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erinb Nov 2nd, 2003 07:35 AM

Erinb's London Trip Report continued....
Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay. I have been down for count sick and trying to work at the same time. I am just now catching up on the rest of my trip report. Here is the next installment of my trip.

London Trip Report
Saturday, October 18th,2003

This is the 3rd installment of day 4 of our recent trip to London. Waking up early Saturday morning in London was quite a thrill. I am used to waking up about noon most Saturdays because I am forced to go to work 5 days a week and my evil boss is a slave driver and wants me there by 8:30 each morning. I am not a natural morning person so my first inclination is to revolt on the weekends by seeing how late I can sleep in. My family knows that hit men can be hired for a penance if they dare to call me before the dinner bell on the weekend. But Saturday morning in London is special and I hop out of bed on the run, calling Penny first (hey even she is surprised!) and ready to face the day. Yeah! Why! Because Saturday is market and book hunting day! Double WHAMMY Yeah!

So we leave out of the hotel about 8:30 and head to, yes, you guessed it! Dino?s for breakfast where I have toast and coffee and Penny has her cont. breakfast. By the time we get seated our waiter is smiling and asking us if we want the usual, which always surprises me because he is an Italian waiter and that is kind of like an oxymoron, isn?t it, you know warm and friendly and Italian waiter? I have decided that it is because they are British Italian waiters. Now if they had been Parisian Italian waiters they would have spit on us by now, don?t you think?

Anyway, the breakfast was great and Penny and I take the time to go over our itinerary for the day. This morning we are going to market/bizarre shop first and we have to make a decision. Do we want to head to Camden Market? Or possibly Covent Gardens? Or our last choice, St James Church for their Saturday morning Flea Market/Bizarre? Neither one of us really wants to head out in a huge crowd and we made the decision that we would head to the St. James Market first and if it didn?t pan out we would try one of the other ones. So our basic itinerary for the day is the market 1st , then we both would split up to shop solo, me for books, her for the rest of the retail universe. Oh and by the way, the QE II may be the queen of England, but Penny B is the Queen of Shopping. Her nose can smell a sale half a country away, and she and her plastic have been known to leave even large department stores inventory challenged. I normally have to cover my eyes when they begin the her final ring up. That way when her husband asks me did she spend too much I truthfully say, ?Ah well, I wasn?t really looking! In her defense, Penny always gets good value for her money.

As far as our intended itinerary, after our market and bizarre, we decided we would meet at the St. Pauls metro for The Ghost of London Walk at 7:15pm that evening and have dinner afterwards.

Now, I could say that we headed straight for the metro and landed at the church bizarre just a few minutes later. I could say that, but I would be omitting one small detail. <b> Penny pulled a blonde moment on me. </b> Shush! Don?t tell her I said this, but she really did. We took our wonderfully convenient Gloucester station tube to Piccadilly Square and walked down to St. James Plaza, about 10 blocks. I was just a huffin and a puffin and getting in what I call my stride, choke, stride zone and finally we reached the end of the road. I stopped and took a quick breath, and lit one, cause you know us smokers, we breath better if we have one lit. Penny was looking at all the statues and such and we ooohh and ahhhed over the Florence Nightingale statue and all the others. I finally said okay, where is that church because I am ready to really rip that bizarre apart and I began wondering where all the people were because the square was quite empty.

I turned around in a couple of circles looking for the church and finally noticed that Penny was studiously looking at her map not saying a word. Finally I said ?Penny, you do know where the church is?? And my wonderful best friend said, ?Well, it has to be here somewhere, this is St. James square and it is called St. James church?. Of course, I could say I was a really good friend and patted my best friend on the back and said ?that?s okay, it has to be here somewhere?. I am sorry to say that I simply hung my head and said, ?Penny please tell me you did look up the address of the church, didn?t you?? She gave me the evil look and I realized that I had made the ?fu pa? of rubbing her blonde moment in. I quickly recovered and said, ?Well of course, if it is called St. James church, it has to be here somewhere?? And I pulled my trusty guidebook out realizing that if I wanted to save my morning, I had better pretend that the church was at least in walking distance, even if it wasn?t.

Luckily to my salvation, it was only about 5 blocks away. I looked at Penny and said, ?oh look see the cross on the map, I bet that is St. James Church, only it is on Jeffrey Street 5 blocks back that way?? She swatted me and laughed, I teased her and said that her hairdresser must have been in a rush and left the bleach on a little too long. Of course, she swatted at me again and we laughed and trudged back up the hill, turning left on Jeffrey street and then down the alley way around the back and viola! There was the bizarre.
Friends!, gotta laugh with them or kill em, laughing is easier!

