We're starting our third day here in London. I've been posting daily on Facebook and if you have access you'll find lots of photos and news of our adventure every day. It's easy to post on Facebook and the photos are already in my phone. But for those who only have the computer for access to our trip; I promise to post every few days.
Today we're taking a late start as our tickets for Buckingham Palace begin at 1 pm; and Mr. Jim needs a rest up morning. Expecting rain today but so far only a few light sprinkles.
This adventure began early last spring as we watched the final program of Downton Abbey...you may remember we tried to visit Highclere Castle where it was filmed in 2015 during our visit but only got as far as the locked gate. After the show ended, Jim asked "if I'd like him to try to get some tickets?" I said "sure" knowing that it was not a likely possibility. Within fifteen minutes he was back to proudly announce that he had secured "TWO TICKETS FOR AUGUST 31ST" ! And so, our planning began for a summertime adventure in England. Never realizing that we would be putting our home of twenty plus years on the market at the beginning of the summer!
We decided to stay within England, spend a week in London and then the balance of the stay in four additional locations: Oxford, Salisbury, Brighton Beach and Leeds Castle; all within the southern part of England. Using AirBnB we contracted with private parties to rent two different rooms with private baths and three private cottages. We rented a car for the time after London.
Once the basics were taken care of, life continued in Yorba Linda. Before leaving on a month long drive across the USA to Florida; we decided to put our home on the market when we returned. If it didn't sell prior to our trip; we'd lock the door and go, deciding what to do when we returned from England. We also started exploring places to move to as Jim wanted to keep a home in the general area. We considered the mountains but didn't like the drive up the hill to Lake Arrowhead. We fell in love with a new complex in Brea; only five miles from East Lake. It is called La Floresta and is a complete development similar to East Lake. When finished it will have attached and detached single family homes, condominiums, apartments and three areas for senior citizens along with a long term care facilities for the elderly. Plus, a fabulous shopping center that is a level two block walk from our unit. We are in escrow for completion in late February of a 1200 sq ft, single level on the third floor with a common elevator. No Stairs! They are called Stacked Flats. Our first brand new home in 56 years of marriage. Our house on the lake sold in July and closed escrow on August 10th. We left for England on August 16th. Our home away from home will be with Jim's sister Barbara in Newport Beach.
We scheduled our travel with a new airlines called WOW Airlines; an Iceland company that just began flights out of LAX in June. A basic, no frills airlines, but the price was fantastic. Seating is all one class, no entertainment and you purchase any food or drinks you want. It was eight hours to Iceland, all flights stop there; and another three hours to Gatwick Airport south of London. We rather enjoyed the experience but will pack more food for the trip home....food is very expensive on the airplane.
Arrived in England at 10 am ;and after a meal, where we shared a table with a gentleman from South Africia; we purchased our Oyster Pass (used for buses and trains) and took the train rather than the bus which would have required us to wait another two hours before leaving the airport. Arrived in Victoria Station and caught the #24 Bus to our first rental. Oops....the stop we needed was closed and we got out at the previous stop....had to walk for about a mile pulling our luggage. The bus stop we wanted was directly in front of our unit! Oh well...best laid plans. It was a very hot day and we were very happy when we located our lodgings with the assistance of the google maps on the cell phone.
Our cell phones are T-Mobile and the plan gives us unlimited data and texting plus twenty cents a minute for phone calls...free if on wifi. This plan is no longer available we hear; but so far has worked in Europe for us beautifully for two years. So nice not to deal with sim card changes. I did notice that the screen on my phone has a major crack but it is under the glass cover and I can't feel it and it doesn't seem to affect the phone performance so have decided to wait until after the trip to get it replaced. I found it the night before we were scheduled to leave. So far so good.
Our first six nights in London are in a small private B&B in a private home. Three in-suite rooms including a full English Breakfast each morning. We are located on Grosvenor Road between the Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges on the River Thames. The back of the house overlooks the river and that is where our beautiful room is located on the third floor...two flights of stairs...a bit noisy from the traffic but delightful for the view.
We relaxed a bit on that first day and then after an early dinner at the King William IV Pub just two lots down; we walked down to the Chelsea Bridge and back before calling it a day. We both had a bit of jet lag. I'd slept well on the airplane but Jim had little sleep except for the final three hours.
August 18th: Our first full day in London; after a filling English Breakfast...juice, coffee & chocolate for Jim, cereal, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast and if we wanted fruit or yogurt. I took a banana with me and we were out the door to walk to the Tate Museum, about half a mile down the river. Enjoyed the large collection of Turner paintings and many others. Then off to the Vauxhall Train Station, a two block walk from the museum; where we caught the train for a half hour ride to the Hampton Court Palace on the Thames River.
Jim was thrilled with the unexpected gallery of the Queens paintings within the palace. She owns the largest private collection of paintings in the world and they are distributed in thirteen private and public residences for personal enjoyment and for the public enjoyment also. We saw Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Van Dyke and other paintings by famous artists. The rooms were restored and appeared very authentic. This palace was originally built by Cardinal Woolsey and given to King Henry VIII when he showed envy of his castle. Elizabeth I grew up in this palace. The palace sits in a spacious park with fabulous gardens and trees that were trimmed to perfection shaped as cones. There were fountains, waterways for boating, a fun park for children, a rose garden and a Maze which I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost inside of while Jim enjoyed a break sitting in the rose garden. We also saw the inside tennis courts which are still enjoyed by royalty today.
It was nearly five o'clock when we started our journey back to London. We'd planned to take a boat back to town but had missed the only one that went directly to where we wanted to go. So we got back on the train. We discovered that we'd overstepped our limits on the Oyster card that we'd purchased as a zone one and two only, one week pass. Oops...had to put a bit more money on the cards to cover the fact that we'd traveled to zone six!
Walking home we stopped at the Grosvenor Pub about four blocks from home for another delicious dinner. Jim had a Sheppard's Pie and I had Beer Battered Fish & Chips also with a tall glass of lager beer. We shared a brownie and ice cream for dessert before walking the rest of the way home.
In through the garden gate to be greeted by our hostess Carole who wanted to hear the details of our days adventure before we climbed the stairs to our beautiful room.
August 19th: This morning it is raining lightly and we're preparing for our trip to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Tour scheduled to start at one o'clock. We purchased our tickets before leaving home for this event that is only possible in August and September when the Queen is on vacation. We're taking our umbrellas and catching the #24 bus to Victoria Station and will walk from there to the palace. Hope you're enjoying our trip up to now.