A Lazy Day in Paddington

After my late night returning from the theater, I felt no guilt about sleeping in on Friday. In fact I didn’t feel much like playing the tourist. After brunch I set out exploring the neighborhood. It appears to be on the upscale side of things which is I suppose, to be expected due to its proximity to Kensington and Hyde parks…. much like the upper West side of Manhattan. There are quite a few small hotels but in the residential sections I’ve seen quite a few Mercedes and BMW’s. I even passed a. alley that had a garage with a sign that it was Hertz “dream machine” garage. I’m not sure but I think I saw an Alpha Romeo in there.

 I enjoyed meandering about. I saw this sign on some townhouse steps which amused me.

I also noticed that sister is is extremely popular.

Also a lot of houses have greenery in shapes such as cones, balls and spirals. I particularly liked this one since it looked like headphones.

Also notice how the doorknob is in the middle. I thought that only hobbits did that. Apparently it is/was very popular during certain periods of British Architecture.

My lazy day left me with plenty of time to pick up my theater tickets and head back down to Piccadilly circus to see a comedy.

The play was very funny and my return to my hotel was uneventful as I didn’t even try to find a bus. I just got on the Underground ( after minding the gap ) and it took me straight on back.

¬†Off to the Tower … of London

One of the reasons I enjoy traveling alone is that I don’t have to sleep on anyone’s schedule but my own. On the other hand, I may sleep later than I really meant to. Oh well, I was ready to go find the towers of London … both the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I had already walked across London Bridge several times since it is now in my home state of Arizona fully reconstructed. I eschewed the hop on hop off bus and used my Oyster card and took the Underground to the monument station. Once above ground there were signs pointing the way. hmmm must be a popular spot.

As I meandered my way towards the Tower my eye was caught by a bit of gold way up high. The monument. It is in commemoration of the great fire of the mid 1600’s.

After taking a few photos, I headed on to the Tower. So here is another oddity of naming. It’s not just a tower, but an entire castle. It is in fact, the castle commissioned by William of Normandy aka the Conqueror.

I exchanged my voucher for a real ticket and followed the crowd inside. It was only 5 minutes before the next tour with a yeoman warder so I followed the signs and waited for him to show. Interestingly enough these yeoman warders are actually military folks with over 20 years of service before they are eligible for this duty. The warder for our group actually has on site home, along with others, including a physcian and a chaplain for the castle. Here’s a pic of their homes.

The blue door on the left was the entrance for the home of the yeoman wander conducting our tour. At least part of the above was constructed on orders of King Henry the VIII for his beloved 2nd wife Ann Boleyn. Sadly she lost her head before she got to enjoy it. Ahh those fickle kings of yore….

There are a number of areas within the castle where pictures cannot be taken – such as the chapel and the rooms housing the crown jewels. And yes that was a plural on the rooms housing the crown jewels …. there are a boatload of them. A few were not on display as they were in active use, such as the ceremonial gold maces that are required before the House of Commons and the House of Lords can convene.

After viewing that I went to the memories exhibit to see what the well dressed medieval knight would wear….

Impressive, yes???

How about King Henry’s attire?

Ah well, from there I took a walk around the battlements to soak up the picturesque gargoyles.

I think I should add a few gargoyles to my home except I’m not sure they exactly fit in with my Sante Fe style house.

I spent several hours poking about including checking out the old Norman garderobe in the white tower …. viewing it – not using it!!!!! Modern plumbing has been installed and the garderobe are still there only as historical information!!

From the battlements I had a great view of Tower Bridge so I completed by tour and headed in that direction.

The tower bridge has an upper pedestrian way and the lower part of the bridge opens to allow large ships through (drawbridge). The upper pedestrian portion includes a glass walkway so you can see all the way down to the Thames.

So almost everyone over 30 scooted around the edges of the glass portion whereas those under seemed to enjoy sprawling on it. After first scooting around, I did make myself go back and walk across it. My ticket included a tour of the old Victorian engine room which was in use until sometime in the second half of the 20th century. It’s pretty amazing what can be done with Steam power!

