A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4 – 21 May (Thursday)

sunny

A glorious sunny day!!! We started the day after breakfast, which was the same as yesterday – satisfying.
We picked up bikes at Hyde Park (not far from the B & B). We are getting good at this now. It was a sunny day so Hyde Park was looking its best. I just love the park – the trees are delightful – especially in spring. There were lots of other people on bikes travelling into London so we joined the mob. It is quite funny seeing men in pin stripe suits travelling by bike – there is something very appealing about it. It is a great feeling riding through the Park. We went past Buckingham Palace and then down The Mall. At Trafalgar Square we found ourselves with a pack of cyclists amidst red buses and taxis – all ready to take off when the lights changed. I was a bit worried about all the traffic. However when the lights changed all the cyclists took off ahead of the other traffic – so we joined the pack and got around the round-about with no problems. We left the pack and dropped off the bikes shortly after this, and walked towards the British Museum. The streets are so interesting!! On the way we came across a Monmouth Coffee Shop. Andrew wanted to sit inside and watch as they made coffee. So we sat behind the barista watching the process. Andrew had evidently looked into all of this.
The British Museum is a magnificent building with a very grand lobby. We had a look at a presentation of what we would call cartoons about Napoleon by English commentators. The satire was very funny. He really was the antichrist of the day!!! It is a pity all the apocalyptics amongst evangelical Christians would not be aware of this. Andrew took a shot of one that he thought Joseph would like. We then looked at the Egyptian presentation. It is the biggest collection outside Egypt. There were lots of students – some English and some from other nationalities. The younger ones are just so cute. One group of 9/10 year olds were filling out questionnaires about various items as they chatted and compared notes. I really enjoyed watching them. We went into various presentations – all very interesting. One from Medieval times showed pictures of Jesus’ boyhood days (all based on imagination). They were fascinating! Quite often the theme was about parents not letting their children play with Jesus. In one case a father locked his son in a room so he could not play with Jesus. Jesus then miraculously drew the boy out through the key hole and then played with him!!! They were all along these lines. Bill took photos of some Roman armour for Patrick and Joseph so I took a photo of a Roman birthday party invitation for Eve. I would recommend a visit to the museum to any visitor to London.
We then walked to a Subway for lunch. We sat at tables on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue and Bloomsbury Street across from Central Baptist Church (this is not to be confused with Spurgeon’s church which is Metropolitan Tabernacle on the south-side of the river – we walked past it on the way to Matthew’s place)and watched the world go by – very relaxing. We then picked up bikes again and rode to The Regent’s Park. This was along very busy London roads – so we were jostling with red buses and taxis etc. It is quite an experience! The Park was worth visiting. The trees (as in all the parks) are beautiful. A note for Sandra – go to London in spring!!! The trees are magnificent. Lots of young people and families were in the park. We wandered around the gardens and the boating lake enjoying the surroundings. After this we picked up bikes again and rode down Baker Street (yes, the Baker Street made famous by Sherlock Holmes). Our plan was to turn right into Oxford Street and then ride to near the B & B and drop of the bikes. However Andrew and I overshot Oxford Street. So we decided to drop off the bikes and visit Selfridges. Oxford Street is as exciting as ever. The red buses, taxis and crowds of young people are quite a feature. Andrew and Bill were amazed at the number of sales staff. Some of them were “grooving” as they stood waiting for sales. Andrew and Bill reckon they must be exhausted when their shift is over due to all the “grooving”. We wandered round a bit (without buying anything) and then went back into Oxford Street and walked to Hyde Park to pick up bikes again. There were only three bikes at the bike station – one for each of us. But just before I put my card in the machine a very smart looking lady came and took the last bike (she had a yearly ticket apparently). We were discussing what we would do. She heard and apologised for taking the bike – but I told her we had no complaint as it is “first in first served”. I wanted to walk through the park so Andrew and Bill rode back to the B & B. It was a wonderful walk. The park at end this has some of the nicest areas. I watched two Islamic ladies (I would think in their 30s/40s) with their hire bikes – one was a learner and the other was busy taking selfies whilst her companion kept falling off. This provoked a lot of laughter from the “selfie taker” and frustration from the learner. But they were finding it great fun.
After a bit of relaxing, Andrew went out to meet a former work colleague and Bill went out to do some serious photography around Buckingham Palace and elsewhere in the City. I went for a bike ride around Hyde Park. The park was filled with people – families, young people and some older ones (like me). Everywhere people were taking advantage of the sunny weather and sitting on the grass in the sun. The main walkways through the park were thronged with people and bike riders - but it was still easy to ride. There was quite a gala atmosphere. I don’t know where all the people came from? A wonderful experience!
When I got a bunch of teenagers were guarding the bike station – I don’t think they up to any good. They tried to stare me down, quite pleasantly I might say, so I would not slot my bike in. However I insisted on putting my bike in its slot. Bill encountered them as well at about 8pm. One of the grabbed his handle bars but Bill forced his bike into the slot. Bill saw them riding around on the street a bit later on hire bikes and reckoned that some hapless tourists had been scammed. They were annoying some taxi drivers but they responded to the toots by giving the finger. But it was all done quite cheerily.

