FINALLY, i am starting this page of many photos and videos.
DAY 1: SUNDAY, AUGUST 21st
we flew out on Saturday, August 2oth, and flew into Heathrow. Because i just can’t sleep on a plane, and it’s not so great for kevin either, I found a daytime flight. i don’t know why there aren’t more flights during the day; it was awesome. i wasn’t tired, i didn’t need to sleep, but by the time we got to England, it was 10:45 p.m. their time. becuase we’d had to get up early for our flight, we were tired by the time we reached our lovely little hotel in the town of Winsdor.
I found that Windsor is only 11 miles from Heathrow, so decided that it would be good to go there first. i read online that you should call a cab company for a good rate, so i had the name of a couple of Windsor companies. i called the first one, and it picked us up after only about a 10 minute wait. the guy was driving a nice volvo, and he wore a suit. the ride only cost 16 pounds, a great deal, and the ride was quick.
we stayed at the Clarence Hotel, and had a very lovely little room. it was reasonable, too, and we didn’t realize just how lovely and reasonable it was compared to our b&b in london until we got to that place.
here’s kevin at breakfast. they served a full english breakfast – eggs, bacon or sausage, mushrooms, tomato, baked beans, toast, or you could get cereal. but no porridge! we’d gotten used to porridge in scotland, but they didn’t seem to serve it anywhere in england. well, i’m sure they served it at fancier places. i’m pretty sure, anyway.
it was a very nice breakfast room, and there was a charming courtyard in back, and i have video of it. here kevin is wearing the same shirt he wore on our very first date!
after breakfast we walked over to Windsor Castle. it was a very short walk, and there was a huge, huge line of people waiting to get in. luckily i’d bought our tickets while still at home, so we didn’t have to queue at all. it’s totally worth it to buy tickets ahead of time, because there seem to always be huge lines.
this is looking over at the royal apartments, where the royal couple stays when they’re at windsor.
this is a lovely garden all around the castle; it used to be a moat.
we saw queen anne’s dollhouse, and the line for that was annoying, and the crowd who went in to look at it was even more so; people kept pushing, and i know kevin hated that, and i wasn’t too keen on it either. but i loved seeing the dollhouse, and i bought a book about it. it has electricity and it’s very intricate and fabulous.
we weren’t allowed to take pictures or video anywhere inside. after the dollhouse, we took a quick look around inside the castle, and it was beautiful but kind of crowded, but i’d signed us up for a special kitchen tour, so we had to leave the castle quickly. a helpful and friendly guard showed us the way out so we could get to our tour.
a special tour is also something i recommend because it was a small group, maybe 20 people, and we got to go into the big kitchen where they prepare huge banquets. i’d hoped there might be something going on there, but they never had tours when it’s filled with cooks.
there weren’t so many guards marching around outside, but we we luckily to see them changing! i videotaped it, too. much easier to see than the changing of the guard at buckingham palace.
it heated up during the day and by the time we were done with the castle we were kind of hot and tired. we walked down the very crowded main street and tried in vain to find a restaurant without an hour-long wait. because it was sunday, and summertime, the place was crawling with people. we finally went to a starbucks and got sandwiches.
afterwards i wanted to go on a boat ride on the thames. i had a map of the town, but for some reason we got lost trying to find the place with the docks, but after lots of backtracking, we finally found it. we hopped on a boat just before it set sail.
because we got on the boat so late, we couldn’t sit in a seat next to the edge. this stupid woman in front of me was sitting on the edge, hogging a coveted edge seat, and her companion was sitting in the edge seat in front of her! a few people did this, and it just seemed rude. here i think she’s videotaping and shooting a photo at the same time.
it was a nice ride, though, and a very pretty day.
the trip was maybe 40 minutes, and then we got our bags at the hotel and schlepped them to the train station. my bag already seemed mighty heavy, but i think that’s the most we had to drag them during the trip. we were going to get on a bus that was near the hotel, but because it was sunday the bus didn’t come very often, so we decided to walk all the way to the train station. it wasn’t so bad, though, and once we were on the train, it was a good and fast ride into london. Windsor is about 25 miles from London.
flying to england during the day instead of overnight was a great idea, and i hope that’s what we do whenever we go back. we were kind of tired just because of the time change and because of all the sightseeing, but nothing like the crazy fatigue from not sleeping all night on a plane.
here’s my video of our day.
DAY2: MONDAY, AUGUST 22nd
We got to our hotel Sunday evening and almost no restaurants around were open, so we went to a kind of touristy place near Victoria Train Station, which was just five minutes from our b&b.
that was the best thing about the place, the proximity. i had extensively researched hotels and b&bs in London – it was really hard to find something relatively inexpensive and also nice. it’s easier to find good hotels for a good deal in NYC. in my rick steves guidebook, he said good things about the b&b i found, the Morgan House. it got pretty good reviews on trip advisor, although there were some better-sounding ones that had already been booked, and i was looking in June. if we go to london again i’ll try to look for hotels earlier.
hotels, by the way, are much more expensive in london.
our room wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t inviting. there was only one outlet in the entire tiny room. there were pieces of paper taped to the wall, with different rules and warnings, like “do not leave valuables in room, even during breakfast.” not very welcoming – you mean we have to worry about the room being broken into while we eat breakfast? that seemed kind of ridiculous, and also like there were nothing but thieves amongst us.
another piece of paper told us that if we wanted to leave our bags at the hotel during the day after checking out, we’d be charged two pounds per bag. i’ve never heard of any place doing this. we were going to do just that, so we somehow managed to stuff our smaller bags into our larger ones, so we each just had one huge, heavy bag to store. but that came later; we spent four nights at the morgan house.
there’s the one outlet on the bottom left.
our b&b, just west of victoria station, was in a very fancy neighborhood, and an expensive restaurant was across the street. at least we did have a window looking out; i bet some rooms didn’t even have that.
our miniscule bathroom. we got an ensuite room, but the toilet didn’t flush so well, so we used the one down the hall a lot.
but it wasn’t the worst place in the world, and we did have a good, if exhausting first day in london on monday. we started off by walking to the Victoria and Albert museum, which was a little over a mile and should have been a 25-minute walk. usually i’m good with directions, but for some reason i got totally turned around and we immediately started walking south instead of north. i realized something was wrong after a while and managed to re-orient myself.
as we got nearer to the V&A, we passed this wonderful building. i just looked it up online, and i wish i’d have known about it when we passed, cause we’d have gone inside to have a look around. here’s what they say about it on wikipedia:
Designed by one of Michelin’s employees François Espinasse, the original building features 3 large stained glass windows. The designs are based on Michelin adverts of the time, and all feature the Michelin Man “Bibendum”. At street level, there are a number of decorative tiles of famous racing cars of the time which used Michelin tyres. These decorative tiles wrap around the front of the original building. More tiles can be found inside the front of the building which was originally a tyre fitting bay for passing motorists. People walking into the reception of the building are greeted by a mosaic on the floor showing Bibendum holding aloft a glass of nuts, bolts and other hazards proclaiming “Nunc Est Bibendum” (Latin for “now is the time to drink”). The reception area features more decorative tiles around its walls. Two glass cupolas, which look like piles of tyres, frame either side of the front of the building. One of Michelin’s other loves is maps. This is represented by a number of etchings of the streets of Paris on some of the first floor windows.
it was built in 1911.
we finally got to the V&A and headed up to the top floor, with a plan to work our way down. the problem is that there were SO MANY FABULOUS THINGS everywhere we looked. We first saw some arts & crafts and art nouveau stuff. here’s a wall sconce.
i’m pretty sure this is a mackintosh fireplace and chair.
they had these marvelous glass centerpiece, which i believe is called an epergne. i want one.
every thing was just so beautiful and exquisitely detailed.
i couldn’t get enough of the jewel-encrusted snuffboxes. i found this one on the V&A website, which has extensive photos of most of their objects. this snuffbox was part of a group owned by Frederick the Great of Prussia, FYI.
here’s a picture looking down on it, from the website.
these stairs were in a lovely room with huge skylights.
i’m probably talking about the stairs while taking this video, which will be at the end of these photos.
we went through a room full of fabulous costumes, but there are not photos – i did take quite a bit of video, though. i started taking video in the room of fabulous diamonds and jewels but then a guard yelled NO VIDEOTAPING ALLOWED, so i had to stop. but i did get a good shot of one lavish crown before i had to shut off the camera.
we had lunch in this beautiful room.
after lunch we decided we’d been saturated with museum-looking, so we headed way back to the entrance. as we went i studied the map and noticed that there were three room, the morris, gamble, and poynter rooms. i figured that morris meant william morris, and i wanted to see that room, so we turned back and headed all the way…to the dining room. after more studying and being mystified that we couldn’t find the rooms, it suddenly dawned on us that we had actually had lunch in one of them, and had looked through all three already. so we then trudged back to the entrance and headed over to the Albert Memorial, on the south side of Kensington Gardens. this was about half a mile from the V&A.
we walked north through the gardens, stopping to look at the Princess Diana Memorial fountain (it’s included in the video), and kevin took a picture of peter pan’s statue.
i wanted to take a boat along the Regent Canal, because i’d seen a beautiful picture of it in a book from the library. lots of canal barges were moored along the banks and it looked really interested and different, so we walked there from the gardens – it was about two miles through the park and up to the Canal. once we reached the north edge of the park we walked quickly, because i’d read that the last boat ride was at 2:30, so we didn’t have a huge amount of time. it was a lovely, warm, sunny day, and a nice walk through some pretty neighborhoods.
when we got to the canal the boat was about to leave, and once again, people sat all along the sides of the boat so the only empty seats were farther in. i tried not to be annoyed by this, because it was still a good view.
here are a few pictures, and i did take lots of video of our 45-minute ride to Camden Lock.
here’s me taking a video going through a long tunnel.
it was certainly different to take the boat ride, and not something that lots of people do. it wasn’t quite a scenic and beautiful as the photo i’d seen in the book, but it was still worth doing. also it was nice to sit down for 45 minutes and relax.
kevin didn’t take any more pictures for a while after we got off the boat. all kinds of stalls were set up around Camden Square, and we stopped and had tea at a little place. i wished i’d been hungry because there were all kinds of delicious-smelling international places. it kind of had a bohemian feel to it, and lots and lots of people.
i did take a little video of camden town, which was kind of like…well, maybe a little bit like the village in NYC, except not. it was VERY CROWDED with people, and we walked and walked south. at this point we should have found a bus, but we didn’t. we walked through some neighborhoods that were very ugly and plain, and it was about a mile and a half to get to King’s Cross Station, where there was Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. I’d read about Harry Potter sites, and i didn’t want to miss this one.
here’s a photo of the inside of St. Pancras station, which was across the street. they’re gearing up for the Olympics, as you can see.
we walked and walked and walked around, looking for the platform – i figured it must be between platforms nine and ten – but then we started seeing these signs all around, because there was lots of construction going on. i love the fact that it reads IMPORTANT INFORMATION! up there on the top. we weren’t the only ones looking for the platform.
the signs led us outside again – because of the construction, they’d created this temporary Platform 9 3/4. not the same thing, but it was still fun. there was a long line of people waiting to take pictures in front of it, and behind us in line were two young english men dressed in suits, and one said to the other that they were going to miss their train, but they waited anyway. there were people there from all over.
here’s the outside of the station.
and once again, that’s where the pictures end. after this we walked to the British Library where they have many fascinating old documents, plus it’s fairly small and manageable, especially after you’ve worn yourself out walking all day.
after that we finally got on the subway and headed back to the hotel. we rested briefly and then headed out to see the play “betwixt,” which was a delightful musical that kevin had found online. ellen green starred in it, and they extended the run, but by the time we saw it she had left the show. it was very entertaining anyway.
because we were rushed for time, we had a light meal in a kind of touristy pub near the theater before the show.
i added up all the walking we did that day, and it was about seven miles, not counting the getting lost and doubling back in the morning plus walking around the museum for a few hours. the thing about london is that it’s easy to walk most places, but we overdid it a little.
ok, i guess we overdid it a lot, because we were pretty tired on tuesday. we still managed to do quite a few things, though.
here’s my video of the day, including my ILLICIT SHOT of a lavish crown in the jewels room, plus many fabulous costumes including a wonderful one from “The Producers.”
