The Geezers are on the move again!
This trip is not nearly as long, or extensive, as the one in 2010 when we set ourselves the challenge to travel for almost SEVEN months on less than $100/day. And we achieved our goal, too, coming in at much less than $100/day.
This trip is not meant to be that challenging – more relaxing, more experiences, more getting to know each place we visit.
So, this adventure begins on July 21st, 2014 by jumping in front of a bus – really! – check our first post. The adventure continues right up to November 4th when we finally arrive back home. That’s about 3½ months!
Please feel free to follow along and make comments. We love to hear from our readers.
This is my rant from a year ago today (September 24, 2014) about how most Europeans seem to treat their countries like an ashtray and a urinal. We encountered this behavior mostly in France, Spain and Italy.
Note: There are No Pictures with This Post
You’ll notice the lack of pictures with this post. Considering the subject matter, trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty.
We have found it very odd that most Europeans seem slim, fit and health-conscious, yet, on the other hand, a large majority of them smoke.
Treating Europe Like an Ashtray
Not only do an inordinate number of Europeans seem to smoke, and a lot of them chain smoke, but they don’t seem to care about disposing of their cigarette butts properly. Just dropping them on the ground – or the beach – or the sidewalk – or in the street – seems to be the method of choice.
Do they not see that this makes the entire place look like a massive ashtray?
It seemed almost everywhere we went, in Spain, Italy or France, we couldn’t escape the huge number of cigarette butts – everywhere!
Thankfully, cigarette smoking is no longer allowed on buses in Europe. On this visit, we took several, long bus journeys and would not have been able to stand it if they had allowed smoking on the buses.
And don’t get in the way of a smoker when the bus stops for a break, they’re likely to run you over in their rush to get their next fix. They often exit the bus with a cigarette already in their mouth and a lighter in hand, before they are even fully off the bus.
There didn’t seem to be any particular age group that was so hooked. Both young and old were held hostage to this filthy habit.
It’s not that there aren’t any smokers in North America. Of course there are, but it is really rare to see cigarette butts littering the streets, parks, beaches, etc. Europe, on the other hand, seems like one large ashtray.
When we stopped at a small beach restaurant to enjoy a couple of beers, the waiter was serving food while a lit cigarette dangled from his mouth. Amazing!
One of the exceptions we noted in Europe was Paris. It’s a beautifully clean city, but they work very hard to keep it that way.
Treating Europe Like a Urinal
The other thing that made us wonder about Europeans, in general, was their lack of outrage at public urination.
Many times during our travels we saw men (yes, it was always men – easier for them, I guess), urinating in public – either at the side of the road, next to a tree, in a public park, you name it, we saw it all. But, besides that, even when urinals are provided they are often built so that the occupants are visible to passersby – and that was even in Paris!
While we’re on the subject of public urination, let’s talk about the overabundance of pet poop. While we saw many people doing the “stoop and scoop” thing and cleaning up after their pets, they were the exception and not the rule.
While we were staying in Spain, we had to avoid way too much dog poop on our morning and evening walks. And dog poop deposited directly on the walking paths – right in the way!
I guess one person thought they were “cleaning up” by placing a paper towel over the pile of poop and then just walking away!
Animals at Restaurants
While I’m on a rant, maybe it’s time to mention the number of people that bring their pets, usually dogs, to restaurants.
Okay, maybe at an outdoor café it’s not too bad, but some of these people, with smaller dogs, would put them on their laps and even on the tables!
Are there no health codes for restaurants in Europe?
A year ago today, August 11, 2014, was our first, and only, full day in Paris.
Our First – And Only – Full Day in Paris
With the frustrations of actually getting here quickly fading in our memories, we looked forward to the only full day we would spend in Paris.
Before we get started, we’d like to tell you a little bit about the hotel – the Luxor Bastille, with the wonderful manager, that waited until nearly 2:00am for us to arrive.
Tiny Paris Elevator
Traveling through Europe, one of the things that we most noticed is that almost everything is small – houses, kitchens, hotel rooms, etc. But our hotel took “small” to a whole new level. And this was apparent starting with the elevator before we even got to our room.
So, how small was the elevator? Well, we couldn’t both use it at the same time. As a matter of fact, neither of us could fit in it alone with all our luggage. What we had to do was, one of us took the elevator to our floor and then sent the elevator back down. Then the luggage was loaded into the elevator, the button pressed, and the luggage took the ride alone. The one at our floor removed the luggage from the elevator and sent it back down. Then, the one still on the ground floor got on the elevator for the ride up to our floor.
It was the only way in such a tiny elevator. Really.
When we opened the door to our room the “small” theme continued. While the room was small and basic, it was clean, comfortable and all we really needed, not to mention one of the best deals in Paris (yes, we did our research).
The bathroom did not disappoint on the “small” theme, either. Or, should we call it compact or an efficient use of space? Whatever description is used, the bathroom, though fully equipped, was definitely tiny and the bathtub, if you could call it that, was really just a deep shower base. Trying to actually take a bath in it would be futile.
Almost as a joke, I stuffed myself into the bathtub and there was almost no room left for water and my knees were up at my chin! Truly, I don’t think it was meant for actual bathing at all, just a receptacle for the shower water. But it added to the enjoyment of our Paris adventure.
Aside from price (we got another screaming deal at €68.00/night), one of the other reasons we chose the hotel we did was because of its convenient location. It was in the Bastille district, close to the Seine, close to Notre Dame and close to the Gare de Lyon. The proximity to Gare de Lyon meant we wouldn’t have to take a cab the next day to catch our train to Lyon as it would only be a 10-minute walk.
As we were only spending one full day in Paris, we wanted to be sure to pack in as much as we could. Anxious to begin our day, we grabbed a quick coffee and headed for the Seine, only a couple minutes walk away. (Yes, of course, I had printed out some Google maps so we, hopefully, wouldn’t get lost.) We thought that maybe we’d pick up a pastry or something once we got to the Eiffel Tower.
We had hoped to get the BatoBus (a hop on, hop off boat service plying the River Seine) from somewhere along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower. That was the plan. But plans, when traveling, are always fluid, whether you want them to be or not. And this was one of those time.
BatoBus Route Map
We did come across a BatoBus stop on our walk along the banks of the Seine, heading in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, the boats did not begin running until 10:00am.
That wouldn’t do, as we had an appointment for a tour of the Eiffel Tower booked for 10:45am. So, that didn’t leave us nearly enough time. And, aside from that, why would we want to just wait at a hop on station when we could be exploring? So, we carried on.
As we walked we realized that we would need to gain much more speed in order to get to the Eiffel Tower with time to spare to find our tour group. So we decided to ask for some directions and suggestions as to local transit so we didn’t have to enlist the services of a taxi cab.
We noticed during our walk that there were security forces everywhere – very well-armed security forces. A little intimidating, really, but all too understandable for a city like Paris.
We approached one group and, much to our relief, one of them spoke English. We told him we needed to get to the Eiffel Tower and didn’t have the time to walk all the way, from where we currently were.
He took out his cell phone and did a Google search for the best local transit option. He found the bus we would need and where the nearest stop way. But, he didn’t stop there. He actually walked with us to the appropriate bus stop, reminded us of the bus number we would need and then wished us adieu.
We are pretty certain that, without his help, we may not have found our way to the Eiffel Tower in a timely manner. Local transit from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower was not something that I had researched because I thought we could take the BatoBus. I guess I didn’t research that option well enough or I would have known that the service didn’t start until 10:00am.
