Monday, December 12, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Jim and I drove our boat this evening...our party was on Saturday...so while we were waiting for the parade to start; I took some photos of the decorated homes. Remember these were taken at night, without flash, from a moving boat!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
After the weekend I will post a second slideshow of the boats in the parade....
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
It was an eventful trip across the pond yesterday; we were almost placed into quarantine when we arrived in the USA. A woman became ill on the plane and we were told to stay seated with our seat belts fastened until further instructions; and if we didn't comply we could be quarantined automatically.
Midway on the flight there was a request for anyone who was a doctor to please come to the aft section of the airplane. We knew something was going on from that point forward. After landing, there were armed police officers and a medical team who boarded the airplane. After about ten minutes they left with the patient. After another ten minutes (or at least that was what it seemed like) we were told that they'd determined that it was not necessary to place all of the people on the airplane under quarantine. Big sigh of relief from everyone as we pulled out our hand luggage and headed for customs inspection.
Our flight didn't leave Heathrow Airport until 2:05 pm; giving us a leisurely morning to get things together before leaving in a taxi for the airport. Once there we all checked in and then headed for the Sky Lounge for some quality waiting time thanks to Barbara's Business Class ticket. Enjoyed a light lunch and then some last minute shopping with the benefit of lower prices because we didn't have to pay the VAT on what we purchased. I snapped a few photos of the Christmas decorations in the airport; they were very impressive. Notice even Harrods has a shop at the airport.
After a two hour layover in Minneapolis, Nancy headed for Chicago and Barbara and I traveled together to Los Angeles where Jim was waiting patiently to pick us up at 10 pm. Long drive home and then off to bed after being up for 25 hours straight. We lost eight hours on the trip home. It was a little over eight hours flying time from London to Minneapolis and then another four hours to Los Angeles.
Our journey included 1,407 miles driven over the two weeks that we had the car. We spent enough money that extra suitcases had to be purchased to bring it all home. But we did get everything home and as far as I know...nothing was broken or missing! It was a great three weeks and we enjoyed sharing our journey with you.
I'm taking a few months off from my blog for the Christmas Holidays. My next travel journey will begin next April when we head to France for two months. This trip will be a bit different as we've rented a studio apartment in Paris for the first twenty days! We'll live like Parisians and share the experience with you....see you in April.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Awake about 7 am, I was ready to leave with Nancy at 8:30 am for our visit to Windsor Castle. Barbara decided to keep her feet up for the day to prepare for the journey home tomorrow.
We walked to the free bus stop that took us to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 in the misting rain. Not heavy enough for the umbrellas but noticeable. Had to wait for the bus but it was an inexpensive way to reach the Airport and when we arrived there; another wait for the bus to Windsor Castle; not free but we did get the senior rate of 4.50 GBP each for one way.
Once we were settled in it was a very pleasant hour ride to the village of Windsor. There we walked up the hill to the castle; arriving just in time for the changing of the guard. It only happens every other day in the winter months. The white line that the soldiers stood behind to keep the tourist away has disappeared; I asked one of the guides and he said it has been gone for at least four years. Now tourist can go stand beside the guard for photos as long as they don’t touch the guard or talk to him.
We then went over to the Doll House and the State Rooms for the tour. I was doing really well taking a photo here and then and finally one of the guards saw me! She made me stand there and delete every photo I’d taken inside the house…darn…and I had some good ones. Oh well, I took a few after the tour from the book that I purchased for the blog.
St. George’s Church was another building to visit inside the Castle. All of the recent kings and queens are buried there. Small compared to some that we’ve seen on this trip but still impressive.
By the time we finished it was nearly 1 pm. We found the Crooked House Tea Room just outside the Castle gates and enjoyed delicious sandwiches. Gave Barbara a call from the owner of the shop’s cell phone and let her know we were getting ready to head into London. We’d established some rapport by telling her that we found the shop in the Rick Steves book. The day has continued to be overcast but at least it’s not raining. We enjoyed our walk as we shopped our way through Windsor village on the way to the train station.
The train ride into London took another hour but it was a beautiful train and very smooth. Arrived in Waterloo Station about 3:30 and decided that by the time we would go to London Tower it would be nearly closing. So, changed our plans and caught the tube directly to Harrods for some last minute shopping.
