What can go wrong when You share and begin your wife’s life long dream of seeing London United Kingdom, Paris France, Scotland and Ireland on Friday the 13th? Well, plenty went right as I do not believe the curse of Friday the 13th affects me. I’m not saying or writing that there is no curse as some persons are bound for trouble each day and especially on witching days such as Friday the 13th;
Our journey began from Scottsdale, AZ as our great neighbor Mr. Don K. drove us to the airport so that we would not have a hefty airport parking bill after 21 days of frolicking in Europe. We boarded a Southwest flight from PHX to SFO that is Phoenix Sky Harbor to San Francisco International for those who don’t get out much or are from another part of the country or world other than the Western US. All went well to San Francisco then we had to change terminals from Terminal 1 to the International Terminal where mega construction is occurring. We took the Sky Tram and sure enough it broke down and we are stranded and still. When the door finally opened I told Connie my wife, let’s get off this thing while we can as our three-hour window of catching our flight to Heathrow was now one and a half hour. We caught the tram going to the opposite way which took longer, we were back to where we started and then some, but arrived at the International Terminal and found Virgin Atlantic.
We did not have any luggage to check, we decided to both take small suitcases and a backpack which I hauled with miscellaneous things such as an iPad that Amigo Rich C. had loaned me which was much lighter than my laptop and if it was to be lost or stolen, Rich told me, “not a big deal.” So, packing enough for 6 days at a time, we knew that we’d have to do laundry at least three times during our adventure to avoid wearing dirty underwear. Great thing about having only five or six outfits and having to wear them a few different times while on vacation is that we almost never saw the same person twice, that we know of.
Virgin Atlantic has great service and friendly flight attendants and staff, but the seats are closer together than Southwest’s and then when a full entertainment center is put into the back of the seat in front of you, just no wiggle room and the computer of the unit is down on the floor in front of your feet so you lose mucho leg and feet room also. Ten and a half hours of being cramped, watching movies and being fed twice still makes for a long trek across the pond. Total walking distance 3.4 miles or 7,669 steps.
We arrived at about 2:00 pm on July 14th, caught the “tube” or subway to Paddington and switched to the Circle Line and off at Westminster where there was a Trump protest going on and no taxis available; Police on horses, demonstrators everywhere with signs, but most looked as if they were homeless or mentally ill. I asked one protestor who was carrying a sign, who looked relatively normal, “What are you protesting Trump about?” His answer was, “I’m not sure, but Trump is in England and I’m getting paid $100 quid (which is slang for sterling or pound) for showing up and holding this sign in the air.” I asked who is paying you, he replied, “Not sure who is behind it, but heard it was another American bloke.” I asked is it Soros? He said, “Yeah, that might be the name, sounds right, but I’m not supposed to be talking about it. Good thing you don’t have my name; You’re not a reporter, are you?” Do my wife and I look like reporters with our luggage being dragged around on this bridge crossing the Thames? “No, but you Americans are a tricky bunch.” I told him that I was a writer, not a reporter and that I may tell the story, but his identity is safe as I didn’t even have a first name and chose not to take a photograph of him.
Another gal with about 10 different holes with rings, studs & various pieces of steel protruding from her face, tatted up on all bare skin showing which included all she cared to show with a low-cut tank top which highlighted an unsightly belly and bellybutton adorned with a huge star surrounded by more tattoos also spewing how she hated Trump. I asked her why she was protesting Trump and her answer, “because he kills Mexican babies and separated children from their mothers.” I told her very untrue, that Trump does not kill any type of babies and that he is only trying to enforce immigration laws as did Barack Hussein Obama when he held the presidency. She too was earning $100 pounds for showing up and picketing with a sign.
So, there you have it, this wasn’t Russia meddling in politics, it was a fellow American paying foreign persons to spew hate and lies. So sad indeed!!! I am losing complete faith in all politicians, the news and (fake) journalism.