Anyway, all was well and we found the church and it had a great little bizarre/market and just as important it was in a neighborhood where there were 3 or 4 good new bookstores for me to check out later afterwards. As far as the bizarre went, they had some really nice stuff. Mainly local crafts and tourist stuff. I found several printed cards sets that I wanted and also was able to purchase 2 pub plaques with the cat theme. I collect them and found the ?the black cat? and another one called ?the Cat Pub?. It was really interesting talking to the man who was selling them. He knew the history of all the pubs in London and many others around England. I also found a small leather purse handmade by another guy and lusted after two handmade sweaters that I would have given anything to have been able to afford, but alas, it was the sweaters or the rest of my trip. There was this really beautiful copper colored handmade jacket with copper colored beadwork that my mother would have loved. I can only say where were those millionaire husbands and visas when you need them,,,,sigh!

Penny and I came across another stall that had wonderful handmade figurines of animals in jade and onyx. The man selling them had huge posters of political statements all over his stall. When we tried to bargain on the price of several of the items, we were met with a long diatribe about how oppressive whites were trying to keep the price of such rare art down in order to suppress the rising of the African tribes that made the figurines. I looked at him and said, no I he must have made a mistake, I was just a American tourist on a budget. How could he have mixed up the two was beyond me. His glare would have fried most people, but Penny and I were of stronger stuff and simply said thank you and moved on. I told Penny he needs to work on his sales pitch a bit. She, of course being my best friend, agreed with me.

Anyway, we hit the mother lode when we went into the church and found cards on sale in huge displays. Both penny and I stocked up on English thank you notes and cards with cats and teapots all over them. I also found two beautiful cards I will be framing. (I do this, most people frame real art, I love finding cards and matting them like prints).

By the time we finished our destruction of the bizarre, it was almost 11:30am and we realized that the day was passing fast. Both of us had much to do in the way of shopping and we decided to split and meet up for the ghost walk later. I head a block down the road to a little internet caf&eacute; and tried to logon to check my email. The caf&eacute; was new and was experiencing server problems. When we finally came up, I had a bit of a problem with the British keyboard?.okay, I admit the thing got the best of me, okay. My frustration in trying to type up any type of live trip report won out and I decided to abandon that hope and just quickly answered the important urgent email from my sister, like what to do about the disconnect power notice on my front door, and got out of there. (I told her to just pay the damn bill, she was staying at my house that week so all the bills that came in were her responsibility?lololol) I know this sounds petty, but why couldn?t some of these foreign internet cafes have American style keyboards. Just one would do. Pout. Degas, do you know why? Is it a conspiracy to keep us from communicating home?

Anyway, I headed out to my start my next item on my itinerary and that was some serious book hunting. First, I need to tell you that I am not a rare book collector. I am not looking for 1st editions of xxx?s literary prose. I am simply shopping for good used cheap fiction and travel books. I also was on a mission to buy British fiction that would cost me an arm and leg to order from the states in shipping. I decide to visit the new bookstores 1st to get that new British fiction and a couple of request books for friends and family. The book stores available?.Waterstones, all five floors and right across the road Books etc. You can?t ask for much more, especially when Waterstones is having a huge sale on 3 for 2 sale. I left that store, almost walking on air I was so high. The damage, almost a 100 pds and 17 books. Walking across the road, I found the rest of the books on my new list at Books etc. God that was easy! Almost took the fun out of shopping. Heading back down to the metro station, I found a small caf&eacute; on Piccadilly that had my name on a sandwich and a cup of tea for about 4 pds. Simple chicken salad and a few minutes to lovingly stroke and admire my new friends went along way to reinvigorating me.

I took the metro back to Gloucester station where I then took the number 49 bus to start my first hunt into the charity shops. I spent the rest of the afternoon just hopping on and off buses to different Oxfam shops. Now I could say that books were all I was after and I would have a substantial number of purchases as proof of that, but that is not all I found. Those porcelain custard cups for 99p each for the set of four was too much for me to pass on, as was the two leather purses and the blueware set of 4 plates for 5 pds. And that was just from the 1st to Oxfam store. I tightened my belt and realized that I needed to tunnel my vision a little or my book budget would be blown on other things. After 3 stores and 10 books later, along with various other purchases, I was only marginally successful. I mean those two silk scarves were just starring at me screaming ?buy me?buy me?. Who the hell needs markets when they can just visit the charity shops? I have found my new second home in London. Oxfam stores.