So glad we went as the Christmas decorations were fantastic. We enjoyed our visit to Harrods before heading back to the tube and the hour long ride back to Heathrow Terminal 5 and the end of our trip for the day.
It started to rain by the time we arrived at Heathrow; had a short wait for our free bus and then a ride back to the area of the hotel. The drop off was a bit further away than the stop where we caught the bus this morning but since we had our umbrellas it wasn’t all that bad.
We’re getting ready to join Barbara for some dinner in the hotel restaurant. Then it’s final packing and off to bed for our journey home tomorrow. Check back in a day or two and I’ll give you the final chapter in this journal about our trip home to the USA. Thanks for joining us on our adventure.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Monday, November 07, 2011 London, Heathrow Airport Hotel
We all met in the dining room this morning at 8:30 am for breakfast before our long trips. It turned into a much longer meal than we’d intended as everyone hated to say goodbye. Our English friends had the day off and were not pushed for time as they were headed east towards their home while we had the long journey north to the Motorway and then west to Heathrow Airport.
It was nearly 10:30 before we finally hugged goodbye and got one last photo of Lavinia’s purple hair under her blond hair. It makes a very stylist statement as you catch a glimpse now and then when she swings her hair! Time was spent showing each other our rooms in the Inn; especially our room with the secret door. We did ask the desk clerk and she said that the Queen Mum did indeed “use” the room during her visit but she didn’t know if she actually slept there or maybe took a nap. For our story…let’s say she did. Nancy’s room was the smallest but one of the cutest with low ceilings and another beautiful four poster bed with a massive carving on the headboard.
I was itching to leave as I knew we had a long morning of country roads ahead of us. Lavinia was giving Barbara lessons on her GPS system and we just about left her!! Peter had turned it on to make suggestions for our route north to the Motorway. Off we went on two lane roads heading north and west. Check out the odd barns with a cone on top in the photos. In and out, up and down, stopping for directions occasionally and finally after over an hour we found the M20 just north of Maidstone. We had sprinklers all morning so it was constantly on and off with the wipers.
Stopped along the M20 for a couple of gallons of gas to get us to Heathrow and then drove in following the signs to Heathrow Airport. When we arrived the fun began figuring out how to get to the Ibis Hotel on Bath Road. Several different roads and finally some directions from a road crew working on the roads; we found the hotel….checked in and put all of our luggage in our rooms.
Back in the empty car we headed for the Rental Car Return down the road following directions from the hotel and on our map. Again…a few wrong turns and one illegal U turn and we were home! It was so nice to see the “Return Rental Car” sign. We were almost two hours late but as far as we know we are okay. No accidents or tickets that we know about! Always saw signs about hidden cameras on all of the roads so one never knows what might come in the mail. But, I think we’re okay.
We took the shuttle bus back to the Terminal at the airport and caught the Tube into Covent Garden in London. It was an hour’s ride but rather pleasant to let someone else do the driving!
We walked out of the Tube Station to huge red balls of varying sizes suspended above the street, a large green reindeer with a red nose and a large Christmas Tree in the center of the square. Christmas is really in the air!
Did some shopping for lunchmeat forks in the antique mall and then searched for a place to have dinner. We checked with Punch & Judy’s but they were out of lasagna already this evening. Then we found Crème de la Crepe that looked good. We each had a ham & cheese crepe with greens; very good and then shared a dessert crepe of snicker bars and bailey’s crème.
Our last items to purchase were extra suitcases to take home the shopping items. Finally found some duffel bags and then went over to listen to the musicians that had began to play. A large instrumental group entertained the crowds and they collected a sizable amount of coins as they had fun with the audience. Everyone was tired so it was back to the Tube for the hour ride back to the airport. Decided to take a taxi over to the hotel rather than wait for the bus. Good to be back at the hotel.
The plan tomorrow is to visit Windsor Castle in the morning and then head into the city for a last visit before we fly home on Wednesday.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Sunday, November 06, 2011 Village of Rye
Well…not quite sure but there is a sign on our door that reads: “Honored by the visit of H.M. The Queen Mother on 9th June 1982”. It is a huge room with a large double bed plus a single bed for the lady in waiting? It makes for a good story. The room has a fake bookcase that opens to a narrow twisting stairway that today can be used only as an emergency fire escape (per the sign on the wall of our room).