Posted by Tomheasley 23:10 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Day 3 – 20 May (Wednesday)

semi-overcast

We got up early and decided to go for a walk around the area at about 5.45am. We walked up Queensborough Terrace and then up Queensway. We passed a delightful little fenced park with beautiful trees, called Porchester Square. It is closed at night and opened during the day. The weather was quite cool and partly overcast. We bought coffees from “Pret a Manger “– very welcome. We had breakfast at the B & B at 8.00am. It was simple but nice. After this we hit the road. We picked up bikes in Hyde Park and pedalled through the park. I thoroughly enjoyed this - it was fresh and cool and we were in the midst of the beautiful greenery of the park. We then went through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace. There was some occasion in progress (we could hear a band and caught sight of marching soldiers) so some of the roads were blocked which made it more difficult getting to Westminster station, where we are meeting Matthew. We got to the bike drop of point but there were only two spaces, so Bill went to find another (he went to three more before finding a spot for his bike!). Andrew and I went to meet Matthew. We stood across the road from Parliament House and waited for Bill. He had trouble finding us in the crowds. Eventually I heard my mobile ringing and we then spotted Bill across the road – he had been walking around trying to find us. After a bit of vigorous waving he spotted us. This had taken about 45 minutes. We set out on our way firstly walking east on the northern side of the Thames. We walked through a beautiful garden in front of a very stately old building and then across Waterloo Bridge. We then walked east on the south side of the Thames. We hit some blustery wet weather. But after this the weather improved – the day ended up very sunny. We walked through areas of old warehouses which have been wonderfully restored and are now pricey residences. Previously they would have been grimy warehouses located in the midst of slums. What a change! We eventually came to Monmouth Coffee Shop in Southwark. This had been Andrew’s dream – he is now ready to come home! We had coffee and then wandered through Boroughs Market (next to Southwark Cathedral – which is quite famous and quite controversial). This is a most interesting place selling all kinds of food. It looks quite like a normal market but to set up shop in this market is a very difficult – the operators are very choosey. We had an Ethiopian lunch (beef, rice and vegies). It was delicious! Totally enjoyable! We then caught a train at Victoria Cross station and went to Greenwich. Now that is a place worth visiting! We walked through a wonderful park (beautiful trees) up to the Greenwich Hill which overlooks the park, the summer residence of Queen Elizabeth 1, the Thames River and also gives a great view of London. London is very flat so even a small hill gives a view. We then came down to the summer residence – there are great buildings in this area – some of the most impressive buildings we have seen. We went into the Painted Hall which is part of the Old Naval College. This is a big room for meetings; the ceiling and walls are covered in the most beautiful paintings. Most impressive! You can hire it for weddings (if you could afford it)!
We came to the pier to catch a ferry back to Westminster. There I was rewarded with seeing the famous replica of the Cutty Sark. The ship is very special to me as Hope bought me a model (one to put together) of the Cutty Sark some 35 years ago. Since then the ship has been very special to me. It represents the glorious end of the era of sail. We caught the ferry and sat on the upper deck. A brisk cold breeze was blowing. Bill was rejoicing in the cold breeze. He only had a shirt on but was extolling the virtues of cooler weather. The river is lined with units/apartments. Many are converted warehouses. They would all be quite outside my league from a financial point of view. We passed the new financial centre of London (Canary Wharf) and also passed the HMS Belfast (a cruiser built in the 1930s which is now part of the War Museum). The ferry took us past Parliament House – the view of this building from the river is superb. The ferry operator informed us that the Lord’s Prayer is engraved all around the building about 3 metres from the ground. I was quite impressed with this.
We disembarked into a crowd of students and then walked to Convent Garden in West End. This was a most enjoyable walk. The area is a square in front of St Pauls Church (the “Actors Church”). We had very welcome refreshments sitting on a balcony overlooking the square and watched two street performances. The sun was now fully shining – so it was a most relaxing time. One performer was a tight rope walker – the next was an escapologist (he was quite a comedian). London is a truly amazing city!!!
We then walked to Matthew’s home in Kennington. This was a half hour of brisk walking. It was very interesting. Matthew has bought a terrace house – the ground floor and the basement and is doing it up. It is very nice. They have two Lhasa Apsos. They are very friendly cute dogs. They live happily in the house on their own during the day (apart from having a walk by a dog walker).
Matthew had booked us for a meal at 7.00pm at The Tommyfield – a pub in Kennington. The booking was for 7 (the two dogs were included and sat with us during the meal)! It was a very nice walk to the pub. We walked through Cleaver Square (Matthew called it millionaire’s row because of the value of the homes). There is a square in the middle and people were out playing a sort of bowling game. They all looked very ordinary. Matthew said they probably bought the homes over 20 years ago when prices would have been quite low. The value of their homes has gone up 20 fold – so they are asset rich but income ordinary. This is quite a contrast, and apparently common in the inner London areas.
We had delicious meals. I had steak pie on mash (really good) and Andrew and Bill had Wild Boar pie on mash. They enjoyed theirs too. Matthew says it is more a breed of pig rather than pigs killed by hunters in the wild. It is quite funny sitting in a restaurant with two dogs – unheard of in Australia!
We left there at 8.30pm – it was still daylight but softening into twilight.
We walked back to Kennington Station and caught the train back to the B & B. We had to change trains twice but never waited more than 2 minutes for the connecting train. We had walked nearly 20 kilometres (Bill did an extra 3 kilometres because of the bike debacle). I was hoping that we could take the lift at Queensway station but there were too many people so we walked up the flight of 123 steps and then went back to the B & B.
A great day!

