Tuesday, 2/24/04.  We’re off on Virgin Atlantic at 5:30 pm.  Small turbulences delayed dinner on our flight till after 8:30 leaving only 4 hours to catch some sleep before arriving in Heathrow, London

Wednesday, 2/25/04.  Arrival 7:30 am in London.  We’ve gained five hours.   We pickup our visitors’ travel passes in Heathrow.  Saved about $20 by buying the passes before we got to London.  Tourist info sends our hotel bus.  Our driver, Chris, gives us an informal tour and tells us the best place to get a cheap sandwich is the local grocery stores – Sainsbury or Tesco.  Chris also warns that snow is forecast and that all transport in London will shut down.  Well, we’ll worry about that if it comes.  If the weather reports are anything like they are in Miami, we can count the reports of snow as alarmist.

Earl insists on taking an hour nap despite the sunshine.  Our hotel receptionist is from Hungary but doesn’t know where there are any good Hungarian restaurants.  We take a walk around the neighborhood and find strange things like a Sudanese Restaurant and a Malay Chinese Restaurant.  The local real estate agent advertises apartments available for $800,000.  It’s too early to eat, so we walk back to the hotel and we take another hour nap.  The local bus that runs by our hotel is good for shaving a few blocks off our walks.    I’ve piled on about five layers of clothing and we go down to the street of restaurants along Queensway and end up at the Big Shang Hai Restaurant.  There is a large table of Beijingers and another Chinese couple there.  We get roast pork noodle soup and Lamb with green peppers and black bean sauce.  There’s a large department mall so we get a couple of drinks to take back to the hotel and its bed by 8:30 pm.

Thursday, 2/26/04.  It’s off to the stamp bourse where we run into folks that we haven’t seen for quite some time.

At the stamp bourse. Friends from Arizona
   
Haven't seen these folks since 1999.

 

Afterwards, we take a walk down to the Thames River, passing Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminister Abbey.

Getting late...
   
Protests
   
Church by Westminister Abbey
   
A view of the Millenium Wheel
   
Sphinx by the Thames

We picked up a couple of baguette sandwiches: a liver sausage and a ham & cheese, and ate them as we walked.  A little white stuff starts to fall from the sky.  Aha, snow.

I want to see the Egyptian obelisk which I’ve missed seeing on past trips to London.   Didn't get to go on the London Eye Millenium Ferris Wheel Ride as 1) Earl was against going on something that takes you up so high and 2) We would have had to rush to make it by closing time.    The London Eye must be about 20 stories high and moves very slowly.  The motion is hardly noticeable unless you stare at it for awhile against a rooftop to tell that it is moving.  Back to Nottinghill Station in search of a rumored Greek Restaurant that a person holding a sign states is located on a back street.  Couldn’t find the Greek Restaurant, but there’s an Indian Buffet that sounds reasonable that’s down in the basement of a hotel, so we opt for that.  Earl gets his fill of stewed lamb and yogurt.

Friday, 2/27/04.  Morning brings a little more of that white stuff falling from the sky.  We get a late start as Earl is feeling sluggy.  We catch the bus to the British museum at 11:30.  The bus that runs right by our hotel goes directly to the museum, so that’s convenient.  Lots of school kids at the museum. 

Working on those school reports
   
 

I find the Assyrian exhibits particularly fascinating this time.  It’s funny, in the past I’ve always spent more time staring at the Greek and Egyptian displays. 

Crossing a river

Assyrian, about 865-860 BC

We take a museum break to get some lunch.  A half block away is a Korean fast food restaurant, so we get some kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), bimbimbop (a dish of rice, vegetables, beef and egg) and miso (fermented bean curd) soup. 

Really? You want to take our picture?

Earl rummages through the local antique map and prints dealer shops in the neighborhood and then we go back to the British Museum to finish looking at the first floor exhibitions.  Most of the exhibitions are now behind glass – like the Rosetta stone.  I suspect as I hear a guard warning someone to not touch an exhibit that soon everything will be behind glass or plastic.    I make Earl stop for tea and scones so we can have a break at 5 pm but afterwards he just wants to get back to the hotel.  We’ll have to finish the museum another day.  We skip dinner and are asleep by 8 pm.  Boy, are we a fun couple :)

Saturday, 2/28/04.  Earl wants to get an early start to check out the Portobello Market.  So we’re off at 9 am and walk along the dealers and booths.  I lost my right glove on Thursday so I pick up a new pair at the Market. As we leave the area, people are flooding in from the tube station towards the Market.  It’s going to be really really crowded.  Glad we went early. 