My opinion, after visiting about 10 of the charity shops that afternoon, I found that the Oxfam to be the most organized. There were several that were dedicated to just books and they were absolutely great. I had to be quite choosy because I could have walked out of each of them with a box full. These ARE the places I missed my last visit. I simply could not find the used book stores of London and in the Oxfam stores, I found what I was looking for. I am not looking for rare books, just good cheap British fiction. That does not mean that I didn?t find some interesting older finds. Like a wonderful copy of English poetry in a small leather binding (shades of Charing Cross rd here guys). But mostly just plain old good fiction.

I did not get to one area that afternoon and that was just outside zone 1 on the metro, the northern line was down for most of my trip and three Oxfam?s I really want to see were in an upscale neighborhood just outside of London central. I decided to hold off and try for that area later in the week.

Finally, about 3:30 I headed to the nearest metro station, and once again found that I was still on a direct line to Gloucester station, I get tickled each time I see this. I really don?t think I have had to change lines but once today. I got back to my hotel neighborhood and decided to order a late sandwich snack at the local pub, the Stanhope Arms. I had walked passed this pub several times over the course of the last few days and decided it was time to check out the locals.

To say they were well into the late Saturday afternoon cups would be an understatement. To also say that they were nursing them quietly while watching a late Saturday afternoon sports event would be a out and out lie. It was noisy and crowded and smoky and they were cussing and screaming and I finally realized I had walked in on the tail end of a rugby match and it was Saturday afternoon. Girls, it?s Saturday football whatever continent you are on. And it must have been a big game. It was absolutely fascinating to watch all the people. I ordered a half pint of Guinness at the bar and the bartender told me I could take a table and he would have a waitress take my order. They served food all day long at this one. When he said that I suddenly remembered that was not always true for all pubs. So be warned, many serve a great lunch but they do stop serving sometimes early in the day. Not all pubs serve dinner either.

After about 10 minutes and a good pull on my little Guinness, a waitress made her way over and I ordered what would be a Philly steak wrap sandwich in the states but was called something different and I can?t remember what right now. (does anyone know what they call a sandwich made in a wrap with beef and melted cheese?) Anyway it was quite delicious and I gobbled it up and ordered my second ? pint of Guinness to celebrate the day. A different waitress delivered this one and when I said thank you, she said in what could only be considered a great down home drawl, ?OH, you are American too!?. And of course, we grabbed hands as all southern women do at any age and proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes going over what the devil a young southern girl was doing serving in an English pub. Anne, it turns out, had just graduated from college with her teachers degree, but wanted to spend some time over here before she settled down back in the states teaching in Missouri. She had visited a couple of years ago and had several friends over here and when they asked her if she wanted to spend some time and share a flat, she jumped at the chance. She applied and got her six month work visa and had been working at the Stanhope Arms ever since. She loved it and was having an absolutely wonderful time. To say I was quite envious would be another understatement. Oh, to be 22, young and pretty, working in London for 6 months?..gads I am not only envious, I am pea green with jealousy.

Although she wasn?t really homesick, she said she did miss certain things. He parents were always worried and weren?t really sure she should be doing this. I told her to go for it. That once she got into the work force, it would be much harder to do what she was doing. In fact, it would be easy to let it go by her. It had me. I spent the first 20 years not realizing that there was a whole world out there and it was just passing me by. Although I hate thinking about regrets, my one big one is that I had not taken the time to travel when I was younger. I assured her as long as she was staying safe and keeping out drugs and stuff, that she was doing the right thing and she needed to take advantage of it while she was still young and unattached. We talked for a good 20 minutes before they started calling for her and we swapped emails. I got her mothers email and have already written her that her daughter is doing wonderful. I hope this will help.

I also gave her the Fodor?s board address and told her we would love to see her visit the board. Having an young American in London would really help with giving advise and be a great connection for us. I hope she drops in.

Well, by that time it was about 5:30 and I knew that if I stayed much longer, another Guinness would be calling my name and I knew I had to meet Penny soon. I headed back to the hotel with all my wonderful purchases and just dropped on the bed for a quick cat nap of 30 minutes. I did the flip hair and lipstick thing, and then hit the metro and did one of my few line changes to get to the St. Pauls metro. I actually beat Penny there by about 5 minutes. (You have to know our history, I am always late and she is always waiting for me?this turn about was kind of disorienting for her?lolololol.) We both traded shopping stories while we waited for the tour guide to show up for the walk. At first I got kind of worried because it looked like it was just going to be me and Penny and maybe 2 or three others?.then all of a sudden a couple of metro trains hit and before we knew it, we had a crowd of about 100 people.

