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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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August 03, 2010

New Post - Old Trip...

Well, I mentioned I had come across a bunch of my London trip photos and was thinking about posting what I could about that trip while I wait for my next trip.  And as a rather odd way to start, I'm going to just copy what I wrote on my first day back in the States - it certainly seems to be pointing towards the future.

Monday, January 5, 2009 (Chris and I made this trip together the week between Christmas and New Years)

I'm sitting in Chris's apartment (he was working in Manhattan) with its wonderful view of the Empire State building.  We arrived back in the States from London yesterday after a flight on a 2-level jumbo jet!  Settled in a little and called Virginia to wish her safe travel to Spain (they leave this afternoon) and called January to make arrangements for going back to D.C. tomorrow.

Then a fantastic sushi dinner, back here and finished up some laundry and managed to stay up til about 10 p.m. (about 3:00 a.m. London time).

I slept like a log, started some laundry of my own, had a lovely, long, hot shower, a chocolate croissant and a cup of tea and am now going to try on the next few pages to go back and record the highlights and minutiae of my first trip out of the country in 40 years!  I bought this journal for that purpose and with the hope that I will be using it for future trips.  (end of journal entry)

Well, thank goodness I got smart and bought my little netbook before I went to Italy cause I would never have done such a good job of recording my experiences if I had written it all out by hand as I tried to with this trip.

So, first of all, here's what the view was like from the apartment (one of them) Chris had while he was working in Manhattan:

 Isn't that fantastic?!!  And his last apartment up there looked out on Rockefeller Plaza!

Anyway, back to London.  By the way, I have mentioned before that I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but these pictures are going to make you think I have improved a LOT.  However, most of it is that I bought myself a nice little camera.  On this trip, I used my cell phone's camera, my old clunky digital camera until the batteries went dead and I bought a little disposable Kodak which was really a lost cause.  I took quite a few pictures actually, but they were mostly either black or very blurry or whatever else.

So, we flew out of New York on Sunday, 12/28 and arrived at Heathrow airport around 10:25 a.m. their time.  Thank heavens I was with Chris - I think that airport and getting out of it to the hotel might have done me in.  Paris airport was horrible last year, but I didn't have to leave it - just take a bus to where I needed to be next.  But Chris got us to our hotel which was in Bayswater and since we couldn't check in until 3:00 p.m., we dropped off our luggage and then went to a neighborhood pub (the Prince Edward) for a "traditional" British lunch.  And I have to say in retrospect, that turned out to be one of our better eating experiences.  I had bangers and mash, a name I've always loved, and it was quite tasty.  And we were I think about the only people there and the young bartender took it upon himself to keep us entertained - he was a hoot, regaling us with tales of his very numerous (maybe unbelievably numerous?) and sometimes quite amazing (maybe unbelievably amazing?) exploits during his travels.  Whether some of it was embellished or not, it was a fun conversation.

We went back and checked in and then because Chris thinks a good way to beat jet lag is to not go to bed until a relatively reasonable "current country" bed time, we went out and got tickets for a London bus tour where you can get off and on whenever you want.  It was a double decker bus and very cold, but we braved it so we could see the sights better.  Only problem was, being on the bus, by the time you tried to figure out where whatever it was that was being pointed out was, you were past it so I missed a fair amount.  But it was still pretty neat because it was London!  We did get off at St. Paul's Cathedral (a favorite of Chris's) but it was about 5:00 p.m. and they were closed for the day.  Got to go in the gift shop though, then had a tea and coffee break and then took the bus back to the tube and then the tube to our hotel.  Got unpacked in our fairly dismal room and went back out to get some dinner and decided on a Chinese one that was okay but that's about all.  I bought a scarf cause I was freezing to death and we went to Starbucks!  (Good ol' Starbucks - we ended up going at least once every day!)

The buses...

Harrod's department store after dark.

That bus tour ticket was good for 48 hours and included a river cruise on the Thames and so on Tuesday we did that and I loved it - probably one of my favorite things on the trip.  It was, of course, much slower than seeing the sights on the bus so we could actually see (and sometimes get pictures of) what the guide was talking about.  He (the guide) was quite entertaining also - very dry, British humor.  But oh, my goodness it was cold!  We boarded at the bridge near Parliament which is a truly beautiful building - one of my favorite pictures is of Parliament.  And of course, there's Big Ben right there and we even got to hear it chime.

Parliament from the bridge...

Parliament and Big Ben - the two very light towers in the background are Westminster Abbey...this is the only picture I was actually happy with.

Big Ben (duh...) I think this was at the end of our trip, but that's okay.

And, I wanted an "up close and personal" picture of Big Ben and I did - this is one humongous tower!

