Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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 Three)

20 May, 2008

We left Norwich by train and hurtled through familiar scenery…Breckland, Thetford Forest, Brandon, even the spot where the train tracks cross the road that goes from Lakenheath to Feltwell. My junior high was in Feltwell, and I used the bus ride from Lakenheath to finish homework. (Aeriel view of the area.)

These photos are quite blurry, thanks to the fast moving train and smudgy windows. But this is what it looks like where I grew up.

Thetford Forest.

I saw a couple of jets from RAF Lakenheath, and caught one of them in the photo below (represented in classic black-smudge-at-the-top-of-the-frame fashion).

The train made a stop in Ely. Here’s a snap of Ely Cathedral, famous for its octagonal tower.

Next time I’m over, I plan to spend a bit of time in Ely.

The train continued to Peterborough, and there we changed trains for York. Peterborough, btw, has a booming economy (growing faster than the rest of England) and is home to many Italian, Indian, Pakistani and more recently Eastern European immigrants.

Still to come: John, Pauline and York.

Extra credit:

You can read about The Fens here.

Exactly where I used to live…9 Cedar Close, Lakenheath.  (See the house with the round pool in the back yard near the road?  That’s where my friend Missy lived.  If you go north from Missy’s house, that was my house.  The left side of the duplex.  I used to watch the sun set behind that farm across the road.  God, I love Google.)

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.

CHAP

3 May, 2008

On 2 May, the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena celebrated its tenth birthday. Happy Birthday, CHAP!

The big birthday bash was at the Westin in Pasadena. Thanks to all of you who attended, and thanks to all you donors out there as well.

For those who aren’t familiar with CHAP – It is a community health clinic (medical and dental) offering care to low-income and uninsured people. CHAP also sends a team to Union Station (homeless shelter/services) twice a week.

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You may have read that I am going to England. You read right. I am going to England on Monday (as in cinco de Mayo). Preparing for the trip has got me in a dither. I’ve bought train tickets at this site – they are very reasonable when booked in advance. Much less than a Britrail pass.

I love to do research. I love it so much that I’m borderline obsessive about it. I can’t just read about a few hotels and make a decision. I’ve damn near read about every hotel in London. This is not an easy feat, and it is tremendously time consuming. Let’s face it, it is just not feasible to read about every single hotel in London before making a decision. The past few days have seen me spending countless hours on TripAdvisor. I’ve read gadzillion traveler comments. The most helpful ones say a few words about the hotel, and then say something like “try the Indian food at the restaurant opposite the hotel.”

We’re staying at the Victory Services Club. My dad was in the service and they let family members join too, so I’m a member (though this will be my first time staying there). Let me know if you’d like to stay there and I can arrange it. They are fully booked on one of the nights we needed, so we’re going to stay here at The Commodore. You’ll get my full review on it when I get back. But so far, I’ve just saved you a good ten hours of research.

Sir John Soane.  Every first Tuesday of the month they have a special candlelit opening at the Sir John Soane Museum.  Thanks for the hot tip, Lonely Planet.

In my dither, and in the crush of yesterday trying to get stuff done so I could go to the CHAP shindig, I managed to flake out on my commitment to guest post over at Rattling the Kettle. My apologies to Pa Kettle (who is tanning his buns in Hawaii).

You see, I didn’t make the connection that the password could be case sensitive. Seriously. I know this useful information was covered in How to Use a Computer 101, but you know that whole stress-makes-your-IQ-go-down thing? Well, yesterday I went from three digits in my IQ to two. I know this for a fact because I ended up on the dance floor at the CHAP event alone. Dancing. Alone. Because the DJ was paid for and I can’t let a good DJ go to waste. Even if he played this a-bit-slow-for-dancing Prince tune when I asked for Prince. Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover – now THAT’S a dance tune.