After finishing my tour and browsing through the gift shop, I realized it was time to head back to the hotel and cleanup As I needed to pick up my theater tickets and then still go back into Picadilly to see my show…. The Phantom of the opera!.

The play was great although my discount ticket left me with not the most desirable seat but I enjoyed myself anyway. The discount ticket guy had given me instructions for taking the bus both in and out which worked very well getting to the theater. However it took me over an hour to discover that the bus I was supposed to take back was never coming and to suddenly realize that there was an Underground stop less than a block away. The signage said that the last train was at 2354 and it was already 2357 but I was in luck … either the signage was wrong or the trains were late but another train did show up and I headed back to Paddington station and my 10 minute walk to the hotel. 

Boy was I beat … but alls well that ends well!!

Paddington to Westminster

thI slept later than expected again but once I left the hotel I was ready to explore. I headed east on BaysWater enjoying the cool but dry weather and peering down the streets as I passed. When I got to Lancaster Gate, I noticed a church in a bit of a plaza to the north. it turned out to be a church that had been bombed during WW II. The spire remained but the rest had been rebuilt but in a different architectural style.

you can see the red brick of the reconstruction just above the sign “Spire House”. A close-up of the spire shows the older construction style.

Next I crossed the street and entered into the haven of Kensington gardens. A short wander later I found myself in the gorgeous Italian Gardens.

it is a bit early in the spring for a profusion of flowers but there were still plenty to admire.

As I was admiring the blooms the rain decided it was time to fall and of course my umbrella was safely in my hotel room. Luckily for me, the Italian Gardens boasts a small cafe which was not yet full of folks dodging the rain so I settled in and enjoyed a cup of coffee. The rain was really little more than a gentle mist so I didn’t linger over long before putting up my hood and heading back out.  I left the park and headed back east along the street until I got to the stop for my hop on hop off bus and jumped aboard.

I still hadn’t decided on an exact destination, but the bus stopped to change drivers right in front of the Royal Mews so off I went. For those of you that are not anglophiles, you may wonder about the Royal Cats about now. The derivation of the term is unclear but apparently its from the Latin word that means to change and the old French word that means to mold. Well that clearly only confuses the issue. I do know that in Medieval times hunting hawks were kept in an enclosure called the mews. Later on, the mews was an area in a city behind a row of houses where the stables for the horses were. Now most of the old mews have been converted into apartments. The Royal Mews, however, is the home of all the Royal vehicles. So I ante’d up, picked up my electronic guide and went in.

First up ….

this is the “Semi State Landau”.  It is a convertible with both sides folding down so the passengers can all be seen. There is no driver on the carriage, he actually rides “postillion” or sits on the first horse in front of the catriage. This one is still used. There were some older models on display, but of course the royal state carriage held the place of honor….

This carriage is used only rarely and its a 2 day job to extricate it from the building … the side walls of the building are actually doors ( of a sort). It’s a bit flashy for me …. good thing I’m not the queen (heh).

After exploring the Mews – where the horses were NOT to be found….

Each stall had the name of the horse that belonged there but they were obviously elsewhere. I examined an assortment of children’s coaches, pony carts, donkey carts and so on until I felt that I had exhausted the displays. I left the Mews for the gift shop but didn’t see anything that I couldn’t li’ve without, so I headed back to the street and discovered it was pouring down rain …. must be time for lunch.

After a delicious meal at “Pronto a Mangia” I headed back onto the streets to wander about. The streets were busy with tourists so I decided to go with the flow and what do you know … I was at the front of Buckingham palace. I had not arrived for the changing of the guard but the 2 beefeaters were there on guard.

They really do stand perfectly still except when they march to the entrance and back. It seems like it would be extremely tedious but I suppose it is actually quite an honor.

