Monthly Archives: April 2013

Trip to England April 2013 Day 4

Day 4, Monday April 15.  We’re done traipsing around London, for now, time to go join our tour group to get out in the country and see some of the more remote attractions (of course, England isn’t all that big, so ‘remote’ is a relative term).

IMG_1118-800This Mercedes 16-passenger bus was to be our chariot for the next 5 days.  Our immediate destination was to be Oxford, where we’d be taking a river cruise on the Thames (also called the Isis as it flows near Oxford), then we’d be visiting Christ Church in Oxford, one of the Harry Potter filming sites!  In successive days we’d be going to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Lacock (another Harry Potter filming site), Bath, Stonehenge, and Windsor Castle. IMG_1125-800 Our driver was to be Charlie Jaques, who turned out to be an absolute gem – very knowledgeable, great sense of humor (or humour, as they do it there) – he was great!  Charlie promised us a few interesting side trips along the way, and we were guaranteed to see LOTS of sheep as we drove through the countryside.  The wealth and history of the Cotswolds was all built on the wool trade, we learned.

Our touring group turned out to be quite small, as it turned out – there was only one other couple joining us, but it worked out just fine, because they were very personable and pleasant.  They were Roger and Lyn Wagland, from near Brisbane, Australia – they were a couple of years older than me, if you can imagine that, so we 3 outnumbered Natalie, age-wise.  So, we 3 geezers drooled and fiddled  IMG_1664-800with our hearing aids and walkers while Natalie enjoyed the excursion.  Just kidding, folks!  We all kept up just fine for the walking, stair climbing, all that stuff.  At least *we* thought we did ok – Natalie might remember it differently  🙂

IMG_1177-800After a short drive we arrived in the Oxford area, where we piled out of the van to take our cruise up the river in a small boat.  There was no narration as we went along, so it was just us oooh-ing and ahhh-ing as we put-putted along, pointing out riverside cottages and some finer residences.  There were swans sharing the river with us, along with a number of ducks.  We saw lots of daffodils every place we went in England, and we saw plenty of them alongside the river. We got to go through one ‘manual-style’ lock gate system on our ride, so that was interesting to see that.  You’ll see some of the river sights on the pictures at the end of the blog post.  It was a nice, relaxing boat ride.

We left the river and went into the town proper, got out and enjoyed some of the Oxford scenery.  Charlie took us on a long hike around the edge of Christ Church just to show us the layout of the grounds, then we went the short distance back into the city streets to round up some lunch.  Natalie and I had Cornish pasties from a streetside shop with bistro seating- those pasties were uncommonly good!

After our nourishment, we were ready to tackle the long hallways and galleries of Christ Church.  If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll recognize the great hall, where in the first movie we saw candles floating high above the long tables, then later there were jack-o-lanterns floating up there.IMG_1303-800 IMG_1277-800 IMG_1327-800And, I had a small adventure while touring Christ Church.  I called it an adventure, you might refer to it as a ‘senior moment’.  😦  After wandering the halls, snapping inumerable photos, I finally re-joined the group back at the van, only to discover that I no longer had my camera with me.  Horrors!  I could really drag this story out, but I’ll just cut to the chase, as they say.  I went back to the postcard and curio shop they had inside the church and asked the nice lady if anyone had turned in a camera.  And, she nodded affirmatively, then said, “YES, WE FOUND YOUR CAMERA!!!!”  I was tempted to reply, “Hey, lady, I’m not hard of hearing, I’m just hard of understanding!”  But, I was gracious, and thanked her profusely  🙂  Whew!  Close call there!

After leaving Oxford, we drove through the bucolic countryside, pointing out and admiring all the cottages along the way.  The stone buildings in that part of England, including many of the cottages,  are made predominantly of a honey-colored (coloured?) stone that has been quarried there for centuries.  You’ll notice this coloration when you see the photos.  Makes for pretty pictures  🙂

