Saturday, February 11, 2017

My last few days in London

I am home again and up at 4 a.m. because why not?  Good old jetlag - I always suffer much worse heading west than east.  Of course, it didn't help that I went to bed at 8:00 last night because I didn't get much sleep the night before.

Meeting a legend 

When I left you I had just attended the travel conference in London.  Well now I am going to get into more detail....  I did get a few shots of Michael Palin but they aren't very good.  But still...Michael Palin!  While in line to get my book (the paperback of "Pole to Pole" for those interested - it was the smallest one to carry home!) I stood behind a fellow who was a huge Michael Palin fan.  Not for the travel books but because of Monty Python.  He had bought two copies of the "Monty Python years" for Michael to sign  - one for his mate (as they call a friend in the UK) who has been down in the dumps and he thought it would cheer him up.  I thought that was so sweet.  When I innocently asked which film he thought was the best Python film he looked at me as if I was crazy and said "definitely The Life of Brian".  Well I've seen that film but only once and can't recall much but he said he and his mate had watched it again the other night and were actually rolling on the floor with laughter. Okay...hey I can't say much I used to scream nonstop back in the 60's when the Beatles were on TV and try to kiss Paul on the screen.  Anyway guess it's time to rewatch the Python films!  Michael was very gracious and hey not a bad looker for an old guy.  When I said I was from Canada and a keen traveler (and how much I enjoyed his travel films) he told me he is coming here later this year and will be visiting the Arctic.  His talk was very interesting and of course he has a great sense of humour.  Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to pose with him as we were with Levison - fair enough as the line was long and he is way more popular than Levison. (for now!)

In between Levison and Michael I wandered around looking at the different booths - this travel show is huge.  I tried to restrain myself from picking up too many brochures as I know from previous visits that I end up recycling most of them.  I had to go back to the Intrepid Travel booth just to double check that the one pound and 20% off deal was really for trips that had to be taken by this August....because I am like that.  (If you recall I was all set to book a tour to South India for next February and would have only been out a pound if I had to cancel 60 days ahead but it was pointed out by the co-worker of the lady ready to book me that I couldn't do it)

Getting back to Streatham was a bit of a pain as I couldn't even get on the first train as it was so crowded.  I must say the crowds in London are a pain in the ass.  That's the one thing about London I don't like and I think it's an age thing.  When I was younger I loved it all and envied the commuters.  Now I look at them and think "poor sods" and I would not want to be them one little bit.  With a population of over 8 million and tourists flocking to it year round it is no wonder it is crowded to bursting point.  I can't even imagine it what it must be like in the summer.  That is the only thing I can really say that I dislike about London.

A visit with an old friend (and Twiggy!) 

On Friday my knee was letting me know it did not like standing for Mr. Palin one little bit so it was a day of sitting down lots and not really settling on one thing.  I headed out a bit earlier than I should have and it was a dreary day that turned into rain in the afternoon.  My intention was to walk along the South Bank but that didn't last long as I was just too sore.  Besides being sore I was having one of my "pee every five minute days" as I call them.  So let's just say I was not in a good mood as I hobbled over to the expensive loo (one pound - yes one pound!) as I could not face walking further. Well at least I got a laugh out of the toilet seat. As one woman who was exiting as I went in said "for that price I feel like I should just have lingered in the cubicle".  At least they were clean!

I then decided to see a sculpture I had been reading about for ages and was "on the list".  I took the Jubilee line from Waterloo to Bond St. and found my way (thanks to google maps on my phone - my trusty A to Z was left at home as it's just too heavy) to Bourdon Place .  There is a set of three sculptures - Terence Donovan, the photographer shooting images of Twiggy with a passerby in the background.  Being a child of the 60's and so happy when Twiggy came on the scene (someone my size - yay!  Can't say that now!)  I just had to see it.

Unless you work in the area it's not a place you would ever see as it's in a quiet area in Mayfair.

Then I wandered back to Oxford Street passing the huge department store, Selfridges so had to take a photo of this amusing sign.

