An eccentric trip around the UK

Old Sep 18th, 2018, 02:12 PM
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An eccentric trip around the UK

Instead of traveling I have spent the last year or so dealing with medical issues, and made the depressing discovery that chronic pain leaves you with very little energy. The good news is that I finally got a definite diagnosis (alas, a variant of rheumatoid arthritis) late last year and after some false starts am now on medication (Xeljanz) that has my symptoms under control. Yes! The bad news is that it works by suppressing my immune system, which makes me reluctant to travel.

But I am typing this while waiting to board a flight to London at the start of a six week trip. I'm planning to visit friends and family, and also take a look some new places, notably the Channel Islands. I am carrying a lot of antiseptic wipes, and a couple of small bottles of Purell. I've read that the most germ-ridden things you encounter when flying are the check-in screens and the TSA bins. Thanks to a friendly agent I avoided the first, and thanks to TSA Pre-check I avoided the latter. I have TSA Pre-check because I have Global Entry. It took a painful trip to DC last year for the ten minute interview, but I think it will be worth it.

For the DC trip, when I was taking OTC pills that didn't help much, I had wheelchair assistance at both airports - the first time. This trip I can handle my departure airport, but I have asked for a wheel chair at Heathrow because it is usually such a long trek from the gate, not to mention standing in line for immigration. I am also splurging for a car and driver to my first stop, as it is also a route march to the central bus station. I'll be staying with my elder sister for a few nights before taking the train to London for Open House.

Besides London I am visiting Dundee, Glasgow, the Channel Islands, South Devon and Norfolk, so not your usual UK itinerary. Besides posting here, I also plan to blog at mytimetotravel.wordpress.com although they have changed the interface since the last time I blogged and it is not as user-friendly.

They have started boarding my flight, so despite Hurricane Florence looks like the trip is a go.
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 02:35 PM
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I look forward to hearing all about your trip! Have a wonderful time.
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 02:51 PM
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Great you are on the plane and on your way. I learned the value of wheel chair assistance last year - it is a godsend in big airports like DFW and LHR.

Have you decided which places you'll visit during Open House? (Know you won't see this for a while)
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 02:57 PM
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Best wishes for a terrific, problem-free trip. So glad you are going.
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 03:15 PM
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Can relate to your travails and only hope that one day i can do like you - bravo and have a great trip - break a leg - not!
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 05:08 PM
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OK, be sure to wash your hands frequently but not so frequently that a bunch of onlookers start worrying! Remember, most nasty agents do not penetrate intact skin and I look forward to your reports. Have a great trip.
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 06:12 PM
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Iím so happy youíre back out there! Glad to see one of your trip reports, and good luck. I am all for eccentric, and very much looking forward to following along!

For some reason I thought TSA pre-check was for domestic flights only? Is it that itís just for flights with a US origin? Whatís the difference between that and global entry?

Last edited by marvelousmouse; Sep 18th, 2018 at 06:23 PM.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 12:31 AM
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Have a good trip Thursdays.....if you find yourself in Portsmouth give us a shout.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 04:29 AM
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Marvelous: TSA Pre-check is a system which expedites your passage through airport security for any flight, regardless of final destination Global Entry is a system which helps speed up the process of getting through Immigration and Customs when you return to the US
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 06:09 AM
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Thanks everyone! Am now ensconced in my elder sister's house in Milton Keynes. Seems I left one storm for another, almost the first thing I read over here was about a storm called Ali.

Janis - I failed to connect with the wheelchair but managed the walk OK - helped that with the automated kiosks the immigration line just kept moving (at least for UK/EU citizens, I swapped passports mid flight). Still, the difference between my condition for last year's weekend in DC and this trip is night and day. My list for Open House is probably too long, but starts near Liverpool Street station and finishes at Two Temple Place..

Dukey - the problem with getting germs on your hands is not broken skin but touching your eyes, nose or mouth. I had considered a mask for airborn germs but didn't get around to it.

LancasterLad - thanks, but no Portsmouth this trip, I was there a couple of trips back. Used to work in that area - in Havant

Marvelousmouse - as Dukey says, pre-check is for getting on flights and Global Entry is for gettng off international ones, but Global Entry includes pre-check. It's more expensive and only lasts five years.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 06:19 AM
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September 18-19 - Transit

My flight to London was an improvement over the last time. American Airlines had replaced the ancient plane from that trip with a new-looking 777-200. I had paid an extra 60 USD for the "premier economy" cabin - not a seat with extra leg room, but a "preferred" seat in an area with eight rows. The configuration was 3-3-3, and while the extra leg room seats were fairly full, in the preferred section most people got three seats to themselves. Luxury! And since the seats were flat, for once I could lie across them without having edges dig into my spine. The food was terrible, but I boarded with a sandwich and ate breakfast at Heathrow.