VIDEO DAY TWO:
Lots of walking in London on Monday
mrs. hughes in london.
DAY 3: TUESDAY, AUGUST 23rd
Tuesday was rather rainy, but that’s ok because we spent most of the day inside Buckingham Palace.
Well, we also napped in the afternoon, because of the ridiculous amount of walking we did on Monday. We were actually tired for a few days after that.
anyway, i bought passes for the palace online before we left – there were different packages to choose from, and i chose the one called “A Royal Day Out,” which included the palace, the queen’s gallery and the royal mews. it was 32 pounds apiece, which right now is $50. the actual palace itself is only open in august and september, so i figured we should go see it because we were there then and who knows when we’d get back, and who knows if we’d get back in august or september. also, it said that if you got this package, you could go into the palace or the mews at any time during the day; otherwise, if we’d just bought tickets for the palace, we’d have had to go at a specific time, and i read plenty of stories online about people getting there before their alloted time and having to wait and wait and wait.
since i don’t like waiting, and i knew it would be crazy crowded which kevin would HATE, i figured that the royal day out would be the way to go.
it was a short walk from our b&b to the palace; we did have to get to the queen’s gallery at a specific time, i think it was maybe 9:45 a.m. we got there about 9:30 and were shocked to see that there was NO LINE! that’s because, i think, the gallery isn’t the main attraction so not as many people are interested in it. because the gallery wasn’t even open yet we decided to walk the short distance to the palace gates just to check it out and it was a MADHOUSE. people were clamoring for tickets, but it was all sold out for the day.
when i’d bought the tickets online a couple of weeks before we left, i noticed that some of the days were already full, so this didn’t surprise me.
we went back to the queen’s gallery and it opened and we were the FIRST PEOPLE UP TO THE COUNTER. i handed the guy my printout from my computer and he typed in the info and printed me out all our lovely tickets for the day. sweet.
i was very excited about getting in so easily, and no crowds, plus the thought of seeing the palace. we both went into the bathrooms first of all, and when i went into the women’s, i immediately started shooting video because it was VERY VERY FANCY.
the funny thing is that kevin was taking pictures in the men’s! so we were both pretty awestruck by the grandeur of the place.
so here’s my auspicious first photo for you, the mens’ urinals at the queen’s gallery.
you understand, though, that the queen’s gallery isn’t actually in the castle – it’s a totally separate building, and houses a bunch of extra stuff that the queen has – here’s the official description from the Royal Collection website:
The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection, the wide-ranging collection of art and treasures held in trust by The Queen for the Nation.
the gallery was fairly small, with some cool things, and not crowded.
kevin didn’t take so many pictures, and i didn’t take much video. it was kind of neat, but we wanted to press on.
when we left the place, there was suddenly a VERY VERY LONG LINE, so even though the queen’s gallery isn’t as fascinating to people, there were still many people who wanted to see it.
next, we went to the Royal Mews, which was close to the queen’s gallery. there was a kind of big crowd inside, but not so bad. actually, most of it was actually outside; the royal mews is a kind of a stable, but it mostly houses the royal carriages and cars. i guess the royal horses are there sometimes, but they spend a lot of time on holiday. we were out in the central courtyard, and we’d look in at each room housing some spendiferous carriage or vehicle. i listened to the audioguide, but kevin didn’t so much. there was a big mass of people standing in front of each place, and i know that annoyed him so he decided not to listen. he did take a few pictures, though.
i don’t remember which fancy coach this is, but i know i did identify them in the video.
and here’s the ROLLS ROYCE PHANTOM that kate rode in to her wedding! i also have video of this.
and i took this pictures with my video camera, and when i was looking at the photos later i couldn’t figure out what this was – it’s a royal emblem on the side of the car.
here you can see a few of the throngs in front of yet another fancy carriage.
there were a bunch of carriages inside the horse stable, but i don’t know if they actually use it as a stable ever – it certainly didn’t smell like a stable, and the carriages took up a lot of room. it was nice to be inside, out of the drizzle.
here’s the piece de resistance, the super DUPER fancy gold carriage, which was really quite a sight to see.
SO crazy ornate! it’s hard to imagine that people still ride in these carriages.
i have much more video of the royal mews, if you want to watch it.
and then, it was ON TO THE PALACE!
i don’t know why i didn’t videotape the huge, HUGE throng of people waiting their turn to go inside, not to mention the gobs of people outside the gates dying to get in. it was funny, because it didn’t look at all like we’d be going inside the palace; it’s not like they led us up the front steps or anything. we went into a giant roofed temporary place, where there were many groups of people queuing.
and magically, because we had our SPECIAL GOLDEN TICKETS, we got to go right to the group that was going to enter next, the 11:30 group as i recall. i think that all the groups had to wait quite a while, but not the magic ticket holders. we did wait maybe 15 minutes or so, but it was nothing. we met a nice scottish couple; she’d been inside the palace once, but the husband hadn’t.
i’ve learned that just because scotland and england are on the same continent, that doesn’t mean that the people travel from on to the other that much. i wonder if there isn’t still some leftover rancor from all the battling they did so long ago? we met a nice english couple later in the trip, and the guy said that when he went to scotland, the scottish people WERE NOT NICE to him. when we were there, they were nothing but nice.
and when we were in scotland, we met an english couple on a train; they’d just climbed the big mountain in the north of scotland, mount…nevis? no, i can’t remember the name, but anyway, they’d never been to scotland.
anyway, the time in line passed quickly and in we went.
it felt more like shuffling through the huge lines at disneyland instead of going into BUCKINGHAM PALACE.
once inside, though, WOW.
i remember talking to somebody who’d been through who didn’t like it because it was too…what? over the top? BUT IT’S A PALACE, of course it’s going to be over the top! it would be disappointing if it were any other way.
there was NO PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEOTAPING allowed inside, so instead i found these photos online of a few of the rooms.
this is one of the first places we saw, the grand staircase.
this is the blue drawing room, and honestly, i can’t remember exactly what it looked like when we were there. well, for one thing, there were HORDES of people everywhere, it wasn’t all serene and elegant like it is in the picture.