By now I was really tired so I got on a bus heading north and got off near Baker Street station.  I planted myself in a cafe and had a bite to eat and a coffee while catching up on my journal and reading one of the books on my Kindle.  I was meeting my friend Irene at 6 p.m. at Baker Street station so walked over (by this time it was raining) and wanted to be close by.   We had a great visit in a nearby pizza/pasta place that we hadn't been to before.  My trip back was a bit of a nightmare as the trains I needed to take were late or canceled so I took a tube to Brixton and my bus did not turn up.  So took another bus that got me as far as Streatham station and then waited for the bus that would take me "home".  Finally, it turned up and promptly "broke down" at the next stop  The front door would not open so the driver ordered us off and I figured I may as well walk so I did. Of course, as I'm about half way back (it was about a 15-minute walk but felt like 45 minutes as I was so sore) the bus sailed by and yes, I did give it the finger.  And it felt good!  It wasn't a total waste of a day as I got to see Irene and the Twiggy sculpture but I really should have rested until mid afternoon.  Ah well.

Digging up the past in Putney 

Saturday I decided to go and visit Putney Vale Cemetery in Putney.  It involved two trains and a bus but I was there an hour later.  I had bought a small book on the Cemeteries of London last year and that has been my guide for this trip and the one in the Spring. What I didn't know was that I walked in the wrong entrance - well the bus stop was Putney Vale Cemetery but little did I know this place has about four entrances.  The instructions just weren't making sense!  And it didn't help that my bladder was saying "hello, it's me again".  After snooping around I found a public toilet in the columbarium.  Yes!  Finally a cemetery with a toilet!  My main focus was to see the graves of  J. Bruce Ismay who was the Managing Director of the White Star Line (remember the Titanic?) and Howard Carson who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king of Egypt.  There were some interesting graves.

Above is the tomb of J.  Bruce Ismay - I was expecting something a bit more elaborate and it was only thanks to the cemetery map (at another entrance) that I found it.  There are reliefs of ships on his monument but they are pretty hard to see now.   It is said he went to his grave still feeling guilt over the Titanic going down even though he was hailed as a hero that night loading people into lifeboats and only getting in himself when there was no one else. (despite the movie making him look a coward)  It was Captain Smith who was in control of the ship, not him.  I patted his grave and said "it's all right, I forgive you" because I'm a softie like that.  How can we judge anybody until we walk in their footsteps?

I will be writing more about this cemetery in the future.  I took the bus back to Putney and gave my regards to my old friend the Thames.  I walked these banks (the left side of the picture) back in 2015.

I then walked over to the Putney Pantry as I fancied a coffee and something sweet.  Walking in, I let the door swing closed behind me - or what I thought was swinging behind me. Turns out it didn't.  I heard a voice say "thank you for NOT closing the door" and turned and a middle-aged prick was closing the door.  I looked at the things on offer and nothing appealed so I walked out and said pointedly "okay I'm closing the door now".  He sputtered "I was only joking".  Sure you were. Tosser!!!

That evening we ordered Chinese food to take out.

Sometimes you do daft things

After feasting on Claudia's pancakes on Sunday morning I had every intention of going to the City of London cemetery and then on to the East End markets. The Circle/District line was shut down as maintenance work was being done on the tracks so that made getting there a bit more difficult. We checked the options for getting to the cemetery which involved getting off at Leytonstone tube station then getting a bus and Claudia told me no way as that is one of the worst areas of London and I was absolutely not to go there. Okay. So that idea got kiboshed.  So that left the East End markets.  I got as far as Bank tube station and found the main entrance was closed and I just could not face the long walk and then trying to find the right bus stop to continue my journey.  I made a split second decision to hop back on the tube and go to Camden Market.  MISTAKE!!!!

These were the crowds on a Sunday morning on the street to the market.  The market itself was a nightmare and if you stopped to look at something you held up other people trying to get by.  Not fun!  I was on the look out for the booth that sold t-shirts with the designs I liked. When I was there in the Spring I got myself one and it was agonizing to pick so had wanted to buy another design. (being as my wardrobe these days in my lovely retired life is t-shirts and yoga pants/jeans)  In the meantime, I bought a couple of pairs of handmade earrings and asked the bloke who ran it if he knew where the booth was. He told me they are usually in the corner and went to look for me but nothing. (I had already looked)  The manager of the market walked by so he called him over and asked and turns out they were on holiday.  So no new London t-shirts this trip.  Ah well, next time!  I turned around and left not bothering to go further into the market.