Oh, well, all part of the adventure and we wouldn’t have met the amazingly helpful and friendly security guard!
Bus to the Eiffel Tower
We caught the #72 bus at the Hotel de Ville (city hall), for a cost of €3,00 (for both of us) and headed off to the Eiffel Tower.
Along the way, we passed The Louvre (we weren’t going to have time to visit on this trip) and Pont Neuf (and we would visit that after our tour).
First Look at the Eiffel Tower
I’ve got to admit that I did not realize just how big the Eiffel Tower actually was. Nor did I know that the Champs de Mars (a roadway) runs right underneath it.
Eiffel Tour Selfie
We had arrived in plenty of time to find out where our tour met and that gave us the opportunity to wander around for a while and also to take the requisite “selfie” in front of the tower.
Our wandering around also included several encounters with souvenir vendors and food vendors as well.
I’m sure you’ve all heard that the food in Paris is very expensive, whether it’s from a street vendor or in a restaurant. And you know what, it’s true!
After checking out what was on offer from the various vendors, and the prices, we decide our hunger could wait and, after our tour, we’d hunt down a grocery store rather than pay such ridiculous prices.
Remember – we’re cheap frugal!
Decision made, we headed off to join our tour group.
Waiting for Our Tour Guide
We had booked our tour online, from Canada. When we were ready to book, we thought we had left ourselves lots of time. Apparently not.
Eiffel Tower Tour Ticket
Even though we book many weeks in advance, the tour was almost booked up. As a matter of fact, our order was put in “pending” until the could confirm there was room for us on the day we wanted, at the time we wanted. But within 24 hours of booking, they confirmed our reservation. Phew!
So here we were, tickets in hand, waiting for our tour guide.
Eiffel Tower Tour Ticket Back
Not Just the Eiffel Tower
Our tour included much more than just the Eiffel Tower. Our guide explained a lot of the history of the tower as well as guiding us through a radio/military bunker, very close to the tower, that was used during World War II.
We also got to see the inner workings of the tower including some of the hydraulic pistons and cables that run the elevators and inclinators.
However, for me, one of the best parts of the tour was that our guide kept changing character as we went through different eras, including costume changes that were accomplished with little to no disruption of the tour. Some of his characters included a WW II aviator and a worker during the building of the Eiffel Tower.
He would simply say he was called away for various reasons and would return as a new character. It was very well done and we would recommend the tour to anyone.
Final Stop of the Tour
View of Paris from Second Floor of Eiffel Tower
Our tour included the cost of getting to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower and that’s where our guide said his farewells.
There is an amazing view of Paris from the second floor and we took the time to take it all in.
We chose not to go all the way up to the third platform of the Eiffel Tower as the line up was very, very long and we were getting a bit tired of standing as the tour had been over 1-1/2 hours long.
We decided to check out the restaurants on both the second platform and the first platform. If you think restaurant prices are high in Paris, then you certainly wouldn’t want to eat here – and we didn’t. Although the restaurant on the first platform is slightly cheaper than the one on the second.
We made our way back down to the ground via one of the inclinators and there were people there to make sure that there was no wasted space and packed us in like sardines!
It may have been the end of the tour but it was really only the beginning of our day in Paris and we still had so much more to pack in.
We mentioned that BatoBus and its route early in this post, so we won’t do it again here. However, one stop is pretty close to the base of the Eiffel Tower and that’s where we decided to purchase our tickets.
While the line up for purchasing the tickets wasn’t too bad, the line waiting for the next boat was huge!
The boats arrived either every 10 or every 20 minutes depending on who you asked. We waited for a bit for the first one to arrive, and we didn’t make it on that one because of the size of the line up. The wait after that one left was at least 15 minutes before the next one came into view.
Fortunately, we made it on that one and were very glad to just sit for a bit. Since we left our hotel this morning we’d walked a fair distance before getting a bus to the Eiffel Tower, then we walked around the general area for about an hour before our tour started. The tour as over 1-1/2 hours long, then we lined up for our BatoBus tickets and then to get a seat on a Batobus. Yes, we were very glad to sit down for a while.
We were also lucky to get a seat on the Batobus. There were several people that had to stand.
So, in order to get a bit of a rest, we decided to stay on the boat for most of the circuit, which included eight stops. Leaving from the Eiffel Tower stop, the stops were:
Jardin Des Plantes
Hôtel De Ville
and then back to the Eiffel Tower
We chose to stay on the boat all the way to the Champs-Elysées.
As we walked along the Champs-Elysées we began to wish we had a lot more time in Paris. We were discovering that it was a beautiful city, with clean wide streets and amazing architecture. We certainly hope to come back again soon and spend more time.
As we slowly drifted towards the Arc de Triomphe we soaked in the sights and sounds and marveled at the mix of restaurants, fashion houses, stores, fast food joints (unfortunately) and even a Toyota car dealership – yes! – right on the Champs-Elysées.
Monoprix Grocery Bag – another unique souvenir
But, before going all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, our tummies began to remind us that it had been quite a while since we’d last eaten. As mentioned previously, Paris restaurants are notoriously expensive and, on the Champs-Elysées – well – you can imagine.
Lucky for us, we noticed what we believed to be a grocery just down one of the side-streets and we decided to investigate.
Sure enough, the sign we had noticed that said MonoPrix was definitely a grocery store. We grabbed a small basket and began to look around.
It’s probably not a good idea to wander around a grocery store, with so many appealing items, when you’re hungry. But, that’s exactly what we were doing. All the while saying things like “Oh, look at this!” or “Wow, that looks good.” or “Mmmmm – pastry.”
In the end, knowing that we really didn’t want to be carrying groceries around Paris, we managed to be very conservative and only buy a wonderfully fresh and crusty baguette, a small portion of some lovely cheese and a small bottle of milk. It was all we really needed.
And, besides, we netted yet another cheap unique souvenir – a MonoPrix grocery bag!
Al fresco lunch in hand, we found the perfect place to sit on the wall of an underground garage ramp and happily people-watched as we at our lunch.
Arc de Triomphe
While eating our lunch, we could see the Arc de Triomphe from where we sat. As a matter of fact, you can see it from almost anywhere along the Champs-Elysées. And, that was our next stop.
Dodging Parisienne Drivers
Arc de Triomphe
Another thing we didn’t know – the Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of a very large, very busy roundabout. How odd, we thought, and just shrugged our shoulders.
Arc de Triomphe Selfie
Before trying to cross the traffic, we attempted to take a selfie from the middle of the Champs-Elysées. Not quite as mad as it sounds. However, you can just barely see a piece of it behind us.
While traffic was whizzing by us, in both directions, there was a small (very small) island in the middle of the road for those that couldn’t get all the way across before the lights changed. And, that’s where we stood to take a selfie.
From the same vantage point, we took the picture posted here. However, it really doesn’t do it justice as to how busy this roundabout really is.
Mad Dash Across the Roundabout
We’re pleased to say that we are still here to tell the tale of our mad dash across the roundabout to get to the Arc de Triomphe. There were a few scary moments, and a lot of beeping and screeching of tires, that we thought we might not be. I believe there were a few choice phrases hurled our way as well, but we weren’t able to understand them – probably just as well.