Our destination for the evening was Chipping Campden, where we were booked for two nights.  The ‘Chipping’ designation meant that it was a market town, a central point where all the sheep products were brought in by the local farmers.  We pulled up at the Kings Hotel there and got our bags up to our rooms.  It was a nice, quaint hotel.  The number of outlets in the room left something to be desired, but that really was the only deficiency – the rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable!  We had plenty of time to stroll the streets before supper, but then we all gathered in the Kings Hotel dining room, and were fed like royalty!  Very nice – I had duck and pollock, Natalie had tomato/goat cheese pork belly. Hers sounded kinda odd, but she said it was quite tasty 🙂

That was our first full day in the English countryside, and we were loving every minute of it.  We enjoyed sharing our experiences, our history, we had lots of questions for Charlie (pronounced “Chollie”, just like on the “Lost” program), and Natalie and I had questions about Australia.  Good times, great memories!  Tomorrow, Stratford-Upon-Avon!  Enjoy the pictures from Day 4, below:

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Trip to England April 2013 Day 3

Quick review: Up to this point I’ve described flying to Chicago, then London, plus our adventures in London fortraction our first full day, including the visit to Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms.  At the end of our fabulous day we limped back to our room and collapsed around 6PM, none the worse for wear 🙂

To continue: After 10 hours or so of sleep, we jumped to our feet and bolted down the stairs to make more discoveries!!  Actually, we woke up in something of a stupor, and I put on some mismatched clothes (some mighta been Natalie’s, I don’t know) and I left her in the room while I went down to the hotel restaurant for a bite to eat. I had my choice of a nice complimentary continental breakfast (not sure which continent), or I could pay around $20 US for a Full English Breakfast (no, not like McDonald’s Big Breakfast).

Here’s the Wikipedia ‘skinny’ (hmmm, definitely not SKINNY) on their full breakfast:English breakfast

Full English breakfast
A traditional full English breakfast includes bacon (traditionally back bacon), poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, sausages and baked beans, usually served with a mug of tea.  As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a “fry-up”.
Black pudding is often added, as are fried leftover mashed potatoes (called potato cakes), or hash browns. Onions, either fried or in rings, occasionally appear.
When an English breakfast is ordered to contain everything available it is often referred to as a Full English, or a Full Monty.  Defibrillators available on request! 🙂

I was a little concerned about what might really happen if I ordered a Full Monty from the waiter, so I figured coffee, juice and scones would hold me just fine – I had that.  A note about ordering black coffee in that part of the world.  I’m not sure what ‘Black Coffee’ means to them, but somehow they don’t understand what you want if you ask for it in that way.  I soon deduced that the correct terminology for that arcane beverage was “Americano”  So, ya want basic black coffee?  Order “The Americano”.  Not sure, but that may be some kind of back-handed insult. Oh, well.

By then, Natalie had re-assembled herself and was ready to tackle the day. We headed out the door into a bright, sunny morning and rejoined the HoHo (Hop On – Hop Off) bus tour to make our way over to the Westminster Pier, very near Big Ben tower, where we’d be boarding the boat for a cruise down the Thames to Greenwich.IMG_5358-800

In olden times, the Royal Observatory was located at Greenwich (basically a suburb of London, now), and I was wanting to see the Harrison clocks on display there.  I first learned of these timepieces when I watched the mini-series Longitude, which I highly recommend. I think it’s available from Netflix – it stars Michael Gambon as John Harrison and provides a wonderful explanation of how he solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.  Hey folks, here’s your chance to LEARN something!  🙂 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0192263/

IMG_0851-800We boarded the boat, just as planned, and enjoyed a leisurely cruise down to Greenwich – lotsa people on the tour boat, very popular thing to do.  Be sure to do this yourself if you make it to London Town!  After 30 minutes or so we docked at Greenwich, next to the historic Cutty Sark, one of the last clipper ships to be built.  It was something of a transitional design, soon to be replaced by steam-powered vessels.  Anyway, it is beautiful and historic!

