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Trip Report London - Lakes - Hadrian - Traquair and more...

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This is the first bit of a TR, written on the road, as we visit cousins and friends in the UK. I culled many suggestions from Fodorites as the itinerary developed as well as obtaining valuable weather advice ( = anticipate anything, pack layers). The beginning of the trip was marked by tragic events: the Orlando slaughter of LGBT people, the murder of MP Jo Cox, and resulting upheavals in the Brexit debate. We're on the road now, it's June 18, the polls are showing "leave" pulling slightly ahead, and we will be in Scotland, in Traquair House, the evening of the referendum, so it's a historic time to be here.

We drove from Burlington, Vermont to Trudeau Airport in Montreal, left the car in long-term parking, and took an easy Air Transat flight to Gatwick. We often fly Air Transat to Europe. It's convenient for us since Montreal is the closest big airport, it's well run, and a great value. Our open-jaw ticket, over to London then return from Glasgow, nonstop each way, was only US$580 including all taxes and fees.

We took the Thameslink train from Gatwick to Kings Cross/St. Pancras and walked a couple of blocks to our hotel, the Premier Inn on Dukes Road at the corner of Euston Road. This was the second London Premier Inn we have used (we stayed at the City Council Premier Inn on the Thames a couple of years ago) and they suited us fine, at a reasonable cost. This time the location was ideal for us, an easy walk of some 20 to 40 minutes to most of the places we wanted to go.

After lunch and a rest, we walked down to St. Martin-in-the-Fields for the evening candlelight concert of choral music and Faure's Requiem. This is one of my favorite churches anywhere, a light, airy version of English baroque and the 50 chorus members were outstanding. Then on to dinner at the Ship Inn, a fine gastropub dating back to 1549. Dinners: a starter of crab fritter with mint yogurt sauce and caviar for me, wild mushrooms for partner, and two servings of sausage, mash, and onion and bacon gravy. Plus ale, of course.

We slept in late the next morning. I made a quick visit to the church of St. Pancras next door to the hotel and was given the great opportunity by one of the church ladies to walk up the bell tower with her and ring the church bells. An unexpected treat.

We then walked down to the Holborn tube stop for the 11:00 walking tour of the Inns of Court, "Legal and Illegal London," covering the development of the legal education system. This was given by London Walks, highly recommended and very worthwhile, The two hour tour cost £10 (£8 for seniors like us); no need to register, just show up outside the Holborn tube stop. Many of the buildings of the Inns survived not only the Great Fire of 1666 but also the 1940 Blitz.

We visited many of the buildings and courtyards and heard (and sometimes remembered) a huge amount of historical background, including: why a lawyer is called to "the bar"; why did John Donne write the phrase "for whom the bell tolls" in his sermon which he gave in one of the Inn chapels; why Francis Bacon died just after his successful attempt to freeze chicken cutlets. Some of these historical nuggets might even be accurate! Also in the visit: the Temple church, built by the Knights Templar, dating back to the 12th century. We stayed at the end of the tour to hear a magnificent organ concert at 1:15 pm.

On to Ely Place, a couple of blocks away. This is the only scrap of London not subject to rule by the municipal government but instead by its own board of commissioners. It was originally part of a large palace complex built for the Bishop of Ely in Cambridgeshire. Now, only the little street and the very old Ye Olde Mitre pub survive (the pub was built to serve the workers of the bishop's estate).

A mediocre lunch at Chandos restaurant a block away from St. Martin's (don't recomment this restaurant). Afterward, we hopped the tube to go to the Freud Museum.

Freud fled Vienna in 1938 after the Anschluss, paying a huge sum to the Nazis as an "emigrant tax". He and his wife and daughter, Anna, settled in a house in Maresfield Gardens. Freud, suffering from cancer, continued to see a few patients there. He died in late September, 1939. Anna Freud, an important psychoanalyst and author, lived in the house until her death in 1982. It is now a fascinating and moving museum, with many of Freud's possessions arranged as much as possible as they were in his Vienna home. The most moving part: THE COUCH. Yes, the couch used by Freud's patients. Surely one of the most important pieces of furniture in the western world.

Must run. We're now in Keswick on a late Saturday afternoon about to head out to visit the Castlerigg stone circle, one mile out of town in a big meadow...perhaps 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. We shall see. More to come. Including Kinky Boots.

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