this might have been the room with a separate room off of it with a special display of fabulous faberge eggs and other faberge beautiful little things. now that room was a horribly crowded experience, with people waiting in a big line to walk past the stuff, and pushy people nudging you from behind. the faberge stuff, though – breathtaking.
this is the white drawing room, and you see the picture of the woman (i bet it’s the queen, or at least some queen) on the far wall – next to it is a giant mirror, and there’s a SECRET DOORWAY behind it, so the queen can slip in and out of it whenever she wants to! i kept my eye on the door, but she didn’t do any slipping while we were there.
that’s because she was in scotland, shooting things.
i mean, every one of these rooms, i walked in and thought THIS IS WHERE THEY ENTERTAIN. it’s hard to wrap my mind around that.
this is the green drawing room, and beyond it is the THRONE ROOM.
yes, this is the room where they took the ROYAL PORTRAIT OF THE WEDDING PARTY. the picture was set up on an easel.
also, if i remember correctly, this is where the actual wedding dress with accompanying shoes, jewels, etc, was on display in a glass case, and the cake was in another case. a video was playing at one end of the room, all about the making of the dress. you could sit down on steps here, and many people were doing that, but i didn’t really care about a dress video, and of course kevin didn’t either.
it was neat to see the TEENY TINY dress that the VERY SKINNY kate wore, and then i stood around a while in order to get right up next to the cake.
the cake was seven layers, and they said that the top three layers were reproductions because they saved the top layer to eat later, i guess, and they served the other two layers to guests.
i’m thinking that only a very select part of the guests got any real wedding cake, because those 2nd and 3rd layers were pretty small.
i saw the cut they made in the cake on the bottom layer, but i continue to not understand why they didn’t actually cut a PIECE out of the cake, instead of just slicing into it. i guess it’s for the photo op and that’s it.
plus, why wasn’t the entire cake on display the fake cake? did they eat those bottom layers once they closed the palace to visitors at the end of september? the whole thing seems a little bit funny to me, personally.
after our palace tour we had tea outside. remember, it was a drizzly day, and kind of chilly, and they had a huge open-air tent thing set up, and there were, of course, scads of people milling about trying to get some tea.
we waited in line, though, and finally managed to find a little table.
i thoroughly enjoyed my delicious chocolate dessert, complete with crown-stamped chocolate coin.
kevin took this picture to show the royal emblem on the plastic tray.
and here’s a Royal Paper Cup. kevin wiped ours out and brought them home. i don’t know how he managed to get them back here without smashing them, but he’s much more careful than me. i wonder if he knows where they are now? i bet if i looked around, i’d see them.
this was the view of the back of the palace.
and here’s where we had our tea. the person with the umbrella is one of the many worker, who were there to answer any questions anybody might have.
we walked on a soggy path through the gardens, and i did shoot a little bit of video there; it just wasn’t so nice in the rain. before that, though, we stopped off at the huge temporary tent that was a giftshop and bought many, many souvenirs, including a soft little crown like the ones we saw on top of the lights at Windsor Castle.
we also stopped at the temporary bathrooms; there were no bathrooms on the castle tour, because a CASTLE DOESN’T HAVE PUBLIC BATHROOMS. these were definitely the fanciest temporary bathrooms i’ve ever been in, but there were way too many people in there to take any video.
actually, later in our trip we went to leeds castle and they also had super-fancy portable bathrooms; i bet i did get some video of that. i guess we’ll all find that out eventually.
after touring the castle we took a lovely nap, and then got on the bus to go meet friends for dinner.
here is trafalgar square.
and here are our friends, mary and her husband alan. actually, we’d never met alan, but he was super-friendly and nice and we had a good visit with them. we met mary and her friend carol on the Queen Mary 2 coming back from Scotland, and soon you will see carol and HER husband alan. this makes it much easier, when everybody has the same name.
and here’s my video of our third day, including EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE of the women’s bathroom at the queen’s gallery. i bet you won’t find any of that anywhere on youtube!
VIDEO DAY THREE:
DAY4: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24th
We walked a lot again on Wednesday. first, we hopped on a bus to get to the churchill museum and war rooms. it was drizzly, so good to be up on the top of the double decker bus. that’s the london eye in the background on the left, and that’s the back of westminster abbey.
big ben, of course. lots of protesters in tents were lined around the square there. i can’t remember what they were protesting, exactly, but it wouldn’t be much fun in the rain.
we had to jump off the bus at the last minute because we’d kind of forgotten where the war rooms might be, but luckily we got off in time. the war rooms were all underground, so as to be safer from the bombs, and they were kind of interesting, but we didn’t listen to all of the many audios about them. we did spend lots of times in the museum about churchill’s life – it was really interactive and interesting, full of all kinds of cool stuff. this place hadn’t been high on my list of sights but i figured kevin would like it, but i liked it a lot, too, and would highly recommend it .
it had become a beautiful day by the time we emerged, and we headed over to st. james park, which was close by. this is one of the gates near buckingham castle.
st. james park, such pretty flowers.
the front of the castle.
i had been really, really eager to go on the london eye, and this is a great shot of it.
we hopped on a bus at trafalgar square and got off at st. paul’s cathedral. we didn’t feel like going inside, but instead we wanted to walk across the millenium bridge.
i gave some money to the headless guy, and in the video you can see him waving at me.
now i’m busy videotaping from the millenium bridge, which is fairly new, a cool pedestrian bridge which was jam-packed cause it was such a gorgeous day. maybe it’s always jam-packed; i don’t know, since we just went there the one time.
that’s the london bridge off in the distance.
you might remember the millenium bridge in the opening of harry potter #7 – people are walking on it and it starts undulating and lots of people die. that didn’t happen to us, luckily.
this is what the bridge looked like from the other side. we found a nice little cafe on the south bank, and shared a big cheese platter.
we walked down the bank to the huge IMAX theater to go see the very last harry potter in 3D. we’d already seen it once, but i have to say that it was one of the highlights of our trip.
i know, it’s kind of lame, isn’t it, that seeing a movie for the second time was the best part of the trip? well, it wasn’t the VERY best part, but it was very, very cool. i’d ordered our tickets online, and we got to the theater pretty early and it didn’t look like it was going to fill up but by the time it started the place was packed. the seats weren’t cheap, either.
