I see London...

Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:33 PM
  #1  
elvira
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I see London...

We all arrived Saturday at Heathrow on different planes, but found each
other no problem (Rusty, Ahgeez and I) and opted for a taxi to our apartment.
Split three ways, it was cheaper than the Heathrow Express (financially and
emotionally). Rusty’s business associate keeps an apartment in London, and he
lent it to us for our stay (back off, girls, he’s married). Settled in, we walked
to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the Chihuly exhibit. Ooooh, so very
cool. The sculptures are dotted around the museum, and then several are in
the courtyard. I can see why people get into glass blowing - there is something
very magical about glittering, sparkling see-through things made of such
fragile material. The V&A is “real” stuff, like antique clothing and Chinese
furniture. We’d planned to go to Kew Gardens, but it was raining and we were
tired so we bought some takeaway for dinner and called it an early night.

Sunday it was pouring, so we ixnayed the plan to go to Fulham Palace, slept in
and went shopping instead at Harvey Nichols. Wonderful food section (smaller
than Harrod’s so a little more manageable) so we bought bits and pieces for
dinner; ate lunch at the restaurant next to it which was very good. I bought
way too much stuff.

Monday we took the train from Waterloo to Warminster, where a bus picked
us up to go to Longleat. It’s an estate that Lord Bath owns; the grounds contain
a small amusement park, a couple of mazes, and a safari park - a bus takes you
around and there are lions and tigers (no bears) oh my. It was such a bizarre
thing to do in the middle of the English countryside. There are different sorts
of museums in the outbuildings, including a collection of Hitler and Churchill
memorabilia, a collection of dollhouses, and a Doctor Who exhibit (this is too
weird to describe). The house itself is from the 1500’s, and a wonderful guide
took us around. Lord Bath lives in one part of the house (which you don’t visit)
but the rest is just wonderful (no roped off areas, you actually can walk
around the furniture, though they ask you not to touch the 14th century Italian
chairs). We’d planned to spend a couple of hours; we spent the whole day. The
bus took us back to the train station (sidebar: driver was a Scot who had been
in the Merchant Marines - bald, tattooed, earringed - and told stories as he
drove. The bus picks up locals along the way, and an elderly woman got off,
but sort of stumbled as the bus lurched “oh oh drunk again” she says with a
grin; the driver says “that’s naught unusual” with a perfectly straight face),
but we’d missed the train to Salisbury where we’d planned to spend the night.
Rather than wait an hour for another train, we took a cab. A most delightful
young woman was our driver, and during our conversations she expressed
honest sympathy for the September 11th tragedies “I was driving, someone told
me what happened, I didn’t believe them. When I found out it was real, I cried
along with everyone else”. What’s that about a sorrow shared is halved?
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:36 PM
  #2  
elvira
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The next day we spent in Salisbury; Rusty had a business lunch with an
associate, so Ahgeez and I went shopping, ate some lunch, picked up Rusty and had a coupla beers, then went to the cathedral. It’s absolutely wonderful with great carvings and gargoyles outside and stunning architecture. We had a mission: the grandfather of Ahgeez’s friend was killed on a bombing raid with
the RAF, and is buried somewhere around London. In the cathedral is a book
with the names of all servicemen buried near Salisbury. We asked at the
information desk if we could search for his name. An official looking man came
over to us, unlocked the case, and searched for the name. He even searched
for different spellings, and was genuinely sorry the name wasn’t there. We thanked him, and said that NOT finding it meant we’d eliminated one area of our search. Caught the train back to London and had Thai food (I’m not that familiar with it, so the girls picked out stuff for me. Very good, we all shared each other’s food, the waitresses were no bigger than a minute and we were jealous).

Wednesday we went to York. There was an exhibit about the history of man at
the museum, and I found out something I didn’t know: in order to speak, an
animal must be able to control its breathing. I like finding out stuff I never knew. It was a beautiful sunny day, had breakfast at a small “diner”, then went to the cathedral. Man, that’s a big sucker. We spent a long time in it, so missed other things, but NOT the Richard III Museum at Monk Bar. What a hoot - it has to be seen to be believed. We took pictures of each other with Richard III, just to give you an idea. It was raining, it was late, so we took the train back to
London. I think we ate Italian that night.

