Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Travel in England: Logistics (Old Blighty – Part 4)

22 May, 2008

Just a few logistical things from the trip that may help you if you’re planning to go to England and want to save a little money.

I am a fan of Frommer’s. I used the England 2008 book and this book by Pauline Frommer.

1. If you plan to travel by train around the country (and I suggest that you do), plan ahead. Train tickets are much less expensive in advance. I went from London to Norwich for 6 pounds (12 bucks), Norwich to York for 12 pounds (double it for dollars) and York to London for 10 pounds (ditto). It takes 3 hours to drive from York to London, and 2 hours on the train. Here’s the web site you need.

2. Getting from Heathrow to central London: Yes, you’re tired after flying. There’s an expensive option for you. But if you want to save money, and you aren’t traveling with the red behemoth (yes, I was), take the tube from Heathrow to London. There are lots of stops, but you’ll be too zoned out to care. You’ll also be blissed out with the knowledge that you paid 7 pounds for an all-day, all-zone travel card (tube and bus) that you can use after you drop your stuff off at the hotel (or wherever). If you’ll be in London for a few days, consider a 3-day pass.

3. The infamous Terminal 5: After the initial bumps, it seems to be running smoothly. Arriving there was simple, and it’s easy to get to the tube.

Departing from Terminal 5: Check in is easy, but note which gate you will be departing from. We departed from a B gate, which means a trip on a train after going through security. It doesn’t take long, but factor it in since British Airways closes the doors 20 minutes before the flight takes off.

Terminal 5 is a giant mall. Bleech.

A friendly face in Terminal 5:

4. Riding the bus in London can be slow, but you see more. The first thing we did was hop on the #15 bus from Marble Arch. We ended up at St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked right into a choral evensong. Lovely.

5. Frommer’s says that cheap eats in London can be had via chain restaurants. I concur. Lucky for us, Tyburn of Wetherspoon was right across the street from where we stayed. Full English breakfast for cheap. Cheap affordable drinks at the end of the day.

No self-respecting American tourist would ever go to Cheers in London. Except self-respecting tourists who are stretching their money like me. We happened to go for happy hour (4:00 – 7:30 pm) – drinks are half price and there are several nice food options (read: inexpensive dinner).

Out of time. Bye for now.

Old Blighty (Part Two)

16 May, 2008

Popping by to share more photos.

Piccadilly Circus, London. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer neon.

My dad grew up in western Pennsylvania. An avid reader, he pored over Washington Irving’s Sketchbook and dreamed he would one day go to England. He finally did as a 20-year old GI in the Air Force. The year was 1951, and Britain was trying to recover from WWII. Rationing was still on. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. My dad was in London and saw the coronation parade. (Great collection of photos here.)

Years later, my dad got a job working for DODDS and our family moved to England. He spent 11 more years there. In 1977, we saw the Queen’s Silver Jubilee parade.

This trip was almost certainly his last trip to Old Blighty. The best part is that we were able to see some of our very good friends. We left London and headed for Norwich.

Meet Alex (in the brown skirt). Alex and her husband Phillip (recently deceased) have been friends since the mid 1970’s. Sadly, the other photo I have of Alex doesn’t look like Alex, so I shan’t post it.

We spent time with Alex wandering around Norwich’s market.

Mushy peas, anyone?

I’m told “Wincy” is brushed flannel.

Apparently a popular export item.

We visited the USAAF 2nd Air Division Memorial Library (of the 8th Air Force) at the Norwich Forum. During WWII, the east of England was dotted with airfields, many built to accommodate American aircraft. The library “…is a unique “living memorial” to nearly 7000 American airmen who were killed while stationed in East Anglia during World War Two.”

The librarian heard my American patter and invited me to sign the guest book. Other signers had been stationed at those airfields. I just (humbly) put “Former resident, RAF Lakenheath.”

FFTK* Jimmy Stewart was a USAAF colonel and pilot during WWII stationed in East Anglia. According to IMDB, one of his sergeants was Walter Matthau.

An all-too-brief afternoon in Norwich ends with a train ride to York via Peterborough. More on all that to follow.

*Fun Fact to Know

Old Blighty (Part One)

14 May, 2008

I’m back, and I’ve ever so much to say! First of all, London felt like slipping my hand into an old, comfortable leather glove. I mean it felt familiar despite my long absence from it. I did live in London for a couple of summers a long time ago. Apart from a year living in Cambridge, the rest of the time I lived in England (six years total back in *gasp* the 1970’s), was out in the boonies in the countryside. See sample image below (taken from the train somewhere between Thetford and Ely:

I’ll no doubt slip into British English whilst writing during the next few days. The Brit way of speaking is different to ours, and it expedites one’s journey when one converses as the locals do. I realise I risk sounding like an insufferable snob. Do bear with me.

Oxford Street, London. I’m a big fan of Marks and Spencer (or Marks and Sparks as it is sometimes known). It’s a nostalgia thing. When I was a kid at RAF Lakenheath, it was a big treat to go to the Marks and Spencer in Bury St. Edmunds.

