A Travellerspoint blog

United Kingdom

Heading home

Sat, Oct 5, 2019

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Today we were heading home. Our tube stop is about 25 min to Heathrow. The car we got on was a little crowded - but eventually I was able to get a seat. We were connecting thru Montreal with a few hours layover.

We got thru security quite quickly (our usual experience with early morning flights from LHR). Checked our carry-ons first - not too long a line up. We decided (again - as usual) to eat at Wondertree as we had something like an hour before our gate would be announced. Ordered the Little English breakfast for the two of us to share - knowing we'd leave the beans and tomatoes on the plate. We shared the bacon and sausage, ordered some extra toast, smoothie and OJ. One mistake was I should have asked for the egg to be scrambled. I didn't specify and got sunny side up - I like mine sunny side down and cooked medium...so the egg was pretty much a waste as well. And hubs only likes scrambled eggs so he didn't even touch it.

Then it was time to try and spend the rest of our pounds we had left. Hubs always likes to go into the WH Smith, but couldn't find anything there. We picked up some chocolate (Cadbury, I'm sure) and probably some Walker's shortbreads. Our gate was shown - and it is ALWAYS in the far reaches of the terminal. It takes a good 15 min to walk there (10 if you're walking briskly). But you know if we just headed that way, then it wouldn't be in that area. Hubs stopped and got a coffee and we grabbed some water to take on the plane.

So - we had initially booked preferred seats (prob exit row) on the side of the plane where we would have 2 seats to ourselves. When they changed the plane, they ended up moving us to two center row seats that were at the bulkhead. I had initially asked to be refunded for our selection and we'd just take the less legroom seats on the side, but they refunded (Air Canada) the cost of the selection but told us we could keep the bulkhead seats. I changed my middle seat for one on the aisle. I love the window seat but it was not to be. When we got on, there was a guy sitting in my assigned seat - he was either hoping no one would come or he made an honest mistake and was in the wrong row. Anyways, he moved back so we settled in. So. Much. Legroom. I could barely touch the wall with my legs stretched out. No one in the other two seats - so we kept waiting and people were still getting on and NO ONE ELSE SAT IN OUR ROW!! So we could stretch out a bit and put our junk on the empty seats. How had no one grabbed those when seat selection was free? Maybe it was a no show or someone got a diff flight (when I initially changed my aisle seat to the end, it showed that the far aisle seat was occupied). The only downside was the toilets were in front of us, so lots of people coming and going and standing beside us. If one side was occupied and the other wasn't, I was pointing and letting people go past us to get to the other side. It was nice to be able to stand up and lean against the wall and stretch. I thought I was going to feel sorry for the people sitting in our row because of my cold, but I didn't have to worry!

Also - there were a few people with babies on the plane. Now, I'm not a baby person (never had em, never wanted em) but dang it if there wasn't the cutest damn kid on the plane! The parents were taking turns walking him up and down the rows (he was just at learning to walk stage but needed help). Always had a smile on his face and just so darn cute! Anyone who knows me knows it must be so because I really don't like babies...lol.

We arrived in Montreal - had a short chat with a male flight attendant - hubs was wearing his Game of Thrones t-shirt so they talked about that - then he asked where we were from and we said Nova Scotia - ok, this guy either had a brain fart or he failed Canadian geography (I'm certain with his accent he was from Quebec) because he thought NS was an island. He asked if we had to take a ferry to get there. We looked a bit dumbfounded - NS is connected by land. He might have been thinking PEI, which is an island.

Anyways, we got off and almost went outside of the secure area - don't have to do that when connecting thru Canada. We did have to do the thing where we showed our passport and did the travel declaration. That just meant when we got home to NS we could just head right out. Grabbed some food, found our gate, which was then changed to a diff gate. I think we had about 60-90 min as our layover. Our bags of course weer just checked thru.

Arrived home and there was my mom and hubs friend waiting for us. Had a bit of a wait for the suitcases. Then time to go home and see our doggie and start thinking about where we would go in 2020 (which - didn't turn out well - as I'm finishing this, we would be heading for Scotland in about 2.5 weeks in early May...ah well).