 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:39 PM
  #3  
elvira
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Thursday we had planned to go to Marlow (the church has the hand of StJames), but weren’t up to it so we went to Maggs Bookstore. It’s in Berkeley
Square and they are purveyors of antique books and autograpsh...and the
building is haunted. We say no ghosts, but we did see letters written by
Churchill and Oscar Wilde and other cool guys. Oh oh the best: we got to see pages from those wonderful illuminated manuscripts, as in, up close and personal. They were matted, in drawers, and the nice man in the department said we could look through them. Do you know what it feels like to hold a 15th century piece of art in your hand? We didn’t need ghosts to get goose bumps. The nice man gave us each a catalog of the illuminations; I don’t know whether to save it or cut out the pictures and frame them. Do visit if you can, especially if you’re a book lover. We didn’t buy anything, as none of us had $1000 on us. We then went to the Cabinet War Rooms - neither Rusty nor I have ever been, Ahgeez was there ten years ago - which are quite something to see. They provide recorders that describe what you’re seeing (Ahgeez said they didn’t have those when she went and that they were a vast improvement over having to squint to read the little signs). I know about the Blitzkrieg, I know London was bombed during the war, I know the British withstood incredible hardship - but I never knew it was that bad. It was sort of reassuring that others had withstood and prevailed; the words of Churchill to his people really hit home. I had this urge while listening to one of his speeches to raise my fist and do the Arsenio Hall “WHOO WHOO WHOO’. Thanks, Winnie, we all needed that. Little did you know that 60 years later, your allies
would gain strength from your words. None of us were really up to par that
day, so we bought food to make dinner at home.
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:44 PM
  #4  
elvira
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Friday we went to Bath. Ate at Sally Lund’s and visited the kitchen museum
(and I thought my kitchen was dark), then to the Roman Baths. Ahgeez is a big fan of old dugup stuff, so she was in hog heaven. Water still runs through the old pipes into the baths, so we tasted it and then saw the sign “please don’t drink the water”. We kept checking our pulses after that. There’s a nice gift shop, so we bought some little bits, then went to a Marks and Spencer before heading to the Royal Crescent. At M&S, we bought - hold onto your hats - lamp shades. Funky hangy down ones made of glass beads, another one made of looped fringe that looked like a flapper dress...don’t ask why, it seemed like a
good idea at the time. The Royal Crescent is really beautiful, and just at sunset, it was sort of pink. We checked out several restaurants, but nothing struck us...then we passed a takeaway hamburger joint that had a line out the door. Okee dokee, we knew what we wanted. The girls said their burgers had some sort of barbecue/steak sauce that was yummy; the fries were like Mickey D’s but better. Caught the train back to London and promptly fell asleep. I’d brought a little alarm clock with me and set it for 15 mins before we were to arrive ‘cause I knew we’d be comatose. Advice to the travel weary: if you have an alarm on your watch, if not, bring a bitty alarm clock, and set it when you’ve got a longish train trip after a wearying day. That way, you’re not scrambling awake when you get to the station (which is when you leave stuff, or trip).

Saturday we took the train from Euston to Bletchley Park. From the station,
we walked the same footpath that “Captain Ridley’s Shooting Team” strode to get to the house where Enigma was cracked, and the first computer was built. This was an amazing experience - the whole story of how the Nazi codes were broken is just incredible. Our guide was fantastic - lots stories and sidebars that really described what went on there (like why there are tennis courts: seems Churchill came to visit and saw a group of the “shooting team” playing what looked like baseball. He decided they needed to play an English sport so had the tennis courts built). The grounds are open on weekends only; do go if you have the chance. Read about it before and after you go. There’s a website:
www.bletchleypark.org.uk

Sunday the girls went home and I took the Eurostar to Paris. I was sitting in
the station waiting for my train when I noticed these two guys just standing
and talking, then this young woman walked by...five minutes later, she walked by again...and again. Hmm I sez I sez que pasa? Then I notice a film crew upstairs...ACTION! One guy takes out his wallet, the other guy grabs it and runs. Another guy comes running through the station and chases the thief up the stairs. CUT! Everybody goes back to their places. Again, one guy pulls out his wallet (by the way, he was a very gorgeous man with GOLD tattoos - painted on I found out when a passerby asked), the other guy grabs it and runs. Here’s the best part: this huuuuge black guy (Frank Gifford once described a linebacker as a condominium, and that was an apt description of this guy) engulfed the “thief” in bear hug and lifted him off his feet. One of the film crew came over and said “no no this is a MOVIE”. Condo got a small round of
applause and a lot of “way to go” nods and smiles. I moved my chair closer to
him.

Advice: you can do York, Bath and Salisbury each in a day, but you miss a lot of stuff. I definitely plan to go back to each city for at least another day. Bring more film than you’ll think you’ll need. I went through 4 rolls of film in York.
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:48 PM
  #5  
Laura
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Wonderful, Elvira!!!! Tell us more....
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 05:59 PM
  #6  
Jane
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Great report Elvira! You've given me some great ideas for future trips to London. BTW, how was Paris - or is that going to be a separate report?
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 06:07 PM
  #7  
Patrick
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How disappointing. You went to London and didn't spend all your time shopping at Harrod's, visiting Madame Taussaud's, and watching the changing of the guard? How sad. Only kidding. You really know how to find the fun and obscure. Anxious to hear more.
 
Nov 2nd, 2001, 09:49 PM
  #8  
Annette
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Oh, to be in England!

Great trip report.

Any vacation which packs in the good stuff in London, York, Salisbury, Marlow & Bath along with seeing Longleat AND on which you learn that animals need to control their breathing in order to talk sounds like time very well spent!
 