Then, this tall grim reaper of a figure came out of the alley way of the St. Paul church. He was wearing a hooded black cape and had a painted white death mask of a face on and it looked like he was almost floating rather than walking. It was quite goulish. Shaughan, the grim reaper, our tour guide for
the Ghost Walk of London had arrived and for the next 2 hours we were taken all over the neighborhood and regaled of stories of mishap, magic, mayhem and ghostly visits around London. To say that this man was simply relating a story would not do this tour guide justice. He was great, full of ghoulish humor, and wicked stories of murder and mayhem. He even sang several wonderful ditties to boot. This was an expert actor in full character. This was my first London walk and I was seriously impressed. The walks were quick paced and covered about a 2 mile radius around that area, ending back at the garden cemetery across from the St. Pauls station.

All in all it was a wonderful walk and I highly recommend it. Penny and I headed to the metro and home for the evening. Both of us it seems had had an late lunch, but were still hungry for some dinner. Since it was around 9:30 when we got back to our neighborhood, we decided to hit Dinos and found to our delight a wonderful light Italian menu with great single entrees and sinful desserts. The same waiter that had been there for breakfast was serving. I asked him did he sleep in the restaurant and he said of course! I ordered the spinach tortilioni in cream sauce and Penny had the limon chicken linguini. For dessert, she had this absolutely sinful confection of ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sprinkled with cocoa and cinnamon shavings and I had the to die for lemon cheesecake and raspberry sauce. The total bill for each was less than 15 pds and we left replete, sleepy and ready to end our wonderful Shopping Saturday.

As I sat on my bed, with my purchases spread around me, writing brief reminder notes in my travel journal, I realized how perfect this day had been. To me Saturdays in London are for markets and shopping. I will always associate this day with those activities. As I looked thru all the things I had seen, bought, and would be bringing home, I realized that I couldn?t have had a more better day. I fell asleep with all my new books around me. I was happy.

Nikki Nov 2nd, 2003 12:57 PM

&quot;hit men can be hired for a penance...&quot;

And what religion is that one? Godfather Part II?

erinb Nov 2nd, 2003 04:58 PM

Hi nikki,

Sorry that was suppose to be pittance not penance, but my spell check dinged me and I was too fast with the change click.

adrienne Nov 2nd, 2003 05:18 PM

Hi erin,

Great report - gave me lots of laughs, especially the &quot;blond moment&quot; thing. What a great day - shopping and eating!

By the way, Italian waiters in Paris are great - lots of hugging and kissing if you're a repeat customer. I wanted to take one home with me (he makes wonderful lasagne)

erinb Nov 2nd, 2003 06:02 PM

hi all,

Thanks adrienne. It sounds like you went to a different restaurant. The experiences I had was on the champs elysees(sp?). Twice.

I thought it quite funny, everyone alway spoke about how rude parisiens were. I have yet to meet a rude parisien, they have all been extremely friendly and warm. The only rude and snotty people I meet in Paris were those Italian waiters on the Champs.

Also, I thought the &quot;blonde&quot; moment quite funny later myself. I have been teasing her about it for days now. Everytime I mention it she swats at me. She actually had two of those moments during the trip (one was unusual for her) as you will hear about later in the trip report.

janis Nov 2nd, 2003 06:30 PM

Great reports erin. I often check out Oxfam shops in any town in the UK - you can find really good bargains.

need to know more about those bizarre bazaars -- couldn't help myself :)

erinb Nov 2nd, 2003 06:47 PM

okay you guys we all know I cant spell worth crap here. Rex has already razzed me about it. I am trying to do spell check, but right now I am just trying to figure out how to take those damn ms word ?? out of my stuff. Sorry about that you guys...I think I found the problem and hope my next installment will be better.

And it was a little bizarre for a bazaar. (grin)!

erinb Nov 2nd, 2003 07:44 PM

Okay, cross your fingers and lets hope the ? have disappeared.

London Trip Report
Sunday October 19th, 2003
Crash and Burn Day!