IMG_0880-800IMG_0861-800We got off the boat and wandered into the little village of Greenwich – we fell in love with it immediately!  I don’t know why, but it reminded me of Estes Park, Colorado, in some ways – lots of little shops, everything clean and neat.  It was fun to wander around, making little discoveries.  We had our very first traditional English Fish n Chips at The Pier, and we enjoyed it immensely.  My piece of fish weighed only about 4 pounds, so I think maybe I got shorted, but hey, I’m a tourist, right?  All part of the travel experience!  🙂

Next we made our way up the winding path to the Observatory complex, quite a climb.  Hmmm, wonder why they put it up on a hill?  🙂  It was a very scenic walk (struggle?), and we were in a throng of people all wanting to get there first. IMG_0891-800 It was Springtime, it was Sunday, the sun was shining, I think all of England was out of doors, on the move.  Great feeling!  At the top we made our way over to where they had a metal band laid into the stone, showing the Prime Meridian, Zero Degrees Longitude, as you likely already know.  You know, Greenwich Mean Time?  Well, the folks didn’t seem all that mean to me, but what’s in a name?

HarrisonSeaClockI had to make use of an online photo of a Harrison Sea Clock, at left.  I took several videos of the clocks in motion, but forgot to take any still shots.  Oh, well.  Amazing mechanisms, amazing solution to an age-old problem.  We explored all the exhibits in the building, then wandered on down the hill to wait for the upstream tour boat.

IMG_1016-800After we made our way back to the Westminster Pier, we did the HoHo thing to get over to the British Museum.  I was a little disappointed that their premium exhibition, Pompeii and Herculaneum, was sold out, but there were still many wonderful things to see.  The picture here is of the Rosetta Stone.  Yes, THE Rosetta Stone!  I had no idea it was at this museum.  It’s the key piece needed for modern man to decipher the ancient hieroglyphics of the Egyptian civilization.  WOW!  I’ll put up some more photos at the bottom of the post – you can see some of the other treasures we came across in our museum wanderings.

After the museum visit we went over to Covent Garden, one of the most popular eating and shopping areas of London. IMG_5484-800 IMG_5488-800 IMG_5491-800 We didn’t stay long, but we had a chance to spend some time in an AUTHENTIC English pub!  It was the Nag’s Head, and it perfectly matched all the pictures I had seen of pubs – it was great, and the pub food was OUTSTANDING!!  They even serve BEER there, can you imagine??  🙂  I’d have to look up the menu online to try to remember exactly what I had to eat there, but I think it was another of the English ‘pie’ type dishes, with a nice crust and a beefy filling with lots of vegetables.  Very nice!  You won’t go away hungry after eating pub food!

After the pub visit we found the station for the Underground (the “Tube”) and made our way back to the hotel without any trouble at all.  We were actually figuring out the mysteries of getting around London!  Woo Hoo!  🙂

Here’s a sampling of photos (some may be duplicates of what I posted above, forgive me).  I think you’ll like browsing!

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Trip to England April 2013 Day 2

Early Saturday morning, April 13th.

After an 8-hour flight from Chicago, we were disgorged from the big United 770 onto the jetway.  I was towing one small piece of wheeled luggage and had struggled into my backpack, which fortunately only weighed 6 metric tonnes (as they spell it ‘over there’).  We walked up the inclined ramp and into another corridor, which seemed kinda long until we got around the next corner and saw a corridor that was so long there were mirages forming in the distance!  From there we trudged on to the next corner and the next…. I don’t know how big Heathrow Airport really is, but it seemed we walked for half a mile (.85 kilometers).  And, for someone in my condition (90-year old man), I think I did ok with it.

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The Infinite Tube to Nowhere

We got to the end, finally, made it through Customs, Odd Customs, Weird Customs, and Immigration, then followed the signs to find the train platform which should take us to Paddington Station, which would be our ‘jumping off point’ onto the sidewalks of London .  Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves having trouble interpreting their signs (printed in ‘their English’).  Yes, we got a little lost, but soon righted ourselves and made it to the Hogwarts Train.  Clever Natalie had already purchased tickets online, so we jumped aboard without great difficulty.  It was a little funny – there was a helpful fellow announcing train arrivals, and his assistance turned out to be ‘unvaluable’.  We could not make out what he (Mr Cockney Accent) was saying, for the most part.  We found the actual person (it wasn’t a disembodied voice emanating from a distant booth, thank goodness!) and queried him directly. With some hand-waving and pantomime, we got the information we needed.  Whew!

