Saturday, February 3, 2018

Saying cheerio to London town for now...

Well tonight I head off for the next phase of my trip...Asia with a stop in the Middle East on the way there.  It's hard to believe I've been on the road for three and a half weeks now.  With about three and a half months more to go!!

What have I been up to lately?  Slowly I am working on my Barcelona posts so I won't even go there...I have pretty much stayed in London except for a day trip up to Durham.  I got a cheap 20 pound return ticket on a Virgin East Coast sale and snapped it up.  I had booked to go last winter but I wasn't feeling well and the weather was dire - luckily this time around the weather was good and so was I.

I will be writing more about Durham - I really did enjoy my day there.  The trip there and back was approximately three hours each way but we Canadians are used to long distances.  But why did I choose a seat with a table where you face people and I always seem to have the people who have long legs opposite me.  Anyway I lived to tell the tale.  The cathedral was about a fifteen minute walk from the station.  There is a bus that goes to the cathedral as well as stopping at the market place and costs just a pound to ride it all day.

Stopped at a viewpoint along the path into the city centre to admire the cathedral - obviously having some work done on it.

Crossing the River Wear

I took this path up to the castle and cathedral and the narrow cobbled street on the way back.  Thelma did the incline like a boss.

While entrance to the cathedral was free you were not allowed to take photographs inside.  I must say it was impressive.  There is currently an exhibition on called Open Treasure which I paid to go and see and it was well worth it.  I was particularly interested in the treasures of St Cuthbert as I had first learned about him when I was on Holy Island in Northumberland two years ago.  In fact, Durham Cathedral was built to hold his shrine.  Of course not being religious I do a bit of silent scoffing at it but I appreciate history. Or man's interpretation of it.  The rooms were especially ventilated for the treasures and they even had a wooden casket that St Cuthbert was supposedly in.  Very interesting.

Here is a sneaky peek at the cathedral from the cloisters.  Building on this cathedral started in 1093 which always blows my mind.  Of course there have been changes and add ons since then but coming from a young country the extensive history in this country has always intrigued me.

I then walked around the cathedral and loved this archway.

Here is the castle - this was opened in 1072 but since 1840 it has been the home of Durham University.  I opted not to take a tour as I had read that there are a lot of stairs.  Maybe next time because I think at some point I will be returning to Durham.

I worked my way back to the Market Square where a (really really) bad Elvis impersonator was warbling away.  There is a market there which wasn't too exciting but good for a loo stop!  I popped in to the pub beside it for a cheeky drink (as they call it here - well on "Coronation Street" anyway. I only knew it as talking back to my mother - "don't be cheeky"!) and a bag of crisps (potato chips for North Americans) before walking back to the station to get my train back to London.  A great day!

The next day I headed into central London and was a bit of a tourist.  I hadn't been to St James's Park yet after landing in London 2 weeks ago. Shameful!  So I had to fix that on this glorious sunny day...

What can I's my favourite part of London and I look forward to many more trips seeing the changes as Spring arrives.

A quick hi to the Horse Guards at Whitehall and then on to Trafalgar Square

And then the #15 bus - on a Routemaster no less...there are only five left in service during the week on that route.  It's a typical tourist route from Trafalgar Square to the Tower of London that never gets old...ah the memories of riding those back in the 70's and 80's.

Got off at St Paul's Cathedral....

In the mid afternoon I had a ticket (free - you just had to book online) to view the newly refurbished London Mithraeum in the City of London.   The temple of Mithras was discovered in 1954 when construction was being done on a World War II bomb site.  It was moved to a different location and rebuilt however the recreation was not accurate and drew quite a bit of criticism.  The Roman Temple originally stood on the banks of the Walbrook River which now runs underground however the street above it now bears its name.  The Bloomberg Group took over the relocation and it now sits just slightly west of where it was originally - the fragility of some of the walls did not permit it to be exactly where it once was.  They now do a media show with Roman chanting and atmospheric mist and then you are free to take photographs afterwards.  Would I have paid for it?  Probably not but for free it was something different to do and just amazing to think this was something from the mid 3rd century.