This is installment 4 of day 5 on my recent trip to London. Sunday morning was sleep in day. Well if you could call sleeping until 9:00am, sleeping in. I don't know if I could, but neither Penny or I stirred or called each other until she called me around 9:00am. I don't think we consciously planned to sleep so late, but it just happened. At first I went into a panic, thinking she was waiting for me in the Lobby, but no, she assured me that she had just woken up also. We agreed that the initial trip euphoria must have worn off last night and both of us were feeling exhausted. I was also feeling kind of stuffy sniffly cold wise and that would pan out to be a warning that I did not heed early in this trip which I will discuss later. We agreed to meet in the Lobby at 10am and would decide what to do for the day then. Our basic itinerary was to walk along Bayswater to scout out the artists sales along the Hyde park side of Bayswater and then head for a nice Sunday Brunch at Dakota's restaurant in Notting hill. We would then split for solo stuff, her for afternoon walks and me for museums, then meet up later for the Jack the Ripper Walk.

We met in the lobby and made our way to the metro station and took the metro to Marble Arch. We both needed to find a good ATM machine, and found one immediately as we exited the station. After that, we started making our way down Bayswater. After about 3 or 4 blocks we still didn't see the artists stuff and I got worried that they had canceled or stopped doing the sidewalk sale. We stopped and decided to catch the bus to save energy since I was beginning to huff and puff. We got about halfway down Bayswater and finally ran into the sale. I have to say this year that there were much fewer offerings than they last time we were there(2001). The sidewalk display last time started at Marble Arch and went all the way to Queensway. This year it didn't start until the Lancaster Gate stop and it was over before we even got to Queensway. Also, the offerings were basic tourist fare, nothing original and very few lithograph or original card offerings. I had been warned on the Fodor's board of this, but I guess I just had to see it to believe it. It's sad really, because it is now all tourist stuff and no really good original art.

Since it was so late, almost 11am, and we had a reservation for brunch at 11:30 at Dakotas, we decided to find the number 70 bus and make our way to the restaurant. We hit one glitch. We got on the bus only to realize in talking to the bus driver that we were going the wrong way. He let us off at a few stops down and told us to catch the next one going the other way. Here's the problem though, and anyone depending on the buses on Sunday in London need to know this. During the work week, most buses are running every few minutes and even the buses outside the central zone are running every 15 minutes or so. This happens 6 days a week, and then Sunday hits and it all slows down. We got to that bus stop and found out that it would be over 30 minutes or more before the next bus. That would be too late to make our reservation. We finally asked a bystander how far the restaurant was from us and they told us it would take about 10 minutes to walk. We decided to start walking, but I forgot another important thing. 10 minutes to a Londoner walking is like 30 minutes to this ole lady. And for some reason, the road wasn't following the same route the map took. Don't laugh, I am serious. Not a single crossroad matched. If the street sign had not been the same, I would swear we were on the wrong road. Either that or my sense of direction was way off. We walked and walked and walked, finally we saw a road sign that did match something on our map and we realized that we were somehow 360 degrees turned around and had passed our other road way back. Both Penny and I sighed and turned around. Finally we found the road the restaurant was on, and viola! There it was. We both stopped and just looked behind us and shook our heads. I decided to leave it a mystery. Of course, as we walked the last half block to our restaurant, what passes us by but the number 70 bus. AAAGGgghh! I was too tired to even to want to know how we got so turned around.

Okay, here's the good part. <b>Dakota's</b> is a really nice upscale restaurant that is bursting at it seams. Although we had reservations as you could imagine we were running extremely late. They were wonderful about it and worked us back in, even though they were extremely busy. Part of the reason I wanted to eat there that day was for the Sunday brunch. London doesn't seem to have many reasonably priced restaurants that do Sunday brunch and this one was very reasonable. Both Penny and I ordered the pancakes covered in fresh fruit, raspberries, bananas, and blue berries and sprinkled with fruit sauce. I ordered a side of bacon and she a side of hash browns. Penny had tea and I had cappuccino. It was delicious. The pancakes are not American style flap jacks, but rather a light and fluffy pan cake, kind of like a fried sponge cake, which I though was rather funny, until I bit into it, and it was wonderful. The fruit was just as fresh as you could have ever expected and had a sweet and citrus type sauce. If I were to have any complaint about the whole meal, it would be about the hash browns. Instead of hash browns as we Americans expect, it was more like a potato muffin and a little on the cold side. But the pan cakes more than made up for it. They were really wonderful.

For those of you looking for breakfast brunch, they had 4 or 5 items, including a full English breakfast for less than 10 pounds. Very reasonable, the atmosphere was great and the staff were wonderful. In talking to the Manager it looks like they will be moving soon to one of the renovated buildings just down the road. When we finished, we decided to take one of our few taxi's back to the museum area of London, rather than fight or try to figure out how to end back up on Bayswater. As we stood outside waiting for our taxi..once again, the number 70 bus whizzed by us. Such is life.