After taking some tourist photos of a demonstration that no one seemed to understand exactly what or why they were carrying anti – Trump signs we hitched a ride with a bicycle cart dude who was one crazy ass biker and knew exactly where the Doubletree by Hilton in Westminster was. By this time, it is now 5:00 pm, we check into a lovely room overlooking the Thames river and a bar converted from a boat and decide to go for a walk and a pint or two so that we would be able to sleep soundly the coming night and fall right into routine with days and nights overcoming the nine-hour time difference. Connie’s first English pub by the name of Marquis of Granby, a Nicholson Pub celebrating a famous, generous War Hero of the 18th Century. Arrival date of July 14th, 2.8 miles, 7,016 steps, 2 floors;
Day Two and Three: We hunt down the Original London Bus Tour which was tough as once again streets are blocked off, this time for a women’s bicycle race with used Hate Trump propaganda signs scattered all over the sidewalks and road by the littering protesters. The tour package we purchased was a 48-hour tour which included a river tour. Over the two-day tour we saw Buckingham Palace, shopped at Harrod’s where we didn’t buy anything, but did get in an amazing “wow, look at that” & “can you believe how huge this store is” and we got a free Harrod’s felt bag from the Toy Department of which every child in the world should be blessed to visit. What a place! We toured Kensington Palace and witnessed the Princess Diana clothing collection which was magnificent – we all loved Princess Diana. The parks were a bit disappointing, they were like weed fields with sidewalks and an occasional park bench with trees, very raw and I guess Earthy. The Tower of London was very nice, although quite crowded with school children and non-school children, some of which should have been locked away in a dungeon as was Anne of Boleyn. Big Ben was having work done on himself, so he was mostly hidden behind big paint sheets most of the time. Riding on the tour bus was great, there were about 23 stops on one tour and 8 stops on the other tour, one was the red line and the other the blue line. Connie & I took advantage of both tours some buses equipped with headphones telling about all the attractions, and some with a live tour guide educating us on sights and sounds of London.
The subway system is one of the most amazing attractions to me on how far down into the bowels of London it goes. The structuring and complication of figuring out how to have a complete underground universe without the city of London and Westminster tumbling into the abyss is mind blowing to this Yankee. We watched the World Cup Final with France vs. Croatia at the Marquis of Granby and later that evening took the tube (subway) to Piccadilly Circus where all the French were partying and climbing on a certain statue. They were having the time of their lives at this road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster. Piccadilly Circus was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning “circle,” is a round open space at a street junction. End of Day Two, Sunday July 15 – 9.7 miles, 24,074 steps, 15 floors;
Day Three, Monday July 16: The worst and scariest sounding alarm greeted us to the day at the Doubletree on Monday am; Apparently, each and every Monday morning at 9:00 am there is a routine, practice fire alarm which we did not get the pleasure of being informed. We did not get up early that morning! Connie was in the shower when the siren and announcement went off. I grabbed our passports, and whatever I had in my backpack, hurried Connie along in her wet hair and body covered with a Hilton bathrobe and we scurried down the stairs all the while this alarm is going off, sometimes it would say it was a drill and then it would say “This is not a drill.” Of course we were on the 11th floor and we did not dare use the elevators as we’ve been trained our entire lives to avoid elevators in the case of a fire. Finally, when we descended rapidly, yet carefully down the stairs, everyone in the lobby was acting completely normal. I went to the front desk for further instructions and the clerk told me, “Oh, on Monday morning we always have a fire drill, nothing to worry about!” “Nothing to worry about??? I retorted. What about our hearts beating frantically and Connie being in a robe, drawn from a supposed to be nice, hot, relaxing shower, I thought! Also, he added, “Oh, didn’t the check-in person mention it to you?” “Hell no, no one mentioned anything to me and besides, what if there was a real emergency or fire on Monday morning, none of your employees would know it was not a drill.” He looked at me blankly, I asked for a Doubletree Cookie and we went up the elevator to start our day over anew. We did take the boat cruise under all the London Bridges except for the London Bridge which had been sold to Robert McCulloch of McCulloch chain saw fame. I’ve been on, over and under that bridge many times in my life so great to hear the story about in in Dear Ol’ London! Oh, & we ate fish and chips on Sunday and on Monday. 7.9 miles, 19,455 steps, 12 floors;