The train ride to Paddington was great!  It was a sunny morning, full of promise, and we were really pumped up with excitement!  It was a 20-minute ride, and we got our first look at London.  aIMG_2643-800We were whizzing through some industrial areas, and got a look at some of the ‘probably not Hollywood’ neighborhoods.  One thing that I found interesting (since I come from a technical background) was that all the cabling for the trains was pretty much out in the open, visible all along the tracks on racks that kept them in some kind of order.  I’m sure it makes them much more easily accessible for maintenance and upgrades.  (See visual aid).

We arrived at Paddington Station (even that simple name had magic: I’d heard it so many times over the years while watching movies set in London) and prepared to test our parachutes.  IMG_0573-800Oh good, that won’t be necessary – they’re slowing to a stop!  🙂  We clambered down, “minding the gap” ( you don’t want to get stuck down in there, between the train body and the platform).  Every time you get off the subway (the ‘Tube’), or any train-like conveyance, the recordings are always announcing “Mind the Gap!”  So, we minded.  And, as you might be able to tell from the pic, Paddington Station is PRETTY BIG!  I took several photos there, as you’ll see if you wade through all my pics I uploaded to FaceBook.  I’ll try to include a lot of those pictures here, also.

After we got clear of the train platform we started making our way out of the station, hoping we’d find an exit that would put us on the correct side of the huge station to commence our walk to the hotel, which should be a few short blocks away.IMG_0576-800  As we came outside, Natalie fired up her iPhone mapping GPS thingy and we discovered immediately that she isn’t all that good with it 🙂  Turns out I was no expert, either.  We put our heads together, then tossed a coin to see which direction IMG_0578-800to go.  We had a little blue dot on the display, but it was sometimes a little confusing on which way to go.  As it happened, we were exactly where we wanted to be, on the south side of the station, so we launched ourselves out into the city. (there is a possible source of confusion here, as we learned.  The term ‘City’ officially only applies to the central square mile of London proper that is called by that name “The City”.  It has its own government, its own police force, etc.  It is the financial hub of the nation, and HUGE numbers of workers commute into it daily, but there are not that many actual residents, due to the high number of office buildings.  Anyway, there ya go.  But, when I say ‘City’, I’m just talking about London, k?)

After an easy stroll, we found our hotel so we could drop off our luggage, explaining we wished to check in later that day.  No problem.  Really, no problem  🙂  I’m going to throw some maps at you now, followed by a photograph of the front of the Quality Crown Hotel, Hyde Park.  This way, you can see where Heathrow Airport is, in relation to the city (now, now, we already talked about this ‘city’ thing).  Also, you can see where Paddington Station is, and where our hotel was in relation to that.  Stand by, you Map People!Day1-Heathrow Day1-LHR to Paddington Day1-Paddington to Qual Crown Day1-QualityCrownHydePark  And, for you non-Map-People, just bear with me, k?  🙂

Anyway, I’m just telling the story the way I’d like to hear it, so I hope you enjoy it.  Got complaints?  Dial 1-800-NotListenin.

Top map – A is the map-pin for Heathrow, west of London.

Map 2 shows our route to Paddington.

Map 3 – you can see where the Quality Crown Hyde Park is located.  Coincidentally, it’s just at the north end of Hyde Park.  Are these people SMART, or what??  🙂

The photo (which I actually got by using Google Maps before we ever left the USA) shows you the front of the hotel.  I thought it might be handy to have this shot in case we arrived in a driving rain and needed to know which way to dash.  Worked out fine!  Beautiful morning, beautiful city, great hotel!

We asked a few questions of the hotel staff, describing our intentions to find the tour bus pickup point, then we were off!  Now that we had no luggage to horse around, we made really good time.  No, we weren’t running, per se, just keeping up a steady pace.  First things first, we found a Scottish restaurant that serves coffee, which was much welcomed!  The name of the restaurant was McDonald’s – look for it if you go to England, ok? 🙂  We had to kill a little time anyway, since we were somewhat early for the buses.