After paying a very reasonable and much appreciated 8 pds to the taxi driver, Penny and I arrived on Exhibition road in S. Kensington around 1:45pm. Exhibition road is the home of three wonderful museums in London, the Science Museum, the Museum of Natural Science and the Victoria and Albert Museum. My Sunday afternoon was planned around all three of these. Penny, who normally wouldn't walk in another museum if you paid her, was only there to visit the Science Museum and the Lord of the Rings exhibition gift shop to get a gift for a friend. After that, Penny's afternoon would be centered around shopping and bridge walking. We split up as soon as we arrived, agreeing to meet later at 6:30 at Tower Hill station for a quick dinner at one of the restaurants under the Hill, then do the Jack the Ripper Walk that evening.

I was there for the Lord of the Rings exhibit, but I didn't have any expectations of getting in that day, because I had not purchased my tickets ahead of time. I had problems purchasing them online and knew that they would probably be sold out that day, but was hoping to get tickets for another day. As expected they were sold out until Wednesday morning, so I went ahead and got tickets for Wednesday. After that, I just decided to wait and do the rest of the Science Museum on Wednesday and I headed to the Museum of Natural Science. I meandered for about an hour and was quite impressed with the several of the exhibits, but really didn't take much time because the prize today was waiting across the street for me.

About 2:45, I headed toward the Victoria and Albert Museum. This was one of the items on my list of things I must do this trip. I had tried on my other trips to make time for this museum, only to be frustrated in having to cancel the plans. Like Windsor, it seems to always be put by the wayside. Also, like Windsor, I was not leaving England until I had seen this Museum. It was so worth the wait and my appetite was only slightly appeased. The V&amp;A is all about the decorative arts, architecture, statues, furnishings, tapestries, rugs, tiles, silverware, ceramics, and jewelry and so much more. It had everything from all over the world. The British Galleries are just a small part of it. I spent about an hour wondering thru them and realized that if I wanted to see anything else I had better cut that short.

My impressions and memories? The Asian and middle eastern galleries are fabulous. Rug and wall hangings were just out of this world beautiful. They had one hanging on the wall that would cover a whole town it seemed and was just absolutely wonderful. I sat on a bench and just drank it up with my eyes. The lady next to me on the bench sighed at the same time I did and we just laughed. The pattern of the rug/wall hanging was fascinating and held a story of its own.

The limoges(sp?) and ceramics were beautiful. I could not get enough of them. Especially the japenese ceramics. They had a section on jewelry from the dawn of time to the current century. As you can imagine the room was so secure, I almost couldn't fit thru the security door.(I don't think they had plus size people in mind..(grin)). But I made it and my eyes have not seen jewelry as wonderful as this in a long time. I was particularly interested in seeing some from the Victorian period and I was not disappointed. After about 2 hours just flowing from room to room, floor to floor, I decided to take a break and went back downstairs and out into the courtyard of the museum. It was lovely, all green and lush with trees, with a wonderful fountain in the center. As I made time for a quick smoke, I looked at all the detail that went into building this museum and just was in awe of it all. They had carved wonderful ideas and sayings on the outside of the building. One in particular, and I can not remember the exact wording, had to do with wisdom of those nations that came together in peace to celebrate the creativity and beauty of the world. I thought that quite appropriate and something that our governments need to be reminded of, often.

I can't begin to tell you about all the collections because as I am writing this they are just a jumble in my mind. My frustration is that, like the British Museum, I could spend a week in this museum and not see it all or remember it all. Right now they are just vague impressions of a wonderful eclectic collection of the arts and crafts of design for over 2000 years. And with the exception of the Smithsonian, I don't think I have seen a museum with a mission as important as the V&amp;A. My other frustration is that as I am writing this I want to be back there, right now to see it again and see what I missed. Of course, my salvation will be that I know I will be returning to London and will make time for it again.

