Posts Tagged ‘England’

Old Blighty – Part 7 (The End)

4 June, 2008

London is not like the rest of England, just like New York City isn’t like any other place in the US of A. So if you really want the full meal deal, I’d recommend some time in London, and some time out of it. Most people go to Oxford, but Cambridge is much prettier (and relatively close to London). There are many other outstanding cities to visit: York, Chester and Bath leap to mind. There are dozens of others as well.

Traveling with an older person magnified the quick pace of London vs the pace of the rest of the country. Here’s my dad in Savile Row, his own sartorial splendour courtesy of the National Press Club, contemplating the meaning of “bespoke tailors.”

We ended up in Savile Row because I happened to read that Linda McCartney’s photographs were on view at the James Hyman Gallery (5 Savile Row).

(sorry, that’s a bit crooked, and I can’t take the time to fix it…)

One of the greatest things about travel is the serendipity of stumbling upon things. After we went to Hamley’s to buy the Tardis coin collector (piggy bank for you Yanks), it was an easy walk to see this exhibition. A perfect thing to do in the morning before going to Heathrow for an afternoon flight.

Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like we checked in, dropped the luggage, then had to go up two long escalators, only to walk through a large, expensive retail area, then find our way back down another escalator to get to the correct gate.

I hope to be back in that green and pleasant land soon.

Here endeth the Old Blighty series. Cheerio!

Old Blighty – Part 6 (Cute Kids Edition)

30 May, 2008

We said farewell to John, Pauline and York and returned to London. We took a day trip to Aylesbury and visited Rachel and her two sons, Thomas and Samuel. (Rachel is Alex’s daughter – We’d met up with Alex in Norwich a few days prior).

It was a lovely, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. We sat in Rachel’s back garden, sipped wine, and barbecued all manner of meat and fish. Here’s Rachel and Samuel:

We also met Rachel’s good friend, Emma.


I didn’t get a decent photo of Emma, so in the spirit of sisterhood, she here remains a woman of mystery. She’s bubbly and kind, and very witty as well. We had a great time.

More of the lads. This is Thomas:

Samuel helped set the table:

But play was the order of the day:

Old Blighty – Part 5

28 May, 2008

On to York. We were met at the railway station by our friends, John and Pauline.

My dad and John managed to down the entire bottle of Jack Daniels that we brought as a gift that first night (with not a sip for yours truly). Note to self: Next time, bring two bottles.

John’s a bit of a WWII buff. He took us to Eden Camp. It’s quite extensive and informative.

Here’s John and my dad at Eden Camp:

And again, with a tank (sorry, I’ve forgotten what John said about the tank):

We also went to the National Railway Museum, which happens to be in York. A few detail shots from royal rail engines (which pull royal rail carriages):

We didn’t tool around York proper (though I have several times before). John has a younger brother, Simon. Simon has a new girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s sister owns a pub. I’m going to lose a blogger stripe right now because I don’t know the name of the pub, even though we went there and had a pint. Pauline was taken aback that I had a pint…to her mind, men have pints and women have white wine or shandy.

My one shot of York at night:

I’ll be back when I get the name of the dang pub.

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.