To be honest I am not a big fan of Camden Market preferring the East End markets.  However, I think everyone has to see it once when they visit London - but avoid the weekends!

From there I headed up to Golders Green just to revisit one of my favourite areas of London and where I spent so many years (12!) on my holidays staying in a bed and breakfast in Hampstead Garden Suburb.  On the spur of the moment I decided not to take the H2 bus and  I decided I wanted a Sunday roast so googled and found one a short bus ride away. It was a lovely pub but was full - I've put it on the list for warmer weather and a revisit to beautiful Golders Hill Park which is directly opposite.

Not deterred in my quest for a Sunday roast I headed south on the tube to Balham and bingo!  I found a pub that not only had Sunday roasts but had space for me.  Yay!!  Lamb was sold out but I went for chicken.  It was delicious!  Nothing beats a Sunday roast at the pub.  They even cater to the veggies of course.

 Roast carrots and parsnips are  hidden underneath that big hunk of chicken...yum! With a glass of wine, it was pure bliss.  What can I say, I do love my food!  I couldn't quite finish it but I gave it a good try.  Then it was back to relax and catch up a bit with BBC programs on my laptop.

A day of Nostalgia 

I decided Monday was going to be my last day "in town".  But first I had a mission and that was to donate a couple of books to the charity shop in Balham and return three books to the Balham library. I had a lump in my throat as I walked out - I love that little library! (yes, I am a saddo) I got back on the train to Victoria and walked to my beloved St James's Park.  This is where I first truly fell in love with London and it's always been my haven in central London.

If you look really carefully you can see pink blossoms - Spring is coming!

Ducks on a mission - someone further down was feeding the birds and they wanted some of the action.

Having a discussion

Got any food?  I did feed bits of bread from my Prawn and Mayonnaise sandwich from M & S (last one - sob!).  But it was one of the best ones I have ever had and they weren't getting much!  Even though it was chilly I sat and enjoyed my sandwich on a nearby bench.  Hey I can't sit on a bench and eat a sandwich at home in February!

This is the classic view of Buckingham Palace and Whitehall from the Blue Bridge.  Everyone has to have their photo taken here at some point.

No, you aren't seeing things.  That is a coloured pigeon.  Some woman was standing with these poor pigeons wanting people to pose with them - and collecting money no doubt.  I refused to participate. I am sure their wings were clipped as well.  Didn't stop me snapping a few photos though!

In 42 years I have never grown tired of this me, it's my happy spot in London.

This is the sad reality of the Horseguards for the past couple of years (since the Ottawa shooting of an unarmed soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier).  In fact there were armed guards everywhere due to London being on very high terrorist alert.  This is the world we live in now and sadly it is only going to get worse.

I thought this building on Long Acre in Covent Garden was so cool - when in London always look up as you never know what you will see.

Another beautiful building in the Covent Garden area.  Even though Covent Garden is tourist central it is still one of my favourite parts of London.

To be honest I've never gone into any of the shops here but I love the colours in Neal's Yard.

I loved the look of this pub near Covent Garden.

Soho Square...I've spent quite a bit of time in this square over the years so it had to be included in my nostalgic walk.  And it has lots of benches so I sat there for quite a while thinking of all the happy memories I've had in this square!

Then it was time for fish and chips one last time.  I chose a pub that I can't even remember the name of now and the meal was "okay".  Far from the best fish and chips I've had but not the worst.  I chose it as it was close to the theatre I was going to that evening.

I attended the musical comedy "The Girls" based on the true story and movie "Calender Girls".  It was hilarious and I enjoyed it very much - recommended!

