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Stokebailey and sometimes family: three weeks in London, Fife, Glasgow, and Avignon.

Stokebailey and sometimes family: three weeks in London, Fife, Glasgow, and Avignon.

Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 06:06 PM
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Stokebailey and sometimes family: three weeks in London, Fife, Glasgow, and Avignon.

Basically:

Sept 1: solo two nights in London for jet lag and NT play.

Train to Leuchars, then three nights in Crail, Fife. UK has new PM.

Two nights in Glasgow, then train to London, meeting Daughter H Sept 8, amid news of Queen Elizabeth swift decline and death.

Sept 9: Husband Bob arrives in Paris to spend five nights, finds that zipped back pocket doesn’t foil RER pickpockets. (consternation, Eurostar, extra hotel}.

Sept 11: Daughter MC arrives London, which is abuzz. Together at last.

Sept 14 – 22: Avignon!



Like everyone else, we cooled our traveling heels for a few years for COVID, environmental concerns. Used Amtrak or stayed home. H had gone to school and then worked in London, said she didn’t need to go back, now lives down the road. MC and her husband live in Minneapolis, 9 hrs drive north of here. Too far.



For Christmas I’d gotten MC an Ancestry DNA test that came with 3 months’ database access. I figured that as a present for Bob, too, since he’s done things like drive to Kentucky courthouses to look at family records. It turned out that he couldn’t get interested in the online search. I spent an icy week by the fire diving into my own family, got hooked.



It turns out that on my father’s side I’m descended from some very fancy people indeed, people I’ve heard of. All of his grandparents separately trace back to Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, King John, and several barons who rebelled against him. Wm the C and cronies. Beheadings in Tower. Poisoners. Saints. (My mother’s Irish side barely traces back into the 1800’s: solid weavers and farmers who don’t curtsey to anyone, or require being curtseyed to.)



This makes me more interesting to myself somehow, and more curious to see the countryside. I’d always assumed we came from barely shod hillbillies. At first I thought it would be fun to visit a “family” castle or two, but the more I read about real estate squabbles, like wife imprisoned because King John wanted husband’s castle, the less I cared about seeing ruins. (Exception for Haddon Hall, that I’d like to see again as descendant of de Vernons who built it.)



What I wanted to see was the countryside, and living people’s faces. MC’s DNA test showed 29% Scottish, and I saw a photo of Kingsbarns links, in Fife, Scotland, and said: that’s it! By now H wanted to go back to London, and she also wanted somewhere warm. Bob loves Paris, has never been that crazy about London. Triangulating all of our wishes, we decided on time for me in Scotland, for me and H in London while Bob was in Paris, then rendezvous for train to Avignon. We could sense MC longing for France, where she’d lived 1.5 years, and eventually she jumped in for mom and sister time in London and family in Avignon.



Aug 31-Sept 1: Jammed AA flights STL-BOS-LHR Terminal 3. Middle seat between two quiet and polite young men. No sleep. Masses in Arrivals, but it moved swiftly. Small carryon. Scanner told me I had to Seek Assistance, but I was just as glad to interact with a human, minimal wait. Detoured by a big sign that promises Trains! Elizabeth Line! When you get down that hallway they admit: Well, okay, Heathrow Express then Eliz. No thank you.



I love the Piccadilly Line from LHR: glimpses of suburbs, then increasingly crowded. Russell Square stop requires a flight of stairs; a young Asian man kindly offers to carry my bag up, but if I pack I should deal with it.



First stop always the Pret a Manger across the street. Ah. Then another short block to the Celtic Hotel, with its wonderful proprietor Mrs. R. Marazzi. What a welcome sight. How glad I am she’s still hanging in there, with her high standards, her friendly welcome after and amid COVID and Brexit. I get room 26, my new favorite, for the next two nights. It’s a single down a few stairs from the breakfast room and overlooking the garden. Quiet and scrupulously clean, ensuite, free upgrade £90/night, including breakfast. Normally £99. Breakfast is part of the experience and not to be missed.



Next, two more welcome sights while I wait for my room: Tropea Café in Russell Square for just one more cappuccino, then Tutti’s, on Lamb’s Conduit St., for light lunch. The hotel is just off Russell Square, an easy cut through to British Museum back entrance. I stop in there, then at L. Cornellisen & Son art supplies on Great Russell St, find the perfect lightweight sketch books. Wind my way down Monmouth to Point Zero, Trafalgar Square.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 10:48 PM
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Looks iike a very busy trip, especially making up for lost time (or lost years). I will never again take the Heathrow Express either. Unfortunately, a CDG Express is currently under construction in Paris and it will be just as expensive as the Heathrow Express.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 11:02 PM
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Stokeb, you're off to a great start here. Interesting how you laid your plans.

Ready for more when you are,
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 11:26 PM
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Enjoying the way you write. And reading about London (love the theatre). Thanks for sharing.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 11:42 PM
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on for the ride
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 05:55 AM
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Very interested to hear about your 3 nights in Crail. We are planning a trip to Scotland for June, and Crail is on my itinerary.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
on for the ride
I’m on for the ride too, we were scheduled to be in London and the Cotswolds in May 2020, but… Hopefully we’ll get there sometime soon, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy the pleasures vicariously 😃
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 10:07 AM
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Thanks, all

Yes, k. I had bought return from LHR before the others were on board, so was in London for last two nights. Wanting to allow plenty of time, I checked google maps the night before for Piccadilly line departure times. The only public transport option, at 55 min travel time: walk to Tottenham Ct station, Elizabeth Line to Paddington, then Heathrow Express. It takes around an hour by Tube to Terminal 5. I had stepped into Russell Sq station that evening to top off my Oyster. No problems per notice board. I checked tfl website the next morning; same Eliz/H Express advice and no other. I took the Tube, and can only conclude that tfl is pushing the newer, shinier, pricier route. I wouldn’t have minded taking the Elizabeth Line at some point, but I prefer walking and the bus if feasible.

Kay, I ended up attending 2.5 plays, 0.5 musicals, and an opera on this trip. All rewarding. Bob was responsible for the 0.5 Seagull, also thanks to pickpocket.

LONDON briefly this time

I had thought about looking into the National Gallery that first afternoon, but got there a little too late. I sat on the low wall for a sketch of St. Martin’s steeple. These Cornellisen booklets are great. Thick paper covers, stitched, 40 pages 5x7. I wish I’d gotten more than two. A man I suspect of being a singer-songwriter began a loud performance not to my taste, so I left, cutting back through Covent Garden. Why do they allow amplifiers like that? I vote acoustic or nothing.

H scoffs at the idea that London is necessarily all that expensive. So do I. For supper, Meal Deal at Sainsbury’s on Southampton Row: ploughman’s sandwich, Suffolk apple juice, crisps for £3.50.

Watched TV in my room to stay awake until 2200. Lots of real estate envy, reality and shopping shows. Must have missed the good stuff flipping through.

There were fresh strawberries already on the breakfast table at 0700, and the sweet uniformed server offered avocados in addition to printed menu. I had her repeat the word, had modified full English. In the past, students from a college outside Jackson MS USA have stayed at the Celtic for six weeks or so, part of a cultural semester, and sometimes the prof would be at breakfast early to chat a bit. They attended plays, operas, museums, and I’d have jumped on while in school. A young American couple who’d met there several years ago was back to visit for a few days, now married with baby. Two English gentlemen also stopped in separately to have breakfast and give their best to Mrs. Marazzi. The Celtic is that sort of a place. I hope the college can resume that program.

I walked to James Smith & Sons, my favorite umbrella, life preserver and swordsticks store, got a collapsible enameled cane for my mother. Then to Chinatown, where I tried and failed to find the little place where annhig introduced me to dim sum a few years ago. I had a pleasant dim sum platter lunch under an awning, out of the sun.

Checking tfl for best bus to National Theatre that evening, they suggested “If you can, cycle this route.” Uh, no. There was one easy bus to over the river, and I took it.

One reason I chose my travel dates was to catch a performance of Jack Absolute Flies Again, co-written by Richard Bean, whose One Man, Two Guvnors I loved in the West End several years ago. This one is based on Sheridan’s The Rivals, and is set at an air base during WWII. I got there plenty early, had a half pint of cider as I leaned on the parapet and admired the view. A perfect evening. I watched for Thames Clippers, only saw boats that acted a lot like them, except for large word UBER.

I lucked into an excellent seat. I found the play amusing, annoying, ultimately moving. The amusing: most of the clever lines, the fine comedic acting, the character of the maid. The annoying: Go ahead and call me a prude. No really, go ahead. Mrs. Malaprop’s malapropisms were almost all of a sexual nature, masturbation and whatnot, and the virginal ingenues’ lines suggested those of horny movie sorority girls. I like my pastiches less jarring, I guess. The audience roared at the naughty parts, so there’s that. Ultimately strongest impression, the moving: realizing that I was on soil repeatedly bombed, and how the British fought and died and what they went through. I was glad I went.

It's an easy bus ride back, once you figure out where to stand.



Last edited by stokebailey; Oct 3rd, 2022 at 10:29 AM. Reason: removed response to a deleted post
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 07:16 AM
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Let's see whether I can figure out how to add a few photos. My money's on "maybe."
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 07:22 AM
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Half pint with a view.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 07:24 AM
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Celtic breakfast room.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 08:02 AM
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Re fancy relatives:
https://nautil.us/youre-descended-fr...y-else-236939/

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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 08:56 AM
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Are those photos too large? Please advise.

SCOTLAND!



Another easy bus to King’s Cross for my 10:00 LNER train to Leuchars. You forget about the station’s Harry Potter connection until you see the displays and overhear the eager parents in various accents. Thanks to those who helped me feel confident, but not overly, about taking the train.



Comfortable, seat to myself with view to the east. Compared to our poor legislature- and politics- dependent Amtrak, the toilet facilities are palatial. An entire little car to itself, so no one is exposed to opening door unpleasantness. Clean! Tempted to send photo home.