The boat was taking us to the Royal Naval Academy and Observatory in Greenwich and some of the things we saw along the way included Cleopatra's Needle,  the Oxo Tower whose claim to fame is that they got around the law against having advertising on buildings by making three windows on each side of the tower in the shape of an X, an O, and another X.  Pretty clever, no?  We also passed the Tate Museum of Modern Art, the Globe Theater (not the original of course but in the same place and a reconstruction), the ship "Golden Hind", a 500-year old pub called The Anchor, the Tower of London which impressed me much more than I expected it to - even on a sunny day, it exuded an aura of its very dark history.  I would not have wanted to be rowed up to one of its bleak entrances late at night after having been "tried" for treason!  We also went under Tower Bridge - beautiful.
A fairly ghastly picture but I have to prove I was there!

I forgot to say we passed the London Eye - a "ferris wheel" with cable car-sized gondolas!

The very white timbered building is the Globe Theater reconstruction.  And the Golden Hind is in there somewhere too...

Tower Bridge...

The Tower of London - wish I could have just told everyone to get out of the way!

We finally arrived at Greenwich.  I really loved this part of our trip but am not real sure why.  We visited the Painted Hall and the Royal Chapel, both part of the Old Royal Naval College, c. 1696.  The Hall was impressive and had an interesting diorama (miniature!) of the funeral of Lord Nelson.  But it was the Chapel that I loved.  It was so very beautiful, but not in the awe-inspiring way of large cathedrals.  It had a very warm and inviting feel and with the sun coming through the windows and the beautiful gold, white and light blue colors, it was truly lovely.  It's still in use - in fact, they were closing to visitors a little early to prepare for a wedding.  Unfortunately, I don't have a single picture - I bought the last postcard they had though!

Then it was a hike up the hill to the Observatory.  The view was incredible and like every other tourist, we took pictures of each other standing with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and one foot in the western hemisphere and then set our watches to exact Greenwich mean time.

At the Royal Naval Academy looking up to the Greenwich Observatory.

 And looking down to the Academy from the Observatory.

 Chris straddling the hemispheres.

We took the tube back to the City and went to Harrod's.  Went inside cause I was anxious to see the food courts I had heard so much about but it was insane!  I don't know how anyone can stand shopping there if it's always like that - wall to wall people, incredibly expensive and almost impossible to get near anything (especially in the food court).  So, for me, at least it was a disappointment.

Wednesday we visited Apsley House which is the home of the Duke of Welliington but is also a museum housing all the military honors and awards, gifts, etc., received by Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington.  He was made a duke after defeating Napoleon and was also Prime Minister of Britain at one time.  I found it kind of depressing actually.  I got the impression that his defeat of Napoleon ruled the remainder of his life.  He even had a larger than life-sized statue of Napoleon in one of his stairwells which was kind of bizarre.  It was a statue that Napoleon had hated.  And the Duke had a wife and children but there was absolutely nothing pertaining to them in the entire museum.  Across the street from the Apsley House is a huge parkland with the Wellington Arch and the statue of the Duke on his horse.  This was as close as I got to Buckingham Palace (which was my own choice - I didn't have a great desire to see it actually, although our bus went by it at some point).

Apsley House...

and the Duke astride his steed.

We had lunch in Greenwich and then our next stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum where I was eager to see some of the needlework I've heard people on my petitpointers group talking about.  They sometimes display the Layton jacket along with a portrait of the jacket on its original owner but it was not being displayed while we were there.  So that was disappointing, but it's a fantastic museum - lots of wonderful exhibits including incredible examples of needle arts.  I'm posting one picture that is so tiny you can hardly see what it is, but it is a picture of three caskets covered with exquisite embroidery.  Caskets were a big subject in my petitpointers group a while back so I was happy to see some "in the flesh".

Ah, to have had my little Canon PowerShot...

This was New Year's Eve, so when we got back to Bayswater we took a walk around the area to see what we could see.  It turned out to be quite an attractive area once you get away from the tube station area.  Old, but well-preserved rowhouses (Georgian maybe?)  All painted a creamy white with mostly shiny black front doors.  We had our dinner at the Prince Edward pub and we certainly weren't the only people there this time!  The joint was jumpin - had a disc jockey and a disco mirror ball and everyone was having a good time.  Felt sorry for Chris having to be there with his Mom for pete's sake!   I managed to stay awake until midnight and over the radio came one great peal from Big Ben and then outside lots of fireworks and bells and "Auld Lang Syne" on the radio.

Good grief - I had more in my journal than I realized when I started this.  I'm going to break off here and post the rest in another posting.  And I only have a few more pictures so it will be boring.  Isn't it nice I got a better camera!?

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