Nov 3rd, 2001, 09:16 AM
  #9  
Stephanie
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Elvira your report is captivating, and greatly helpful, please tell more!!!!
 
Nov 3rd, 2001, 09:43 AM
  #10  
MO
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eLVIRA How long does it take from London
to Warminster?
 
Nov 3rd, 2001, 09:45 AM
  #11  
Ben Haines
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That was delightful. When I write long dull notes about train journeys and pubs I always hope the result will be a visitor who has a good time, like you.

Ben Haines London
 
Nov 4th, 2001, 07:19 PM
  #12  
elvira
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Stephanie: London to Warminster takes about 2 hours, with a change in Salisbury.

Ben: Your notes on train journeys and pubs would be considered dull only by dolts.

AND THE DIAMONDBACKS JUST WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!! WHOO WHOO WHOO!!!
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 12:50 PM
  #13  
Dinah
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Have you penned the continuation, "I See France," yet, Miss Elvira? Or have I missed the rest of the story on some other thread?
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 01:41 PM
  #14  
Patrick
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I'll be waiting for the THIRD installment "I see. . . ."
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 02:28 PM
  #15  
Thyra
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Woo Hoo! More more more!!!Welcome back
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 02:54 PM
  #16  
Judy
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Hi Elvira, welcome back. We plan to go to York and Yorkshire, Durham etc, actually northeast Britain. Glad to hear that York needs at least 2 days? I think we will try to 3 days or even base ourselves there, and do day trips, from York.
Richard the III museum? Sounds quite unique,hmmmm. Monk bar!?
Sounds like a great trip.
Judy
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 02:56 PM
  #17  
Dina (not to be confused with Dinah)
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Elvira, I read it with much interest! I too recently visited London and Salisbury, first time---Sept 5 to 11th (yes) before continuing to France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Cairo.
I too LOVED the Victoria and Albert Museum, since I am a costume designer and craft artist, with one exception that you happened to mention. I'm from Seattle, and two of my least favorite things there are Starbucks, the Evil Empire with lousy coffee, and Dale Chihuly, the artist with the monumental EGO. I travel 6 thousand miles to London to find--- Starbucks on every other corner, and DALE CHIHULY at the V & A ! I knew I'd have to travel further to escape such things.
My husband thought it was very funny.
Our hotel was in Notting Hill near the giant Portobello flea/farmers market, so I wandered through that for several hours on Saturday, as happy as a clam. There was a stuffed fox and rabbit in a glass box, I WISH I'd gotten a picture of it. A chatty woman ALMOST sold my husband a top hat that fit his large head perfectly. My husband carried a little microphone in his pocket to record flea market sounds in different languages all over Europe and in Egypt. We don't care about things like the changing of the guard or such, so we just wandered Hyde Park, then the streets of downtown for many hours the next day. The Londoners scared me a little, they looked so ruthless and grim. Could they all have been having a bad day, or have I been in Seattle, the city of Niceness, for too long? Then to my relief, I had a nice long chat with Kavey and George at a pub, then went to a bellydance show, then a gig as a guest speaker at a bellydance class. Major jet lag kept us from the Thames Pub Walk or Jack the Ripper Tour, sadly.
Salisbury was a delightful town just as Elvira describes. The people were noticeably friendlier, just as you'd expect in a smaller town. We had to drag our suitcases for miles before finding a hotel vacancy. Each hotel told us of another a few blocks on that might have a room. Five or six of them. That was a little hairy!
My husband went to Stonehenge while I wandered around. Later, one of the market vendors, hearing our American accents, informed us about something that he just heard on the radio---with that keen interest that always accompanies the first delivery of shocking news.
I would've liked to linger in Salisbury, but we had to hop a train to Portsmouth for the Brittany ferry. A man on the train heard more bad news on his cellphone and informed us.
At Portsmouth we had an hour to kill before the ferry, so we went to a neighborhood pub to watch terrible videos on the TV screen. The cigarette machine in this English port town pub was decorated with a poster of the skyline of NEW York, featuring the Twin Towers. Ironic? That was the last news report in English we were to see for several weeks, since we didn't usually stay in hotels with CNN.
I plan to post a full report of adventures on my website soon,; until then, some photos are on Sally Fowler's page http://geocities.com/dhfsbf/fodorite/pictures.htm
under "Blair and Dina's Roman Empire Tour."
Sorry for the long ramble! This was about Elvira's trip, was it not?
 
Nov 6th, 2001, 05:45 PM
  #18  
Diane
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Love the report -- gonna have to chose between those daytrips. My husband's never been to London so we'll have to see the basics too. Thanks for an entertaining tale and now I'm on to the next installment...
 
Nov 13th, 2001, 01:04 PM
  #19  
Topper
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Topping by repeat request....

Kudos, Elvira, I top your posts more than anyone's, I think...
 
Nov 14th, 2001, 01:23 AM
  #20  
cova
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To the top for Meri
 

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