London, Mind the Gap

Trip Start Nov 24, 2010
Trip End Jul 14, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, June 17, 2011

Turns out that most of the people we met in London don't have a British accent, more possibly eastern European. We were quite surprised to hear the many people working in restaurants and our hotel speak with something definitely different than a cockney accent.

Another easy and uneventful flight in a small plane from Nice to London City airport except for a little turbulence on the way up and down while moving through to the stratosphere. We cleared customs and got all set up with our oyster cards for the next eight days and then we were on our way on train and tube with the system map in my hands. The only tricky part will be to avoid the closed stations that are being refurbished in preparation for next year's summer Olympics – London 2012. If it’s busy in the streets now, I can’t imagine during the Olympics. We were pleasantly surprised to exit the Gloucester tube station after 'minding the gap' and to see our hotel directly across the street so that the 16+ kilo backpacks plus handbags didn’t need to be carried too far through the streets of London where the traffic flows the wrong way. The excitement of London hit us as soon as we exited the subway station and even more so meeting up with Ethel and Rick for the first of many dinners out in the pubs of London. Their flat is about a two minute walk from out hotel so being in the neighbourhood certainly makes it a lot easier to meet up, not that it was coincidental. In hindsight, staying in a flat would have been a better option for us as well but last fall was a bit too crazy a time for us to make the commitment.

Anyways, needless to say we walked our feet off the next day after multiple detours around the closed tube stations (the weekend when most of the work is being done – we hope). It was wonderful to follow Ethel and Rick around London and the tube stations for the week so we didn’t have to think too hard. Being Saturday morning and with the sun shining, we started with a walk through Notting Hill on the way to Portobello Market to view the eclectic mix of vendors’ wares, antiques, etc. and try some apple strudel (universal appeal), definitely nowhere near as good as John’s mom’s but still tasty. After same, same, but different in the market, we then headed to the centre of London tourism, Trafalgar Square, which was full of concert tents for the weekend so we will need to come back. I do have some flashbacks to 39 years ago when Wendy and I arrived in London: the typical London streets, Trafalgar Square with the pigeons, Westminster Abbey, perhaps touring the Tower? Except for some cranes, likely working on Olympic venues, and a few fires it hasn’t changed too much over the last 800-900 years ;-) We walked and walked, several times in torrential downpours (are we really thinking of Vancouver for a couple of years?) past the Parliament Buildings, the now closed off Downing Street (I’m sure we walked to the door back in ’72 but we weren’t invited in), along the north bank of the Thames and then for a long ways along the south bank with so much to see.

We had an interesting walking tour of the square mile City of London with Graham. He told us about the fires of 1666, after the plague of 1665. Interesting mix of architecture. Some buildings not destroyed in the fire were destroyed or damaged in the blitz. Walked around St. Paul’s and ended up on a pub on Fleet Street, disappointed that Ye Old Cheshire Cheese wasn’t open when we arrived there.

We had a busy morning at Buckingham Palace watching the changing of the guards (somewhat like watching paint drying). Then after lunch in Chinatown we decided to try the queue at Wimbledon and walked right in. We didn’t see much though as it started to rain not long after we watched the end of a match and were waiting for Rebecca Marino to come on a small court. She’s from Vancouver and doing well this year. So didn’t see much tennis but did a little shopping, had strawberries and cream, went to Henman Hill, all in the rain and then headed home. But the Straight Slam is complete, just not all in the same year!

Over waffles with strawberries and whipping cream in honour of Chrissie’s (Mom) birthday I managed to get two tickets to Wimbledon Centre Court for tomorrow so Eth and I are going back. The guys may come later and try scoop the tickets from us, but they will have to find us first ;-) We then headed off to Greenwich for the day on a great boat trip up the river with great commentary – so much to see and so much history on the river. What those docks have seen… Did you know that wharf is an acronym for ware house at river front? We arrived at Greenwich just in time to see the ball drop at exactly 1 p.m. (hence the saying 'on the ball’). We had a wonderful tour and Sally, with so much passion for John Harrison, provided great commentary on a tour of the conservatory. And if that wasn’t enough, we finished the day with a wonderful performance of Billy Elliot at the Victoria Theatre! Definitely a great way to celebrate Chrissie’s 88th birthday.

How exciting, Ethel and Cathy go to centre court to watch some tennis! They weren’t the best seats in the house but we managed to watch the first set of the Venus and Kimiko Date-Krumm match much lower down, that is until the real owners claimed their seats. Venus almost lost but managed to win after starting off very poorly. Also watched Nadal beat Sweeting and Roddick beat Hanescu. John and Rick came to Wimbledon in the afternoon but chose to watch Milos Raonic instead of taking our centre court seats. Unfortunately Milos had to retire after a couple of games due to injury. And then Marino lost as well so not a good day for our new Canadian tennis stars. John and I had been planning on camping our Friday night for Wimbledon tickets until I managed to get them on Ticketmaster so we ended up with a camping out at R & E’s flat instead.

What else? Tendido Cero, a tapas restaurant around the corner from us. Very good and somewhat pricey – possibly due to the extra wine and dishes ;-) But it is London after all and we may never be back. We overheard the woman at the next table say that Eth and I were sitting where Kate Middleton was sitting last year when she was there! We also enjoyed Royal Albert Hall for an organ recital with the Royal Philharmonic Symphony. How beautiful it was. Also a requisite visit to Harrod’s where I saw a duplicate little red suitcase to the one I used for running away when I was a wee child. I almost bought it but couldn’t bear to carry anything more. Think that’s about it. Of course, the weather finally cleared when we boarded the plane for our next stop, Prague.
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Elda on

Hi. As I said before, your blogs and pics are great Cathy. Really enjoyed them. Enjoy the rest of your trip and have a safe trip back home.

shirley & gary on

you lucky guys--so adventurus--- i am soooooooo jealous
thanks for sharing your remarkable journey, virgi sent it all the time
missed you at the walk, but we were thinking of you
we are glad you are safe--- welcome home soon and keep well

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