Posted by u2traveller 05:27 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

National Gallery and some shopping

Fri, Oct 4, 2019

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Today was to be our last day in London so we had some serious shopping to do! Had breakfast at Pret first. Since hubby couldn't find Clarks shoes the day before in Oxford, I googled to see if there was one nearby to our area and there was! It was less than a 10 min walk away - it did take us a few tries to find it as it was in a mall. Before that - we came across a big food fest (I think it's a weekly thing) being set up in a parking lot - tons of 'ethnic' foods - it was too early for us to try anything, but it smelled divine.

In the same mall we found the Clark's store in (hubby did find another pair of shoes to toss in the closet) was a big WH Smith store - and they had so many of the rubber stamping/paper crafting mags that I love - I picked up one for a friend and a totally amazing card making kit one for me. I was tickled, to say the least.

We went back to the room to drop off our purchases before heading in to Leicester Sq. We popped into the LEGO store - they were doing a release of Star Wars LEGO kits and there was some people dressed up like Boba Fett, Darth Vader and a stormtrooper. We've looked in the window before but I'm not sure that we ever ventured in! Well, it was so neat inside - all the huge LEGO models - you could sit in a tube car made of LEGO, there was a 3D LEGO tube map on the wall with lights, Big Ben, a red phone booth you could go in - really neat.

We then walked over to the National Gallery - all the many visits to London and we've never done the Gallery! Well, my cough was still absolutely horrid (imagine me coughing like that now, in the midst of the pandemic! I was chugging water and popping cough drops like nobodies business.) but the paintings were amazing. We had maybe an hour before we had to leave. It is so easy to get turned around in there. I had a few paintings I wanted to see, but we kept stopping to look at others and soon ran out of time - but I did get to see some lovely art (including the Rubens) and when we do get back to London we can hit a different part of the gallery (I'll make sure to actually peruse the map and plan better) - and hopefully I can do it without sounding like I'm bringing up a lung.

I had made reservations to see the Sir John Soane's museum, so we took the tube over that way. Since it was well past lunch, we had to get something fast to eat. Oh look, McDonald's! But the place was packed - we could barely find somewhere to sit - and we didn't get dipping sauce with the nuggets which were the blandest tasting nugs I've had - and I've eaten nugs before with no dipping sauce. OK - we need to get to Sir John's! Well, I went a way that I thought was a bit of a shortcut, but we missed the alley and had to backtrack a half block. Then we were a little lost on the other side as it seemed like the back service entrances to so hotels and what not. So we turned left and went a short block to the correct street. We made it with about a minute to spare! Interesting to see people waiting in line - I guess if there are no shows they can go in.

So - the won't allow you to carry anything on your person - purse/sling bag, camera had to go in a plastic bag. I can't recall if they then checked it, or if you could carry it around. There were free lockers in the basement near the bathrooms and we put our coats in, and I feel like we put the bags in as well. But my memory isn't quite clear. What is clear is the place is packed to the rafters with 'stuff' - lots of Roman busts and pieces of buildings and paintings. I think it took about 30 min for us to go thru - and that includes backtracking to make sure we didn't miss anything as it's a bit mazelike. And again - another reason I love returning to London - I wouldn't really recommend this museum for a first time visitor - maybe not even a 2nd or 3rd time visitor (unless you have a week or two) but for a 8th time visitor it was a nice change.

After that we headed for Shaftsbury Ave so hubby could visit his Forbidden Planet and I could visit Hotel Chocolat! We walked down Neal St and picked up some cupcakes along the way. At some point we visited some shops over near the British Museum and picked up some neighbor gifts and a t-shirt (Prob on the way from Soane's to Planet). I popped into a rubber stamp store I visit every year but I don't think anything caught my eye.

We were getting loaded down by now, and tired, so we headed back to the room. We decided to eat in the area - I checked out google maps and checked some nearby restaurant menus online but stuff was so expensive and we already did our expensive meal - and just headed down the main road (King St) but nothing was catching our eye - we were both pretty beat and thought to find the Pizza Hut we'd eaten at the year before, but an Italian place caught our eye before we went too much further - Casa Mia. We got some spaghetti and chicken, then we were counting our GBP left over. We passed a bigger grocery store so went in and picked up some coffee for our Tassimo, some chocolate, hot chocolate mix, and other goodies to bring home.

Then we stumbled back to the room so I could sort out our purchases and get the bags mostly packed for our early morning departure!

Posted by u2traveller 05:38 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day tripping to Oxford

Thur, Oct 3, 2019

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Today was our first 'long' daytrip from London that we've done. Before leaving home we tried to decide between Oxford and Cambridge - Oxford was the winner. But it is def on the 'return to' list. You'll see why.

