World Tour 2020

LAX Day 001

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An uneventful and enjoyable travel day. Thanks to our friend Tony, we arrived in the airport with several hours to spare and checked our bags in and got through Security in no time. Thanks TSA Precheck and Trusted Traveler! We found a restaurant at our Gate named “Sea Legs”. Kind of ironic because we are going to develop those starting in a few days! Lunch and a couple glasses of wine later, it’s time to board the plane.

Our accommodations on Virgin Atlantic in a bulkhead row were very spacious and comfortable. Much different than our last couple plane flights! We had the window and the aisle seats and nobody was put between us. We departed at 3:30 PM our time Jan 1 and arrived at 10 AM London time on Jan 2. Not really being a sleeper on a plane, I managed to doze for a couple hours and watch movies for the remainder of the 11 hour flight. We breezed through Customs, not really even seeing anyplace to stop and found ourselves outside on the curb in an overcast and balmy 45 degrees!

Coming into Heathrow, we saw a double rainbow. Only this was from the plane and was a complete circle! A sight we’ve never seen before! Wish I could have gotten a better photo of it!

London Day 002

We found a cab easily and approximately 70 British Pounds later (+/-$90 USD), we arrived at our hotel with 2 large bags each plus carry-ons! The Eden Plaza Hotel checked us in early for only an additional 10 pounds and we brought our bags to the room, approximately 7 feet wide and 20 feet long with two single beds placed end to end.

Being hungry from eating not so great airline food, we strolled into the Kensington neighborhood and found “Comptoir Lebonair”, a Lebonese restaurant that served tasty Lamb Wraps. Sitting outdoors in London in January is brisk, but better than the rainy days we have experienced in past trips to the fun city! The heat lamp over our heads had something to do with that, I’m sure!

We are reminded that road signs can be quite different in other countries! What exactly is “Antisocial Driving”?

A walk around the neighborhood reveals we are staying across the street from the Natural History Museum, a very interesting old building, possibly a thousand years old or more, not surprising for London. A street vendor with her Dancing Puppets entertained the masses in hopes of tips from passers by. A Merry-Go-Round and Skating Rink, similar to that in Rockefeller Plaza in New York was constructed on the grounds and was populated with young and old alike.

The Jet Lag and lack of sleep was getting to us, so with tummies full, we headed back to our hotel room for a nap. Awaking and feeling somewhat refreshed, we found Stanhope Arms Pub for dinner and a brew! So orders of Fish & Chips and Bangers & Mash, a Pint of British IPA and a Craft Cider later, we strolled back towards our hotel, finding a small market to pick up bottled water for the room and my camera began it’s happy adventure with after dark photos!

Back in the room to write up the days happenings and edit our photos, it’s time to retire!

London Day 003

Glad I set the alarm for 10 AM after being informed there’s no way we’ll sleep that late! Hopefully catching up on our jet lag, the alarm tore us out of welcomed sleep. By the time we left our hotel, it was lunch time. So, first, we find Hop-on, Hop-off Bus tickets and head for the bus stop. We find Nando’s and go in for lunch before hopping on the bus. Fun building facades entertain us along with statues and monuments. When we got to Parliament, we were disappointed because Big Ben was obscured with remodeling scaffolding. But the London Eye was in full operation and the River Thames glimmered in the sun!

So with tummies full of roasted chicken, vegetables and chips, we head to the bus stop. But we just barely miss the bus so we head off on foot towards the next bus stop. To make a long story short, 3 bus stops later, we finally catch the bus. We are staying on the far west side of London and decide we will go visit the “Shard”, the tallest building in London, which happens to be on the far east side of the city. The bus stops often to let passengers off and on and it seemingly stops for extended periods of time but maybe that’s just our impatience to get to our destination.

Well, we get to our stop on the east side of town around 3:30 PM. We walk across the street and through a train station and find the entrance to the Shard. We splurge for the Fast Pass tickets after seeing the hour long line in the cold air to get in and we are ushered directly to the elevators that take us to the 68th floor. It turns out the “Viewing” area is on the 68th, 69th & 72nd floors. Wait, you say, what happened to the 70th & 71st floors? We had the same question. Turns out the viewing floor is 3 floors high and there are stairs to connect them.