To quote from the Hotel brochure for The Mermaid Inn; “When you have partaken of a good meal and fine wine and it is time to retire, you will find the charm continues up the creaky staircases to the delightfully furnished bedrooms, with views through quaint windows to the ancient town of Rye. From a picturesque cobbled street, step back in time and experience the unique atmosphere of one of England’s oldest and liveliest inns.
Well frequented by smugglers over the centuries, and invaders from France – nowadays the Mermaid Inn caters for those who appreciate tradition and charm, coupled with the modern facilities required by today’s guest. The hotel has a wealth of old timbers and many of the character bedrooms have four-poster beds.” The Inn dates from 1156 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1420. Low timbered ceilings makes it interesting for tall people to navigate the Inn.
Our day began later than usual as we slept in under the watchful eyes of the cows and a few bulls that wandered the pasture underneath our bedroom window at The Lodge in Winchelsea. Arriving in the breakfast room about 9:30 am; we enjoyed the continental breakfast that was included with the room.
Soon we were back in the car and headed east towards the village of Rye; our destination for tonight that is less than ten miles away. Arrived in the village without a problem but then began the search for the best way to get into the old village center where we knew the church and our hotel were located. After once around we stopped at a gas station for directions as the map I’d copied from Google Maps was not helping us. They gave us a very good map and hi-lighted the directions for getting into the center via the one way roads. After four more times around the edge we finally stopped to ask a lady for help. She gave us instructions and then offered to get in the car with us as she was headed that way. What a blessing…she took us to a block from the Mermaid Inn; we had to go into the cobble stone streets. There we navigated the very narrow entrance into the parking lot for the hotel…very small and only hold’s a few cars. We’d been warned that we might not be able to park in the hotel lot when we made the reservations over a week ago. They had us double park and have kept the keys in case they need to get the other car out that we are blocking.
Off to the small Catholic Church called St. Anthony of Padua located within a block of the large Anglican Church of St. Mary’s. We arrived at the beginning of the sermon; the building is small and there were no seats to spare. It was a lovely Mass with the new changes that have just come into effect with the start of Advent. Spoke to the priest afterwards and he was delighted that we’d managed to find help in locating the church. Another visitor had been told that there was not a Catholic Church in Rye.
After Mass we visited the inside of St. Mary’s, the cemetery and several nearby streets. The cobblestones are very sharp and difficult to walk on. Thankfully they have paths along the side of them for walking. They are like walking barefoot on marbles! Arrived back at the Inn and it was still too early to check in…have to wait until 1 pm. So off to visit the antique shops; the girls were in their glory…I soon tired of shopping and since it was 1 pm, I headed back to the hotel and picked out the rooms for us with the help of the bell boy who carried in the big suitcases and I managed the smaller ones. There are many steps inside this hotel…but I finally found one that is easy for Barbara to get to but it does have a bathtub. I thought that was preferable to twisting and turning steps to navigate. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the secret door and the history of the room.
As I went downstairs, Barbara’s friends Peter and Livinia arrived. They settled in to their rooms while I went to find the shopping girls. Explored several shops and found them coming out of another one. They were hungry and so was I so we went into the Mermaid Tea Corner shop for a bite to eat. I had Cider and a Jacket Potato with cheese and onions. Delicious! By the time I finished Peter and Livinia had found us and I left them all enjoying dessert and headed back for the hotel. I’m not into shopping even if they are antiques!
Back at the Inn I finished repacking my luggage for our journey tomorrow to the hotel at the Heathrow Airport. The trick is to get everything back into our suitcases and have the breakables in the carryon luggage. We’ll have two more days to explore London before flying home but will do that by train from Heathrow. Then plugged in my computer and enjoyed some wifi time before the rest of them, tired of shopping, arrived at the hotel.
It’s after 6 pm now and we’re getting ready for dinner in the hotel; finally going to use those dress up clothes we’ve carried for the last three weeks. I’ll add the end after dinner.
THREE HOURS LATER:
We started our dinner with drinks in the bar; a delicious red Australian wine in front of a roaring fire in a fireplace that was big enough to stand in! Then into the dining room for a five star dinner. My selection was scallops for starters and Sea Bass for my dinner. Dessert was an apple tart with ice cream. You’ll see what the others enjoyed in the photos. After dinner we had our coffee in the lounge. Service was the best and it was a delightful three hour dinner. Off to bed now until breakfast then off to London to return the car. What a wonderful two weeks we’ve enjoyed as we roamed the carriageways of England.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Saturday, November 5th, 2011 Winchelsea
Brightly colored fireworks exploded over our heads showering down bits of color this evening to our oohs and ahs as we watched the neighboring village of Ickelsham celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Today is the day that celebrates the fact that Guy Fawkes was stopped in his action to burn down parliament some four hundred years ago.
