Thursday, September 3, 2009

The UK and The Wench

12:50 A.M. EST 9/3/09

We're on the plane and I've just finished watching Terminator: Salvation. I wish that some movie franchises had stopped at the second installment (i.e. the Alien films). According to the flight monitor we've just passed over Nova Scotia and still have another 4 hours on our flight. I may have to watch another movie. I've never seen Ray.

We almost didn't get on this flight. Apparently, Continental Airlines over-booked and Barb and I were the only seatless passengers, although I vaguely remember picking out seats when we booked. There were no seat reservations on our flight tickets, though. We had to wait until the end of boarding to find out that we were on the plane and in the same row but on opposite sides. Either way, I was satisfied when I was actually able to get on my flight. We felt bad as one of the passengers that “gave up” his seat did so against his own will as he had a damaged passport. Note to self; make sure your passport is not ripped or damaged in any way, especially on the page that holds the passport ID number. I did have to say that I felt bad for him and, strangely enough, I almost felt like a thief. I'm grateful that the staff doesn't allow any security breaches of any kind, but I would say that the way he was treated wasn't very professional. Next time I'm back to Virgin Airlines and will never fly Continental Airlines again.

1:02 A.M. EST 9/3/09

11:22 P.M. GMT 9/3/09

Again, screwed by Continental Airlines. Our bags didn't leave Newark International with us. So, here I am wearing the same clothes that I've been in for the last 24 hours, wishing that I had packed a stick of deodorant and maybe a small bottle of conditioner in my carry-on.

We arrived in London around 11 A.M. and, after being told at the baggage claim that our stuff never left New Jersey, we decided that coffee and kebabs were necessary. After that we checked in around 1:30 to our hotel and napped for about three hours. Upon waking, I took Barb around Westminster and showed her the sights (all of which were closed for the day). I'm intending to show her them again tomorrow along with a few others. After that it's anyone's guess.

After the sights, we went back to Earls Court Tavern and had a roasted chicken along with a few pints of Guinness and some Jamesons. This has been a rough day. I may put it up as being the roughest travel day I've ever had. Ugh...

11:31 P.M. GMT 9/3/09

4:19 P.M. GMT 9/4/09

We are STILL waiting on our bags. I'm not pleased to be wearing the same clothes for almost a full 48 hours. I intend to make this known to Continental Airlines.

Either way, we woke up early this morning and headed out to the Tower of London where we stayed for a few hours and then headed up Blackfriar to get into the pub. The problem is that the Underground station at Blackfriar is out of service until next year so we decided to walk the way. This wasn't a problem for me, but Barb didn't like the idea of walking so far. We eventually just backtracked a small way to Mansion House instead of walking the rest of the way to Blackfriar. From there we went to Westminster and up to Westminster Abbey. After the abbey we headed back to Earls Court Tavern and had fish n' chips. After getting back to the hotel I decided to try and contact Continental about my bags. I had never used a foreign phone before and found out pretty quickly that, despite the odd arrangement of numbers, it wasn't any different than the US way to dial a phone. They informed us that the bags were out for delivery but that it would be a late delivery sometime tonight. I really would like my conditioner.

4:28 P.M. GMT 9/4/09

5:07 P.M. GMT 9/5/09

Last night, after Barb and I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, we came back to the hotel and, with much enthusiasm, we opened our recovered baggage that was finally dropped off and was waiting for us in the hotel lobby. I can't begin to tell you about the feeling of what it's like to put on clean clothes after being in disgusting ones for so long. It was uplifting to say the least.

This morning, after a shower with my shampoo and conditioner, Barb and I had breakfast at the little Mediterranean cafe around the corner and headed do to the Underground for a trip to the British Museum. It seems that they revamped the Assyrian Art section from the last time I was here and the Japanese Art section is just as thoughtful and tranquil as I remember. In between we stopped for lunch at a pub called The Plough by the museum where I accidently left my wallet at the bar. The bartender was, however, very mindful and gave it back to me for which I was very grateful. After lunch we headed back to the museum to finish sightseeing and headed back to the Underground to head back to Earls Court. On the train back we ran into what I would consider an English stereotype: soccer hooligans. There were two groups, one in red jerseys and the other in white, and they were both singing as if to mock each other, but in a friendly way. One group would sing and then the other would sing like a call and response. I have a few seconds of video of one of the groups if anyone is interested. On the way out we stopped for some cappuccinos and baklava to go.

This backpack is heavy and my back doesn't like it right now.