during the entire movie, you could have heard a pin drop. the only noise the entire time was when a book i’d bought slipped down between the seats and the noise sounded VERY VERY LOUD, but they didn’t kick us out or anything.
it was just so great to see the movie SO HUGE, and in 3D, and i’d go back and see it again if i could, but it’s probably not still playing.
it was dark by the time we got out, and we strolled along the south bank some more. there’s big ben and parliament across the shore.
here’s a closeup of the london eye – when we got there, there wasn’t a line, but it was set up for huge crowds – i bet it was a mob scene during the day, and a guidebook said that it was crazy and the wait was long. we debated about going up in it, but decided that there wouldn’t be so much to see at night. by this time we’d had such a full day that it didn’t seem so critical to me anymore to go up in it. maybe next time.
we walked over westminster bridge next to big ben.
i took this picture of big ben with my video camera, and got kind of obsessive about trying to zoom in to the detailing up on the top, as you’ll see if you watch the video.
it was another busy day of sightseeing, and thursday was going to be our last day in london.
DAY5: THURSDAY, AUGUST 25th
We took the bus on this rainy morning to the British Museum. I’d been looking forward to it a lot; many years ago i went there and remembered the rooms filled with egyptian sarcophagi, and a really cool clock. there were many other wonderful things, too, but i really remember row after row of sarcophaguses, and i think i remember the clock because i took a picture of it. i was there before the museum was updated, and it was a little bit old and musty, but i don’t remember lots of crowds, and i remember back then of wanting to go back someday.
this was the someday, and the museum has been remodeled for a very long time, and EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD WAS THERE.
maybe not every single person, but almost.
here’s the beautiful central courtyard, which was airy and bright and beautiful.
here’s the back of the rosetta stone…kevin didn’t take many pictures while we were at the museum, mostly because he was kind of freaking out a little. not really freaking out, because kevin doesn’t freak out, but he was having a lot of anxiety because of the crush of people.
here’s something very old.
and this is the crowd around the rosetta stone. yeah, how can you enjoy and appreciate it, or even see it, when there are so many people?
the museum is fresh and bright now, but because there were so many swarms around the sarcophagi, we couldn’t stay in those rooms. we battled our way to other places, and because the museum is so vast, there were places where you could actually see things. i videotaped a lot of it, and kevin took…just the one picture. i think this is a shoulder decoration, or it’s part of a purse. i know i videotaped it, and i identify it correctly.
we did find the room with all the wonderful clocks, and i have lots of video footage of them.
the rain stopped and the sun came out, plus kevin wanted to leave the minute we got there, so we left the museum after a few hours. i guess i would recommend going there, but it would be nice to be there when you could actually see things…maybe the crowds thins right before it closes?
because it was such a pretty day, we walked over to Sir John Soane’s Museum. it’s the house where sir john lived, and he collected many fantastic things, and i read about it in rick steves’ guidebook and it sounded worth seeing. the funny thing is that i told dad about it, and he’d been there on his one trip to london! so i guess we think alike.
after that museum, we walked past a cute little park and i videotaped a bunch of cute little dogs who were romping around.
we walked some more, and then took the bus back to the neighborhood of our b&b. we were going to take the train in a little while, but we stopped at the fancy little cake shop on the corner for some tea and a scrumptious cupcake. well, that’s what i had – kevin had some kind of scone and coffee. they also gave us little piece of “fudge,” which isn’t fudge at all in england, it’s candy, but delicious in spite of its non-chocolateness.
the shop was called Peggy Porschen’s Cakes. A lovely and refreshing last stop in london.
at around five we took the train to the little town of Maidstone, to stay with our friend Carol and her husband, our new friend Alan.
the train ride was uneventful, a little bit crowded, but eventually most of the people left so we got to sit down and relax. carol and alan were going to pick us up at the train station, which is the last video i shot that day.
it was a small train station, and we went outside in the street to wait. we waited…and waited. no carol and alan. hmm, that was odd, because i’d called them from the train.
finally, somebody from another train asked us if we were ok, which i thought was nice of them. and then we thought, could there be another entrance? i walked back into the station, and there was a guy leaning against his red car with the trunk open, patiently waiting. ALAN! i yelled, and of course it was alan. all worked out very well, and they whisked us down the road to their cute house.
we met bob, their beautiful irish setter. they have a big garden in the back, with fruit trees and a garden and lots of pretty flowers. their back gate abuts a park, which is really nice.
it was great to be there with friends, as opposed to being in our unfriendly b&b in the big city. carol made chili for dinner, which seemed funny to me. i’d never thought of english people eating chili, because it seems like a very american thing to me, but clearly i must be wrong about that. it was nice to have a home cooked meal, and then we sat around and talked. we went to bed early, because there were many, many things in store for friday.
here’s the thursday video, with lot of footage of the british museum.
DAY6: FRIDAY, AUGUST 26th
It was nice to wake up at our friends’ house, with no notices pasted on the walls at all, like the b&b in london.
we started the day with porridge. when we went to scotland, we got great porridge every morning, but they didn’t serve it at our london b&b. i guess it isn’t a typical thing to serve in england, but how can that be? what about in “oliver,” didn’t he ask for more porridge? maybe it wasn’t porridge oliver was asking for, maybe it was raisin bran.
anyway, carol made us some delicious porridge, and then she had to run a couple of errands. we all went to a huge craft store that’s a lot like Michael’s, except bigger – it was two stories, and it was fun to wander around and see the stuff they had.
after that she had to stop at the mall. i was amazed at the number of people there – it wasn’t a holiday or anything, and yet there were lots of people walking around. i think our mall is only busy on some weekends and before christmas.
one of the many shops, undoubtedly related to kevin. i guess everything in the mall wasn’t open when we first got there.
after the mall, we walked through the also busy town center. lots of shops, lots of people. maidstone is a bustling place.
they dropped us off at the maidstone museum. it was a small place, and we couldn’t imagine that it they’d have much in there.
the first thing was saw was a big display of military stuff – guns, uniforms, etc. it was well done and interesting. we wandered around the museum some more, and there were more things than you’d think they’d have in a museum in a small town. it helps that they have way more history than we do.
there were very few people in the museum, and we ended up in the little gift shop where i bought a whole bunch of small paperback cookbooks, things like “favourite scottish recipes” and “favourite teatime recipes.” i haven’t made anything from any of them yet, but i enjoy leafing through them.
after the museum, we headed for the small town of Rye, on the southeast coast of england. according to google maps, Rye is 32 miles from Maidstone, and it should take about an hour to get there. unfortunately, i didn’t write down how long it really took us, i just remember a harrowing ride through the country. Alan took “shortcuts,” i think, and most of the roads were very narrow, with tall hedgerows on either side. alan didn’t care, though, and just barreled on through, unconcerned about the threat of certain death by head-on collision.
i shot a little bit of video of the car ride on the way back to maidstone. this is a picture of one of the wider expanses.
this is about the width of most of the road.
i think alan might have made a wrong turn somewhere, and so we came in to the back entrance of Rye. Hmm, it didn’t look quaint at all, but rather dreary. they were afraid we were almost too late to get tea, so we stopped at a plain little bar.
it wasn’t much to look at on the inside, and i ordered a tuna-stuffed jacket potato, which is basically a baked potato, except that it was the BEST POTATO I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE.
carol told me the secret of baking them; i think it involves baking them at a low temperature for a long time, but isn’t that how you bake any potatoes? i never bake potatoes. i’m pretty sure there was some other delicious step that made it so delicious.
a couple of the people at the bar had their dogs with them, and i petted one of the dogs.
after our tea, actually lunch, we set off for the old part of Rye, and there it was in all its quaintness.
i love rye, and i’d like to go back again some day and spend the night.
out in the distance is the english channel. i have it on video, but i don’t think there’s a photo.
i wanted to see Rye because that’s where the author E. F. Benson lived. he wrote a series of books based on a character named Lucia, and you probably haven’t read them, but they’re funny and delightful reading. i have the whole set. The characters in the book went to this church, st. mary’s. Lucia’s rival, Miss Mapp, climbed up to the bell tower on top of the church so she could spy on Lucia out in her garden. Lucia’s house is based on Benson’s actual home. I wanted to climb up to the top to get a look for myself.
here’s the dire warning at the bottom of the long and steep climb.
after going up narrow, uneven stairs, we had to climb some ladders.
here’s the inside of the bell tower.
and this is the glorious view. it had been raining a little bit earlier, but luckily it was a beautiful, sunny day.
kevin took this fabulous panorama shot of the valley, and you can see just a bit of the english channel.
there’s the church cemetery, and you can barely see those two tiny dots in the bottom right corner – that’ alan and carol, waiting for us down below. i have good video of them waving at us.
this is a little closer.
The main house on the left, with a little black plaque, is Lamb House, where Benson lived. I kept trying to see the garden, but couldn’t find it anywhere. maybe there weren’t as many houses back then, or maybe the trees have grown up. they probably grew a little, since the books were set in the 20’s and 30’s.
oh yeah, henry james lived in the house before E.F. Benson.
here’s the E.F. Benson plaque. unfortunately, the house was closed that day so we didn’t get to go inside.
here’s the garden window that Benson wrote about a lot. Before Lucia owned the house, it was Miss Mapp’s, and she spent a lot of time spying out of the window. It was always a little hard to visualize how that worked, so it was totally great to actually see it.
here’s carol, walking down the cobblestone street from the house.
Alan and kevin.
we left rye and hurried back to maidstone, had a quick tea, aka dinner or supper. we had cheddar and chutney sandwiches, which are now one of my favorite things. we also had yummy baked goods that carol had bought in rye.
we then headed out to Leeds Castle, which is very close to Maidstone, only about 2o minutes away. in my research about the trip before going, i had read online about Leeds Castle – they showed different movies out on the lawn during the summer, and had different events. our trip coincided with a screening of “some like it hot.” this sounded really cool, so carol got us the tickets.
i also explored other options – they had packages where you could spend the night at the castle, and have dinner and cocktails there and wander out to see the movie. this would have been crazy expensive, so taking the short drive from carol and alan’s house was much better.
the parking lot was a little distance from the castle, and we saw this peacock along the path as we hurried along. we weren’t late, but we didn’t know how many people would be there and we wanted to set up our chairs in a good spot.
the castle – one of my favorite photos that kevin took during the trip. it’s kind of too bad that we didn’t get to go inside, but on the other hand, many times castles are more interesting on the outside. not true for buckingham palace, of course, but the queen doesn’t live at this castle.
it really was huge. kevin kept taking pictures, and i kept videotaping. it helped that it was a beautiful evening, with rosy clouds in the sky.
i guess we did go a little crazy with the pictures and the video, but it was just so lovely, and there were so many beautiful angles to shoot from.
here’s the big screen. it wasn’t on the front lawn of the castle, but across the road. still on the property, of course. plenty of people were already there, but we found a fine spot.
we brought some snacks, but they had stands set up, selling fancy fare.
i love that little camper that sold hot chocolate with bailey’s, among other things.
there was time to look around – there were lots of interesting-looking footpaths where we were, but they were closed cause the castle was closed. instead, we headed back to the castle to take many more pictures and video.
this is another of my favorite england photos that kevin took. it’s funny that almost nobody else was walking around the castle; they were all just hanging out at the screening place. they were probably mostly locals who had seen it enough before.
in the distance are a couple of guys out playing golf. they must have been staying at the castle, or maybe they had golf passes. maybe there’s a leeds castle golf club, which is probably really cheap.
kevin finally stopped taking pictures, but i videotaped a little of the movie; you can see that it was an excellent quality picture. it got kind of chilly as the night wore on, but luckily we had plenty of coats and blankets.
in the video i was enamored with the porta potties, only of course at the castle they weren’t potties, but rather “Luxury Mobile Toilet Units.” going inside, they were more like real bathrooms. they probably have fancy things like this at outdoor events here in the US, but i guess i’ve never been to anything fancy enough for that.
at one point i’m shooting video in the setting sun and say that it’s too bad you can’t hear the jazz band playing. luckily, though, you can hear them, and it’s a very idyllic little moment and i’m glad i captured it so that i’ll be able to remember.
it was a fun, jam-packed day, and saturday and sunday were more of the same, except completely different.
here’s Video #6.