Our day started early when I came down into the Library at our hotel in Canterbury to post the blog that I had written very late last night. By 9:30 we were all at breakfast and by 10:30 we were on the road heading southwest towards the English Channel. We suddenly spotted a sign about Antiques and there was an instant decision to stop and explore the shop. Bagham Barn was a treasure chest full of wonderful items that we’d love to purchase but the cost of shipping them home is unreal. I asked about the cost of shipping a beautiful writing desk; he said “if you pay $1,000.00 for the piece…to break even for a dealer in America he would have to sell it for $5,000.00.” WOW…so the purchases that were made were small enough to go into the suitcases for their trip to America!
An hour later we were back on the road, drove through Rye and on to the small village of Winchelsea, a seaside village on the English Channel. No rooms at the inn due to bonfires scheduled for tonight but we finally managed to obtain a room with three single beds at The Lodge on the outskirts of the village. Put our things into our room and then headed out for further explorations.
We headed in the direction of Hastings. I needed to read the map and pulled into a driveway to get off of the road. Decided to pull all the way in to turn the car around so we could get back on the highway safely; the owner of the house came out to give us some assistance…and I was sure to also check who was using his driveway without permission. Actually we found out that he was coming out to put up a chain across his driveway to prevent people from parking there during the bonfire celebration that evening in their village in a large field next to their home.
We soon found ourselves involved in a conversation with the gentlemen about California and the USA; before we left he invited us to return this evening to watch the festivities from his driveway. Then we were off to Hastings only about five more miles down the road.
We drove the length of the boardwalk that front all along the city between the main street and the English Channel. Heavy traffic and very few parking spaces; we turned around at the western edge of the town and headed back the way we’d just come. At the eastern end of town we found parking and I walked down to the beach to put my fingers into the cold waters of the English Channel before picking up a few stones to take home. Hastings is the site of the battle of Hastings in 1066 that put William the Conqueror on the throne of England when he defeated King Harold. This battle is the subject of the tapestries of Bayeux in France. We found a clever fellow with a sailor hat that let us take his picture and then invited us to do candid shots with him as he did the Popeye pose. Barbara was busy shopping and missed out on the fun!
Back to the hotel for dinner before heading out to see the fireworks and bonfire shows about 6:30 pm. We pulled into the driveway; and we’d hardly parked when the owner came out and invited us to join him and his wife on the rooftop for a better view of the show. We went into the house and up to the rooftop through a small window at the top of some steep and narrow stairs!
Nick and Barbara were wonderful hosts for the hour that we waited for the festivities to begin. It was very dark and VERY cold but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. We could see the dark outline of the huge bonfire pyre in the field and people walking around with torches, both electric and many old fashioned torches that were on fire.
The program is sponsored by the local pub in Ickelsham called Robin Hood. Tickets are sold to raise funds for a charity event. In the very large field behind the pub they had built a bonfire pyre that appeared to be at least twenty feet tall; on the top was an effigy of Guy Fawkes in a chair. We’re told that sometimes they call the dummy by a politician’s name that is out of favor at the time. The people who do the bonfire are called “the bonfire boys”; most of the villagers are involved in the festivities, they dress in costume and we could hear the chanting and drums as they paraded around.
Suddenly the sky lit up and the fireworks show began….a shower of sparkling colors over our heads; at times it was like they were going to land on our heads but they always flickered out long before that could happen. The show went on and on; we couldn’t believe the length of the display. When the final sparkle died; they marched around the pyre torching it with their torches for a blaze that was so hot we could feel the heat from the flames.
We said goodbye to our new found friends and invited them to visit us on their next trip to the USA. People have continued to surprise us with their hospitality throughout out trip but this was truly above and beyond. We said no to the offer of refreshments and headed back to the hotel to warm our frozen toes!
And so we have ended another marvelous serendipity day of surprises. Tomorrow is a new adventure when we will meet Barbara’s friends for a night at the Mermaid Hotel in Rye; only about ten miles from our hotel tonight. The morning will probably be church services and antique shopping. Thanks for joining us for another day on our trip.