Are we there yet?

London Travel Blog

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Tower Bridge London

Great excitement for me as we check in at Dulles Airport Washington DC as I am returning to my country of origin!  The clerk tells us that the flight is full and as a result we will be upgraded!!  This might be the first and only time this will happen to us so more excitement.  Thank you British Airways! The flight is smooth and we are oh so well looked after.  I watch every video I would care to watch eating the airline food and having little bottles of wine with it........  'take another' says the steward at the pre dinner drink time, 'to go with your meal'.  Despite the travel rug, eye shield and ear plugs I am too excited to sleep.  We land on time but it takes a while to be allowed to dock then we have to ride a shuttle across the tarmac to Terminal 4 and have to wait for our luggage to come across.

Borrough Markets near Tower Bridge
  At immigration I am using my UK passport to come in but they tell Andrew to go through with me if we are a family.

V has messaged us to let us know she is in the airport and waiting at 7.30am as planned.  I suddenly remember an unripe plum I have put in my handbag intending to eat before we landed.  With suitcases we head towards the 'something to declare' counter but it is closed.  A woman at the desks asks what I want and I tell her about my plum but she is unafraid and waves me through!  Just as our bags arrive V has messaged to say she is off to find the loos!  We find her eventually, she hasn't changed in 7 years and it is so lovely to see her after all this time!  She takes my suitcase and we follow her to her car.

Carnaby Street
She declares we sound so Australian.  The people in the USA thought that I had a British accent which after 36 years in Australia is not too likely, but even Aussies pick a hint of the Pom in me.  Andrew is as ocker as they come so we can't help that!

As we are driven to her house in west London through building traffic, we are so grateful for the ride.  A taxi would have cost about 30 pounds and the directions for the trip by tube and bus sounded really scary, but in actual fact would not have been.  We share a little time with her before she has to go to work and settle in to the new loft conversion in her lovely house.  This time it is Andrew that has the jet lag headache even though he did get a short sleep on the plane and he retires for a few hours.

doing the double decker tour of London in March!?
  I use the internet and do little things and look out of the windows at the daffodils in V's courtyard back garden.  Squirrels fail to materialise though they are around I am told. 

In the evening A arrives home first and he has changed from the Canadian with the pony tail to a London Exec with short back and sides.  He is still the A I remember and when V gets home there is a wonderful meal of salmon and fresh vegetables and lots to drink and even more to catch up on.  Eventually we go to bed but after a deep sleep from 11pm to 2 am I am awake and not likely to sleep for a couple of hours so I pour through all the books V has left in the loft for us to look at about the UK and London.  I must have fallen asleep at about 4 am.

Nelson's column under renovations

We have had their wonderful hospitality now for almost two weeks and in that time have achieved lots.  We spent a fair amount of time on their internet looking at the Gum Tree web site  looking for a vehicle to purchase to do our travels in Europe and the UK.  On the first Saturday they took us to look at an un-registered campervan at Tooting.  It was about 30 years old, fitted our budget but had a lot of rust, looked too cumbersome to negotiate quaint little streets in Italy or Greece and the motor looked like it had a lot of oil all over it.  We left to reconsider our plans and V suddenly pulled into a street and declared that for our next chosen option of going into the city centre to look around, the Underground would be much quicker.

More of the London tour
  Andre gave us a quick rundown on purchasing an Oyster Card to travel the bus and Underground and we were turned loose.  Look out London!

With the knowledge that a two sector Oyster pass was going to be most useful to us, the information and ticket kiosk helped us to decide on a one week pass.  Now, this cost about 23 pounds which included the initial purchase of the card and one week's unlimited travel on the underground or bus.  A one way fare on the Underground can cost about 3 pounds, as without a card you are hit hard.  We used it and got excellent value.  Next day we had refined our search for a vehicle and from the Gum Tree site found a Nissan Serena 7 seater van in Hendon Central and A drove us out to look at it.  It was ideal size wise and was a 1997 model, MOT'd and taxed until late August.

the London Eye
  Andrew and A put down the seats to make sure that Andrew would fit sleeping.  I looked at easy things like the radiator and tyres ( my career for about 20 years) and we all battled with the front seats to look at the oil.  We asked the owner if he would take us for a drive and he gave us the keys.  I drove and it felt fine.  With 127,800 miles on the speedo it had been used but price wise the bodywork and interior looked to be what we wanted.  We agreed on 1900 pounds and asked to collect it next Thursday as parking at V's place was by voucher without resident label and would cost about 8+ pounds a day. 