DAY 7: SATURDAY, AUGUST 27th
we were going to sail from Southampton on Monday, and on Saturday Kevin and I and Carol and Alan set off in their car, with the good dog Bob in the back. Their daughter Emma lives in Southampton, and they were going to spend two nights with her and her husband james and their kids, and kevin and i would stay in a b&b.
Carol cooked us porridge for breakfast again, so nice of her. Carol and Alan are both such lovely people, and i hope we get to see them again. maybe they’d like to come visit us? That would be fun.
Since we’d met carol and her friend mary on the queen mary 2, we’d never met carol’s husband alan til he picked us up at the train station. because i excel at worrying, i thought, what if he’s not nice? what if he’s grumpy, what if he feels like we’re a huge imposition? we’d be driving in the car with them to southampton, what if we annoy him and we have a horrible, sullen drive?
and of course i was utterly and completely wrong; alan is fun and kind, easygoing and delightful, and i still can’t believe all the driving around he did, carrying us here and there and everywhere. we kept trying to give him gas money because gas is always waaaay more expensive in england, but he kept refusing it. if they would come visit us we probably wouldn’t do as much driving around because the countryside here isn’t chock-full of fabulous castles and quaint old towns.
We didn’t get a very early start, and i videotaped and took photos of carol and alan’s house.
here they are in the backyard with Bob.
they must spend so much time working to make their garden so lovely. kevin helped by raking up some apples.
they have many cute little garden gnomes.
they also have a little greenhouse, very cool.
ok, why does this say dunham? i took a picture for my friend randy, since his last name is dunham. maybe it’s an old family name or something, because it’s not the name of carol and alan’s street.
we drove on the busy motorway towards portsmouth, and stopped for a walk and some lunch at a little rest stop. but it was NOTHING like an american rest stop – right against it was a wonderful little woods where you could walk, and at the end was…something, i can’t remember what because i didn’t videotape it. i want to say it was a lighthouse, but that seems odd to me because we weren’t at the water. maybe it was some kind of watch tower?
anyway, first we walked, and carol and alan were careful to not let bob step through all the puddles along the path. we walked past a lovely field of heather, which i did videotape, but i guess at this point kevin didn’t feel like taking pictures, or maybe he left his camera in the car.
we walked to the tower or whatever, and headed back. as we were almost back to the car park, bob suddenly laid right down in a HUGE puddle, big enough for him to have a bath in. he was then very muddy, which was actually very funny. but no videotape of that, either!
oh well. carol had brought a delicious lunch, which i think included cheese and chutney sandwiches, which i’ve made a couple of times since being home, and i LOVE them and will serve them again because they’re easy and delicious.
we set off again, but like i said, it was later than we’d planned on. carol and alan dropped us off at the HMS Victory in Portsmouth, but there wasn’t a huge amount of time left before it closed. the whole port area is a tourist attraction; you pay and then you can go on a bunch of different things there, but we really just wanted to see the HMS Victory. well, kevin wanted to see it, and i was happy to go along.
here it is.
kevin took this panorama shot; if i remember, i should use it for my june banner, but june is very far off, so it’s highly unlikely i’ll remember.
the ship is amazingly well-preserved.
it was a little bit chilly, and at the very last minute carol loaned me her jacket, which i was very happy to have because it was quite a walk to the ship.
i think this was lord nelson’s cabin, but i could be wrong. i described a lot of these photos in all the videotaping i did, because i was listening to the audio guide while taping. if you don’t know, the HMS Victory is famous because, well, here is a little excerpt from wikipedia, in case you don’t know about it but want to know a tiny bit:
The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
The battle was the most decisive British naval victory of the war. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.
so that’s it in a nutshell, but you probably knew all that, but i didn’t.
this is where the men slept. even lord nelson slept in a hammock, i believe. maybe this was better because of the rocking of the ship?
the ship was so immaculately clean, and it’s hard to picture what it must have been like when stuffed with lots of men. not as clean, and probably very smelly, because besides all the men, there were also chickens other animals. cows? i’m not so sure about cows, but they definitely had chickens.
I’m pretty sure these were some kind of irons were put on men who were bad.
that’s the naval yard down there.
there’s a lot of video as well as all those pictures.
there wasn’t much time when we left the ship to look around, but we stumbled upon the most fabulous antique mall i’ve ever seen. it was filled with so many different kinds of incredibly things, but we had to kind of hustle through it in a hurry. i did take a little video, though.
we walked out of the shipyard and found our way to a train that would take us to the stop closest to alan and carol’s daughter’s house. it was quite a walk to the train, then we had to switch trains, and it all took a while. alan must have picked us up from the train, but i have no memory of that at all, probably because he took us back to their house where their daughter emma had made us a SPECTACULAR tea, with chocolate chip cookies, scones, homemade bread, and all kind of fabulous things. she had worked so hard, and then we didn’t get there til much later than they thought we would, but of course everybody was OK with that.
emma and james have two children, but i can’t remember their names. it was fun to be with a big family.
alan then drove us to our b&b, and WHY don’t we have any photos of it??? i think maybe tomorrow there will be a couple, and i know there is some video of it. it was a wonderful, beautiful place, and alan had gone there before we came to visit and had checked it out and said it was nice. it had a huge, wonderful garden in back and i did videotape that.
we then drove back and met everybody for dinner at a lovely restaurant.
here is a beautiful sunset; in the video i say that we’re going to have dinner at a place overlooking this bay, but that restaurant was too crowded, so we went to some other delicious place.
what a good day.
in this video, when i inevitably ask kevin how he’s doing, i think you can see that he’s really happy. being with nice friends made the vacation so much more fun.
and that is all for now. more soon, i promise, even though this summer is filled with much too much of everything that needs to be done.
DAY 8: SUNDAY, AUGUST 28th
“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now…we can rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear…”
Do you remember that part of “When I’m 64?” i love that song, and when i was trying to plan for our trip, i became overwhelmed with the many possibilities of places we could visit. i kept writing to our friend Carol and asking her her opinion on different places, and one place i mentioned was the isle of wight.
I decided that we wouldn’t go there after all, because there wasn’t time, plus we weren’t renting a car so it wouldn’t be so easy to get to.
And then, when we arrived at carol and alan’s house, they told us that they had planned a trip to the isle of wight! since they were already driving us to portsmouth/southampton, they decided we could take a day trip over to the isle of wight, on the wight ferry.