Once across the roundabout, we saw a staircase to an underground walkway and realized that this was the proper way to get to and from the Arc de Triomphe. No wonder the drivers in the roundabout hadn’t been very happy with us. Dumb tourists!
We also discovered that there was a way to get to the top of the Arc. We’re sure it would have been a lovely view, but it was kind of an expensive thing to do (€9.50 each) and the budget was telling us, either do that or have dinner. Needless to say, dinner won.
Back to the BatoBus
We walked back down the Champs-Elysées to the BatoBus stop at Pont Neuf and, once again, had to wait for the second boat as there were already more people waiting than would fit on the first boat to arrive.
As a “hop on, hop off” service, this wasn’t working very well for us with all the waiting we had to do at each stop.
The plan was to stop at Notre Dame, but by this time we were both very tired from a long and busy day.
Once we got on a boat, it started to rain very heavily and the window above our seat was completely open and we couldn’t find a way to close it. We vacated our seats so that we didn’t get drenched and stood for quite a while waiting for dry seats to free up.
Headed Back to Our Hotel
Exhaustion was setting in and we decided to forego a stop at Notre Dame and just head back to our hotel and decide where we would have dinner.
We stayed on the BatoBus to the Hôtel de Ville stop – the closest stop to our hotel – and began the walk back to our hotel. It rained a little more and we took shelter under a bridge for a time and then carried on.
Stopping for Dinner
While walking back to our hotel, we checked out the menus of each café we passed and one in particular caught our eye.
The menu had Steak de Thon (tuna steak) with Riz Sauvage (wild rice) and the price seemed reasonable – for Paris, anyway. The price was €14.50. Really not bad considering on the Champs-Elysées a hamburger was €16.00!
At first we thought we’d go back to the hotel to clean up and then come back to this restaurant but, when we realized it was already 8:00pm, we decided to just turn around and have our meal at this restaurant. It was a lovely meal.
Once back at our hotel, Geoff soaked his tired feet in our tiny tub and when he was done, I tried to fit all of me in the tub. Kind of comical really, but the warm water did help ease the aches and pains from all the standing and walking we did.
In for the Night and Off to Lyon Tomorrow
Given that we were both so tired from the amazing day we had, we made the decision that we were now in for the night.
We also knew that we would be able to sleep in, slightly, the next morning as are train to Lyon the next day didn’t leave until 11:00am, from the Gare de Lyon, which was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.
We did as much packing as we could and then just relaxed and had an early night.
A year ago today (August 10, 2014), we took a bus, MegaBus to be exact, from London to Paris. It was a trip we were certainly looking forward to but things did not go exactly as planned. Read on!
Deal of the Century?
Before we get started, I’d like to brag, just a little, about the screaming deal we got on our tickets for this London to Paris journey.
As you know, we always do a lot of research for any trip we take and that included the cheapest most economical way to get from London to Paris.
While doing this research we came upon MegaBus who, as you may or may not know, is a master at offering a few seats at ridiculously low prices – just a few, mind you. But, you have to know when the tickets are first offered and you have to be quick on the draw.
I had been watching their site for a while, waiting for our date to come up. And, when it did, I pounced! I snagged us two tickets to Paris for the TOTAL price of £10.50! That was £5.00/each and a 50p online booking fee. When I checked their site again, just an hour later, the same seats were now £40.00/each.
I was so blown away by the deal we got that I actually called MegaBus to confirm that the price actually included BOTH of us AND our luggage and that the total amount was correct. They assured me it was correct and congratulated us on the deal we got.
How Were We Going to Take a Bus to Paris?
Well, when booking this trip, it was not clear exactly how the bus was going to get to Paris. We knew there were two choices, the Chunnel or the Ferry. We had no idea which way we would be going and figured, either way, it would be an adventure.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so let’s get back to the beginning of this day’s adventure.
Up Very, Very Early
In order to get to London in time to catch our bus, we determined that we had to take the 7:30am train leaving from Longfield.
We packed as much as we could the night before and set the alarm to give us enough time to have a shower and a light breakfast.
Much to our delight, one of the people we had met during our stay offered to drive us to the train station. That meant we didn’t have to worry about calling a cab. And, true to his word, he was ready and waiting for us in plenty of time to get us to the station.
I am quite certain that the instructions on our tickets said to be at the station two hours before departure. As our scheduled departure was 10:30am, that meant, of course, we were expected to be there by 8:30am. And, we were pretty much on time.
However, when we tried to check in, we were told that the check in process for the Paris bus would not begin until 9:30am. What? That was only an hour before. The clerk just shrugged her shoulders and told us to come back at 9:30.
Chaos at Victoria Coach Station
Any other experiences we’ve had with using Victoria Coach Station have been somewhat disorganized but, for some reason, today was downright chaotic and extremely overcrowded.
We were being jostled and bumped into on a regular basis and finding any place to sit appeared to be an exercise in futility.
There were no clear lines for any of the scheduled buses, no consistent use of gate numbers and any announcements were, to our ears anyway, too garbled to comprehend.
Scheduled Departure Time Came and Went
After checking in at the appropriate time, we once again settled in to wait – as much as we could, anyway. The crowds just kept growing and no one seemed to be leaving. We’re amazed that tempers weren’t flaring at this point, but most people, though disgruntled, were keeping their cool.
When our scheduled departure time came and went, we went back to the ticket clerk to get an update. We were told there was a delay but they couldn’t be specific as to how long the delay would be.
Bicycle Race Through London
After talking with fellow travelers we discovered that, of all days, today there was a London-wide bicycle race and most of the major thoroughfares were closed off with lots of detours causing lots of road congestion. Wonderful!
But we remained hopeful that we would get on our way soon and get to Paris at a reasonable time. Silly us.
Finally on Our Way – Sort Of
After a more than two-hour delay, we finally were directed to our bus. It didn’t pull up to one of the gates. We were lead to our bus, parked a few yards away from the terminal.
And, we had to be paying attention to the muffled announcements and the constantly changing gate information or we could have easily still been waiting!
When we finally pulled away from the station, within just a few feet, the bus stalled. Our driver promptly restarted the bus only to have it stall again after only another few feet.
At this point, a collective groan issued from most of the passengers and the driver, also, seemed frustrated and annoyed.
Thankfully, after the third restart, the bus remained running and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Missed Our Appointment on the Chunnel Train
Because of the delays, we had, apparently, missed our bus’s scheduled appointment for our spot on the Chunnel train. The driver had no choice but to wait until we were rescheduled for another available spot.
He had no idea when that might be so we were cautioned not to venture too far from the bus in case we got a spot and had to move quickly. When he did finally get notified of our appointment, it was almost a two-hour wait.
We were beginning to get concerned about when we would actually make it to Paris. We knew that the hotel we had booked did not have a 24-hour front desk.
Loading the Bus on the Chunnel Train
Never having experienced the trip through the Chunnel, we were uncertain as to what to expect. Would we all have to exit the bus and, perhaps, pick up another bus when we arrived in France?
We were assured by the driver that this bus would take us all the way to Paris.
We watched in fascination as we approached the train and other cars, trucks, campers vans and more loaded before we did.
The train cars are huge! And our bus didn’t even take up an entire train car. We’re still in awe of how they were loaded in the first place, just driving on from the station platform onto the train. I was certain there was no way that our bus was going to make it.
But, of course, it did. All I can say is I’m sure glad I wasn’t driving. It would have seriously freaked me out.
Check out this video of our bus getting loaded into the train car and being unloaded in France.