Antiques, etc.

We go to the Other Stamp Show which seems to only have exhibits by the German stamp club.  Earl’s friend of 30 some years, Mike Whittaker from Rugby is due to show up today so we search him out at the Burmese stamp study meeting. Mike has to catch the train back at 8:30 pm so we go back to the rail station to find someplace nearby for dinner.  We find a nice Italian Restaurant called Pasta Plus by Eustice Station.  Earl dined on Pasta with marinara sauce, shrimp and squid while I got fettucini with bacon, mushroom in a cream sauce.  Mike contented himself with Risotto.  We also polished off a carafe of the house red wine.  The food is all good and reasonably priced – we would have had to pay about the same in the states.

Mike is in the middle.

Sunday, 2/29/04. The Tate Museum of Art is on the agenda for today.  The museum is free but the special exhibition  “Pre-Raphaelites” costs $17 for Earl.  I was able to get a student discount and only had to pay $12.  It takes all day to look at the art galleries.  Had lunch at the museum.  Earl got a beef and mushroom pie while a baked potato was fine for me.  Earl particularly likes the paintings of unfortunate women.  The piece I would have taken home was “Boys fishing for prawns”.  We find an Austrian restaurant on the way back to the hotel.  Earl ordered pig’s knuckle with red cabbage and potatoes while I opt for the Goulash soup.  The goulash was almost Hungarian, except it had potatoes.

Monday, 3/1/04.  Up at 7 am.  The newscasters are all talking about the Oscars, its still party time in California.  We take the bus to the Natural History Museum. 

Outside of the Natural History Museum.
   
The Natural History Museum has lovely carved animals throughout.

At the front of the museum, Earl wanders off to look at some flowers and slips on some ice.  Luckily he didn’t fall.  We’re at the museum as it opens at 10 am.  Our guidebook warns that one must come early to avoid fighting hoards of kids to see anything.  The dinosaur collection is extensive.  I think the only one I’ve seen better was at Carnegie Mellon.  There is also a unique point of view.  The museum has the dinosaurs hung from the ceiling and there is a catwalk to look at them. 

Animatronic Raptor

The hall of mammals has a huge mockup of a blue whale along with the actual skeletons.  The insect area is too modern for our tastes.  We liked the one in Beijing better with its rooms of pinned insects.

We don’t have time to explore the very modernistic Earth and Geology areas as we want to get to the Strand to do some shopping. 

We pay a visit to the Twinings Tea Shoppe and buy enough stuff to get a free tea canister.  Back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and then out to get a meal of traditional fish and chips at Mickey’s Fish Camp. There’s a news article about “Michael Jackson eating fish and chips at Mickey’s”.  It’s still early, so we take the bus back to Oxford Street where I had seen a Clarks shoe store from the bus so I can get my pair of walking shoes.  I like buying walking shoes in the United Kingdom as I find their shoes styles comfortable.

Tuesday, 3/2/04Last day.  We verify our reservations with Virgin Atlantic and the Hotel Link transportation bus.  Earl wants to see the Imperial War Museum as the last time we were in London in 1990, the World War I exhibition was not yet finished. 

There are several groups of students visiting the museum.

We look at WWI and hurry back to the British Museum to see the second floor. 

Regards to Emperor Hadrian

Several hours later and foot weary, we go back to Queensway to pick up a couple more gifts. The lure of Chinese food is too great.  There are over a dozen Chinese Restaurants in the neighborhood.   For dinner, we get roast duck and sautéed oysters with ginger and scallions at the New Fortune House.  We have a large scallop steamed with black bean sauce for dessert.  Earl wants to save the scallop shells as souveniers.  The Chinese restaurants are not necessarily better than in Miami, just more numerous.

Wednesday, 3/3/04.  We’re up at 6:30 to catch the bus at 7:30.  One of the passengers has horror stories of long lines at the airport.  His flight doesn’t leave until 2:30 pm.  However, he is on British Air, so I’m hoping that Virgin Atlantic won’t have the same problems.  We have no problem getting checked in and even the queue for security doesn’t take more than half an hour to get through, so we’re in good shape.  Our flight left at 11:30 am and we’re back in Miami for Earl’s birthday dinner by 4:30 pm.