Well, anyways, the views are fantastic and sunset is approaching. The best viewing area is on the 72nd floor but it is open air, that is there is no ceiling, glass panels shoot up in front of you to create the “Shard” effect.

So this is London in January and we are dressed in long johns, shirt, sweater and jacket with knit beanies on our heads. Now take that to the 72nd floor and what you get is “Brrrrr”. But the views are great of the city below, and the sky is turning orange. So moving around the building, jostling through the crowds, waiting patiently for my spot at the windows, My camera records all I can see.

Satiated with enough photos from the top, we head back down the elevators and arrive on the street. We walk by a street musician singing and entertaining everybody that walks by. When we find our bus stop, voila! The bus pulls up as we’re crossing the street! So we ride back west towards our hotel. The city at night is alive with lights and fun sights for my camera lenses. I am challenged with taking night photos from a moving vehicle, but I think I do well. Check out the photos and you be the judge of that. The bus gets two-thirds of the way and the driver announces that the bus has gone as far as it will go for the day and we get off at Victoria Station, a place we’re familiar with from past visits to the city.

We walk by an area where it appears there is a hospital. Sorry Ladies, I don’t know where you get treated!

We decide to have dinner nearby and we find another Pub named “Shakespeare” and dine once more on traditional English Fare. I order a chicken and mushroom pie with gravy and Elee orders “Hunter’s Chicken”. A pint of “Icebreaker IPA” and a Strawberry Lime Cider to go with dinner and we kick back and enjoy ourselves!

Back outside in the cold air, we find our way back into Victoria Station and a friendly bloke that works there shows us how the modern train tickets work. It has, after all, been 15 years since we were last in this city! The London Subway system, named “The Tube” is one of the easiest public transport systems in the world to navigate. We look at the maps in the station and we see it is only 2 stops away to our hotel neighborhood on the “District Line”. We climb aboard and we are back in our neighborhood in under 15 minutes! Remember to “Mind the Gap”!

Back in the hotel room to write this up and edit our photos and it’s a night. Plans are to arise much earlier tomorrow and see St. Paul’s Cathedral, a River Cruise and who knows what else?

Goodnight All and see you on the Morrow!

London Day 4

So after yesterday’s sleep in, we decided to set an alarm for 7 AM. Bright and early we rose and were out of our hotel by 8. Found a local breakfast restaurant and had an omelet and Elee had scrambled eggs floating in a sea of beans! The beans were a total surprise and was not her favorite way to have breakfast but like the trooper she is, she ate some of them. I admit I helped a little. The coffee in the place was marvelous, they made it cup by cup. My omelet was tasty but Elee was not as impressed with her Sea of Beans!

But with tummies full, we headed out before 9 AM and got on the Tube and made our way to St. Paul Cathedral. An impressive Cathedral, beautiful on the inside and out. We were able to climb the 528 steps to the top of the dome (I only counted 522) where there are outside walkways with grand views of the city. The air was brisk and chill but we were bundled up accordingly. The weather was clear with marginal clouds in the sky and the camera shutters were happy and in their element.

A climb down the 528 steps (This time I counted 509) and we went back into the Cathedral. Now we found our way down into the Crypt and visited famous tombs and graves.

Appropriately humbled, we go back out into the cold air and are glad because we were overdressed for the Crypt. We’re told that we are about a 30 minute walk from the River Cruise Dock and we set out and find the “River Walk”, a pleasant and scenic walk along the Thames in the sun. Sights of many of London’s famous building assault our vision and we come across the “Tower of London”, more of a castle than a tower. We finally arrive at the Dock and our feet thank us. Our Hop On Hop Off Bus tickets get us a free ride on the river and the cold air in motion on the boat make things even more chill. But the sights are fun and we even get some good shots of the “Shard” that we climbed yesterday! The “London Eye” sparkles in the sun!