I hit the gift shop before I left and acquired a few items, nothing expensive, but did buy 3 tin plates that were reproductions of some of the dinnerware designs. They will look really nice grouped together in my tin collection. I also came out of there with about 20 pds worth of cards of reproduction art. Now this is kind of a budget decorator thing for me. I really can't afford real art on my walls in my humble farmhouse abode, but using card reproductions of the art, I will mat and frame them for my walls at home. Two or three of my purchases, just off the top of my head...were 3 cards of Japanese teapots that will look lovely grouped together behind my teapot collection and several of Chinese cats that will be matted and framed and reside in my bedroom with the rest of the porcelain cat collection.
I left the V&amp;A about 5:30pm very satisfied with my visit and purchases and decided to head to hotel. Once again, I walked a block or two and caught the number 49 bus which whizzed me right back to Gloucester Rd around the corner from my hotel. I took a few minutes to rest my rabbits and freshen up and then dashed back out to the metro to meet Penny at Tower Hill metro stop. I got there right on time and waited outside the station exit, but saw no sign of Penny. Now here's how well we know each other. Penny is rarely late. Me, I am always late. They call me time challenged. It has nothing to do with lack of respect, because it is not that, it is simply I have no concept of how long it actually takes to do something and I am always trying to fit too much in too little time. So they give me a break about it most of the time. I am always on time for the important stuff anyway. Most of the time. Anyway, my point is that Penny was not there. I knew something was not right with this picture. She had said I needed to meet her at the tube exit. As far as I could see, there was only one tube exit, but wait, across the road from the tube stop was a exit from the pedestrian crossing that ran under the road. It had a big tube sign on it. I knew Penny and she had been probably walking bridges and didn't come in the Tower tube. I watched from the hill and the crowds parted and yep! there she was sitting on a bench on the other side of the road.

After the blonde moment, I decided to wait see if she would fuss at me for being late and then I would get to tease her about it later. So I hurried under the road and huffed and puffed out of the pedestrian crossing and flagged her. It was about 6:40 and we only had about 40 minutes to grab a quick bite so we made our way to that little underground shopping center near the tower of London, only to be frustrated by the fact that all the restaurants closed at 6:30. Except KFC. Ah, well it was hardship(double grin), but fast food it was, so we ordered the colonel and quickly ate our dinner. I also let her know that I had to find an ATM in the morning. I was concerned because I had tried to purchase something on my Visa earlier and had a problem. I needed to call my bank in the morning to see what it was. I had enough cash to get me thru the evening, but would need more the next day.

We made our way back to the tube stop and Penny realized her mistake. I just grinned and she finally asked how long I had waited. I teased her and said &quot;I knew you were there, somewhere&quot;. We laughed...see this is why it is important to have a good traveling companion. We have known each other for years and are like sisters. When you screw up, it is no big deal.

Okay, enough sentimental crap, we headed for the Tower tube stop and met up with about 100 people all trying to pay 5 pounds to this middle aged cranky tweed covered man. It turned out to be Donald Rumbelow himself, but I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was that it wasn't 7:30 yet and the London Walks had told us to be cautious on this one walk for scammers, and that Donald never started before 7:30. I decided to wait until 7:30. At about 7:20, this man states he will be back in a minute and just took off. Another younger guy took his place collecting money. The crowd swelled. I swear there were 300 people there that night.

I thought to myself. If these guys are scammers, he's gone and won't be back. I can tell you there were quite a few worried eyes following him when he left, it was almost funny. If they were the real deal, then they obviously had not read about the warnings their own company were posting and the fact that they were supposed to wait until 7:30. Penny told me I was just being paranoid. Me, I thought I was just being careful. Newsflash, they were the real deal. Contrite I rushed to pay my 5 pds and waited while they finished collecting from others. This took about 15 or so more minutes and finally Donald plunked down his step stool and stood above the crowd and introduced himself and said that there were so many of us that we would need to split into two groups. I know most of the people had come that night, knowing he would be there. Surprisingly, many agreed to go with the other guide, including Penny which I didn't know about until later. She thought he had said those that had already paid needed to go, so she went. I knew we really wanted to hear Donald so I thought she was just in the crowd. He finished taking the fees and waited about 10 minutes for the other group to get a head start and he began his walking tour. I spent the 1st 10 minutes of the tour looking for Penny, worried that she had headed to the toilet or something and we had left her behind only to then to realized as we hit the heels of the other group that there she was. She waved at me, darn her....lololol.

This was my 2nd night in a row doing one the London walks and although I really enjoyed it, I will say something that may offend walk fans of this man. After talking to Penny later, I almost wish I had gone with her and the other guide. Donald seems to have lost his excitement over his subject and I think has done this too many times. He was not exactly patient with the crowd and his tour commentary was quite rushed and stilted, almost cynical. Like &quot;I have done this 1000 times so lets get it over with&quot;. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the walk and he was an interesting guide, but for some reason I felt that he was leaving stuff out in the rush. Also, since he was trying to avoid the other group, our group tour was not taking the chronilogical walk. It mixed up the story a bit and made for a confusing timeline. The walk took about 2 hours and many of us assumed it would end back up at the Tower Hill tube stop. <b> It does not end up near a tube stop so be warned.</b> Our walk ended up in alley way about 10-15 blocks from another tube stop. I also had made that assumption and had not brought my streetmap with me, so I had no idea of where I was.