We found the bus pickup point, found somebody to show our tickets to (purchased online, also).  He looked at her paperwork, said, “Lady, you’ll have to got down to mumblemumblemumble to get those scanned and verified – we can’t do that here.”  IMG_0595-800He then spoke a magic incantation to the driver of the bus that was sitting there, then turned to us and said, “Just jump on this bus, he’ll take you to mumblemumble, etc, to get them scanned.”  Well, that almost worked – we had to make one more connection to get to the ‘scan point’, but it worked out ok.  This shot shows what the tour buses look like.  Can ya see Big Ben tower in the distance there?  Yes, THE Big Ben tower  🙂

We rode the tour buses all around London, seeing all the wonderful examples of architecture and sculpture, then made our decision on what we could manage tour-wise, on our first day.  We had arrived hours ago, still no sleep, but thought we’d make it to a couple of attractions before collapsing.  As you’ll see in the photographs which follow, we made it to Westminster Abbey (easy to say the words, “Westminster Abbey”, but extremely difficult to convey the experience), and were totally amazed by the whole thing.  I could go into pages and pages of description and you still wouldn’t ‘get it’.  Here’s today’s NEW WORD (possibly new for you, I only recently worked it into my vocabulary)

in·ef·fa·ble

/inˈefəbəl/
Adjective
  1. Too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words: “ineffable beauty”.

So, Westminster Abbey was ineffable! If you can manage it, GO!  While at the Abbey we had a nice lunch, (I had a kind of soupy chicken pot pie, made on premises from ‘scratch’, Natalie had ‘chips [French fries]and tomato sauce [ketchup]’) then we made our way to the Churchill War Rooms.  Here we got to tour the actual underground rooms where Churchill and his able staff ran the war effort for Great Britain.  It was wonderfully done – for the most part, on the day the war ended, they closed and locked the doors and left it as it was.  Obviously, since then they’ve added things to make it more ‘understandable’, but it was very interesting, very moving.

After seeing the Abbey and the War Rooms, we were whipped!  We made it back to the hotel, got checked in, then visited with the medical personnel manning the hotel bar.  After an application of Stella Artois, we felt much better!  Off to sleep (this was around 6PM – we were BEAT).  End of Day 2  🙂

So, enjoy the photographs – I won’t labor you with long descriptions of what you see, just enjoy seeing London as we saw it. We loved EVERY MINUTE of our trip, we loved everything we saw!  (I’ll try to put captions on any critical photos)

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#10 Downing Street

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Admiral Sir Lord Nelson

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Approaching Trafalgar Square

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Trip to England April 2013 Day 1

Christmas TreeThe story starts at Christmas time, December 2012. Kate and I had a few gifts under the tree, including some from relatives living in faraway places. One of the gifts addressed to me was actually a small bundle of wrapped gifts, numbered 1 through 5, from daughter Natalie. She had given me verbal instructions, “Don’t open anything before Christmas, and I (Natalie) want to share the opening with you on FaceTime, if we can make it work.” She told me later that she/they wanted to see my face as I opened Gift #1, so at the appointed hour the great FaceTime experiment began. I got in front of our iMac computer, and (long story short), we just couldn’t make it work. Our internet connection here in the boonies was just too slow to support the video connection. So, I went ahead and opened Envelope #1 (see picture).
OpenMeFirst

and, inside the envelope, I found this Christmas Letter:

Christmas Letter

(I hope you’ll take the time to watch the video she put together – it’s only a couple of minutes, just click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlC5tgJkhew )

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The Amazing Natalie!

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Well, our tour buses weren’t red like this one,
but they were still neat! 🙂

To summarize the content of the video, for those who are unable to see YouTube videos for some reason or chose not to watch:
Natalie had arranged for a Father/Daughter trip! The two of us were to go to England for 10 days (April 12th – April 22nd 2013), flying out of Chicago O’Hare airport, United Global First Class, direct to Heathrow Airport, just west of London. We were to see Abbeys and Cathedrals, and England, Oh My!!
We’d be staying in nice hotels, seeing the city of London from the famous red double-decker buses, then join a small group of tourists on a 5-day jaunt, seeing the South of England on a small touring bus. We’d wrap up our stay in England by visiting the Cambridge area, including the village of Saffron Walden, where I was born, lo those many years ago! (I was a ‘war baby’ – my dad was a Yank, stationed in England during the early war years, and he met a young maiden (AKA my Mom), and then Mother Nature took over. They were married, I was born (October 1943), and the rest is history – MY history!) Now, I was to take my first trip over there as an adult, thanks to my daughter, Natalie! (insert sounds of cheering here)
So, the Game was Afoot, Watson! Now, the main problem was that my calendar went into ‘slo-mo’ mode – the pages now turned ever in maddening ‘waltz time’. It was Christmas, but now the waiting began, waiting for April to arrive! (by the way, Gifts 2 through 5 contained the necessary guide books and maps, a travel umbrella, and a few other small items I’d find useful)

