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Roundabout the UK: P & P, The Professor, and Some P O達, May 2007

Roundabout the UK: P & P, The Professor, and Some P O達, May 2007

Jun 13th, 2007, 09:52 PM
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Roundabout the UK: P & P, The Professor, and Some P O達, May 2007

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a couple who have been married 25 years must be in want of a special anniversary celebration.

Since neither of us have visited Europe, we decided to spend two weeks in England and north Wales. We spent the better part of a year planning and narrowing down our itinerary, with lots of help from the good people of Fodorソスs and Travelers to Go. Our thanks to you all!

Packing ソス Mr. Pickle found a very large, hard sided suitcase at a thrift store, and decided it would be perfect for the trip. I promptly named it Godzilla. We also brought a 19ソス soft sided carryon, which we packed with books, our road atlas, and things we would need on the plane.
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May 1st ソス 2nd The Road Goes Ever On and On (At Least, It Feels That Way): ABQ to LAX to LHR

We got to the Sunport in plenty of time to catch our Southwest flight, hugged and kissed the kids goodbye, and checked in.

Godzilla was overweight (we weighed it when we got home; itソスs 12 lbs. all by itself), resulting in our moving some stuff to the carryon bag, and putting a couple of books in Mr. Pickleソスs daypack.

Mr. Pickle forgot to put his Leatherman tool in Godzilla and lost it at security. Good thing Fatherソスs Day is Sunday. Then we were called back because Godzilla was chosen for further inspection and they didnソスt see two of its four clasps.

Eventually we got to the gate, scored some caffeine, and settled in. I forgot to print our boarding passes the day before, but we didnソスt have any trouble finding seats together for an uneventful flight to Los Angeles.

We stood in line for about 30 minutes at Air New Zealandソスs check-in counter until they opened. Our carryon weighed too much to take on the plane with us, and we checked it, trusting Air NZ to get it to Heathrow instead of Auckland.

Air New Zealand doesnソスt exactly reserve seats, but you can call and request certain seats before your trip. After consulting http://www.seatguru.com, I chose seats across the aisle from each other, figuring we could take advantage of the combination of Air NZソスs excellent amount of legroom and the aisle. I hoped we might get lucky and not have anyone sitting next to us as well, but the flight was fairly full.

We walked over to City Deli (downstairs from the Encounter restaurant) and had some pretty good roast beef sandwiches for lunch before going through security and up to our gate. We found a pay phone, called the kids, and read the paper before boarding.

Air NZソスs 777s have individual seatback screens and a wide variety of movies, TV shows, games, and music choices. Combined with wonderful NZ wines and pretty good food, the 10 ソス hour flight was comfortable and uneventful.

Neither of us slept more than about 30 minutes, so we really appreciated all our entertainment options. I watched Music and Lyrics, listened to Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House while trying to get some sleep (a futile attempt, but I discovered I knew and loved a number of their songs), plus all of Fellowship of the Ring and half of The Two Towers (this was Air New Zealand, after all).

Our flight arrived at 11:00 in the morning. It didnソスt take long to get through immigration and customs. We bought half-price Heathrow Express tickets online, picked them up at one of the convenient machines, and were in London a few minutes later. Itソスs not the most scenic trip, but itソスs convenient if you need to go to Paddington.

We wandered through the station until we found an ATM, got some cash, bought pay-as-you-go Oyster cards, and took the Tube to Bayswater, where our hostel was located.

ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 10:36 PM
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Good start
blightyboy is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Sounds like this will be an interesting trip! I'm already impressed that you took Godzilla on the tube.
noe847 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 09:51 AM
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Anxiously awaiting more from the Pickles...especially since we will be visiting England and N. Wales in October. Your report is terrific!
azzure is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 09:58 AM
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I'm hoping Godzilla didn't make the return trip and has already been replaced but if not forget the replacement Leatherman tool for Fathers Day and treat Mr. Pickle to some lightweight luggage!
Sounds like a good trip...
highflyer is offline  
Jun 14th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Looking forward to more Pickles and Godzilla
wombat7 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 04:06 PM
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Our copy of Michael Middleditch痴 London Mapguide was really useful, but we didn稚 realize an address on Princes Square included every building around the square, and we spent some time wandering about before we actually found the hostel (this is a literary device known as foreshadowing).