My driver hadn't got the message that I was meeting him at 8:15 and not right off the plane and seemed a bit miffed, but he got over it. His Mercedes was smooth and quiet and we made the trip to Milton Keynes in about an hour with no holdups There was a major traffic jam on the M25 but going southwest not northeast, and we got off on the M1 before the promised hour long wait between junctions 27 and 29.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 06:44 AM
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Great to read that you’re traveling again, thursdays. Enjoy.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 09:09 AM
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Looking forward to hearing about some of the slight less-travelled places....
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 07:14 PM
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Let me know if you need any Norfolk advice/help. I'm originally from that neck of the woods and know it well.
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 10:34 AM
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Thanks again! Morgana - we're basing in Norwich. I was thinking of a couple of stately homes, maybe Blickling and Holkham, and perhaps a seal watching trip or a boat trip on the Broads if the weather is good. Anywhere you particularly recommend? And somewhere good to eat in Norwich?

September 20 - George Washington's Ancestral Home

My first day in England was given over to rest and relaxation, a luxury I can afford on a six week trip. The only event of note was a trip to the bank to trade in the no longer legal five and ten pound notes left over from my last visit for new, plasticized ones. I figured my English accent must still be in good shape when the clerk asked me where I had found them.


I have stayed with my sister several times in the last few years, and we have pretty much run out of local National Trust properties to visit, so for the afternoon of my second day she suggested the privately-owned Sulgrave Manor, George Washington's ancestral home. The house was indeed built, in 1539, by Lawrence Washington, George's five times great grandfather. But although four generations of Washingtons lived there, George was descended from a cadet line, and in any case, around the time his great-grandfather, John, left for the Americas it passed into other hands.

Over the centuries wings were added to the original Tudor house, and wings were demolished. Only a small part of the existing building is Tudor. After the Washingtons the house had several owners, finally becoming a farmhouse. In the early twentieth century the house was bought on the initiative of the Peace Centenary Committees, set up in 1911 to determine how to commemorate the centenary of the Treaty of Ghent, which established peace between Britain and the US. It is maintained by voluntary societies, including the Colonial Dames of America, an organization I confess is new to me.

Sulgrave village was deep in the English countryside, and included a few older stone houses, although the stone did not have the golden glow of the Cotswolds, some thirty miles to the west. After we parked and headed towards the house I was surprised to see a Union Jack flying at one corner - not a common sight in England - but having paid the admission fee we walked round to the main entrance and I saw that it was matched by the Stars and Stripes on the further corner. The coat of arms over the Tudor porch was composed of stars and bars and there was a suggestion that this influenced the design of the American flag.

Some care is required when visiting the house to cope with uneven stone floors and steep stairs. Visitors see the main room and kitchen downstairs and the main bedchamber plus a couple of other rooms upstairs. The bed hangings were made recently and were bright with embroidery contributed by women on both sides of the Atlantic. There were some items of George Washington memorabilia contributed by American donors including Mount Vernon. There was also a truly enormous bust of the President outside, given by George Washington University at the time of the bicentennial. Apparently the university also has a copy. We finished our visit in the tea room, where I was pleased to be served a properly made macchiato to go with a scone and clotted cream.

Sulgrave Manor is clearly best visited by car, but a dedicated fan of George Washington could reach it from London by taking a train to Banbury and a taxi the further eight miles to Sulgrave. I was fortunate that my sister drove, although an unexpected road closure meant that I got to practice my map reading skills. I enjoyed the narrow lanes that made up part of the route, my sister perhaps not so much.
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 12:59 PM
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Brings back memories. While I as living in Oxon I trotted every American who visited us out to Sulgrave (quite a few over five years) Invariably they commented on the baby walker and the mouse trap over anything else . . .
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 02:00 PM
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"Am now ensconced in my elder sister's house in Milton Keynes" We drove past MK yesterday en route from Northampton to Suffolk! so near yet so far.... one of these days..
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 02:02 PM
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Houghton Hall is our favourite in North Norfolk. Magnificent gardens and always has something new and interesting to see. Felbrigg is lovely too.
Are you looking to do an organised boat trip or do your own thing? The two of us took a little electric boat out on Sutton Staithe this summer and had a fabulous day out. We took a picnic too but you can moor up at a pub.
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 02:32 PM
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Just now getting around to reading your trip report. Without going into boring details, for the past several years I have traveled with a reduced ( best way to describe it ) immune system. My doctor takes me off the drug that is one of the causes of low white blood cell counts, but I still need to be careful. So it's a lot of handy wipes, hand washing etc. I believe most problems arise from time spent on the plane. Have thought about a mask but not yet willing to go quite that far.

Enjoyed hearing about Sulgrave Manor and traveling the narrow lanes is one of my favorite things to do that is as long as I'm not driving. I remember seeing something on a documentary about Althorp, the Spencer family home, and they talked about the nearby ancestral home of George Washington. I am assuming that was Sulgrave Manor. Let me know if I got this wrong.

Look forward to my of your report and keep those gems at bay.
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Old Sep 20th, 2018, 02:46 PM
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Janis - mousetrap??? Neither of us saw that.

crellston - oh no, so close.

morgana - thanks! Will add them to the list. And I was definitely thinking organized boat tour.

ht - so sorry you are having troubles. I agree about the plane, was busy wiping down everything in reach, but alien airborne germs can be a problem too. I thought I was coming down with something this morning but it was only a starvation attack. Althorp is only 21 miles from Sulgrave according to google maps, so almost certainly right.
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