Two weeks in the UK -- slowly and gently

Old Nov 3rd, 2012, 05:05 PM
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I am savoring your trip report and dreading it coming to an end.
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 04:03 AM
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At the post office-tourist bureau-souvenir shop on the corner of Cromwell and Gloucester roads, I'd picked up a brochure for a bus tour to see the monuments of London by night, their lights ablaze. "To see" doesn't mean "to stop and take some pictures." To sit on open top of the bus and hope to catch some on the fly does mean to freeze your camera finger off and -- in the weather we've been experiencing -- get wet.

A conversation with the manager of our apartment building connects us to a car and driver who will follow the route and stop and park as close as possible to sights Himself wishes to photograph. Pick-up is 7:30 p.m. and by 10 p.m. we have photos of Albert Hall, Harrod's, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Paul's magnificent dome. Due to parking restrictions, a few had to be shot through the open car window, but our driver proceeds slowly and is happy to circle around to give us a second chance to get the shot.

We skipped Marble Arch because its lights were out and Piccadilly Circus because we just don't find it aesthetically pleasing. The photos show beautiful light reflections in the mist dampened streets.

This extravagance cost us 75GBP, about 15 more than it would have cost to take the bus. Money well spent.

Our last two full days in Britain are devoted to what can best be described as pilgrimages. On Monday, we take the train from Kings Cross to Cambridge. We are startled by Kings Cross station which has undergone a massive remodel since our visit in Spring, 2011.

The market square in Cambridge looks pretty much the same.
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 07:39 AM
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We headed to the T-shift stand to buy Cambridge T-shirts for the grandchildren. In 1988 and 1989, we attended summer courses in literature housed at the University and enjoy claiming alumni status whether we or not we are legitimately entitled. Cambridge was our first experience of going away to college. Our undergraduate and graduate degrees were earned as commuters.

We want our grandkids to aspire to great schools. The first T-shirts we bought them were the smallest available. This year, all shirts came from the adult size range.

We were more generous with ourselves, heading to an indoor shop to purchase woolen sweaters. We really do have enough Cambridge T-shirts. Next year, oldest grandson will begin college. Maybe we'll switch our T-shirt collecting to the college of his choice.

We wandered through familiar Cambridge streets savoring the memories then grabbed a cab to the station. Back in London, we hit Sainsbury's for a fish pie for him and chicken tikka for me and an evening of quiet dinner and television in the flat.

We spent our last day on a Thames River cruise to Greenwich. Years ago, we started this tradition because by our last day in London we were too tired to do anything that required standing or walking. We've taken this visit slowly, so exhaustion isn't a factor. We chose a City Cruise boat this time and were disappointed when at Tower Bridge we were told to relocate from our comfortable vessle with table seating to a boat with rows of hard plastic chairs. Back at Westminster Pier, we wave good-bye to Boudicca and Big Ben. We would have liked to have strolled once more through Embankment Gardens, but it is rainy and all the flowers have bbewn plucked from the beds.

In the evening, we made supper from leftovers and began the task of packing up. With a folding suitcase to hold the laundry, there is plenty of room in the big cases for our souvenirs. There is even enough room to bring home a few boxes of man-sized, triple ply Kleenex. Kimberly-Clark has stopped marketing these in the United States and Himself misses them. Five boxes will get him through any bout with winter colds.

Wednesday morning we bought our last set of British newspapers, checked every drawer twice to make sure we've left nothing crucial behind, and waited for the car service to pick us up to take us to Heathrow.

The young women who have serviced our room are anxious to get a head start readying it for the next guests. We invite them in and tell them to help themselves to anything we're leaving behind. I don't know which delights them more, the tip or the unopened bottles of beer.

The trip to Heathrow was uneventful as was the flight to New York. The car service driver had been directed to the wrong terminal, but found us just as I was digging out my cellphone to call the dispatcher.

There's comparatively little traffic on the road from JFK to North Jersey. In an hour, we're home.
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 08:06 AM
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virginia - sorry your trip had to come to an end. I do enjoy seeing the UK through others eyes and yours are some of the sharpest - thanks!
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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Excellent report. We travel your way these days. Slow and easy, but way better than staying home,

Small question: WHERE did you find man-sized Kleenex? We were in England last June, but nevr saw them, and didn't think to seek them out!
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 11:19 AM
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most supermarkets, Boots etc. will have them.
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 11:56 AM
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We got ours in Sainsbury's supermarket.
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Old Nov 4th, 2012, 12:00 PM
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Great report! I very much enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to post.
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 07:46 AM
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I hope that your return to New Jersey didn't include any rough treatment from Sandy. Let us know.
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 11:06 AM
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azzure,
we lost power for a couple of days and the top of a big, old oak tree, but were actually very lucky. our son and younger daughter are still powerless, but suffered no other damage. our older daughter retained power and suffered the rest of the family showing up to shower.
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 11:35 AM
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Thanks for sharing the details of your delightful trip. Will you be posting the pictures you mentioned taking? Please, please, please......!
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 12:00 PM
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VirginiaC,

I've just got back from a week in London and was glad to see your report as it brought back some happy memories.

I've slept in a car while DH has shopped at that Sainsburys on Cromwell Road plus we also made it to the V&A this trip and saw the same ballgown exhibit.
We day tripped to Wales to see an elderly aunt but we didn't have to go quite as far west as Neath where I attended HS. Do you have family living there? I don't think I've seen Neath mentioned on Fodors before!
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 03:53 PM
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Sassy-cat.

No relatives, just wonderful friends. We met Glyn when we attended a choir rehearsal and the cab we'd hired to take us back to our hotel never appeared.

We've taken advantage of their marvelous Welsh hospitality many times since and hope we've been able to reciprocate at least a little.

Neath is a delightful little city and the ruins of the Abbey are beautiful. And the Neath Male Choir is superb.
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