Posted by Tomheasley 23:01 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

Day 2 – 19 May (Tuesday)

semi-overcast 10 °C

We arrived at Heathrow at about 6.30 am. Bill found the trip to be only 10% as bad as he had expected. He did not find it a bad experience at all.
It was a partly overcast day – so London looked very nice. After getting through UK Border procedures and Customs we had to find a train. I knew there were 3 trains – Heathrow Express (expensive), Heathrow Connect (reasonable) and the Tube (cheap). I wanted Heathrow Connect, so went to the Railway Counter and was served by a bored employee who told me that I had to somewhere else to buy a Heathrow Connect ticket. Meanwhile Andrew brought a Tube ticket – so we decided to go via the Tube. This stops all stations. There were not many on at the start but as it got towards London it was packed! We sat with our suitcases and bags taking up valuable space. Bill had his case in front of a seat between him and Andrew. An Islamic lady came and stood before Bill’s case staring at this obstruction. Thankfully Bill caught on and moved his case and she squeezed in between Bill and Andrew. The lesson is that it is best not to take the Tube from Heathrow in peak hour. We then had to change trains and lug our baggage up stairs etc. to get to a higher platform. All the trains were jammed packed and we wondered how we would get on with our luggage. But we managed. Bill was quite stressed about the whole procedure. However when we got out about 200 meters from our accommodation, he was agreeably surprised. At one stage he was proposing we walk about 2 kilometres rather than squeeze unto another tube with the likelihood that it would be the wrong one and leave us stranded even more. So we had a great taste of London life on the Tube!
The B & B is basic but has all we need. We left our baggage in the B & B and proceeded to see the sights of London. We walked through Hyde Park (only about 50 meters away). It is beautifully green and all the deciduous trees are in full leaf. There is a natural look to it all with the grass giving an uncut appearance. We walked through Hyde Park to Wellington’s Arch and then into Green Park. It was also very green and lush. This brought us out to Buckingham Palace. The Queen must be in residence as her flag was flying. We walked through St James Park and then through Horse Guard. The usual crowd stood around the two guards many getting taking photos of friends standing beside the horses. I must say that the horses are very placid. The streets were very crowded with tourists, school groups etc. London has a great vibe! We walked past Downing Street and on to Westminster Abby and Parliament House. We sat in St Margaret’s (the church beside Westminster Abby) - very calming and restful. We then went to Trafalgar Square. On the way we stopped at The Clarence (a Pub with an aged appearance) for an early lunch. We were sat by the window to the street. This was quite strategic for the Pub owners, as it draws other people in for a meal. One group came by and stood and looked at us sitting beside the window and de3cided to come in – we should have got a spotters fee. Bill had a chicken burger and Andrew and I had beef and ale pie with potato mash and vegies. It was a delicious meal – added to that there was the view out on the road – crowds of people and the red buses and taxis etc. One man walked past and looked in then then gave us the finger!! I don’t know why!!! It was almost quite funny.
Trafalgar Square looked great. The sun was shining and there crowds of people. It has a great sense of occasion! I could sit there for hours. There were a lot of groups of students from different countries. One group I know was from France, as they walked past a boy bumped into me and apologised so nicely in French. I find that French children speak French so beautifully. I felt for the teachers as they herded the children around. It must be so stressful.
We went into the National Art Gallery. We walked through the area with paintings from the 15th and 16th century. It is quite amazing. I saw so many which I remembered from Sandra’s art books. I did not realise the London Gallery would hold so many of these old works – many of them by continental painters. I saw one famous self portrait of a man and his wife and I said to Bill as we walked in “that painting is very famous” – the guard on duty smiled at me and said “priceless”. It is true there is no monetary value you can put on these old works of art. Sandra would, or should I say will, enjoy the gallery so much.
We then got a coffee at “Pret – a – Manger” and sat outside beside Trafalgar Square watching all the activity. We then got the Tube back to the B & B. Bill feels claustrophobic in the Tube Trains when they are in the tunnels. This is because the tunnels are only a little bigger than the trains. At the station near our B & B (Queensway) there was only open lift operating – so you could either wait or take the steps – 123 steps winding up from the underground to the street. Quite a climb!
We moved into our room. Definitely not 5 Star – but adequate and not too bad size-wise. We are not walking on top on one another. I found out that the B & B (called 72QT) is a Latvian Guest House – a lot of the signs are in Latvian. This makes it quite interesting. I felt very tired and had a sleep. Andrew and Bill went out to go bike riding. They picked up bikes in Hyde Park and went riding for about 2 hours. They went to the Thames at Battersea Park. They really enjoyed the experience and it only cost them GPB 2! They found the traffic very chaotic. The bike riders are very aggressive and weave in and out of traffic and are very vocal towards the traffic. Some were riding in suits! Here is an angle Sandra can push to motivate David to go on an overseas trip – he would enjoy the bike riding in London.
I when I woke up, I went for a bit of a wander around the streets. I passed the Uruguayan Embassy – isn’t that where Julian Assange is staying?
Andrew and Bill got back at about 6.30 pm. They were both very tired. I went to the ding room to write up my first blog. When I came back at 8.30 pm both Andrew and Bill were asleep. I went out for a walk. It was still day light. I walked up to a very interesting eating are just up the street. It was very crowded and had all sorts of restaurants. I wandered around and eventually bought some sandwiches from “Pret – a Manger”. I came back and ate the sandwiches in the dining room and the turned in for the night.