Welcome to France
A mere 35 minutes later we were in France and the whole unloading exercise went without a hitch and was totally efficient.
It’s obvious that they do this several times a day and they certainly have it down to a science.
No Customs or Immigration
We have marveled before at how there are no customs or immigration requirements as we traveled throughout the EU. We simply got on the train in the UK and got off in France. And, it would be like that the whole time. And we would travel through France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark and even Malta, Tunisia and The Azores (Portugal).
Are We There Yet?
Now that we were finally in France (already well past the time we should have already been in Paris), we assumed that we would make a bee-line to Paris and attempt to make up some of the lost time. Sadly, making up the time, did not appear to be a priority.
Only a short distance into France, we pulled off into a gas station. Because of all the delays, our driver had used up his allotted time for that day and we would need a replacement driver, who was waiting for us at this gas station.
The hand-off was relatively quick and painless, but it was still another delay.
At our next stop, Boulogne, we dropped off one of the passengers at the designated stop. However, after that, we made another stop – still in Boulogne – to pick up another passenger and to drop off our previous driver.
And, as if we weren’t already late enough, we then made an unscheduled detour to drop of the person we had picked up in Boulogne. No idea why we needed to do that, or why it was even allowed.
Lights on the Horizon
From then on, each time we saw lights on the horizon we hoped that maybe, just maybe, we were approaching Paris.
Our hopes we dashed many times during the journey.
Welcome to Paris
At almost 1:00am, we FINALLY arrived in Paris. That was SEVEN hours late.
The original plan was to take a local bus to our hotel. We had, naturally, researched the local system and even knew which bus to take. It would take us about 30 minutes and get us very close to our hotel.
However, at this time in the morning, nothing appeared to be running. The “bus station” didn’t even appear to be a station, just a place where buses were parked.
Call to Our Hotel
We weren’t traveling with a cell phone on this trip so I asked our bus driver if we could borrow his cell phone so we could call our hotel to see if they were even still open. We knew they didn’t have a 24-hour front desk, but we had expected to arrive in Paris much, much earlier than this.
The driver was happy to let us use his phone, thank goodness.
We were ecstatic when someone actually picked up the phone and it took all of the French I know to get across where we were and to find out that the front desk clerk was just about to close up.
We promised we would get a cab right away and be there within half an hour, or so. He said he would wait if we didn’t take too long.
MegaBus Driver’s Promise
The driver promised us that MegaBus would reimburse us for the cost of the cab to get to our hotel as we had arrived so late.
Not only did MegaBus do that, they also refunded the cost of our tickets. Great customer service. We would definitely use them again as, we’re sure, these delays were a freak occurrence and out of their control.
Cab to Hotel
We had to do a little walking from the bus station to a busy corner in order to hail a cab, but we got one in short order, showed the driver the address of the hotel and arrived within the timeframe we had given the front desk clerk.
Happy to Check In
We were so happy to find that, true to his word, the clerk was indeed waiting for us. And, promptly locked up after he check us in.
A year ago today, (August 8 & 9, 2014) we had our last two days in the U.K for this trip.
Our 26th Anniversary
Friday, August 8th, was our 26th wedding anniversary. We had planned to walk into Longfield again today, to pick up our laundry and to have our anniversary dinner at – yes – Monroe’s.
Sadly, the weather had other plans for that day.
The rain started at about 8:00am and came down in buckets for quite a while. After that, it settled in for the rest of the day.
Spirits Not Dampened
However, we didn’t allow the weather to dampen our spirits and spent a relaxing day reading and enjoying the hot tub.
We did resolve, however, no matter what the weather was like the next day (Saturday), we simply had to go into Longfield to pick up our laundry. After all, we were leaving very early on Sunday morning to catch the MegaBus that would take us to Paris. Yes, we were taking a BUS to Paris! Be sure to read of August 10th blog post for how we did that.
Instead of the lovely dinner fare we had hoped for on our anniversary, we had to content ourselves with a not unpleasant, but plain, dinner of sausage, chips and salad. As we said earlier, the small restaurant where we were staying had a basic, but limited repertoire. But we enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Rain Continued Throughout the Night and Into the Next Morning
We began to get a little worried about the required trip into Longfield on Saturday as the rain continued right through Friday night and was still there to greet us on Saturday morning, although with much less fervor.
It finally began to clear and just after lunch we felt it was safe to make our way into town.
Our Favorite British Fare
Some of our favorite British Fare
While in the UK we indulged in some of our favorite British products. Some we even packed away to take home with us.
We both enjoy Digestive Biscuits and just had to get the ones that came in their own tin. These digestive tins have now become a decoration in our kitchen and, as we couldn’t resist eating all the biscuits, now hold spaghetti.
Geoff has always LOVED Marmite, so when he discovered this HUGE jar he just couldn’t resist. He decided that this was a collectors item and would lovingly carry his prized possession, unopened, all through Europe and across the Atlantic.
Sadly the Geoff/Marmite love affair came to a tragic end in Los Angeles, but you’ll have to wait until the November 3rd post to read the devastating story of how it all ended.
Laundry and Dinner
We had phoned the laundry to make sure they were open regular hours on Saturday and, fortunately, they were. We said we’d stop by that afternoon to pick up our laundry and they confirmed that it was ready and waiting for us. Good thing, too, because we were off to Paris the next day and we needed our clean clothes!
As our plans to have our anniversary dinner at Monroe’s last night were thwarted by the weather, we decided that tonight, our last night in the U.K., would be just as appropriate.
Although we no longer recall what it was we ordered that night, we are quite sure it was good as we never had a bad meal any time we ate there.
A year ago today, (August 7, 2014) we visited Hampton Court and had encounters with royalty!
Last Chance to Get Our Laundry Done
As we would be leaving the UK in just a few days – on August 10th to be exact – this trip into Longfield would be our last chance to take in our laundry and have it ready for our fast-approaching departure to France via the Chunnel.
We won’t go into the somewhat perilous walk into Longfield (oops! actually, I guess we just did). But it was without event or injury and our laundry was safely deposited at the cleaners.
Train – Tube – Train to Hampton Court
Arriving at Hampton Court
With our two-together rail pass in hand, we bought our tickets to get us to Hampton Court, where we would spend the day.
It was a train to London Victoria Station, then the tubes to Vauxhall and then, for the final leg, a train to Hampton Court.
Hampton Court is just a short and pleasant walk from the train station and the entrance is very impressive.
Once we had arrived at Hampton Court, we needed to queue up in order to get our official tickets to actually enter the court.
There was, of course, the obligatory gift shop – for your convenience as you wait.
Various Types of Architecture
Hampton Court has some competing architecture. That happened because it was first started by Henry VIII, but when William & Mary came to the throne of England, they had different ideas and built to their tastes.
Originally, they had planned to undo everything Henry had done and replace it with their own vision. Fortunately, it was prohibitively expensive to pursue such a goal, and much that Henry built has survived, along with what William and Mary built.
Encounter with Henry VIII
An encounter with Henry VIII at Hampton Court
While wandering the myriad halls of Hampton Court, we had the distinct pleasure of coming across Henry VIII discussing, I believe, one of his women, and what he needed to do about her.
His minister, who was walking along with him, was trying to be as helpful as possible, but Henry seemed particularly distraught. We all watched with fascination as they worked through their problem before wandering off down the hallway still deep in conversation.