I spent some time photographing the area but when it started raining again – and me without an umbrella – I decided that it was time to learn my way around in the London Underground. I walked back to the Westminster station where I queued up with some others to acquire my “Oyster” card that would allow me to use the Underground and the London buses. A very helpful attendent helped me choose the best plan and how to use my card… and then I dived in. The London Underground is really quite nice. I could actually hear and understand the voice on the overhead and the signage was very clear. 

I returned safely back to my hotel where I had a light dinner of hummus and breadsticks and (of course) a beer.

Lost in London

After an uneventful, albeit sleepless, trip across the pond I arrived safely in London at Paddington station. This was to be a short 8 minute walk to my hotel …. hah! Of course, I had to engage in some touristy gawping and a reluctance to ask for directions.  I headed out of the station in what I was sure was the correct direction until my iPhone convinced me to make a uturn. Well at least that gave me an interesting photo op.

I forged ahead as if I knew what I was doing until I eventually dead-ended at a hotel entrance ( not mine ) so I started a zig zag return towards Paddington. I consulted my iPhone and went off in another direction. Okay, clearly I need to turn right here….. or wait should it have been a left. I’ll walk a few blocks and then retrace myself if necessary. Okay pretty sure retracing is a good idea and dear God this suitcase is getting heavy. Oh look, I’m right in front of Paddington station again. It’s time to give up on my iPhone but if I turn left here I will be on a street I seem to remember from the map. Ah yes, these street names sound familiar. Aha! my hotel!

All hail Caesar! It was only 0930 which was pretty amazing as my plane had landed at 0630. I felt like I had been wandering for days … okay maybe day. My luck was in and my room was available for an early checkin and the breakfast buffet was still open. I unloaded my bags in my room, consumed some quiche and fruit, showered and then crashed. At some point I woke up and went for a wander in the nearby Kensington park, but eventually went back to my room and crashed again. I woke up off and on during the night and apparently in the am …. blackout curtains are a mixed blessing. 

After a bit of a late start on Tuesday morning I walked down to Kensington park to start my day. It’s a gorgeous park and the sun was actually shining.

It is apparently a “leash optional” park except in certain areas like the lake and the kids playground.

I really enjoyed the park but I had a voucher for 7 tourist attractions that must be exchanged for actual tickets. So after indulging my pastoral senses, I headed back onto city streets in quest of the Westminster Pier. Well at first I just followed along the sidewalk on the south side of the park, but it was so pretty I kept being drawn in. This time by the horse guards exercise area of Hyde park.

I then very firmly told myself that it was time to head south through city streets and get out of the park. I abandoned my iPhone map then as there were handy maps on street corners every half a dozen blocks or so. I realized after a while that I was totally lost in spite of these maps. I pulled out my paper map and tried comparing it to the street corner maps and decided I could never make them work together. it was time to calibrate. according to the street corner map, if I walked two blocks to my right I would be on x street. so what happened? I was no where near x street. So I looked more closely to the next street corner map! aha! The maps were GPS style – North is not necessarily at the top. whichever way you are facing when looking at the map is the top of the map, e.g. if you are facing SW then the top of the map is also SW.  well I was way off course but I did not regret it. I went through some interesting neighborhoods and even got to walk through embassy square.

I finally worked my way down to the Thames near the Chelsea bridge. My first view of the river was not terribly dramatic but it was my first view of the famous river.

I then followed the very lovely Thames river walk past the Chelsea bridge and on until I reached Westminster Abbey and Parliament and everyone’s favorite, Big Ben.

By this time it was late afternoon and I was ready for a break. I got my on/off bus pass and climbed onto the roof of a double decker tour bus and gratefully listened to the tour until it got reasonably close to my hotel.

I cleaned up and was able to meander over to the Maharaja on Queensway where I enjoyed some Naan and tika masala before cLling it a day.

…. and my Tuesday was done.