Hostel 63, 63 Princes Square, Bayswater

I engaged in a bit of lodging paranoia before we left the reviews I壇 read of the hostel before I booked were pretty good, but I read more reviews a couple of weeks before we arrived, and they were not nearly as complimentary. Thankfully, audere_est_facere was kind enough to look them up for me, and assured me that we would be all right. Mr. Pickle checked the room before we paid, and thought it would meet our needs it was pretty bare-bones, but we knew we would be gone all day so that didn稚 bother us.

Our room was on the 4th floor with no lift, of course and Mr. Pickle was grateful to leave Godzilla (now renamed Hernia Helper) in our double room after wrestling it up the narrow stairs.

Pros of Hostel 63:

1. It was cheap - $71 per night, $78 on Friday night
2. They had Nutella at breakfast
3. Friendly staff
4. Everything was clean

Cons:

1. The toilet and shower were down a flight of stairs
2. One shower room had no lock
3. The other shower leaked all over the floor
4. No soap or paper towels in the bathrooms
5. Lumpy mattress and really flat pillows

All in all, it met our needs, but I wouldn稚 stay there again next time I値l use Priceline or stay in a YHA hostel.

We took showers, then walked a few blocks to catch the Big Bus tour on Bayswater Road. http://www.bigbus.co.uk It was a lovely, sunny day, and we enjoyed sitting on the open upper deck. The Big Bus tour was a relaxing way for us to see some of the major tourist attractions that we wouldn稚 be visiting, and it was fun getting an overview of the city.

By the time we reached the Tower of London, our heads were starting to nod, so we got off the bus and stretched our legs for a few minutes. It was late enough in the day that the next bus we got on didn稚 do the Kensington loop, so we never saw the museums in that area. We were both tired, though, so that was OK.

We departed the bus at Marble Arch and met our first pedestrian subway. Of course, we took the wrong exit (sorry, Flanner, they池e not that simple for this jet-lagged, first-time visitor), but eventually we figured out how to get to the bus stop.

http://www.fancyapint.com told us the Prince Edward pub was right around the corner from our hostel, and we stopped there for dinner (sausage and mash for me, a burger for Mr. Pickle, and pints of Tanglefoot and Badger, all very good). Our last stop for the evening was a Sainsbury痴 Local for some picnic items.

We were in bed by 9:00 and slept like the proverbial logs until I was dragged into consciousness at about 2:45 in the morning by the sound of something scritchety-scratching about our plastic grocery bags. 溺aybe I知 imagining it, I thought hopefully, and went back to sleep.

No such luck. The next time, Mr. Pickle heard it too. After he finished putting everything plastic into our suitcases, he couldn稚 get back to sleep. Eventually he woke me up to start Thursday痴 adventures.
**********************

May 3rd In Which We Visit Greenwich, Westminster, Churchill And Spend an Evening with Audere

鄭ubrey, may I trouble you for the salt?

We took the Tube to Blackfriars, then the Thames Clipper to Greenwich. It was too cold to sit outside, but it was fascinating watching all the old wharves and warehouses go by and thinking of all the people and merchandise that traveled the globe.

I知 a fan of Patrick O達rian痴 excellent Aubrey/Maturin series, so a trip to the National Maritime Museum was a must on my list. We weren稚 sure it was going to work in our schedule, but a couple of the London Walks we had considered didn稚 meet our needs, and I was very happy we were able to fit Greenwich back in.

After a look through the visitor痴 center, we went to the museum. We were on a fairly tight schedule, so we mostly concentrated on the 哲elson痴 Navy exhibit. We both enjoyed the narrated diagram of the Battle of Trafalgar, which is projected on a large horizontal surface. It痴 often difficult for me to picture how those sea battles were actually fought, and this diagram was very clear and helpful.