After the performance, I walked over to nearby Tottenham Court Road station to get the tube to Balham (where I change to the suburban train to Streatham Common).  The beautiful tiles that the tube station is known for have been refurbished.  Another nostalgic visit as Tottenham Court Road was the very first tube station I ever walked out of in 1975 where a man with a bowler hat and umbrella (you don't see that anymore) helped me with my suitcases.  I've never forgotten it.  I stayed in the area for numerous years after that and it's also the tube station for Soho Square!

What a wonderful day from beginning to end!!!

Hanging by the Thames in Kingston 

Tuesday the 7th of February dawned bright and sunny.  My last day!  I decided I was going to stay in south London and ride the buses.  First of all though I went to the corner shop and got a bus travel pass and said goodbye to the fellow there who is so friendly and always interested in my travels. Then onto the train station where I picked up my one-way ticket to Gatwick airport and luckily my favourite ticket agent was working.  He is so friendly and so much fun - his picture is even featured on Southern trains. (I had mentioned that to him previously and he said yes the station should have a gold star on it and did I want an autograph?)  I handed him my phone so he could see the confirmation number and he not only produced my ticket but put the phone to his ear and pretended to call Mumbai this time. (he always does this!) He asked when I would be back and I said hopefully in a year and he said he would see me then and "safe journey".  I must confess I had a lump in my throat as I walked out of the station and am teary eyed just typing this.

 I got on a bus to central Streatham and visited the library there which looks great but I still prefer the Balham library.  I walked to a nearby bus stop and a bus to Kingston stopped so I hopped on and that's where I spent the day.  The bus trip there takes well over an hour but it was nice to relax and watch the world go by.  For once I sat on the lower deck as I was so tired.  Upon my arrival in Kingston I headed to the river...and sat there for a long while.

If anyone read the blog post of my trip to Kingston before Xmas they will have seen this narrowboat decorated for the season.  This is how it looks post season!

I walked a bit further along and sat again for a long while reminiscing on my walk along this part of the Thames.  To be honest I had thought of carrying on for a short walk from Shepperton to Chertsey this last day but I realized it was silly as I did not have proper footwear for winter walking on a trail and even a short distance would not be a good idea for my knee. 

Back to the main square I went - Kingston has such a history and I will be doing a blog post on this wonderful town.  

Yes, I had a cuppa in a church.  All Saints Church has a simple coffee shop but very cheap and kind of fun to say you had a cuppa in a working church.

Who can resist enjoying a beverage in these surroundings?  So much history in this church!  Stay tuned for more info.

All Saints church.

This is the market square.

I can never resist a picture of this sculpture although construction makes for an unattractive background.

After about five hours in Kingston (yes I dilly dallied) I headed back on the bus.  I decided to have a pizza at Franco Manca which is one of my favourite places in London.   They have several chains around the city now although the original started in Brixton Market.  I had never been to Wimbledon centre so looked around a bit before hunger stopped me and I devoured this delicious margarita pizza.

Then back "home" to finish packing up.

The next morning I was sent notification that my flight was delayed by two hours.  I decided to leave just a bit later rather than two hours later and it's lucky I did as my train to East Croydon was delayed on the tracks for a while. When I went to drop my luggage and print my boarding pass the line was crazy as there was a flight going to Calgary at roughly the same time.  The flight to Toronto the previous day had been canceled so the flight was full.  The pilots felt something was wrong so we had to taxi back to the gate where luckily things were looked at and deemed okay.  So it ended up leaving four hours late.

My flight from Toronto was delayed as well.  Normally I meet my sister when I have a long layover there but something made me not make arrangements - deep down I must have known as there is no way I could have gone into downtown Toronto and back as it turned out to be just four hours in between flights (even with the flight delay of an hour back home)

I got back to my apartment at 1:30 a.m. and plopped into bed.  It's good to be home...for now!

Say tuned for way more detail on what I saw and my impressions of my trip.


Pat Deese said...

Looks like some great last days have to go to Kingston Sometime.

Marianne Barkman said...

You probably don't want to give your camera/phone to a stranger but a pic of you, now & then, would be appreciated ! Love the blog!

A bit of bliss in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

While I enjoyed my tour of Sri Lanka I also found it exhausting.  It was nothing against the tour - it hit all the spots I wanted to see an...