Day Four, Tuesday July 17: We took the train from London Marylebone (of which the men's bathroom had a giant Monopoly board above the urinals) to Stratford upon Avon, home of William Shakespeare, a most delightful town that I had visited before, and knew that Connie would love the place. I figured that they would have several different matinees, but everything is in the evening, except for this day, they were having a special performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” but were sold out as it was being filmed for “Live from Stratford-upon-Avon.” We walked around and came back to see if anyone was not going to show up or be present and sure enough, four tickets became available, each for 50 pounds which is equivalent to about $80 bucks, but hey the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre is magnificent, holding 1040 individuals; Our seats were in Circle Door 1, row C, seats 7 & 8; I had been to the old theatre in the early 90s and asked when this one had been constructed, was told the old theatre had been renovated in 2010; I was quite disappointed in the play, the thespians were magnificent and talented, but the director had tried to create a modern day Romeo and Juliet combined with Westside Story and ended up with nothing short of a joke. No costumes, no sets. All that was used was a steel contraption with stairs and a covering to use as a balcony. I won’t even mention the Director Lady’s name as she does not deserve any recognition at all for ruining a great story that William Shakespeare had written. I felt the theatre shudder and am sure it was Billy Shakespeare rolling in this grave. At this particular showing about 1/4 of the seats could not be sold as they were filming with several cameras this particular performance and thus why there happened to be a matinee. Again, we had fish and chips at a much more reasonable cost in Stratford at Barnaby’s Waterside vs. the high prices in London. Close to Westminster subway station and our hotel we stopped for a drink on the Battersea Barge. The Battersea Barge (or Maria II as she was known then) was built in Holland in 1932. Shortly after this, she set sail for France where she was used to carry grain between Rouen and Paris. In 1941 Hitler requisitioned every available seafaring vessel in order to transport his tanks to France for his planned invasion of Britain. Maria II didn’t escape this fate and probably carried at least two tanks along the canals of Germany and France. Luckily, she didn’t reach England until the 1970s. She was brought across the Channel to Lymington in Hampshire where she had a makeover, followed by a brief spell as a restaurant. Sadly, the owner died and she fell back into disrepair. She was spotted in 1985, derelict and unloved, and was towed along the south coast to the mooring where she remains to this day – on Old Father Thames in Nine Elms, Battersea. We rested well that night after a few pints, hoping an alarm would not awaken us or cut our shower time short. 6.1 miles, 14,662 steps, 5 floors;
Day Five, Wednesday July 18: Boarded another train at Kings Cross Station, stood in line to get a photograph of a Harry Potter scene with a shopping cart going right into the station wall, but didn’t make the front of the line since it was time to relax into a First Class seat on the lovely Virgin train. We met a perfect Indian gentleman named Prakash S. on the train who owns Paras Engineering Works and decided he too was going to visit Stonehenge (price 25 pounds per person) as the engineering feat of moving such large stones and their placement fascinated him. He had come to visit England with his son who on that day went to visit Oxford, that evening they would meet up again in London. As we talked with Prakash he shared with us that he too decided against the formal tour as we had opted to visit by train. We shared a taxi from the Salisbury station, quite a lovely town and had the friendliest taxi driver, a retired bloke who took us around town upon the return, showed us the cathedral and pointed out where Sting the English musician had a house in the country, yes Sting the former lead singer and bassist for the group Police who pursued a distinguished solo career by his sophisticated blend of jazz, pop and world music. Later that evening we dined on a delicious dinner at Selfridges’ glorious Rooftop Restaurant serving fine Italian dishes with vino as recommended by British born Julie who now resides in Arizona and Hong Kong. Upon return from the busy downtown of London to our locale in Westminster we walked over to the Tamesis Dock where it is carrying on the true tradition of a floating pub in Central London of a converted 1930s Dutch barge. It is permanently moored between Vauxhall Bridge and Lambeth Bridge on the Thames where you can see the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and part of the Doubletree hotel we were staying all while seated on the deck enjoying a cool beverage. At times this place has live music (mainly free) on the water, but you can rent for a private event. Very cool indeed. 7.2 miles, 18,013 steps, 17 floors;
Day Six, Thursday July 19: The day started with a short trek to the local laundromat where we were helped extensively by a lovely woman who was beyond retirement years, but ran those washing machines and dryers like a Swiss Man would run a precision timed clock. We had a relaxing day near the hotel walking to the park. Upon arrival back to the hotel, we rested briefly and then off to the Fortune Theatre to see Woman in Black, an excellent mystery performance by two superb actors and one scary woman in black. A brilliant play costing only 17.50 British pounds equivalent to about $25.00 per person. I might add that on the way to the theatre the nearest subway or tube stop is Covent Garden Station and one of the few stations in Central London for which platform access is only by lift (elevator) or stairs. The lift was crowded with long lines awaiting and we decided to take the stairs, after three flights already crawled, there is a sign stating to the top is eleven floors or 195 steps to ground level. It was at that time we knew why the long elevator (lift) lines as only a very few persons were taking to the concrete, circular stairwell. A stop at McDonalds for a Big Mac, fries & diet coke and back home, this time waiting in line for the lift. 9.5 miles, 23,960 steps, 31 floors;