As Mr. Rumbelow ended his tour, he offered the sale of his book and to autograph it for any buyers. He gave the rest of us rushed directons to the nearest tube for those of us that wanted to head home and told anyone not familiar with the area that he would show them the way AFTER THE autograph session. Being on my own, I didn't feel comfortable striking out in an area I was not familiar with and his directions were quite confusing. I also had another problem. Penny was no where to be seen, which meant that her walk ended up in another area.

Thank god we both followed our contingency plan for something like this and that was if we got seperated to meet back at the hotel. I was tired and after waiting over 30 minutes on Donald and the fans, I realized that Penny probably went on back to the hotel. Several of us finally got quite tired of waiting and asked for directions again. We as a group found the tube stop, which happened to be Liverpool station, and I made my way back to the hotel. Thankfully, Penny had done the same. We talked about our experiences and they were vastly different.

Two impressions and a couple of travel adverseries: I enjoyed the recounting of this gruesome tale and like others I am fascinated that this mystery has never been solved. Even though he is suppose to be the expert on this, Donald did not really give us any extra inside information on this. It was almost like, well if you want to know more, see my book type thing. I was not impressed, and because the story had intriged me, I had read up on it somewhat. I had bought the Patricia Cornwell book and had checked out several items from my local library. When asked about his impressions on her book, Donald would only comment that it still has not been solved.

As for the walk, it was an informative and interesting walk, but in listening to Penny's experience, it could have been made more entertaining. I know that sounds crass given the subject matter, murder, but her experience with the other guide was much more enthusiastic, whereas mine with Donald, the expert, just sounded tired and over it all. The Jack the Ripper walk was fine, but don't hold out just for Donald. In fact, and I hope I don't offend too many of his fans, but I would recommend you choose one of the other more enthusiatic guides. Now Donald may have been just having an off night and it could have been simply my off night.

Now to the travel adversaries. The ghost walk the evening before, ended up where it began at the tube stop. That was a safe and responsible way of making sure a group has a safe return that late at night. I did not appreciate the fact that Donald ended his walk 10 blocks or more away from a tube stop and further, away from the one it originally started. I felt that he should have at least guided us back to the nearest tube stop first, then if fans wanted to wait and get an autographed copy of his book they could do so. Sorry to other Donald fans, but I was not left with a good impression of this man. He would not have lost that many sales of his book by looking out for the safety of the group first. The size of the group that hung back for books was only about 40 or so. That left 150 tired people hanging.

The second adversery has to do with the walks themselves and something I didn't pay attention to. My health. Remember I told you that morning when I woke up I was feeling a little stuffy sneezy cold wise. London in the autumn is very unpredictable. The nights can be quite cold and damp and anyone that walks around London all day knows that the air can be pretty dirty. If I wear hose instead of socks, I usually come back with black feet. On the walk the night before, I had gotten cold and then hot and sweaty. I am not in the best of shape, although I had trained for this visit like I always do by walking 3 or 4 times a week for several months before I go on a trip. When I arrived in London, we had left 70-80 degree weather at home, and London was having it's first early winter cold spell. Both times that I had been to London before, their weather almost mimicked our weather at home, with maybe a 5 or 10 degree difference. I was expecting winter weather just yet. What we got was an early cold snap starting the night before and into that Sunday night. I should have listened to my body that morning and wrapped up tight for the walks, or even skipped that walk on Sunday night. I didn't and would pay for it the next morning and the rest of the trip. My second adversery is simply this, if you are doing these walks in the fall/winter, wrap up good for them. The night air is damp and cold. London air is dirty and full of bacteria. About half way thru this Sunday night walk, my throat was on fire and by the time I got back to the hotel that night, I knew I was coming down with a major cold. In a panic, I stopped at the local convenience store for flu/cold medicine, but it would be too late. I went to bed Sunday night with the sniffles and the start of a fever.

I loved the day and got a lot accomplished and hoped that things would be okay the next day. I want to say that I still had a wonderful day, and despite it's ending, really enjoyed everything. I will be returning to the V&amp;A to spend a whole day there on another trip. It was worth the short visit and will be a great incentive to return to London later.

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