It was a truly amazing experience with Henry and his minister staying in character for the entire encounter. It was fascinating to watch and to listen and to feel like a part of history.
And, as luck would have it, this would not be our only encounter with royalty while at Hampton Court.
Hampton Court Gardens Map
The gardens at Hampton Court are – in a word – amazing! Perfectly manicured, incredibly tranquil and totally enjoyable.
We happened upon some of the groundskeepers and were able to chat with them for a while. Needless to say, upkeep of such extensive gardens is a full-time job, but what a remarkable result. Obviously a labor of love more than just a job.
Naturally, we did the maze as well, expecting full well to get lost. We understand that there are people available to lead you out if you do, indeed, get lost.
However, we didn’t actually find the maze that difficult and were able to get through it in a reasonable time.
Our Second Encounter with Royalty
Our second encounter with royalty happened while we were walking in the gardens.
George II and his minister were ambling along a path, discussing matters of state, we presume. We were able to approach them and speak to them both for quite some time.
Again, these actors remained totally in character the entire time and provided us with an unforgettable experience and memory of our day “at court”.
Dinner at Monroe’s
To top off the day, we finished with yet another dinner at our favorite restaurant in Longfield – Monroe’s.
A year ago today (August 5, 2014) we had what can only be described as the perfect day. Read on to find out why.
Early Morning Train Into London
In order to meeting the tour bus at Victoria Coach Station, we had to get up very early. The bus would be leaving at 8:30am and we needed to be there to meet it at least 15 minutes prior to that.
Up at 4:00am
In order to make it all happen so that we could be at the tour bus in time, we had to be up at 4:00am to get showered and dressed. We then started our walk into Longfield at 5:45am in order to catch the right train into London.
No Rail Pass Discount Today
This was the only day that our Two Together Rail Pass was of no use to us. Anytime before about 9:30am is considered “peak” time, so we just had to bite the bullet and pay full fare on this day.
Meeting The Tour Bus
Had we been staying at a hotel in London, the tour company would have picked us up at our hotel. However, that was not the case and we need to get ourselves to Victoria Coach Station. The Coach Station is about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, but we had coordinated everything correctly and we arrived at the tour bus in plenty of time.
The first stop on our day-long tour was at Windsor Castle.
On this type of tour, trying to fit so many things in on a single day, generally there isn’t enough time at each stop.
We had to line up and wait for our tour guide to procure our entrance tickets and the line was already quite long when we joined it. However, it didn’t seem like a long wait before we had our tickets and were exploring the castle.
Windsor castle is actually a royal residence and has pretty much been so since it was first built in the 11th century. Queen Elizabeth II was not, however, in residence when we visisted.
Some of the sheer opulence amazed us – a rather obscene display of wealth but that seemed to be the norm of such sites that we visited, including the Tower of London where we saw the crown jewels.
We did our best to hit the highlights within the allotted time we were given at this site and easily found our way back to the waiting tour bus thanks to the clear instructions given by our tour guide.
Roman Baths, Bath
The town of Bath, located in Somerset in Southwest England is a quaint town that maintains its look with strict building codes.
Most of the houses and buildings use the tan-colored stone and the entire town has the same “feel”.
Of course, Bath is most famous for the excavated Roman baths and that was the main reason we wanted to visit.
Some of the excavated areas are amazingly well preserved, but there are still many places where you can see the areas that have been less restored. The site itself is fairly large and we enjoyed wandering through the ruins for the short time we were there.
From time to time you’ll actually get a “Roman” explaining the history of the baths and we would pause to listen.
OH! MY! GOODNESS!
I was not prepared for my reaction to Stonehenge. Geoff, who had been there several times as a child, had always, jokingly, referred to it as “just a pile of rocks.”
As soon as I saw it I was totally overwhelmed and even began to cry. I believe it is the closest I have ever come to a truly spiritual experience. I have always been drawn to older structures, ancient history, etc. but this is the first time I have come face to face with something so awesome (and I do not mean the glib “awesome” we all use too often. I am using the true meaning of the word – that which creates awe.) and so ancient – 5,000 years old!
Show Some Respect!
Given how affected I was by Stonehenge, I’m afraid I did not handle well the people that were treating it like it was just another attraction. As we passed some teenagers, that were barely even looking at Stonehenge, I got annoyed at the fact that they were laughing, roughhousing and munching on crisps (potato chips). I’m afraid I lost it a little bit and grumbled, “For goodness sake, show some respect! This is 5,000 years old!” I doubt they even heard me, or would have cared if they did.
That’s so sad.
Not Nearly Enough Time
I didn’t want to leave. I was already planning a return, somewhere off in the future, and hoping to be there for one of the solstices when they actually allow a certain number of people INSIDE the stone circle.
There is also much, much more to the area than just Stonehenge, but we had no time to explore. We had to get back to the bus. But, not before spending some time in the museum at the entrance and, the inevitable, gift shop.
Last Ones Back
Geoff can attest to the fact that I’m always the one trying to make sure that, on any trip like this, we’re always back to the bus on time. I never want to be the last one. I never want to keep others waiting. I never want to risk missing the bus.
This time was different. Even when we realized we really needed to get back, and we picked up some speed in our step, we were still the last ones back to the tour bus.
Our tour guide had already headed back with everyone else’s self-guided tour electronic recorders and then had to take our’s back separately. (We had been admonished at the beginning of the tour not to return them ourselves but to bring them back to the bus for our tour guide to return.)
Back to London
From Stonehenge it was a straight shot back to London, which took a couple of hours.
With all of these types of tours, they’re always quite happy to pick you up at your hotel (but that didn’t apply in our case as we were staying too far outside of London), but dropping you off was another matter. They would identify a few spots and drop you at the one nearest your hotel.
We had actually picked up the tour bus right at Victoria Coach Station and thought that we would get dropped back there. Apparently that was not the case.
Dropped Off Near Victoria Station
The tour bus dropped us, with a few other people, “close” to Victoria Station. But, as we had already been into London a few times, we had no trouble finding our way back to the train station, which is exactly what we did.
Dinner In Longfield
It had been a long day and we finally got back to the Longfield Train Station just before 9:00pm. It would be a very late dinner for us tonight.
Our first stop was, of course, Monroe’s, which had become our favorite restaurant in Longfield. Unfortunately, they were just closing up, which wasn’t too surprising given the time. Fortunately, though, we did know that the local chippy was open until 10:00pm and it was just across the street.
Fish & Chips at the Local Chippy
We wandered across the street to Longfield Fishbar to treat ourselves to some fish & chips.
Even though Geoff noticed that Rock (what he knew as Rock Salmon) was on the menu, after the disappointment experienced in Chiselhurst, we both decided to order Halibut & Chips.
While waiting for our order, Geoff spoke with the proprietor of the shop and asked about the Rock Salmon (actually a type of eel). He had heard that it had all been fished out in the UK and, apparently, he was right. The Rock they served now actually came in the from USA. He only served it occasionally because he only offered fresh Rock, not frozen. It was only on the days that it was flown in – once a week or so – that he would have it available. He told Geoff that the Rock he had in Chiselhurst was likely the frozen kind and it just didn’t hold up well frozen.
Geoff also asked why it was now called simply Rock and not Rock Salmon as it was when he was a child. The proprietor explained that that was due to European Union regulations. You weren’t allowed to use the word “salmon” if it wasn’t actually salmon.