(I still had my cough - it was getting worse. I'd be fine then all of a sudden get a bad tickle and cough like I was a three pack a day smoker. My chest was hurting and today was the day I picked up some cough drops at the grocery - I got my days mixed up.)

I had purchased the train tickets ahead to save a little money, but first we stopped at Costa for breakfast, then got the tube to Paddington Station (I forget how big it is there!) and had a bit of a hike to the train platforms. The train takes a little less than an hour - I think we left around 11:20 or so, arriving in Oxford just after noon. Weather-wise we had blue skies to begin, with some clouds. Cool early Oct day. We headed in towards the Oxford Castle but decided to grab lunch before doing anything else. On the grounds around the castle were a few places to eat - we opted for Pizza Express and actually had a tasty pizza there!

Back to the admission office for the Castle and Dungeons - we of course just missed a tour so we bought a ticket for the next one, which was about an hour away. We walked up to the top of Castle Mound (you get a code for the gate with your ticket - you also get a code to use the bathrooms - thank goodness!). That didn't take very long so we decided to skedaddle to the Covered Market and have a look around. It was a short walk. We saw lots of interesting stuff - including a few items I wanted to purchase. We headed back to the admissions at the castle, used the washroom, checked out the tourist trinkets then our tour began. It's a little pricey but we found it interesting - I think it took about 40-50 min or so. It started with a video about the history of the castle then you can go up a few flights of circular stairs for some great views over the city. They give you about 5 min up there, then back down and you go to the dungeon part and hear stories about that. After the walk thru, there is a small museum that we prob spent 10-15 min looking thru - about who was tossed into the clink and their 'crimes' and whatnot. I'd recommend it if you like that kind of thing.

After, we headed back to the market where I picked up a cute robin pin I'd spotted and a necklace for a relative. Hubs found a cool t-shirt shop but they didn't have his size in the ones he liked. We then just wandered around a little - checking out the college buildings but not sure what we could and couldn't go in to, so we didn't go into any. There was a bookstore hubs wanted to visit (he'd ordered a book from amazon and it came from this store - Blackwell's). I took the opportunity to sit while he had a look around (no purchases). We walked around the shopping area - found a Clarks shoe store but hubs had no luck finding a pair he liked in his size. We found Oxford's Bridge of Sighs (oh, by now it was raining - steady but light) and the Radcliffe Camera (no, we couldn't go in). We visited the Ashmolean Museum and wandered around there for over an hour - lots of stuff to see and we saw maybe half. I believe near the covered market was a more modern mall - we had popped our heads in before going back to the castle and spotted (trumpets from on high!) a Thornton's shop! We LOVE their fudge and the store we thought was in London seemed to have disappeared. We took notice of the mall closing time to make sure we'd make it back (didn't want to carry fudge around - it's heavy!). There was also a Krispy Kreme - so when we came back we picked up a donut and 6 bags of fudge and some small bags of chocolate.

By now it was raining a little harder and we were getting really hungry - we'd tried a pub over near the Bridge, but they were all booked up. We found ourselves on George St, which seemed to have a ton of restaurants. So we wandered and perused the menus, settling on one called Wig and Pen. It was - OK. Kinda like a Wetherspoons type deal, where you sit with a menu, order at the bar and they give you a number for your table then come with your meal. It took awhile to come. I ordered steak and ale pie - it was OK. The pastry was tough. Hubs got hunter chicken, but it was overwhelmed by the bbq sauce. Hindsight, we should have went to Bella Italia across the road - we've had their food in London a few times and enjoy it.

We were beat after that - walked back to the train station. Arriving back in London, we decided to look around the shops at Paddington Station. My mom really enjoyed the Paddington movies, so we found - what else - a Paddington shop where I picked her up a coffee mug. We found the WH Smith hoping to find my favourite crafting magazines, but this was a smaller shop and they didn't have them. We decided to head back and scanned thru the gates at the tube, realizing we were in the wrong part of the station for the line we needed - well, there went that tube ride down the drain!

Overall, we did enjoy Oxford but only got to see about 3/5ths of what we'd hoped. There was another museum we wanted to see - Pitt Rivers Museum. We would have liked to explore the university a little more - the old Bodleian Library for one. We didn't even get in to Christchurch Cathedral or check out any of the gardens. The weather turning cool and rainy dampened our enthusiasm a little. I think probably in a few years after seeing Cambridge, we will def revisit Oxford - maybe even do an overnight. And hopefully on a day that isn't so cool and wet!