As arranged we caught the tube to pick the van up on Thursday and the vendor insisted that we ring him and he will pick us up at Hendon Central.

the Thames
  Once at his house we complete the paperwork and his wife comes into the lounge room to meet us.  We have already met their youngest son ( of 5 children)  El Hassan who is home sick but is anxious to see us again. The family has lived in the UK for 25 years.  As we leave, our man invites us to come to his house for a traditional Libiyan meal on our return from Europe and insists that we don't lose his phone numbers in the meantime.  We must come!  Feeling very privileged we tell them that we would love to and certainly will. We book Serena  into a nearby repair shop and ask to have the radiator flushed and a general checkover.  It needed rear brake shoes and cylinders and they recommended two tyres and told us the diff was the noise I reported but not to worry about that until it died!

The next few days we organised insurance ( Downunder.

grey day in London
.  for Aussies and New Zealanders was our best option as they offered 6 months and the price was right) and went site seeing.  There are several bus companies offering double decker commentated tours of London & Westminster but we chose the Big Bus Tour and their 48 hour pass for 2 pounds more than the 24 hour pass....  a  cost of 20 pounds.  This included tickets for a Thames trip which we eventually didn't do as it was too cold!  We purchased some items to make camping in the Nissan Serena comfortable but London was so expensive we decided to save major purchases for the country and a possible visit to Peterborough on the weekend.
on the double decker bus tour

Through V we had a mutual friend P, who stayed with my youngest daughter, my sister and her husband and us on a visit to Australia in 2004.  P had recently had a serious op on her back but was happy to have us stay for a night.  We eventually stayed for 2 nights and tried out Serena with V&A leading the way to Peterborough on their way to visit V's parents nearby.  During our stay I discovered my 'unwell'  feeling and the pulled muscle sensation up my leg was the result of an infected blister under my toes.  We tested out the reciprocal rights of Medicare Card holders from Australia  and the NHS.  It works!  My treatment was free and I paid for the antibiotics just as Brits do.  The nurses were great.

modern aspects of London
  They suggested that if I had any drama I should return immediately and they would cheerfully amputate.  They also decided that Australians were a lot of trouble and should really stay in their own country and not gallivant across the world!

We have purchased maps of the UK and Europe, skimmed some of the piles of useful books V&A have left in our loft.  They have taken us out to see a play - 'Honour' starring Dianna Rigg, St Patricks Day dinner at an Irish Pub.  We have discovered the delights of the no 94 bus to the city as this way we see all the things we miss on the Underground.  Yesterday we booked a one way ticket on the Pride of Burgundy from Dover to Calais for Friday to begin our Europe adventure.  With car and two adults this could have been as cheap as 55 pounds if we had chosen to travel midweek and after about 11pm  to 5 am.

unmistakably Winston Churchill
  Instead we elected to go mid afternoon on a Friday for 75 pounds which includes a hidden 5 pound fuel tax that pops up on the screen at the very last minute! Made a 3rd appointment with a great chiropractor for tomorrow morning.

I have ticked many things off my ' I need to see' list and they include blue tits, an English robin, primroses, daffodils, holly (still with berries), had a Battenburg cake (yes, all of it), a game pie, a herd of fallow deer, a 3 wheeler car, the interminable traffic jams, teasels, bullrushes. 

 

 

X_Drive says:
Must have been great to be upgraded. What a difference.
Posted on: May 19, 2006
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Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London
Borrough Markets near Tower Bridge
Borrough Markets near Tower Bridge
Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street
doing the double decker tour of Lo…
doing the double decker tour of L…
Nelsons column under renovations
Nelson's column under renovations
More of the London tour
More of the London tour
the London Eye
the London Eye
the Thames
the Thames
grey day in London
grey day in London
on the double decker bus tour
on the double decker bus tour
modern aspects of London
modern aspects of London
unmistakably Winston Churchill
unmistakably Winston Churchill
changing face of London, the gerkin
changing face of London, the gerkin
London
photo by: ulysses