Day Seven, Friday July 20: Early departure with Connie’s first ride in an English Black Taxi with loads of space inside the back seat. Since we had all our luggage, fresh clothes and a fairly long ride on the train, some of it first class, some of it no so first class from Kings Cross to Cleethorpes to see long-time friends – the Grandfather of my God Daughter Paris R., Mr. Bernard F. who is the finest and most loving Englishman I’ve ever to known. Unfortunately, his bride of some 40 years + Ms. Madeleine had passed a few years prior and I’d promised them many times when they visited Tom, Julie, Paris and TJ that I would make the trip over to visit them in Grimsby Town / Cleethorpes. With the help of Bernard’s other Granddaughter the lovely Georgia, daughter of his son Ian and daughter-in-law Caroline we were able to have a fantastic meal of Fish & Chips at the Coach House Restaurant in Grimsby Town. Also present was the comical and entertaining 10-year-old Jude. After dinner we were invited over to their home where chocolates and wine were served along with joyous conversations, lots of laughter and many smiles from dear Ol’ Bernard. Earlier that afternoon upon arrival, Connie and I walked the boardwalk and seaside taking in all the carnival rides, food booths and sea air before Ian and Georgia retrieved us at The Nottingham House in Cleethorpes and Caroline later that night returned us back to the quaint, clean Inn which had three pubs and six rooms for sleeping accommodations with a full dining room. We would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Cleethorpes area. Something exciting did happen on the train trip at the stop Doncaster which is about halfway between London and Cleethorpes 3 ½ hour trip. As we arrived into the train station of Doncaster we did not have our luggage ready and little did we know that the train stop was only about a minute long, so some of the people got on right away and others got off right away. Connie and I were dilly dallying and she had just exited the train with here suitcase when a loud bell went off & I hurriedly tossed my suitcase onto the platform as the door was shutting still with me, my backpack and my Harrod’s bag filled with food goodies and some souvenirs. I frantically tried to open the door as the train began to pull away with Connie on the outside hysterically screaming, “My husband is still on the train,” while holding onto the door, running alongside the train and people on the platform are screaming at her to let go of the train. I could see her already in tears as the we pulled away, gaining speed each moment that passed and separated us farther. I went back to my seat, devastated, not knowing what Connie would do and an Englishman who had been seated near us asked me, “does your wife have a cell phone?” Yes, indeed she did and so did I, we had contacted Verizon to give us a European plan while on vacation as I needed to periodically check into work and answer questions for some customers who did not care whether or not I was / am on vacation, Emergencies, was the other reason for the plan and this was an Emergency. I called Connie who immediately answered, “hello?” with disbelief and I told her to stay where she was at and that I’d get off the train at the next stop in about half an hour and catch a train back to her. She had the passports and the train tickets, but I was not asked for either and made my way back to her. When she saw me, she was still crying, but now smiling and said as she kissed me, “I am so glad to see you!” I could only mildly reprimand her to next time be quicker as some of the fault also lay with me for not having the bags ready. But, moral of the story, Connie after that was Johnny on the Spot five minutes before we rolled into any station where we were to exit. 4.3 miles, 9,745 steps, 11 floors;
Total walking for the week: 50.9 miles, 124,594 steps, 93 floors climbed and no need for an umbrella as July and August were one of the hottest months on record. The UK can thank Us for bringing the hot, dry climate of Arizona to them.
Stay tuned for Week Two of the ENGLAND VACATION BLOG as we travel to Scotland for the British Open and then onto Ireland.
"Have a Double Shot of Reality" TM
"Peace, Love & Tequila" TM
Author - "My Bad Tequila"
50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading - Winner 2016 of The Authors's Show
John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award - 2017 Winner of Fiction Adventure & Memoirs
Hollywood Book Festival - Honorable Mention (Wild Card genre 2011)
Readers Favorite Book Awards - Silver (Fiction - Mystery - General genre 2011)
Amazon eKindle - #1 Top Rated Kindle eBooks (Mexico Travel genre 2011)
"Five Parrots in a Palm Tree" - Superb Island Reading award 2011
#1 Book to Read, June 2011 - NY Professional Reviewer, Fran Lewis
Readers Favorite Book Awards - Finalist (Fiction - General genre 2011)
Arizona Authors Association - 3rd Place (Fiction Book of the Year 2011 - 2012)
London Book Festival - Honorable Mention (Wild Card genre 2012)
Los Angeles Book Festival - Honorable Mention (Wild Card genre 2011-2012)
New York Beach Book Festival - Honorable Mention (General Non-Fiction genre 2012)
New Mexico - Arizona Book Awards - Finalist (Fiction - Mystery genre 2012)
Bibliocracy.com - Author of the Month (June 2012)
Suspense Magazine - Review & Article (July 2012 issue)t
Book Town - February's Book of the Month (March 2013) www.booktown.ning.com
Co- Songwriter - "My Bad Tequila"
Songwriter - "Havin' a Beer on the Santa Monica Pier"