Author’s note:
In a perfect world, I would have been accompanied by my amanuensis, who would have recorded my every thought, my every utterance, made videos of me and of Natalie as we enjoyed all the wonders that were England. But, in the real world, I had no amanuensis, I could not spare the space for a laptop computer, and my memory is imperfect. I will endeavor to share my feelings and my discoveries with you (plus the occasional photograph), and perhaps impart a small measure of the wonder and delight afforded me due to having been given this marvelous Trip of a Lifetime!
Thank you again and again, my wonderful daughter Natalie!

In the intervening time between December and April I tried to trim down and shape up, so I’d be better able to do all the necessary walking and stair-climbing we’d be encountering. This was all due to a recommendation from Natalie – apparently she didn’t want to drag me around after I had a heart attack or stroke. So, I was successfully able to modify my diet, and got in some time on the treadmill. Overall, I lost 40 pounds. I still have a way to go to reach a better number, but it was a helpful start, and it got me through the physical demands of the adventure.
Yay, me, thank you Natalie!

Now, I’ll begin the tale. I plan to break it into digestible parts for the sake of the readers – one posting per day of the trip. I’ll sprinkle in some photographs as we go, as visual aids (Oh, NOW I see! He flew to Chicago in an AIRPLANE!).

Day 1 –

KateRedRiver2011

The Beautiful Kate!

Corydon, Louisville, Chicago
My lovely wife Kate (see visual aid) was kind enough to drive me to Louisville, KY for my 8:00 AM flight on Friday, April 12, 2013. We left the house way early (yay, Kate!), and got me there in plenty of time to wrestle my two pieces of carry-on luggage to the gate. Natalie had suggested this method, rather than checking the bags, and it worked out pretty well – I did learn one or two things about economical use of space for carry-on’s (although, Kate took care of most of that for me, and I just kinda stayed out of the way).

The flight from Louisville

Fokker

The flight was breezy, but I felt
confident we’d be safe! 🙂

went smoothly, I arrived just as promised, and found my way to the First-Class lounge at O’Hare airport. Oh, just to say it again – we flew FIRST CLASS! Natalie really provided an amazing experience for me! I’ll throw in a couple of photos of the FIRST CLASS lounge, so you ordinary mortals can see what it’s all about (of course, I can’t share any FIRST CLASS secrets with you – the special handshake, none of that stuff)

IMG_0551-800 IMG_0555-800I was impressed by the amenities offered in that lounge area.  A full liquor selection (no, I didn’t get any of it), and you could even get champagne, just by asking (I tried that, just as an experiment, and it worked! Twice!!)  There were finger sandwiches, pastries, lotsa stuff!  And, I wasn’t pestered by paparazzi while I was in there – those guards are GOOD!  I had an 8-hour layover in Chicago, and I managed to endure it, *somehow*, in the first-class lounge 😦 ahh, the burdens of air travel.

I met a fellow there in the lounge who was just in from several weeks in Mumbai.  He was doing some photographic work there and since I expressed an interest in photography he offered to show me some of his work he had stored on his laptop.  Excellent shots of the people of Mumbai!  Several of them featured the colorful native costumes, and some were studies of people with lots of miles showing on their faces.  My new friend’s name is Scott Bird, and you can see some of his work at http://scottbird.smugmug.com/

Natalie’s flight arrived from Dallas about 4 hours after I arrived, so we laughed and chatted excitedly about the upcoming adventure.  We didn’t exactly take turns pinching each other, but it was NEAT!!  After a bit we strolled on over to our gate ( I thought they might carry us on sedan chairs, but I guess there are limits, even to FIRST CLASS! ).  We got to use the PREMIER BOARDING line to get on the plane, so that was nice.  I had to hurdle a nun in a wheel chair to take my rightful place in line, but hey…. FIRST CLASS, ya know?  🙂  Here are a couple of pics of us in our luxurious surroundings on the aircraft.  Yes, I still look like Jabba the Hut!  Still some weight loss to do there!  😦

IMG_0556-800 IMG_0557-800So, we got settled in and waited for takeoff.  We got off the ground as scheduled, then started counting down the hours.  Our flight path took us up and across Ontario on our way to Ireland and England. The tedium was frequently broken by the arrival of hot towels and gourmet food, of course, and we had many choices of entertainment on our personal video screens, including many first-run movies. Some of the movies featured good actors and some had Tom Cruise.

