Well, it’s that time of year again – wanderlust has set in, and off the Soup Lady and the Intrepid traveler go on another adventure.
This time – it’s the UK. Land of bobbies on Bicycles two by two and the Tower of Big Ben. It’s also the land of the very expensive pound – at least in the spring of 2017. So money is going to be a theme thru much of this report. We’re trying to stay under $26 Canadian – 15 GBP per person per day. I don’t think it’s going to happen in London – the costs to ride the tube are excessive – running us 2.8 GPB one way if we travel off-peak – or 5.6 GPB a day minumim, and an outlandish 7.2 if we add a bus ride. That leaves around 7 to 10 GPB each for food and museum admissions – not a lot to spend even in Canada. But we shall do the best we can.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Trips for us start with organization – what cities do we want to experience, where can we stay for the least money that’s not a dorm room, and how many nights in each do we need to check out the highlights? After exploring the internet, reading several guidebooks, checking out VRBO, Booking.com and Air BnB we opted for this list: London, Oxford, Birmingham, Lancaster, York, Edinburg, and finally Glasgow. We’re got 5 weeks – so it’s 2 weeks in London, the rest spread apx. evenly out over the other cities. We shall be using trains and buses to go from city to city – after my experience driving in Spain, I’ve opted to stay alive – and take the bus!
Our first stop is London. After a long, relatively boring flight from Montreal, we arrive at 9:30 AM in London Healthrow. It takes over a hour to get off the plane, thru the horridly long line at immigration (for the first 20 minutes – there was only one customs guard…), on to the luggage carosels, past the ‘Nothing to Declare’ signs, and out. My favorite part of arriving at a new city is to study the signs of the drivers waiting for guests – Mr. Fred, Mrs. Salmon, IBM, the George Family – the range is huge but the glassy eyed drivers and the printed or for the more techy – ipad – signs are mostly the same. This time there were no kids with balloons, or weepy wives – just the line-up of drivers!
We do what I love best when I get off one of these flights – get a cup of coffee and give me time to get my non-sea legs back on. I hate rushing when I get off a long flight – I’m tired, I’m sore, and all I really want is a lovely cup of coffee and a chance to get used to breathing real air.
Once recovered – we make our first big mistake – we don’t buy a 7 day travel card. The price frankly scared me – 38 GPB seems like a huge sum. In hindsight – it was a bargain – but never mind. Instead we put 30 GPB onto an Oyster card and head off by Tube to London.
Originally we’d thought to crash at Colin’s – the host of the VRBO lodging we’ve booked for 2 weeks. But at the last minute, I ended up packing a huge (read that as ‘heavy’) suitcase full of stuff for Abigail, my new grandaughter – and we opted to take the tube to my dauther’s flat and crash there. It’s over a hour on the tube – so we arrive around noon – and I’m completely out of it. At least I manged to find my daughter’s place! Happily she has prepared the bed for us – and I promptly fall into it.
Several hours later I wake, much refreshed and almost on the new time zone. While I cuddle Abigail, My daughter trades us a loaf of bread from “The Little Bread Peddler” and 1/2 of a Tunsworth cheese for the goodies we packed in Montreal for Abigail, and we head off to our lodging. We opt to take the boat – and it’s a lovely boat ride along the Thames to Embankment – where the captain announces – end of the line, everyone out. Oops – not going all the way by boat then, I guess. We transfer to the District line following Colin’s excellent directions, and end up in Cheswick Park – a lovely, very green, relatively quiet residential area in West London. It’s a left, and a right to the end of a magnificant street filled with Victorian Houses packed absolutely wall to wall with each other. Postage stamp sized front gardens are bursting at the seams with roses, flowering hedges, and cars. Yup – even in the ‘suburbs’ – finding a parking place just isn’t that easy – and sometimes your front yard must do double duty. How they got the cars onto the front lawn is a miracle – but never mind – there they are carefully parked.
Our VRBO home is at the end of the cresent – a lovely 100 year old Victorian that has been remodeled from Stem to Stern, bottom to top. Glorious. The kitchen/dining/living great room has had all the dividing walls taken down, creating a wide open lovely feel. And it’s white – white walls, white cabinets, white clock. Even the washer, dryer and dishwasher are white. And it’s bright – which is lovely. Sun streams in the glass wall to the garden although the garden itself is badly in need of a crew cut and is dominated by a large deck and an even larger trampoline. Colin has two little girls who spend 1/2 the week with him – and it’s adorable the amount of kid stuff that is ‘hidden’ from view in kitchen cupboards and dining room shelves. Clearly these kids are artists – and I’m quite keen to meet them. But today is Tuesday – and they will arrive late Wednesday. So meeting them will have to wait.
Actually – meeting our host will also have to wait. Colin is working late tonight – and has emailed us specific instructions on how to make ourselves at home, which shelf in the fridge is for us (it’s the empty one), and which room is ours – very top of two flights of stairs.
But he has left out some important details – like where to find the silverware. We open up all the cabinets in the kitchen – certain that the silverware has to be hidden in one of them. Nope, Nope, and nope. Where is the silverware? In the living room? In the dinning area? A hidden drawer under the dinning table. No luck. We are on our third round of opening kitchen drawers when I realize that the top section of the drawer, after the main part is open, seems a bit thick. So I lightly pull on it – and behold – a hidden drawer. This one has cooking tools – but if there is one hidden drawer – there’s another – and I’m determined to have a knife to spread the cheese on our bread. So we try others – and sure enough, under the main kitchen counter – there it is! The silverware drawer. Hurrah – now we can eat.
So we set ourselves a lovely table of great bread, lovely cheese, sausages from my daughter (Check out Crowne & Queue). We chow down on the free goodies from my daughter, bread make ourselves some tea/hotwater, and relax – At the end of our meal, we toss what little remains into the fridge and head up stairs to bed.
Our white white white loft palace has a bedroom, a sitting room, a bathroom with a lovely shower, and angled ceilings. After hitting my head twice, I opt to use the drawers in the sitting room – at least there my head clears the ceiling. The Intrepid Traveller is shorter – but even she has to be careful in one part of the room. The ceiling takes a surprise downward dip – and the whiteness of the paint hides the dip from view. But it’s no biggie – we’ll get used to avoiding that corner fast enough.
Thru the huge window over our bed, we admire the view of the backyard and the factory that dates from the turn of the century behind the house. Then I pull down the blinds – and we go to bed.
Tomorrow will be another day!
Signing off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler