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The volcano gods smiled, then frowned. UK citizens endangered

The volcano gods smiled, then frowned. UK citizens endangered

Old May 14th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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The volcano gods smiled, then frowned. UK citizens endangered

When: April 23 - May 10.
Where: London, Salisbury, Bath, Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon, York and Edinburgh.
Overall impression: Wow!

We left from JFK even though we live just south of Baltimore. AA does not have direct flights from nearby airports and past experience with missed connections and delayed luggage made the 4.5 hour drive to JFK seem prudent. Flights were leaving from JFK to Heathrow for the past 36 hours but we kept tuned to the news on the drive up to learn of any changes. Not to worry. Our flight left on time and arrived nearly one hour early. We got through Heathrow easily and wended our way to the tube station dragging our far too much luggage behind us (hey, we were going to rent a car in a few days for most of the rest of the trip, so why not bring lots of stuff - such was DW's thinking). The ticket seller at the tube station advised us that a one day ticket for each of our two days in London would be the best bet. We did get excellent value from that.

Our London Hotel, the Millennium Bailey is just across from the Gloucester tube station. How good is that? Lots of stairs though to reach the surface. As I was schlepping the biggest duffel up the stairs, a well dressed fellow offered to help, and of course I let him, thinking that if he was going to steal it, I would have no trouble catching him. That was a really nice gesture on his part and the first of a long series of just plain decency that we would experience during our travels in the UK. The "friendly virus" has hit Britain and everyone we met was infected.

Even though we were hours early for check-in (it wasn't even breakfast time yet) there was a room that was ready and it was quite nice. The hotel location is excellent. Across from a tube station with 3 lines, a short walk to the V&A museum and the Natural History museum. A quick breakfast near the hotel - there are many eateries nearby - and we were ready to invade London.

Next: Tales of the Crypt.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 03:05 PM
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hi basingstoke.

how nice to hear what friendly folks we are.

looking forward to more,

regards, ann
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Old May 14th, 2010, 04:56 PM
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I'll look forward to the rest of your report!

"<i>As I was schlepping the biggest duffel up the stairs, a well dressed fellow offered to help, and of course I let him, thinking that if he was going to steal it, I would have no trouble catching him.</i>"

The exact same happened to me at the same tube station back in 1993 - only mine was a 30 inch suitcase loaded to bursting. That was the very last time EVER I used a bag bigger than 21 inches. You should tell you DW from now on -- she takes it, she carries it
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Old May 14th, 2010, 08:29 PM
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LOL - somehow I did not expect someone so British sounding and with the name Basingstoke to use the word "shlepping" - I think that alone is histerical.
Good report.
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Old May 15th, 2010, 07:31 PM
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janisj - easy to say, not so practical to do. BTW thanks for the pre trip planning tips.

Mahya2 - as Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman might say "What - Me British?" I have always been somewhat of an anglophile having started reading books by British authors at an early age and ending up playing in the pit orchestra of nearly every Gilbert and Sullivan operetta - that is where I took the name Basingstoke, the city name being used in "Ruddigore" to calm Mad Margaret.

annhig. thanks, here is some more.

Saturday, the 23rd was St. George's day so we took the tube to Regent Street to pick up our British Heritage passes to use for the next two weeks and then moseyed down to Trafalgar Square to check out what was happening in the celebration. There were quite a few others with the same idea in the square and after spending time enjoying the crowd, the idea of lunch became an attractive one. What better place for lunch in that area than in a crypt. In the crypt of St. Martin's in the Field is a nice little cafeteria. This actually is a crypt, not a Disney-esque version. The food is decent, the prices good and for me, St. Martin's in the Field is shrine in that I have many recordings made there by the chamber orchestra "Academy of Saint Martins in the Field" - Sir Neville Marriner conducting (can't say one without the other). There are many concerts that take place there and it is used for recording as well.

With stomachs full and graves trod upon we were ready to take on the British Museum, or at least as much as our slightly jet lagged bones would allow. We tubed over and although we saw quite a bit before closing, we were disappointed that a collection of manuscripts and books that we had been looking forward to seeing once again had been moved to another building.

While exploring the neighborhood around the museum we encountered yet another example of Brit kindness. We were walking down the street a woman caught up to us carrying the jacket that I had unknowingly dropped a half block away. I was particularly glad to get it back since not only would I be needing it, but there was nearly 200 pounds in an inside zipped pocket.

We popped into a pub for dinner and a good fish and chips dinner it was! The remainder of the evening was spent in the Saturday night crush of Covent Garden where we enjoyed both the intentional and unintentional street theater and then a tube ride back to the hotel.

Next - we meet Graham. You should meet him too.
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Old May 16th, 2010, 06:25 AM
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We've shlepped bags up those very stairs, too, basingstoke, and been offered the kindness of strangers. So glad that kindness was a theme of your trip.

Similarly, I heard classical radio DJs talk about the Academy of St. Martins etc for years before setting foot there. Somehow in my imagination the church always faced south.

I'm enjoying your report.
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Old May 17th, 2010, 07:16 PM
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Who knew fodors had so many schleppers? Our Sunday in London began with a trip out to the Jewish Museum. It was a bit hard to find walking from the tube station, down a residential street. It is an interesting place detailing the history of London's Jewish population with some interesting interactive exhibits. A good find if you enjoy such places as we do. FOOD ALERT - the museum has a restaurant and a darn good one at that at prices that are rock bottom for London. We had the Moroccan style cous cous with chicken and the poached salmon with potato. I mentioned that DW is a vegetarian, but not exactly. To be precise, she will not eat the flesh of creatures whose blood flows warm.

Both dishes were delicious. The cous-cous was sweet rather than spicy with pine nuts and dried fruit. Traveling back to central London we found the station we had left earlier closing for renovation work so rather than walk to the next station, we took the bus to where we were to meet Graham, our guide for the London Walks Westminster tour.

It turned out that the Sunday of our tour, was also the day of the London Marathon and the meeting place was along the course. With the crowd, and an enthusiastic one at that, we nearly despaired of finding Graham, but find him we did - pressed up against a wall holding a London Walks brochure aloft. Graham was happy to see us since he thought no one would show up. Graham deputized DW as a temporary London Walks guide, giving her the job of holding the brochures aloft as he set off through the crowd to see if anyone else was searching for the tour and found a few others. If you take a London Walks tour, find one where Graham is the guide. He was a font of detail and information about the history of Westminster and its environs and a very interesting older chap as well. The Westminster tour was a good choice and particularly interesting was exploring the small streets and squares behind and nearby. Westminster College is a gem and also of interest were the former homes of Sir John Gielgud and "Lawrence of Arabia" as well as others. We saw a clutch of parents standing outside the choir school to pick up their sons who were arriving back from singing in the Westminster choir for evensong - like soccer moms with kids in robes.

The tour over, we watched some of the tail end of the marathon for awhile and then over to Covent Gardens for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant we spotted while wandering about the night before. It was Sagar's Vegetarian Indian restaurant and was very good.

Other than the friendly and kind Brits theme, another theme of the trip would be the good food. It was consistently good throughout our trip, fairly priced, and for the vegetarians reading this, nearly every place we ate had a variety of vegetarian friendly options - DW ate well! We had one bad meal the entire trip and that was Sunday's breakfast that we grabbed at a Burger King across from the hotel only because it was raining at the time and the BK was closest. Even for a BK, it was bad.

Finishing a fine veggie dinner, we had to, just had to, go down to Leicester Square for the sake of nostalgia. I had taken DD to London when she was 13, and she was smitten with the Square and we had to go every night. Thus I wanted to show DW our hang-out and also see if "our" ice cream place was still there and take a photo for old times sake. The Ice Cream place was indeed still there and as crowded as I remembered it to be. Leicester Square remains a fine place for people watching. Back to the hotel we went to pack for our Monday train to Salisbury.

Next - Toro! Toro!
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Old May 18th, 2010, 03:16 AM
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Westminster College is a gem>>>>

Oooh! They'll shoot you for that. It's Westminster SCHOOL and they are VERY fussy about this.

And given that our Deputy Bum Faced Overlord, Nick Clegg, is an old boy - he could nuke you!

On the Crypt I have often wondered if the people that paid a fortune to be buried in there ever thought they'd end up in a cafe.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 03:29 AM
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...Other than the friendly and kind Brits theme, another theme of the trip would be the good food....

I always chuckle when I read this sort of comment.
It is not at all uncommon, but you still get people on this forum assuming that the food will be horrible.
BTW, Londoners are usually nice and helpful, but especially to pleasant polite people like you.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 06:49 PM
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CW - mea culpa. Regarding the crypt - I had the identical thought.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 07:02 PM
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>that is where I took the name Basingstoke, the city name being used in "Ruddigore" to calm Mad Margaret.

Also the name of where there was a prominent mental asylum in 19th C. England - that's why it calmed Mad Meg

Lavandula
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Old May 18th, 2010, 07:18 PM
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Thank you lavandula - I did not know that.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 10:10 PM
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basingstoke- loving your trip report! I, too, shlepped luggage on last trip to Paris- first down the stairs to the train at CDG, and then up three flights when we got off that train at Notre Dame (as the escalators were broken!)

Here's to the end of shlepping! And more trip report!
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Old May 19th, 2010, 01:50 AM
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Modern Basingstoke is an awful hole.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 04:12 PM
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CW - yes, I have been there, but that said, I like the sound of the word - it rolls nicely off of the tongue. Say it slowly, now then - wasn't that soothing?

Sarge56 - we form a cadre of schleppers - a many nuanced word.