The Marks and Spencer’s (aerial view here) in Oxford Street, known as Pantheon Store.

One doesn’t plan one’s travel photos, but I’ve ended up with a sequence of mannequins:

Man resting with mannequins in Marks and Spencer.

Employees with mannequin, Liberty of London (with apologies; it’s a bit dark).

Fox’s in Covent Garden, purveyor of theatre make-up and wigs.

I was traveling with my 77 year-old father, who is not well and had some difficulty moving around. We took it slow and rode the bus a lot (avoiding the stairs involved with riding the Tube).

London is a heaving mass of urbanity, a very fast moving place. We walked like a floating stick stuck in the fast moving river, waters of people moving round us post haste.

Regent Street. Not a particularly good example of what I just said.

A Prius on Regent Street. Price to register a Prius (per year): 15 pounds. No nasty congestion charge either. Price to register an SUV type vehicle (per year): approx. 950 pounds.

A few more snaps of London:

Bobbies and their gear.

Narrow misses a daily event on Oxford Street.

The interior of Liberty of London. I love to pop in just to see the architecture.

Rugs in Liberty.

Bacon, egg and sausage butty. A veritable salt-lick but reasonably priced at Tyburn of Wetherspoon.

I went to the Tate Modern and headed first for the 7th floor cafe. Talk about a room with a view…

That’s the Millenium Bridge in the foreground.

One can always tell when the Olympics are in the offing—the presence of construction cranes dotting the skyline.

More Old Blighty tomorrow. I’m knackered. So nice to see you again.

Naming Names

2 April, 2008

How I Got My Name:  I am named after Ava Gardener.  She was in a film called “Mogambo” with Clark Gable.  Her character was “Honey Bear Kelly.”  Gable called her “Kelly” throughout the picture.  (Sadly, ‘Honey Bear’ was omitted by my parents.)

My dad was 22 years old when he saw the film.  He was an enlisted Air Force guy in England.  He was so enthralled with Ava he promised himself he would have a Kelly some day.  Many years later, he did.

How I Got My Middle Name:  I have two.  This is about the first one.  The “L” one.  The English hate the Irish, so my middle name is Laura.  My English Cornish great-grandmother was very upset when she heard that my parents planned to name me Kelly.  So to make her feel better, they named me Laura after her. 

They tell me it helped her.

How did you get your name?

Happy Boxing Day!

26 December, 2007

Thanks to spending several years in the UK, I celebrate Boxing Day. It’s a day to hang out with family and friends, watch sports (Portsmouth vs Arsenal, the team my brother supports, is about to start), and play with your new stuff. I have the new Joni Mitchell CD to play with.

No one really knows the origin of Boxing Day, but there are theories.

For your reading pleasure:

What British kids say about Boxing Day

Encyclopedia Britannica on Boxing Day

Snopes on Boxing Day

Wikipedia article on Boxing Day

Update: Well, here’s proof that great minds think alike.

Nostalgia & Tech

17 October, 2007

From time to time, I am afflicted with nostalgia. It was originally seen as a medical condition. From Wikipedia:

The term was newly coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669-1752), a Swiss medical student. The word is made up of two Greek roots (νόστος = nostos = returning home, and άλγος = algos = pain/longing), to refers to “the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again”.

I was lucky enough to go to high school in England on an American Air Force base, RAF Lakenheath. I say lucky because it is a valuable thing to see your culture from someone else’s perspective, and growing up overseas gives you that gift.

It’s also a great advantage to study Shakespeare and then go to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see a play, or to pop down to London to see the Rosetta Stone and the Mildenhall Treaure (a large collection of Roman silver buried in the 4th century and dug up “on a bitter afternoon in January 1943” – here’s the scoop from the Mildenhall Museum). We had a ditto sheet with questions that we had to answer (to prove we had actually seen the item) – I remember finishing quickly then walking around outside in search of a pub.

The fear in my nostalgia is real: I can’t go back to the England I grew up in. First, RAF Lakenheath is now a fortress, and you can’t just walk on base like we used to. Even when I visited in 1999 (pre-9/11), I needed all kinds of clearance to visit. But secondly (and far more obvious), the England of 30 years ago is gone, just like the Pasadena of 30 years ago is gone.

Still, something essentially English remains (far away from here, expensive to get to, more than a weekend jaunt). Essential nuggets of Pasadena also remain (City Hall and Pie ‘n Burger). I left England, but I don’t think I’ll ever leave Pasadena–I already have a case of double nostalgia and if I have to watch Pasadena change, I’d rather it happen under my nose.

I helped organise (lapsing into British spelling now) my 30th high school reunion this past August – photos here.

Since then, a wonderful thing has happened. Bill Paul (he’s still ‘Billy Paul’ in my mind) started a Lakenheath network on ning. Better than Reunion.com and Classmates.com, ning has allowed Lakenheath alum to connect (and to see who is connecting with whom). There is a Lakenheath group on Facebook too, but somehow the ning thing has been the better catalyst for people to connect.

Back to me feeling lucky. (more…)