This was our last full day in England, and it was a fun way to spend it.
here’s the backyard of the lovely b&b we stayed at, the Heather Gables.
there were a couple of deer in the empty yard next door. the deer looked scrawnier than the deer around here.
here we are, on the Wight Ferry, leaving Portsmouth for the Isle of Wight. in the video you can see a lot more of the journey because for some reason i felt the need to do a lot of videotaping. it was such a beautiful day.
here’s a photo of the Spinnaker Tower – this should be in a travel brochure for the place, i think.
as we sailed past portsmouth, there was a big kite festival going on at an amusement park. i have more video than this, including a huge smurf balloon.
we saw a few scooters getting on the wight ferry, and then more when we got to the island. there was a huge scooter rally, it turns out. they all seemed to be heading to the town of Rye, one of the first that we drove through. i have some footage of the scooters whizzing along the road.
we didn’t really stop, though, til we got to the little town of Shanklin. lovely little place.
there were lots of people on the beach, swimming, sunbathing, kayaking…i can’t exactly remember the temperature that day, but i don’t think it was super warm. the english, though, they’re very hardy.
here’s a panorama shot that kevin took as we drove along the south coast. it was all so beautiful.
funny, that they have palm trees. it could be florida, or california.
we were going to have dinner at carol and alan’s daughter’s house that night, and i realized it would be good to bring a bottle of wine or two. we stopped at a little wine shop in the town of Ventnor, and they happened to be having a wine tasting, which was lucky. carol and i went in, and the shopkeeper was kind of busy, and he told us to JUST HELP OURSELVES. have you ever, ever been at a wine-tasting where they told you that? nope, me neither.
so carol and i did help ourselves, filling our glasses to the top. alan and kevin were waiting out in the car, but kevin poked his head in to take this picture.
we stopped at a couple of other places, including a glass-blowing shop, and a little very touristy town called godshill. tour buses were pouring into godshill, and we walked around a little bit but there were too many crowds, plus it was drizzling at that point.
i don’t think carol and alan had been to the isle of wight in 20 years, and one place they had loved was called the needles. it’s a row of chalk formations on the tip of the island, and here’s what wikipedia has to say about them:
The Needles is a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, England, close to Alum Bay. The Needles lighthouse stands at the end of the formation. Built in 1859, it has been automated since 1994.
The formation takes its name from the former fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot’s Wife that used to stand in its midst until it collapsed in a storm in 1764. The remaining rocks are all short and squat and not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck.
I think that’s funny about the name, especially since the needle-shaped pillar collapsed in 1764!
the needles are way off there in the distance. you can only get to them by little tourist boats.
and here’s a huge hill of heather.
here’s a closer shot of the needles, with the lighthouse at the end. we did finally see them the next day when we were leaving southampton on the QM2, and i have some sort of fuzzy video of it.
unfortunately, the area has changed a lot since carol and alan were last there. now there’s a carnival with all kinds of rides and food and stuff, and a huge, huge car park that was pretty filled up when we went.
they said that when they went there before, they could walk down the cliffs and the chalk had settled into different-colored ribbons, and was beautiful. i guess that’s not allowed anymore because of the erosion.
we didn’t linger at the needles, but instead hurried through the middle of the island to get to the Osborne House, which carol and alan had bought tickets for. the Osborne House was built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as a summer house, and Queen Victoria loved it there.
they thought the palace was open until six, but it actually closed at 5. we got there at 4:15. not a lot of time to tour the place, so we basically sprinted through the rooms – they were nice, but most of them weren’t so lavish, except for the fabulous Durbar Room at the very end, which was built to look Indian. Fabulous.
here’s a photo of it that i found online:
we didn’t get to spend as much time there as i’d have liked, but since we’d hurried through the other rooms we did get to look at things in detail a little. in the cases are gifts that victoria received for her golden and diamond jubilees…i wonder if queen elizabeth will have such a grand place for showing off the gifts she got from her jubilees.
we did get to spend more time in the gardens, which i really loved. i took lots of video and photos, and kevin took lots of photos.
it’s just so lovely, with the italianate gardens in the foreground and the sea in the background. lovely.
kevin always likes to take a picture of me videotaping.
yay! a picture of us together!
this fountain was my favorite…i took some video of it, and then again after they shut it off just a few minutes later.
here’s the whole thing, with no water flowing from it.
i loved these huge grape arbors.
Victoria and Albert’s children made the bricks for this fort. They had nine kids, and they tried to have them learn things outside of the royal life. i bet none of them became bricklayers, though.
i describe this in the video – it’s victoria’s bathing cottage. she’d go in the little room to change into her bathing suit, and servants would wheel the whole thing down into the water and she’d be able to discreetly slip into the water without anybody seeing her. apparently this was a common thing for 19th century fine ladies. a curtain was drawn all around the whole thing so she wouldn’t be seen. this doesn’t seem like the most fun way to swim, really. but on the other hand, i’m kind of in favor of those old-fashioned bathing costumes that were basically dresses with stockings. i could do without the stockings, but i would not be opposed to wearing a dress instead of a bathing suit.
after our exciting visit to the osborne house we spent some time in the gift shop. they had samples of damson liqueur, which is like sloe gin, only made with english damson berries. i had a sample, then i bought a bottle. i just opened it a couple of weeks ago, and i’d have a drink right now if it wasn’t the middle of the day and i still have to go to zumba tonight. we bought many other souvenirs, too, then made our way back to the ferry.
as we sailed back to portsmouth we saw this ship. it looked a lot like the queen mary, and in the video you can hear me prattling on about how it’s definitely the queen mary. it’s not, though, it’s the queen elizabeth, and she’s heading out to sea. i think the queen mary probably docked in southampton on monday morning, not on sunday. it’s neat, though, and does give you an idea of what our ship looked like – that’s the thing, when you’re on it, you never get this magnificent view of it.
it was a beautiful evening.
when we got back to portsmouth, we went to carol and alan’s daughter and son–law’s house for a wonderful dinner. i think emma made a chicken curry, and a homemade fruit something for dessert. mmmmm.
we spent one last night at our b&b, and the next day we set sail!