The flight was scheduled to leave Chicago at 4:10PM Central Time, then arrive at London Heathrow airport at 6:55 AM London time.  Sounds like a terribly long flight, but when you figure out the time zones (or, just look at your ticket), you discover that the flight is just under 8 hours long.

So, 4PM Chicago is equivalent to 10PM London.  If we quickly dozed off by our 6PM, that would be just like getting to sleep at midnight on London time.  If we ‘stayed up’ til 8PM Central Time, that would be 2AM London time.  So, if you wanna fly over the Atlantic ocean you gotta a)plan on retiring early or b) plan on arriving exhausted from lack of sleep.  As it turned out, we went with Option b.  Therefore, we did not sleep.  Too much going on in the plane, too much excitement running around in our heads.  The big plane got us there on time, approximately 6AM London time, and we grabbed up our carry-on’s and stormed Heathrow Airport!

Next time – the wonders of Heathrow, Paddington Station, and, yes…. LONDON!

England isn’t real

We don’t subscribe to any of the premium channels on Direct TV because they seem so repetitive – “Want to watch “Extravaganza, the MOVIE?? It’ll be on 7 more times today, and 15 times between now and the weekend!  Hurry, don’t MISS IT!!!!!!”  So, we pay around $12 a month to get the Encore and Starz channels – that provides plenty of movies to keep us entertained.

hogwarts1-800Anyway, we had a free weekend on HBO and CineMax, so I recorded a few ‘somewhat recent’ movies, and a few ‘not so recent but way good’ movies, with a few Harry Potters, including the first one, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”  I read most of the early Harry Potter books when they first came out, and I had seen “Sorcerer’s Stone” before, but somehow this was the first time I really ‘got into it’ and got totally absorbed in it.  Kate was at work last night, the house was quiet, just me and doggie, so I picked up the magic wand (tv remote), and enjoyed some mental time travel.  The story unfolded, petal by petal, and I entered the world of Hogwarts as a novice wizard.  What a wonderful trip it was!

<insert suitable segue here>   As you may or may not know, I was the recipient of a ‘magical’ Christmas present just a few short months ago.  My daughter Natalie presented me with a total of five wrapped gifts, each with a number indicating the order in which they were to be opened.  The first package (actually an envelope) revealed the link to a YouTube video she had prepared that described the trip we were to take together – a “Father-Daughter” trip to England, the land of my birth. A quick history of your author: my father was a Yank, stationed in England lo those many years ago, WWII.  He met a beautiful maiden (aka my mom), and Mother Nature led things from there, and lo (again), I came into this world as a real, no kiddin’,  bona fide war baby. I was born on Halloween (keep yer comments to yerself) 1943, and have never returned to that magical land since my mother and I came across the great water on the good ship Mauretania. map3-arrow Now, I will have the chance, thanks to Natalie, to see the village where I was born all those years ago.  By the way, THANK YOU NATALIE!!!  🙂

OK, here it comes, the connecting link for all my rambling to this point in my missive!  I’ve been seeing parallels regarding my impending trip and the adventures of young Harry Potter.  As surely as Harry was flabbergasted by all the wonders he discovered at Hogwarts, so will I be amazed by all that will be placed before me in the land of King Arthur and the Beatles.  Yes, I’ve seen all the photographs, I even had a photograph of my parents, as young newlyweds, by the lions in Trafalgar Square.  But, none of that makes it real, does it?  It won’t be real until I go see it myself, until I actually see the Roman ruins in my village of Saffron Walden, Essex!  It’s coming, you know.  The trip is COMING!  🙂  And then, I can surely say, “Yes, England is REAL!”Tower Bridge

Yes, I’m EXCITED!!!!

Blogs posts and photos to come, post-trip!