some seats on the train. It was about a 45 minute ride.

We had no plans for tonight so we went our separate ways to rest up before another day at the Disneyland park. Tomorrow we will visit the Walt Disney Studios when is next to Disneyland Paris. Again I went to bed early.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

9 Place d’Ariane (Serris, France)

Today is the day we visit Disneyland Paris. I got a late start and we missed the first shuttle to Disneyland (a 10 minute ride from where we’re staying). We caught the next shuttle and arrived just before the gates opened at 10:00. Thankfully, it was not during the summer peak and we easily got into the park.

Aletha knows all things Disney and guided us through the various rides. I even rode Big Thunder Mountain twice, thought the first time my phone fell out in the car I was riding but a cast member found it (thankfully). We had lunch and rode a few more rides before it was time to go back for a rest before dinner. We missed the next shuttle so we took an Uber back.

I hadn’t been to a Disney park in several decades but it all seemed familiar once I walked around. I’m still amazed as to the popularity of the Disney experience. The difference of being in France is that characters, like the ones found in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, were bilingual. Oh la la!

We hadn’t realized how late it was and we didn’t have much down time before we returned to the park for dinner. But we pushed on.

We had dinner at a buffet restaurant that was in the park. Aletha had made reservations and we were quickly seated. There was an amazing number of dishes to try and we did our best to try a number of them, including dessert.

I thought they might be tired after a full day of being in the park but we continued with a few more rides after dinner. They were planning to stay for the fireworks but I had hit a wall on my energy reserve and took a shuttle back while they stayed longer. Once I got back to my flat I went to bed (at 9:45).

Tomorrow we’re planning on visiting the Louvre tomorrow. I’ll get the tickets and we’re planning a full day there.