Continuing the TR,

With an early afternoon train, we spent Monday morning at the V&A museum that has always been a favorite. It is a fascinating place. I was particularly intrigued by the wrought iron exhibit - something truly unique. My grandfather was a master craftsman in ornamental iron and I believe that there are still examples of his work in various places in NYC, but I do not know just where. Whenever I see beautiful examples of the art, I wonder if it was made by him.

A short walk back to the hotel and we took a taxi from the hotel to Waterloo station. Our timing was either perfect or awful, depending on whether one takes the view of a tourist or a miser. On the way we were delayed by traffic where we were to pass Buckingham Palace. It was changing of the guard time and traffic was halted for a few minutes. We had a premium view of the event from the taxi and it was well worth the ticking meter. I should mention that although I had been in London four times previously with the kids, it was DW's first trip back since 1975 and she had never seen the changing of the guard, so this was a serendipitous happening. Approaching the station we passed the Union Jack Club where I had stayed on my previous London visits. For persons who are members of the forces that were allied with the UK in WW II, either active or retired, you can apply for an honorary membership there and it is a fine and reasonably priced place to stay.

The taxi ride from our hotel in Kensington to Waterloo station was about 18 pounds and considering our luggage, well worth it. We had purchased our tickets to Salisbury on the Megatrain.com site and saved a bundle. Our two tickets to Salisbury were 20 pounds total, about a third of what they would have cost otherwise. If we had opted for an earlier train, it would have been even less. The ticket instructions said to look for a special car on the train marked megatrain, but we did not see one so just boarded one of the second class cars. The conductor came by and our names were on his list - there was no problem. Trip to Salisbury was comfortable and smooth - it really was a very nice train- much nicer than Amtrak trains I have been on recently.

In Salisbury, we had reservations at Webster's B&B. The address was programmed into our Garmin and it was about a 10 minute walk from the station. Our host John met us at the door and showed us to our thankfully ground floor room. It was nice, not fancy, but nice. The breakfast routine there is that you are given a card with lots of options for the next morning and you check off what you would like. Kippers!! They had Kippers!! I have never met a kipper I didn't like, so I checked off porridge, kippers and eggs. Our host asked if I really wanted the eggs. Why? I asked. He replied that it was an awful lot to eat, but If that was what I wanted, he would make it. That puzzled me because the kippers I know at home come in a can and are not large. He explained that his are fresh and one kipper covers an entire dinner plate. I canceled the eggs. The next morning I had my first fresh kipper and it was delicious. - but I digress.

By then it was mid afternoon and we took a walk down to the Cathedral - one of the finest in England. We were just in time for an almost private tour with an very lovely, elderly docent who knew the history of every speck of dust in the place - very informative. Afterwards we walked around Salisbury and then looked for a place for dinner, settling on "Ask" a mostly Italian restaurant where I had a two-fer coupon. Our meal was excellent, DW opting for grilled salmon with veggies and a tureen of prawns, chicken, olives, pine nuts etc. in a tomato based broth for me. With evening coming on and all of the shops closing (why do shops in the UK close so early? It would seem they lose a lot of trade) we asked our server what there was to do in the evening in Salisbury and she could not suggest anything other than pub crawling. Luckily, another server overheard us and suggested we check out the play house. We did, and they had a play that night, Toro! Toro! We bought tickets at 10 pounds each, open seating. It was theater in the round and a one man show with 2 musicians - a trumpet and guitar - the play follows a child who lived on a ranch that raises bulls for the ring and his pet bull through the Spanish Civil War. Again, we lucked into something memorable. The actor was captivating and the play riveting.

Next - Citizens of England, guard your lives. I rent a car and drive on the left side for the first time. A manual shift no less. Who says "you can't teach an old dog new tricks?"
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Old May 19th, 2010, 04:54 PM
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I do like your traveling style.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 06:36 PM
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He's a schlepper. I'm a schlepper. Wouldn't you like to be a schlepper, too?

The same thing did happen to us. Aren't those Brit boys nice now? They must carry Yank bags up steps every time they hop of the tube.

>>. . they had a play that night, Toro! Toro! We bought tickets at 10 pounds each, open seating. It was theater in the round and a one man show with 2 musicians - a trumpet and guitar - the play follows a child who lived on a ranch that raises bulls for the ring and his pet bull through the Spanish Civil War. Again, we lucked into something memorable.<<

I'm trying real hard to hang with you on this one, Mr. Basingstoke, but I can't quite imagine this being riveting.

I agree, though, that you have a most entertaining style of reporting. Looking forward to more.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 06:51 PM
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<I'm trying real hard to hang with you on this one, Mr. Basingstoke, but I can't quite imagine this being riveting.>

I guess you had to be there. The story involved the child losing most of his family when the ranch was bombed, living in the forest with the partisans, fighting, etc. The actor was amazingly good.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 07:23 PM
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I'm enjoying your report, looking forward to the rest.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 12:13 AM
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Very enjoyable and easy reading,thanks for posting. Can't wait for more!
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