Posted by u2traveller 06:23 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Wandering London

Wed, Oct 2, 2019

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So even though we've been to London (counting on my fingers) 7 times previous, there are still some things we've missed, so we planned on doing one of those today - the Churchill War Rooms! We'd been going to go in 2018, but the line up was too long (including the time needed to go thru) and we had another reservation. This year I'd booked a time slot...but first...

We walked down to the tube station and popped into the Tesco and grabbed some pastries and OJ (and cough drops!) and ate while sitting in the mall. Hubby grabbed some coffee from Costa (and I most likely had a hot chocolate) and some donuts from Krispy Kreme. The weather was clear skies but cool. We decided to head over to the Parliament Buildings (where there was some protesting going on about a travel company that went under and the employees were fighting for help - Thomas Cook travel). We've been to Westminster Abbey before, but not to St Margaret's Church, which is also on the same property. It was interesting to read all the memorials on the wall. I think the oldest was 1610. And you could see the seating reserved for the politicians. Hardly a soul inside. Recommend if you're visiting the Abbey just to go have a look - it's free.

Next we just happened to be walking by the Supreme Court building and noticed a sign out front offering free visits that day, so we popped in. After going thru the metal detector (something on me kept setting it off and they couldn't find it - hindsight - probably my hair clip!) and checking my little pair of folding scissors we were able to go in to some of the rooms and there was a museum of sorts with the time line of the Supreme Court (which they haven't had that long - since 2009) and a room displaying gifts given from other countries to the Prime Minister (I think). One room had some gorgeous wood carving on the seats - lions and dogs and birds of prey - really neat. It was nice to be able to just pop in.

We headed over towards the war rooms, but we still had a little over an hour. I think we were booked for around 2:30 or so. Getting hungry and as we wandered into St James's Park we noticed a café/restaurant and checked out the menu. Bingo! Fish and chips! While there wasn't anything that really appealed to my husband he did help eat my fries and the fish was nice. What you did was ordered the food then they'd give you a number which you displayed on the table and if memory serves - they'd bring it to your table. The park itself was quite nice - lots of flowers still in bloom and we had fun watching the big grey squirrels running on the fence and terrorizing a few people.

Time for the War Rooms. Hubby and I managed to stay together for the first little section, but I was moving faster than he was. There is one section that is all about Churchill himself. I spent maybe 20 min looking around, then went to find my husband. I circled the big, mazelike room a few times and couldn't spot him, so I thought maybe he'd already gone ahead. (Spoiler alert - he hadn't). So off I went to see the rest of the rooms. I sat down a few times and waited 5 min, hoping he'd catch up. There was a small café with some snacks where I grabbed a bottle of water since my cough was becoming worse and worse. Still no sign of hubby. Continued on. Got to the gift shop. Where the heck was he?! So I backtracked and he was at least 45 min BEHIND me! He'd spent a good 45+ min in the Churchill section. I was not super happy. So I decided my coughing self should head outside and just wait for him there. Luckily I had my ipad, but with only a few podcasts downloaded and no wifi, I got bored pretty fast. My nice spot in the sun turned into a shady cool spot. I didn't want to go off because I wanted to be able to spot him when he came out. I was probably an hour waiting. If I'd known, I would have gone for a walk at the park. But the War Rooms were interesting, I just wish he'd gone thru faster.

So I was a little cold after sitting in the shade, so we went back over to the café and he got a coffee and I got a hot chocolate and slice of lemon loaf. I'm not sure how we've never been in St James's before, but we walked thru, admiring the flowers and water birds and squirrels! At the other end you come out on the side of Buckingham Palace, so we wandered across to Green Park to see the Canada Memorial fountain. We walked thru Green Park over towards Piccadilly and found a l'Occitane shop I had marked on my map - hubby wanted some shaving cream that we can't get at home. Then to Fortnum and Mason where I picked up three flavours of tea (Countess Grey is divine!), a Christmas ornament shaped like a robin (oh my, the blown glass ornaments were so adorable but I didn't get any - worried about breakage and also expensive). I got a tin of cookies and the tin looked like a carousel and played a Christmas tune when you twisted the bottom. A small fruitcake for my mom for Xmas (which she said was delicious) and a cute shopping bag with tea pots/cups on it. That was a little bit of a shopping trip!