Posted by Tomheasley 00:54 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london Comments (3)

Day 1 – 18 May to 19 May

After a beautiful dinner provided by Gloria, Hope and I stayed with Evaline on Sunday night. We nearly had a bit of a disaster on Monday morning. I slipped and fell down the stairs going downstairs at Evaline’s house. I could easily have broken bones, but the only damage I sustained was a few bruises and cuts.
Hope took us out to the airport and we got there at about 11.30 am. We were able to check in straight away and we then sat with Hope in the Public area for about an hour.
The plane left for Singapore at 2.30 pm. We had a window seat and two aisle seats – so we were all together. I sat on the inner aisle seat and had an empty seat beside me. A younger couple sat on the other side of the empty seat next to me (the man seemed a bit older – so it could have been father and daughter – but somehow I did not think so). They never said one word to one another throughout the whole trip!!! That’s a long time to sit next to someone you evidently know quite well and not say anything!!! Although I did hear of someone who fell out with his wife and she did not speak to him for 4 days!!! Maybe I caught this couple in middle of such a situation. The flight takes 7 ½ hours to get to Singapore.
We had a wait of about 3 hours at Singapore. Andrew and I did as walk around the airport – it is a wonderful airport for going for a walk – it must be at 3 to 4 kilometres from the end of Terminal 3 to the end of Terminal 1. I nearly had another situation at the airport. I was distracted because I was trying to get a Woollies Sim card to work in my mobile. I left my carry-on bag sitting on the middle of the floor – not even near a seat. About 15 minutes later I noticed my bag was missing. This caused me to panic somewhat. I went to where I thought I must have left it and sure enough there it sat in the middle of the floor with a Security person viewing it with great suspicion. I went up and grabbed it apologising and saying I got distracted. But it could easily have resulted in a bomb squad being called in. I don’t know what would have happened to me if it went that far! I am very thankful that I was alerted to the fact that I did not have my bag before it got to that.
We left Singapore at 11.30 pm - this time we were in the A380 (the biggest passenger plane). Again we had adjoining seats – one in the middle and two aisle seats. This flight takes 13 ½ hours – it tests your patience a lot more. I gave Bill a ½ sleeping pill and he slept for about 7 hours in one stretch. He did very well. Andrew slept fairly well too. I had what I felt were a few snatches of sleep – but Andrew said he noticed that I was sleeping quite a bit. Compared with 70 years ago we are very well looked after when we travel now - comfortable seats (and you do have more leg room on international flights), plenty of refreshments, beautiful meals and your individual theatre with a whole range of movies and music and also iPads/puzzle books plus any other book you bring on board. Again, I had an empty seat next to me (which is great) and another passenger on the other side of the seat. He was a very polite young man and he curled up in a ball and slept for the vast majority of the flight. The hostess woke him for meals and he politely responded and ate his meal and then resumed his ball like pose and went to sleep again. I thought he would be so stiff when he got to the end of the trip, that he would be unable to stand up. But he got up quite happily looking as fresh as ever.

Posted by Tomheasley 00:52 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london Comments (0)

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