Lovely Halibut & Chips
Even though this shop had a couple of sets of tables and chairs outside, it was a bit cool for us and we decided to eat inside instead. There was no thought of us just taking our fish & chips back to the resort as they would have been cold by the time we got back. So, we opted to sit on a couple of chairs inside the shop, with the cardboard box packaged fish & chips on our laps and eat them there with the supplied plastic knives and forks.
Indoor Table and Chairs
The proprietor didn’t like to see us struggle with our meal on our laps, so he brought one of the tables inside for us. He then brought us some real, metal cutlery to use as well and that certainly made it easier to enjoy our lovely fish dinner. He also insisted on supplying us with a couple of bottles of water, on the house.
We also had a very interesting dinner conversation with him. Among many other subjects, we discussed the high cost of housing in the UK and encouraged him to check out Canada for his retirement.
A year ago today, (August 4, 2014), we spent the day in London taking in many, many sites.
A Full Day of Visiting Many Sights in London
Getting Into London
As has become our habit, we once again walked into the train station in Longfield, a mostly pleasant, but sometimes harrowing forty-minute walk. But we’re still here to tell the tale and, tickets in hand, once again made our way to Victoria Station.
This time, however, we purchased a day pass that would allow us not only to use the rail system but also the underground and bus system, for the entire day. As we planned to cover a lot of territory, we felt this was a wise purchase.
First Stop – 221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street, London
As almost anyone knows, this address is, of course, the fictional address of the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes.
We arrived to see a long line of people waiting to get in to see the apartments. We actually had no desire to look inside. I was certainly just glad that I was able to find it.
It’s not actually where 221B should be – between, say, 221 and 223, so we got a little confused as to which way we should go on Baker Street once we exited the Tubes. But we managed to find it anyway and take a few photos.
I am now happy to say that I have made my pilgrimage to the home of Sherlock Holmes.
From the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes, it was not a long walk to Selfridge’s.
We actually got a lot of information about this game-changing department store from a TV series, starring Jeremy Piven (one of our favorite actors).
Neither Geoff nor I knew that the person who built Selfridge’s was actually an American and forever changed how shopping was viewed in England.
The store is HUGE and I don’t think we even came close the seeing all of it. That seemed a rather daunting task.
I have always found prices, of just about anything, rather expensive in Europe, but the prices in Selfridge’s were simply astronomical. I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a small memento of my visit because I thought things were so overpriced.
But still, it’s an amazing place to visit.
Harrods was our next stop and, at this establishment, from everything that I’d heard, I expected ridiculously opulent merchandise and equally ridiculous prices – and I was not disappointed. As with Selfridge’s, there’s a lot of history attached to it.
If you go, make sure you see the Egyptian escalator and the statue devoted to Princess Diana and Dodi el Fayed.
Marble Arch, London
Continuing on, and making good use of our day pass, we visited the Marble Arch at one end of Hyde Park.
It was time for lunch, and a bit of a break, so we wandered into a Sainsbury’s (grocery store) just across from Hyde Park and bought a couple of savory pastries and something to drink.
We then settled down on a bench in Hyde Park and enjoyed an al fresco lunch and a chance to just sit and relax for a bit before continuing our explorations of London.
Hyde Park is also the location of London’s famous Speaker’s Corner where anyone can talk about anything they please.
We found the exact location but there was no one espousing their views that day.
Greenwich And The Cutty Sark
Another hop on the Tubes (underground/subway) and we were off to Greenwich and the preserved Cutty Sark, last of the China Tea Clippers.
Just My Luck!
I’m afraid my luck was of the “bad” variety when we boarded the underground to head for Greenwich. I didn’t realize it immediately, but apparently I had chosen a seat where some had spilled coffee. These seats are upholstered, so it wasn’t immediately obvious there had been a spill like there would be if the seats had only been hard plastic like those found on my subways – in Canada, at least.
I didn’t actually realize it until we got up to exit at our Greenwich stop and then felt that my bottom felt a little odd – and damp!
Geoff confirmed that you could, indeed, tell that my shorts were wet. Somewhat embarrassing.
We stopped into a pub, each ordered a cider, and sat until my shorts dried somewhat and the stain was no longer visible.
Actually, I guess I can be grateful that it was just coffee on the seat (at least it had a decidedly coffee aroma to it, thank goodness). I suppose it could have been worse.
After I was less damp, we continued with our outing.
The Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark, Greenwich
The Cutty Sark was another of the attractions that offered a two-for-one admission if you had the coupon (available online and printed out) and a rail ticket for that day. Which, of course, we did!
The ship – the original ship restored – not a reproduction – is actually suspended and the lower portion of the hull is surrounded by glass that creates a roof over the displays and cafeteria BELOW the ship.
There are also several interactive displays within the ship itself, explaining the history of it’s voyages and how it came to be in Greenwich.
The Greenwich Observatory
By the time we got to Greenwich and the Cutty Sark, it was late in the afternoon. We could have bought a combined ticket for both the Cutty Sark and the Greenwich Observatory, but we didn’t have enough time left to be able to get to the Observatory, which was a shame because we really would have loved to see that, too. Perhaps on our next trip to London.
Back to Longfield – Sort Of
Neither of us is quite sure how it happened, but we obviously picked the wrong train back to Longfield.
Oh, it was going in the right direction, but it must have been an express, or something like that, because it blew right past Longfield taking us into uncharted territory.
We got off at the next stop (Rochester), checked the departure board and found the right platform for the train that would take us back to Longfield.
We explained to the train’s conductor, who was coming around to check tickets, the error we had made and she just smiled, knowingly.
Dinner at Monroe’s
Monroe’s have a wonderful carvery – kind of like a buffet – with several different types of meat – usually beef, pork and turkey – and a huge selection of vegetables. On this particular day, the selection of vegetables included kale, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, green peas, roasted parsnips and carrots.
While we are vegetarian most of the time, it can sometimes be difficult when eating out. So this time we chose the carvery, had a little bit of meat and piled our plates high with the veggies.
There were also sauces and gravy available as well.
The food was good and the prices were reasonable, which is why Monroe’s was quickly becoming our favorite restaurant.
A year ago today (July 31, 2014) we opted for a day at Chislehurst Caves rather than a very long trip to Biggleswade.
Chislehurst Caves, Some Shopping and Biggleswade Postponed
Biggleswade Postponed Indefinitely
Today was the day we had scheduled for a trip to Biggleswade, the town where the Wells family comes from.
Geoff’s grandfather ran a large store there – Victoria House. We researched this and found that, although Victoria House is still standing, it has changed hands and purposes several times.
Biggleswade, and Victoria House, were where Geoff’s Dad grew up as the baby of a family of nine kids.
I guess we hadn’t really checked how to get to Biggleswade by train before leaving Canada. Geoff found that it was a long trip – three hours one way – and an expensive train trip to boot, even with our 30% discount.
Although it would have been nice, Geoff said he didn’t really remember Biggleswade much. So we tabled this excursion until our next trip to the UK. On our next visit, we plan to do more traveling around the country. This time, the focus was on visiting places within easy reach of London plus Bath and Stonehenge.
While researching things to do in London and area, Geoff came across Chislehurst Caves and thought it looked interesting. Apparently it’s quite a popular attraction and yet it is something that Geoff had never heard about even though he grew up just outside of London. And, at only £4 each, it was one of the cheapest attractions we planned to visit.