The evening before we had spotted a place called Angus Steaks while wandering Piccadilly. I'd never heard of it but I guess it's a chain. Anyways, we decided to treat ourselves. And treat we did - with the exchange rate it ended up being about $95 cdn! Our most expensive meal. (Second place was when we had a meal at Cheesecake Factory in Boston). We both had a delicious steak. I think hubby had potato chunks and I had a really amazing soft baked potato. The couple seated beside us ordered a big meal - the ribs they brought out for the guy - I think it scared it how big they were. Not sure if he managed to finish that meal or not. I could barely finish my 8oz steak.

We headed back to the room - stopped at Tesco again to grab a few snack items and some apple juice and some chocolate and some more hard candies to help my cough.

Next day - Oxford!

Posted by u2traveller 05:50 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Farewell Venice, off to London

Tues, Oct 1, 2019

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We got up early - had a quick breakfast then hightailed it for the bus station, to catch the bus for the airport. I'm one of those people who needs a good buffer or I get nervous. We got tix to the airport and JUST missed a bus, so we had about a 10-15 min wait for the next. When we got to the airport we had some confusion as to where to get our boarding passes printed. (I really should have just sent them to my ipad and did a screenshot). I didn't even know which level we were supposed to be at for British Airways. The airport seemed so much more confusing than the last time we flew out. I asked at the help desk and they sent me to the right area. Had a mini panic attack when I couldn't find the proper computers/machines for printing out the passes and thought we were going to have to wait in a huge line (I think we had about 75 min by now for our flight). Finally spotted the area we were supposed to be in and once we did that, we were good to go. We grabbed a few snacks to use up the last of our Euros.

We were very lucky with our flight to Gatwick. You could see out the windows of the plane as we approached London that there was a big rainstorm heading our way. The flight was quick and we arrived 20 min or so before our scheduled landing. The pilot thought we might be put in a holding pattern because of the advancing storm, but luckily we were able to land. One of my ears popped on the flight so everything was very muffled!

Out the window it was a combination of sun and rain. We stopped at (I believe it was) Pret a Manger or Costa in the airport to have some toasted sandwiches, pop and chips to hold us out. Our airbnb host wasn't especting us for a few hours, so we weren't in a rush. I was able to contact her and give her an estimated time of arrival. After our quick lunch, we topped up our oyster cards and got some train tickets from Gatwick to London Victoria. We found the correct platform for the train, but then they changed it and there was a bit of a mad scramble to get to the proper platform - of course we had to go up and down stairs. I almost got caught in the doors - not a happy camper.

As we were taking the train in the skies were getting darker and darker. We got off at London Victoria and after waiting for a few tube cars to go by were finally able to get on the tube to Hammersmith. Luckily we'd been to the same airbnb the year before, and after slight confusion as to which of the identical looking buildings it was, we remembered which (well, I had to check again - was it Caroline House or Elizabeth?). The sky was getting really dark now and we felt a few raindrops starting to fall. The airbnb is about a 5 min walk (dragging suitcases) from the tube station - oh - we did stop and grab some Krispy Kreme (there's a KK booth at the train station!). Three minutes after we made it to the room, the skies opened up, the thunder was crashing and a big bolt of lightning (with accompanying BOOM) went off right above the room. We were never so happy to have made it to our room!

We decided to relax for an hour or so...unpack, eat our Krispy Kreme's. The rain stopped and started, so we just decided to head to Piccadilly Circus to go to the Waterstones bookstore where hubs got a book and I picked up a Christmas card(!) for a friend, then hit Five Guys for burgers...first time I’ve had them and pretty good. I recall someone saying they give you lots of fries so we just ordered a small..the cup was filled and then there was just as many in the bottom of the bag, so thank goodness we didn’t do large.

Then we went to Fortnum and Mason...I don't know how we've been to London so many times and never went there! I was so tickled by the Xmas ornaments and the huge variety of teas and food, I knew we'd be back. Rain was starting to pick up again so we popped into a few shops at Piccadilly, including the M&M Store. Then time to head back to the room and decide what to do the next day. We picked up some snacks and breakfast goodies at the Tesco Express at the Hammersmith station.

Posted by u2traveller 06:16 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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