I do like a well-ordered countryside. North of London, the scenery soon becomes rural, agricultural and grazing land reminiscent of Illinois or Minnesota, with the occasional medieval church. Quick glimpses of Durham Cathedral and Yorkminster as janis promised. A castle in Newcastle, and north of there it gets wilder, hillier, with more birch and fir trees. Over the Firth of Forth at Queensferry, named for my 25th great grandmother St. Margaret, who helped pilgrims ferry more easily towards St. Andrews. (Please either forgive or disregard these attempts at ancestor-aggrandizement. It just made it all more fun for me.) Finally, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, the North Sea.



As we neared Leuchars, I noticed several luggage-burdened young people lined up in the aisle. Alighting from train, hundreds more. Pro tip: avoid the weekend before fall term at St. Andrews U, or be prepared. Everyone funneled towards the bus queue or started grabbing the several waiting cabs. I stood in the bus queue as I had planned, and saw a small fraction of us leave on the first #95. Got into a conversation with sweet kid who’d never been out of India before, already missing his family. Watched taxis come, load up, and go. Ditto #95 buses.



Finally I turned to a young Chinese woman and remarked that we were possibly being too polite here. I tried one cab with only one rider, was rebuffed. She snagged another, and waved me over. £10 each. It was her second year. She’d started in Hong Kong three sleepless days previously, gotten to Frankfurt airport and because of strikes was lucky to get the only UK flight to Newcastle. When she asked me why Scotland, I mentioned my ancestor quest. At that point, the previously silent cabbie chimed in, said he’d searched his tree 20 years ago and ended up fighting in court to be recognized as a lord. Now could style himself Lord McK. As I got out at the St. Andrews bus station and handed him his tenner, I said “Thank you, your lordship.” Luckily, we’re not in line for anything but amusement.



It was another 45 minutes until the next 92A bus to Crail, so I rolled myself over to the nearby university student commons, where a plant sale was in progress, and where American accents seemed to dominate. There’s a bar there where I got a half of cider, too sweet, and charged my phone. The bar had the first tip jar I’d seen since leaving the US, where they seem ubiquitous. It did have a little sign saying tips were optional.



Back at the bus station, there was a gang of maybe eight 10 year old boys who pushed their way to front of queue, in one of only two displays of rudeness I saw my entire trip. The driver said it was always the same ones, and gave them a stern warning. There was a temporary diversion enroute to Crail, so I’m not sure whether we went through the old Pitmilly estate that had first attracted me to Fife. It was a green and beautiful half hour ride. Lots of use of row covers to extend growing season, lots of farm fields, forests.



As I understand it, the Moneypenny family, one of our distant connections, came over with the Conquest and somehow had claim to a large estate called Pitmilly, near Kingsbarns, in Fife, and held it for centuries. Any house of theirs is long gone, and the last lord must have died without an heir. The name didn’t ring a bell with the few people I mentioned it to. Sic transit gloria mundi. Why did the photo of rolling green golf links, with the North Sea behind, appeal so much to a non-golfer? I don’t know, but it really called. So did the Toasty Cheese Shack on the beach there. The village of Kingsbarns has a couple of inns that were full by the time I inquired, and a small B&B that I first considered, but the hostess told me there wasn’t anywhere to eat or buy groceries there. Would have been too difficult without a car. I looked further on the map and bus route, and saw Crail.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 08:59 AM
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Yeah, yeah, hetismij. Of course. It just all made England, Scotland and their history more interesting to me.

Wait. Does that mean I'm also descended from Cleopatra? Or Confucius?

Last edited by stokebailey; Oct 4th, 2022 at 09:02 AM.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 10:08 AM
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Really looking forward to this report after your earlier threads

"Are those photos too large? Please advise."

Maybe a little large but not too bad. They are really OK but sizing down maybe 20% or 25% would fit better on most screens
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 10:16 AM
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One bit of confusion in the third ¶ of your latest post: You mention crossing the Firth of Forth/Queensferry . . . before Berwick-u-Tweed and the North Sea. Would have been tother way round.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 11:10 AM
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Thanks, janis. I'll try to figure out how to reduce.

And of course you're right about Berwick. Thought I'd changed that.

I wonder whether people in the Old Country encounter situations where they're supposed to respect lineage, and therefore find it rankling and requiring taking down pegs. Where i live in the deeply middle US Midwest no one i know could care less. My husband thinks my efforts are kind of cool. Nephews, brothers, shrug or act politely interested. Around here, what you've made of yourself -- read financially -- is what counts. I'm fine ish with either system.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 01:27 PM
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I don't respect lineage. I know a few monarchists but that is about it. Most of the nobles I know including Earls, Dukes etc are just normal people. On the other hand people with .money worry me.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 02:48 PM
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Exactly, bilbo. I respect people who are clever, well-informed, who have a great deal of conversation. As are to be found here, in fact.
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Old Oct 4th, 2022, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by hetismij2 View Post

hilarious
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