Getting to Chislehurst took three separate trains but we weren’t on any of them for very long.
As had become our habit, we walked into Longfield, getting quite adept at dodging the traffic on the winding, narrow roads and coming away with minimal scratches from the hedges that were so close to the road that they seemed to make it even narrower – and bit more harrowing on some of the curves.
But we made it to the train station reasonably unscathed and told the agent where we wanted to go. He printed our tickets and not only explained the changes we would have to make but printed out a trip itinerary for us that would help considerably as we made each change.
Three Trains to Our Destination
Our first train was the one we would normally take into London’s Victoria Station, however, we would be disembarking at Bromley South this time – the last stop before London.
At Bromley South, after checking the departure boards to make sure we chose the correct platform, we boarded the train to Petts Wood. That one actually sent us back the way we had just come for a time before making a curve to the right.
Getting off at Petts Wood, as our itinerary indicated we should, we again checked the departure boards to find the platform for our train to Chiselhurst. The signage is relatively easy to understand and the trains are very reliable.
We didn’t have long to wait for our train and were in Chiselhurst less than an hour after leaving Longfield, even with so many changes.
Tour of the Caves
The entrance to the attraction, complete with restaurant and gift shop, was not far from the Chislehurst train station and fairly easy to find. Following the signs, we walked through a small downtown area with a pub, a convenience store and a couple of chippies (fish & chip shops).
When we arrived at the reception are, where we could buy our tickets, we learned that the guided tours went every hour on the hour. That meant we had about 40 minutes to wait. The small gift shop didn’t even take five minutes and we weren’t interested in the restaurant, so we spent most of our waiting time on some benches just outside the entrance to the caves.
At the allotted hour, the doors to the entrance opened wide and our guide emerged to announce that the tour would begin momentarily.
Just a couple of minutes later he gathered our group together, accepted our tickets, and led us down a sloping tunnel into the caves.
Actually, the first thing we learned is that these weren’t really caves at all. They were actually a series of tunnels cut into the chalk. The tunnels, now interconnected, were actually mined in three sections over a very long period of time. One section had been mined by Druids (making this part almost as old Stonehenge and they used antlers and their mining tools), another by the Romans and the third in more current times.
Complete and Utter Darkness
Many of the people in our tour, us included, were issued kerosene lanterns for the tour. However, in one section we were encouraged to experience complete and utter darkness. Our guide took all of our lanterns and wandered away to allow us to experience something that many of us have never had the opportunity to experience.
It was quite interesting. No matter how much we tried to peer into the darkness, there was only darkness.
However, the experience was somewhat ruined when a couple of people in the group decided to open their cell phones, breaking the darkness for the rest of us. There’s always someone, isn’t there.
World War II Sanctuary
During World War II, the caves were used to house thousands for people to give them sanctuary from the bombings. You can still see some of the tunnel designations so the inhabitants could find their section. It was like an underground city even containing a hospital and a school.
We would certainly recommend taking the tour and felt we got value for money at this attraction.
Lunch At The Local Chippy in Chislehurst
After our tour of the Chiselhurst Caves it was lunch time and we checked out the local chippies. In one of them Geoff noticed they had a menu item called Rock. He asked if it was Rock Salmon – that’s actually eel, but Geoff has fond memories of it from his youth.
The proprietor, who obviously wasn’t British, assured him that it was.
Geoff’s memories of Rock Salmon are of it being white and flaky with a large bone running down the middle. He decided to go ahead and order it even though it was one of the pricier items on the menu. And, apparently, the price didn’t include the chips – they were extra.
Sadly, Geoff was disappointed as the fish (eel) was rather mushy, with a much smaller bone than he remembered, so he found the meal somewhat disappointing.
On To Petts Wood
We decided that we would spend some time at each place we needed to change trains, just to explore. The next stop was Petts Wood. It had a cute little downtown area with a lot of small shops including several charity shops displaying donated, slightly used, items. It did take us long to walk the entire downtown area and then get back to the train station for the next leg of our journey.
The next stop was the station at Bromley South. This proved to be a much larger community with a street market happening selling all manner of items including clothing, shoes, fresh veggies and more. We spent a lot more time exploring this town.
Search For An Electric Kettle
Up until now we have being purchasing our morning coffee from the restaurant at the resort. As it is only instant coffee, and costs £1 per cup, we thought we’d try to find an inexpensive electric kettle so we could make our own coffee each morning. Two cups (at least) per day and £1 each over 16 days adds up pretty fast. But we had no idea how much a kettle would cost, so we stopped in a few stores to find out. Another criteria was that the kettle be small and easy to pack so we could take it with us when we moved on.
About the cheapest kettle we could find was almost £20 and much too large.
As we continued to wander around we passed a charity shop that not only sold used furniture, but used electrical appliances as well. We decided to have a look.
On the shelf, next to the large electric kettles, were TWO compact travel kettles that were actually dual voltage, so, with the proper adapter, they could be used on 110 volt, too. Not only that but they also included the original booklet, two small cups, a measuring cup and a plastic container to store the coffee (they all fit INSIDE the kettle to save space). They were also certified as working and were only £3 (the cost of 3 cups of coffee bought from the restaurant). SOLD!
Bromley South also had a very large 99p Store (kind of the equivalent to our dollar stores).
After our score of an electric kettle we would now need instant coffee, sugar, powdered creamer and whatever else struck our fancy.
We got exactly what we needed including a UK three-prong plug to a Europe 2 pin adapter so we could use the kettle on the rest of our European trip, if needed.
Oh, and a few other items made their way into our basket as well.
Shoes For Geoff At The Street Market
One of the stalls at the street market was selling slip-on, leather flip flops and Geoff actually needed a pair. He found some he liked and actually ended up buying two pairs.
Back To Longfield
The last leg of our journey, of course, took us back to Longfield from Bromley South and we still had a lot to do there.
Pick Up Our Laundry
The first stop was at the local cleaners to pick up the laundry we had dropped off a couple of days before. It was ready and waiting for us and we were pleased with the results.
Geoff’s Modeling Career
When we were in Longfield a couple of days earlier, the local hairdresser had a sign outside saying they were looking for models for their students and that would include a free haircut. Well, Geoff was ready for a haircut, so we stopped in and inquired.
Sure enough, they needed models for their students on Thursday at 6pm and there would be no charge for the service. Geoff had signed up to be a model and he was now waiting for his haircut.
The students were all supervised, of course. The student assigned to Geoff had never given a haircut before and she was closely supervised but did an amazing job. As a matter of fact, both Geoff and I believe that it was one of the best haircuts he has ever had. He was certainly glad he had volunteered to be a model.
Dinner At Monroe’s
We decided to have dinner at the local restaurant – Monroe’s. They had an outdoor patio, as well as indoor seating, and a Marilyn Monroe theme going on. They also had daily specials at what seemed to be a reasonable price.
I can’t remember exactly what we had that evening but we were impressed with the quality as well as the price and were determined to return.
Back To The Resort
After picking up a few groceries, we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the resort for the evening, with our prized possession of a new (okay, used) kettle and the means to make our own coffee the next morning.
A year ago today (July 29,2014), we made our first foray into London.
Walk Into Longfield
Today began with another walk into Longfield, but this time it was to catch a train into Victoria Station and spend the day in London. As we were able to head into London “off peak” we could, of course, use our Two Together rail pass for a 30% discount on our return fare.