Baltimore across the pond to London

After a truly wonderful time of visiting with family and meeting 2 members of the next generation, I took my leave of the East coast of the US and hied my way to the airport after enjoying a farewell dinner with my brother and sister in law.

I was flying Air Canada from BWI to London , by way of Toronto, and I learned that they are very efficient. There was no one eve. at their check-in counter until exactly 2 hours prior to my flight time. There May (!) have been some grumbling I. the line as we awaited their presence but I met a lovely person from Nova Scotia and we had a comfortable chat – and perhaps a grumble or two – as we awaited their presence. Once they arrived, everything went smoothly. The odds were in my favor and I was granted a TSA pre-check so I breezed through after checking my bag through to Heathrow. I enjoyed additional conversation with my Nova Scotia acquaintenance until time to board.  

The plane was relatively small, requiring us to descend a ramp to the tarmac and then climb stairs I to the plan. A wheelchair bound gentleman had a bit of a rough go at climbing the stairs but he made it and after the usual, “someone’s in my seat … oh that’s not row 12?” We took to the air and said goodbye to Baltimore and the US.

We arrived safely and on time in Toronto airport where we herded into our appropriate lines to get our passports verified, and then to await our next flight. I said “hasta” to my Nova Scotia buddy and headed off to wait and what a great waiting area! A tablet was in front of every seat! You could enter your flight number into the device and the flight status would then display in the lower corner. Even better you could order beer from the tablet and it would be delivered to your seat!

Air Canada herded us aboard right on time with a minimum of fuss. I had a window seat over the wing so I anticipated several hours sleep but that never materialized . I did enjoy my role as herd beast during the flight. As the window seat occupant I hated to waken the two gentlemen seated next to me to attend to my biological needs, but when the man on the aisle got up to attend his. we all got up and queued up accordingly ….. mooo.

We arrived at Heathrow with no incident and then were herded into our appropriate customs line.. UK vs fast-track vs European vs i-passport vs the rest of us.  The line moved quickly and I was soon released to see if my bag had also arrived. It had and was waiting next to the carousel for me. Yay!

I had bought my ticket for the express train into the city on line from home so all I had to do now was find the ticket office to exchange my voucher for an actual ticket … easier said than done. I must have walked by a zillion kiosks before finding the actual counter, but I did find it, only steps away from the platform. The train arrived within minutes and within the promised 15 minutes we were pulling into Paddington station in London. After my very first time of “minding the gap” I began to feel that I had truly arrived in London.

above is Paddington station.

wanderlust attack

3:00 a.m. is not a time that any self-respecting retired person should be awake, but wanderlust must not be denied! So I packed my bags and gave my girl Kelly (my terrier) into the care of LR with daily midday playtime orchestrated by CN…. thank you, ladies…. and headed for the airport. Destination? First stop is to touch base with family on the US east coast then further on to London.

First I had to survive the flights from Tucson to Baltimore. boarding in Tucson started out on time but about half way through a halt was called for an “emergency” on the plane. Fortunately, the plane was fine. A small altercation had occurred due to a small overprotective lap dog whose owner did not bring a carrier. They were deplaned ( without dragging ) to await a dog carrier and the next flight.

For reasons that I cannot remember, I had booked a 2 stop flight. fortunately the layover in Atlanta was very short. Just long enough for me to stretch my legs and walk to my departing gate. A longer layover awaited me in Detroit so I decided to sample some local brew.

This beer carries the name of Gordon Biersch “Huma Luma Licious”. I had to ask my waitress twice for the name and then finally had to read it to get it straight. It was a very tasty IPA, though. It has the zgal seal of approval.

The remaining leg of the journey was uneventful and I arrived at BWI without mishap. My checked bag also arrived safely and was dispensed into my hand without having to wait endlessly. My brother and sister-in-law were there to greet me with hugs and a cooler of beer in the back seat so I wouldn’t get parched on the drive to their house.

A really pleasant evening followed with homemade taco soup and plenty of family news to exchange and then finally a comfy bed and a great nights sleep.