5:22 P.M. GMT 9/5/09

7:22 P.M. GMT 9/6/09

Last night, for dinner, Barb and I went to Masala Zone, a small, local Indian fusion chain. What I can tell you is that everything about this restaurant is spectacular. Everything from the atmosphere to the exquisite menu. I honestly wanted to eat the whole damned thing. Ahhh, if only I were Steve Jobs I would invest millions into this chain. Loved it. Period.

Afterwards, we came back to the apartment where I finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (5 stars, FYI) and I drank black tea until about 2 A.M.

We woke up around 7:30 A.M. so we could catch the train to Stratford-Upon-Avon at the Paddington station. Once we got out and ate we made our way to the Underground and, upon arriving at Paddington, we found out that there hasn't been a service to Stratford in four year and that the next train we could get was coming at 9:30 at Marleybone station. Being that Stratford is a very long ride away from London in the first place and we would never made the 9:30 at Marleybone and the next train wouldn't have come until almost 12 we opted for Bath instead.

After the relaxing hour and forty minute train ride I took Barb through the Roman baths and the Abbey (always my favorite part). We left around 4:13 P.M. and made our way back to London. We stopped in for some lamb kebabs and beer and made our way back here.

7:35 P.M. GMT 9/6/09

11:10 P.M. GMT 9/7/09

Today was great. We took an early train to Oxford today. Oxford Castle was gorgeous. The crypt, at one point, was being used as a classroom and one of the teachers turned out to be Geoffrey of Monmouth. I didn't even realize that Oxford had a castle. After the castle we headed to the street and found further entertainment in a pair of very old pubs, The White Horse (16th Century and pictured on this blog) and The Bear (13th Century). I had never been in a pub from the 13th Century before so this was a big deal to me as I love old pubs. I wish there were pubs of this vintage in the US. After several pints we headed out to the street and walked around the campus and through a decent sized street fair. We regretfully left Oxford around 5 and had dinner again at Masala Zone at Earls Court.

11:20 P.M. GMT 9/7/09

11:16 P.M. GMT 9/8/09

Last day in the UK was much easier than the last two. We left around 10 and headed up to the Handel House Museum/Hendrix Flat. Once we got out off the Jubilee Line at Bond Street station it only took us ten minutes to locate the building. It turns out that Jimi knew he had moved into the same building that, about two centuries before, George Fredrick Handel had lived and died in. The Hendrix flat wasn't open for visitors as it was occupied, but we went through Handel's flat. It was, without a doubt, very elegant but, for it's time, very simple and spacious. I believe there were six or seven rooms on three separate floors, all decorated with period furniture and instruments, and laid out in a very basic and utilitarian fashion. According to the flyers that were provided, the flat was a much nicer flat for the local area in Handel's time. It was, at the time, a working class neighborhood. I wonder what Handel would said about the wealth that abounds in the area now.

Afterwards, we took the Jubilee north to St. Johns Wood where we located Abbey Road Studios and THE Abbey Road intersection that any Beatles fan would recognize. We marched west and located a nice Hotel/Victorian Pub named the Warrington Hotel. The interior was relatively untouched and had a great amount of character embedded in the wood of the walls and floor. They also had Leffe on tap, Collin...

We left and took the Warwick Ave, station back to Earls Court where we grabbed some take-out kebabs and headed back to the hotel at about 4 P.M. to rest for a bit before we went to Kew Gardens to meet Lachin and Amir at their restaurant, Q Verde.

We headed to the restaurant where Lachin and Amir treated us to some EXCELLENT veal and beer. (The food is highly recommended for anyone in the area. 5 Stars) We talked for a few hours, I told them everything that had gone on with me in the last year and a half since I'd seen them, they told me what had gone on with them in the last year and a half since they'd seen me, and we had a good time in general. After three hours we realized that it was almost 11 and we needed to get back to the Underground station. I hugged Lachin and shook Amir's hand and told them that New York was the city they needed to come to. They're saying November of this year...

We just noticed that we're leaving this city on 9/9/09. That's a cursed number.

11:43 P.M. GMT 9/8/09

5:11 P.M. EST 9/9/09

Well, we survived our flight without incident. Unfortunately, I can't really say the same for all the flights that went out today (AeroMexico Flight 576). Either way, there were no lost bags, no late Underground trains, nor were there any nearly-bumped flights. I also got through several movies; Little Miss Sunshine, A Fish Called Wanda and American Beauty. We left on schedule and arrived on schedule. Jennifer picked us up with the new baby and we've arrived home without incident. Now I'm missing the UK once more.

I may also have a travelmate. Barb didn't get on my nerves and I found it comfortable to travel with her. I think the next few trips won't be England, though. I've a mind for Ireland, China, Japan or Spain...

Until the next travel blog sometime next year, Au revoir.

5:19 P.M. EXT 9/9/09