The ride takes us to Westminster Abbey where we get glimpses of the clock on Big Ben that is otherwise totally covered in scaffolding as is much of Parliament. A bagpipe player vies for tips and we work our way to a bus stop to get a ride back to our hotel. More statues and monuments present themselves on the ride and soon we find ourselves in Piccadilly Circus, a famous London square. We get off the bus and find a Pub for a Pint and drinks with bar food. It makes up for missing Happy Hour on Friday Night back in the States! We are entertained with some live action posing in front of a fountain.

We find our way back to the bus stop and get on a bus to relieve our tired feet only to find the bus decides to stop for a half hour or more at Hyde Park to supposedly change drivers. The bus was already standing room only and no one was happy about the drivers decision. But luckily for us a couple dozen passengers decided to get off and walk so it opened up some seats and we happily took a couple of them. The bus finally starts up and we get back to our neighborhood without any more delay.

Back in our room we regroup and relax for a bit before going out and looking for dinner. We find an Indian restaurant that sounds interesting and we step in. We are asked if we have reservations and we frown and say “no”. The Maitre de’ says “no problem” and finds us a table in the back. We proceed to dine on some very good Indian food and the staff attends to us as if we were royalty. I wonder if the presence of my professional camera had any influence as if I might be a critic?

We walk happily back to our hotel and are comfortable in our room where we write the days story and thoughts and edit photos.

See you all tomorrow!

London Day 5

Awoke this morning at 8 AM. Well, okay, so I let the snooze go off a couple times. But up and at ’em as they say. We’ll move hotels this morning to a four star from this 2 or 3 star. Our cruise line pays for the four star the night before the cruise. But the new hotel is only 3-4 blocks from this one and we will make 2 trips to get the luggage there. Why 2 trips you ask? Because we brought 2 full size bags each to travel for 4 months. Neither of us wants to deal with laundry every 2 weeks, hoping to do it once each month!

So downstairs it is to get a bite of breakfast in the hotel dining room. Eggs, croissants, fruit, juices & coffee. Tummies once again full, we go up to our room and start moving our luggage.

The move to the new hotel is basically effortless. Got some steps in because we took half our luggage at a time. The new hotel actually checked us in when we first arrived at 10:30 AM! Then we went back and checked out of the old hotel and took the second half of our luggage over.

This photo is for those who understand!

The new hotel is a 4 star hotel and in comparison, the first hotel must have been a 2 star! The new room is spacious and luxurious! The bathroom even has a towel heater! We get our bags into the room and it is only 11 AM. So we go out walking and check out some more of the Kensington area. After a bit, we find a local Pub and stop in for a Pint and some Bar Food for lunch. Pretty good actually! Clearly locals in this place, the kind of people we like to find. Friendly chats with the barkeeps and a good laugh or two keeps everybody’s spirits high. Then it’s back to the room for a rest and then restlessness sets in. After all, we’re in a place we’ve never been before and we’re hanging out in a hotel room? I mean, what’s up with that? Hotels to me are a place to sleep and rest. I only need a clean room with enough space to take of business, so to speak.

Elee contacted a second cousin who lives a short distance from where we’re staying. She had been spending time in the States with her family and we hope to meet up if for only an hour or so. Alas, it is not to be. She only arrived back home shortly before we talk to her and her husband is sporting the flu and they just traveled from the US with a toddler and an infant. So a pleasant phone conversation later and we carry on.

So it’s off into the neighborhood for a couple hours. Need to get my steps in, right? Well, several miles and sights later, legs are objecting to continuing. Which way back to our hotel? This way, we’ll go this way. “Are you sure?”, my wife asks. “Yes, it’s this way”, I respond. I bet you can guess which way this is going. Well, you’d be wrong. This time, for once, I’m on track and we arrive back at our hotel without incident.

Photo editing ensues and then a nap to rest our tired legs and it’s time to get dinner. Today we opt to eat in the hotel restaurant, an Italian place. Food is excellent, although pricey. So I find myself back in the room writing this story of our day, one of the shortest stories of the trip, I’m sure. Need to edit yesterdays photos still as I encountered a glitch and have to do them again.

Tonight’s Weather Forecast shows storms for our day in Rotterdam. Damn!

So this will end today’s story and we’ll see you tomorrow.