The last room has the uniform Nelson was wearing when he was killed at Trafalgar. There is also a surgeon痴 uniform and kit it was fun to see what Stephen Maturin would have worn and some of the instruments he would have used.

We took the tram up the hill to the Royal Observatory for a quick look inside and to take our pictures on the Prime Meridian (with bunches of other tourists, of course), then walked back down to ride the DLR and Tube to Westminster.
******************************

的 see (stuff about) dead people.

We got to Westminster Abbey just in time for the last verger痴 tour of the afternoon; we used the Days Out 2-for-1 coupon for admission and weren稚 asked for our train ticket. The verger痴 tour was very interesting and informative, well worth the extra cost as we were able to see Edward the Confessor痴 shrine up close. There are so many memorials that the rest of the tour is a bit blurred in my mind, but it was enjoyable and I wouldn稚 mind spending more time there.

Our next stop was the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, just up the street. During World War II, this was Churchill痴 heavily fortified underground headquarters; when the war ended, it was closed up. Everything (map rooms, bedrooms, radio rooms, etc.) was left just as it was a visit here is like walking through a life-sized time capsule. This place is fascinating. The Churchill Museum is also very good, but we ended up having to rush a bit through the last part of the war rooms before it closed at 6:00. Do allow at least two hours if you plan to visit here; we only had 90 minutes and it wasn稚 quite enough.
**************************

We took the Tube to London Bridge, where we took the wrong exit out of the station (are you beginning to detect a pattern?) and wandered a bit before realizing we were standing in front of our eventual dinner destination, got ourselves oriented correctly, and walked down the street and around the corner to meet audere_est_facere.

David had, at great personal sacrifice, researched several pubs in the area before our visit. We met in front of the Borough of Grapes, which, unfortunately, had just closed for remodeling, so we went to the Wheatsheaf (I think) for a pint, followed by a short DAVETRUFACT tour of the South Bank. We walked past the Clink Prison (now a museum), down by the Thames, and past the rebuilt Globe Theatre, then circled back. We attempted to stop at a couple more pubs, but they were very crowded and noisy, so we ended up back at the Wheatsheaf. We don稚 go to bars at home, and it was fun seeing a small slice of English pub culture.

Dinner was at the George Inn, the last galleried inn in London. Once the Tabard Inn, it was the site where pilgrims (including Chaucer痴) departed for Canterbury, and was rebuilt as the George in the 1600s. Shakespeare痴 plays were originally performed in the courtyard of the George.

We went upstairs to the lovely, quieter dining room and enjoyed a very good dinner steak and ale pies for us, venison for Audere and talked about various topics, including travel and American hair and teeth (I was relieved to find we have neither). The Pickles had a wonderful evening thanks so much, David!

We stopped at Westminster again on our way back to the hostel to take night shots of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye before heading back to Bayswater. No scurrying visitors this evening, thankfully, and we both got a full night痴 sleep.
****************************

May 4th In Which We Explore Foundational Documents, See Stuff the English Nicked, and Watch Les Miz Get STOMPed!

We slept in a bit, stopped at Boots to buy a new hair dryer, and tried to find a fuse for our adapter, which we blew out our first night (hint don稚 try to plug a battery charger into one of those things).

Our first major stop of the day was Leicester Square. Mr. Pickle is a fan of musicals, and I知 not. To give you an idea of our musical differences, when we met he was aNeil Diamond and Barbra Streisand fan, and I was into the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But it was our anniversary celebration, and any good marriage involves some give and take, so we decided to get tickets for Les Miserables at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.

He left me in the Tube station to save a bit of money on our Oyster card (actually, it was nice to sit for a few minutes and read). When he returned, he told me TKTS hadn稚 gotten any Les Miz tickets from the theatre, and, after looking over the other choices, he got tickets for STOMP! instead.