Note: It’s always better to get a return fare than one-way tickets. The return fare was £15.50 and the one-way fare £15.30. As you can see, it’s much for cost effective to buy return tickets.
Drop Off Laundry
Before we could get our train we needed to drop off a bag of laundry at the local cleaners. That meant lugging the bag on the walk into town. Unfortunately, Geoff got stuck with that duty.
the entire bag of clothes, the charge for a wash, dry and fold service was only £8. We didn’t think that was too bad and, besides, we didn’t really have any choice, there was no laundromat either at the resort or in Longfield. So, local cleaners it was. We told them we’d be back on Thursday to pick it up and they said “no problem”.
Train to Victoria Station
This was our first trip into London since arriving at our resort and it went quite smoothly. There was a ticket agent in the train station which meant we didn’t need to deal with the automated machine. We weren’t exactly sure how that would work with our rail pass and were grateful that we didn’t have to figure it out.
Walk Along the South Bank of The Thames
From Victoria Station, we headed directly to the Thames and began a leisurely walk along the south bank. We passed Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as well as the London Eye and more.
As we passed the Globe Theatre (home of many Shakespeare plays), we decided to stop in for the tour. It was a planned activity for this day, but we also had prepaid tickets for the Tower of London. However, as we were standing right in front of the Globe Theatre, we decided to take the tour now rather than try to make time for it on the way back.
Two For One Tickets
As part of our research for this trip, we discovered that there were two-for-one ticket attractions offers for rail passengers. We just needed to have the two-for-one offer printed out (which we did at home and was part of our travel folder) and our train ticket for that day.
We were able to get the Globe Theatre tour at the two-for-one special.
On the tour we learned that this was not the original Globe Theatre but a carefully constructed replica. It was also not on the exact spot of the original, either, but it was close.
The tour was very interesting and full of history. We won’t go into any detail, though, as we wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to take the tour.
Tower of London
The tickets for the Tower of London were not available with the two-for-one deal during July and August, so we booked online, from Canada, to get the best price possible.
We headed across Tower Bridge to the Tower of London to begin our tour.
Yeoman Warder, Tower of London
To our mind, the best way to get much of the history of the Tower is to take one of the tours with a Yeoman Warder – a Beefeater. These men are the Queen’s personal guards and they must have been in military service for over twenty years before they can become a Yeoman Warder. They, and their families, actually live within the walls of the Tower of London and are LOCKED IN every night at 10:00pm during the Ceremony of the Keys.
The one that gave us the tour, along with several other people, was both knowledgeable and humorous (with sharp-witted British humor). The tour was thoroughly enjoyable and we were sad when it was over.
Crown Jewels and More
After the tour we were free to wander around on our own and visited the Crown Jewels, the White Tower (built by William the Conqueror over 1000 years ago), the rooms where people like Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I were kept.
Executions at The Tower Of London
We were surprised to discover that there really weren’t many executions carried out at the Tower of London. Given the Hollywood productions of such historical periods you would have thought it was a common occurrence, but it really wasn’t.
A tour of the Tower is definitely recommended when visiting London.
London Skyline from Tower Bridge
Next up was the Tower Bridge Experience and we were able to take advantage of the two-for-one deal here, as well. Lots of interesting history here, not to mention the amazing view from the top of the bridge.
Walk Along the North Bank of The Thames
After the Tower Bridge Experience, we started our long walk back along the North bank of the Thames and back to Victoria Station to get our train to Longfield.
There were a few places where the walking path didn’t follow right along the edge of the river and we had to make a couple of detours onto regular streets and then pick up the path further on.
We finally made our way back to Victoria Station, tired after a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Back to Longfield
The train ride back to Longfield was enjoyable just for the mere fact to have a place to sit for a while (about 30 minutes, anyway), after having spent most of the day walking. We decided that it was best to take a taxi back to the resort from Longfield as it was getting dark and we didn’t relish the idea of navigating the narrow roads in the dark. Also, we were already tuckered out from the amount of walking we’d already done.
A year ago today (July 26-28, 2014), we were settling in to our accommodations in the UK, where we would be until August 10, 2014.
Several Days In One
Sometimes there’s not much point in blogging each and every day, particularly when there’s not much happening. It could get pretty boring, actually. So, this post consists of several days.
There will also be times, when we simply skip a few days if nothing in particular happened on those days.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Relax at Resort
Today was a day to just relax, reset our circadian rhythm and spend a little time in the sun.
Alas, I am subject to kidney stones from time to time. Most of them have happened when I haven’t had easy access to medical assistance. Actually, of the four kidney stones I’ve had up until today, I have only been near a hospital once.
Today was yet another time that medical assistance would not be nearby.
I have learned that there’s nothing much that can be done about a kidney stone. You just have to wait for it to pass. But the pain can be excruciating while it passes.
My doctor has given me some strong painkillers for just such an occasion but the trick is taking them early enough, as soon as the symptoms start and the initial symptoms do not include pain, just pressure and an odd, hard to explain, feeling.
However, with this one – being my fifth kidney stone – I was able to recognize the symptoms fairly early and immediately took the painkillers. In the past, I had always taken them too late and the pain would make me vomit, ejecting the painkillers before they had a chance to do any good.
Even with taking the painkillers early enough, it only helped ease the pain, it certainly didn’t mask it completely and I realized that I’d just have to tough it out, with the aid of the painkillers, until it passed.
This one, thankfully, passed fairly quickly – in about four hours or so.
Once the stone has passed, everything is fine again and it’s like nothing ever happened. And I was certainly grateful to reach that stage.
Sadly, it ruined our Saturday evening.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Walk Into Longfield for Groceries
The menu at the resort was limited and not very vegetarian-friendly, so we decided that we needed to get some supplies to be able to make some of our meals ourselves even in our wooden tent. So, Google Map in hand, we headed into Longfield to get some groceries.
What the Google Map didn’t show was just how narrow the roads actually were between the resort and the town. Even though we had experienced the narrow roads in the taxi, I guess it hadn’t registered that it would be difficult when translated into a walking excursion.
Our Google Map showed us the way to the Waitrose grocery store in Longfield. However, we had also seen how close it was to the train station when we first arrived, so we had some idea where we were headed.
Dodging cars by pushing ourselves into hedgerows became a bit of an art as we walked into town. But we made it, totally intact except for a few scratches, in about 40 minutes or so.
We looked around the immediate area and saw that, in addition to the Waitrose grocery store, there was a bakery, a Co-Op grocery store, a take-away fish & chip shop, a restaurant with an outdoor patio and a pub touting an “American” chef. Maybe an American chef was impressive to the local population but it made us want to avoid it. If we were going to go to a pub we wanted a British experience, not an American one.
We did our first shopping at Waitrose and headed back to the resort with several bags, not quite sure how, or where, we were going to stock everything. We did have a soft-sided cooler that we had brought with us and we were pretty sure we could get ice from the restaurant.
Oh well, we’d figure it out somehow.
A Short Video About the Longfield Area
Monday, July 28, 2014
Canceled Trip Into London
According to our carefully planned schedule for our UK adventure, today was the day that we were supposed to head into London for a walking tour and visits to Selfridges and Harrods.
The weather, however, had different plans. It was cold and rainy and, according to the weather report, it appeared that it planned to stay that way for the entire day.
We scrapped our plans for the day and just hunkered down at the resort. Fortunately, we had a couple of distractions to rely on – an internet connection and a hot tub.