After a delicious steak and kidney pie and mash in a pub I headed over to see Dreamgirls which turned out to be anything but a dream for me.  I like the Supremes which is what this musical was loosely based on.  However I do not like music where women screech - sorry my preference is really for male singers but I do like a few female singers...very few.  The rows were narrow and this was the tightest seating I have ever been in.  (stroke the Savoy theatre off my "to go" list in future)  My knees reached the seat in front of me and I don't have long legs...Thelma was most displeased and let me know.  The pain was worse than even after surgery - I just closed my eyes and wished for intermission to come.  I have never wanted intermission so badly and finally, finally when the screeching stopped (and oh man was she screeching just before the intermission - people clapped because they appreciated the singing (I use the term loosely) and I clapped because the damn thing was over and I could get up.  Of course I sat in a row with people who didn't want to drink nor use the facilities in the break so I made a very ungraceful exit but I will never see these people again so who cares right?  Most London theatres were built when we were all a lot shorter!  I don't know how a tall person could stand it but they would definitely have to go with the pricier seats. 

The next day saw me at an ABBA exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall.  Once again, no photos was enjoyable and we were guided through different rooms depicting certain parts of their career.  We all had a jaunt in our step because the music is so catchy who can resist?

The first day of February saw me at the annual Destinations travel show at the Kensington Olympia.  I got there when it opened, scurried around collecting brochures and was out of there by noon when it was heaving.  I have decided that I've been there, done that four times so it's time to give it a rest.  I still can't decide where I want to go in the early Spring!

Yesterday involved a stint at the launderette getting almost everything I own clean...but one has to keep some clothes on!  Then I went into central Streatham and visited St Leonard's Church.  I only recently learned that my great grandparents lived and were married in Streatham at this very church!  It is a church I have passed numerous times on the bus... Of course at the time Streatham was a Surrey town near London - not part of it as it is now. When I mentioned my connection with the church I was taken on a tour by the church warden and she is putting me in touch with the church's archivist which is exciting.  I hope to go back with the good camera before I leave.  It is crazy to be living so close to it and never have known for years.  I knew they were married in Wandsworth - or I did back in the 90's when I originally researched it but I had forgotten until a long lost cousin connected with me when I had my DNA done and I pulled out my binder of certificates.

Due to a fire in the 70's the church has been gutted and there are only a few original pieces left including this font - perhaps my Great aunt Mary was baptized here!

These are the first daffodils I have seen on this trip - the early birds!  By the time I get back to London they should be all over the place.   And that makes me happy!

It's been a relaxing couple of days as I get ready to head off for the next part of my journey.

I will fly to Dubai tonight via Emirates.  This is the splurge part of my trip I guess as I am staying in a hotel on the Marina.  I just couldn't find an airbnb I liked or felt comfortable with.  I have a 48 hour pass on the hop on/hop off bus as well as other tours available to me for the rest of my stay such as a boat cruise bcause I opted for a five day pass.  I have also booked a trip out to the desert on Wednesday morning looking for local wildlife.  It seems all of the nature safaris involve dune bashing which ten years ago (okay let's be honest and say fifteen...) would have had me excited but not this old lady - all I can think of is my poor knee and let's not mention the tossing of the cookies aspect.  No thanks.  Oh yes and you sit on cushions to eat out in the desert - so who is going to help me sit down and then get up again?  Nope, probably not a good fit for Thelma and me sad to say.   I had looked into a camel safari instead of the dune buggy thing but then I read it is 45 minutes on a camel going up and down thanks.  I have been on a camel for that amount of time on even desert and that was enough of a challenge!  I will be going up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa on Wednesday afternoon.  I am really looking forward to it and Thelma is looking forward to warm dry weather. (looking out at the rain here in London as we speak)

On Friday I fly off to Colombo, Sri Lanka where I meet up with my tour group on Saturday evening. I will be on tour for two weeks and then have a couple of days R and R in the beach town where the tour ends.  I hope to relax and catch up with blogging then.  In the meantime you can access my Restless Prairie Girl page on Facebook even if you don't have an account - I try to post daily as it takes just a few minutes with my phone.

I can't lie and say I am calm, cool and collected...butterflies are forming in my stomach and swirling around.  I think as the day goes on they will get bigger and bigger!  Stay tuned!

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