徹ohhhhkaaaay, I thought, regretting that I hadn稚 gone with him and steered him to something different but the musical evening was his choice, so I figured I壇 survive somehow.

Back on the Tube to Euston, where we went to the British Library. We enjoyed our picnic in the courtyard before visiting the Treasures of the British Library room. I知 a lifelong reader and book lover, but I can稚 really express what a thrill it was to see the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare痴 First Folio, original handwritten scores by Handel and Mozart, and many other items that are building blocks of western civilization.

I could have spent longer there, but we reluctantly dragged ourselves away and walked down the street to King痴 Cross station. I pushed really hard, but I couldn稚 get the trolley through the wall at Platform 9 セ. Once a Muggle, always a Muggle

We strolled through Russell Square to the British Museum, where, since it was getting late, we took the audio highlights tour. What an amazing collection the Rosetta Stone, amazing Greek statues, Egyptian mummies, and so much more. I especially loved the Lewis Chessmen, each with their own uniquely humorous face.

We wanted to save a little money on dinner, so we ate at the Stockpot near Soho. It痴 nothing fancy, just basic good food lamb cutlets for me, fish and chips for Mr. Pickle, with a Victoria sponge for dessert for about £ 6 each.

From the Stockpot, it痴 a short walk past bustling Leicester Square to the Vaudeville Theatre. We had third row seats, but they were off to the side, so we moved back a couple of rows to some empty center seats before the performance.

If you haven稚 seen STOMP!, it痴 basically rhythmic fun with household items brooms, trash cans, buckets, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the show; it was fun, energetic, and highly entertaining.
*********************
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 05:25 PM
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Just loving your report -- did you ever find out the source of the scritchy plastic bag sounds?
azzure is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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By the way, I meant to say that I love the updated Jane Austen quote that begins your essay...
azzure is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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I'm LOVING this report. What a great variety of things you did already - just 2 days into the trip. And how exciting to meet up with a Fodor's comrade.

STOMP is pretty amazing - not really a musical as conventionally defined. My older daughter and I both took years of tap dance, so it really was a fun show for us. Of course, Les Mis is one of our all time favorites.

I'm sure we're the same age (we're celebrating our 26th anniversary next month). It's funny, I went through a phase in high school of listening to Neil Diamond (don't tell ANYONE). My younger daughter is a huge Sex Pistols fan. She was excited to pick up a Cure t-shirt when she was in London last summer.

Looking forward to more of your adventures.
noe847 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 05:59 PM
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Your trip report is terrific. I can't wait to read more.

We are taking a 25th anniversary trip, too. After 25 yrs. we've discovered Mr. Specs likes to watch other people doing things, and I'd rather "do" than watch. So he's at the U.S. Open Golf thingie, and I'm off to England in July. A bit of a pickle, but no problem.
specs is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 06:46 PM
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What are "American hair and teeth?"
KTtravel is online now  
Jun 15th, 2007, 10:19 PM
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KTtravel asked my question.

Very enjoyable trip report.
LCBoniti is offline  
Jun 15th, 2007, 10:32 PM
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I'll leave it to audere or one of the other Blokes to really explain American teeth and hair - but just suffice it to say, no matter how we dress - the teeth and hair are a dead giveaway . . . . .
janisj is online now  
Jun 16th, 2007, 02:12 AM
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>>What are "American hair and teeth?" <<

Think Carol Channing.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Carol WHO
blightyboy is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:47 AM
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I'd never heard of her but a quick Google gives
http://news.siu.edu/photos/channing.jpg
MissPrism is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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That's the feller.

Am I the only person who knows about musicals, then?
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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Mame, anyone?
noe847 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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Thanks, Azzure! We're pretty sure our nighttime visitor was a mouse - at least it disappeared when Mr. Pickle turned on the light, and it didn't come back.

American hair - Audere says John Kerry has it - I think it means that overly coiffed and blowdried look. Carol Channing is a pretty good example of a woman with American hair and teeth!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  

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