Thursday, May 22, 2014

London to home

May 21

Although I went to bed at 11:15, I could not get to sleep.  Got up around 12:00 and played games on the computer for awhile.  Got back in bed and could not get comfortable.  At 12:40 I propped the pillows against the wall behind the bed and slept sitting up until a little after 3.  From then on I woke up every 10-15 minutes to look at the time.  Gave up and got dressed before 5:00.

At 5:40 Gary started taking the suitcases down.  Luckily the lift was still working.  At about 5:45 the driver from Smiths for Airports arrived.  The bags were quickly stowed and we were off to the airport.  Traffic was light and we made it in a little over a half an hour. 

Carolyn and Gary were able to check in at the kiosk but for some reason I had to go to the assistance desk.  I actually was finished long before Carolyn and Gary because the bag check-in line they were in was really slow.

Then I had to find the Customs desk to have my VAT form stamped and then to the post box to send it.   From there we had to go down to catch the train to the B concourse.  Then to our gate which of course, was the last one.

The plane (a 747) was fairly full and lucky me got next to a six month old baby!  He only cried for about half the flight but he wasn't wailing and he had a really cute toothless grin.

I was able to doze for awhile and I hope I did not snore.  I was the first row in Premium Economy and there was no place to put my book or iPad down to get it out of the way.  On the plus side, there was plenty of leg room.

We landed on time (12:45) but by the time we got into the airport, had our six pieces of luggage appear on the carousel, Gary got the car and it was loaded, it was about 2:20.  Traffic was bad on I-95 so we didn't get to my house until 4:30.  Now I have four large cases to unpack - my goal is to get them all unpacked by July (can you guess I don't like unpacking).

The three blue cases in the back are mine as well as the large black one on the seat and the small blue one you can't see.

I can't believe this amazing adventure has come to an end (even if I do still feel the ship rocking from time to time).  I have been to some incredible places and met wonderful people. 

I want to thank you all for following along through the goods days and the not so good (sick) days.  I really enjoyed working on the blog. Thanks to all who have left comments - I did read them all even if I did not have the chance to respond.

I hope to be able to do another World Voyage in a few years, so for now, smooth sailing until next time! 
London - May 20

I was able to check in and get my seat for the flight home at 9:45.  After that we went to Patisserie Valerie for brunch.

Carolyn wanted to get a special kind of candy so we went to a little shop on St. Christopher's Place.  It opens onto Oxford Street in a little passage that you could totally miss if you were not looking for it.  No wonder it took me so many trips to finally find it!  There were all kinds of cute shops and caf├ęs hidden behind H&M and the Gap.

We took the bus out to Notting Hill and walked around.  Bought a couple of things (including a massive meringue) and then decided to have a late lunch at one of the eateries on St. Christopher's Place.  We chose "Cafe Creperie".  I had a delicious bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives crepe.

Back to the flat to finish packing.  Went out about 8:30 to get the £5 deposit on our Oyster Cards     refunded.  Picked up sandwiches and crisps at Sainsbury's to go with our meringue.

lunch spot

masssive meringue (note the size compared to the Coke lid)

Monday, May 19, 2014

London - May 18 and 19

Sunday, May 18

Left around 10:30 to have brunch at Patisserie Valerie.  Love their "Mango Tango" tea that comes from an Irish company called Suki.

We then went back to Covent Garden and Carolyn and Gary bought a couple of things.  We then took a bus to Parliament Square.  I sent the intrepid duo off to see the Churchill War Rooms.  I sat in the square and people watched.  There were a group of bicyclists with fold up bikes that were interesting to watch being unfolded.

A man took my picture and then sat down next to me and asked if I wanted a cigarette.  When I declined he wandered off and took pictures of other people.  Bizarre!

Back to the flat around 6:00.  Went back to the Spaghetti House for dinner around 9:00.

Monday, May 19

Left the flat at 9:00 for Paddington Station.  We took the 9:59 train to Oxford.  Rode the HoHo bus around the city and heard about some of the famous colleges that are part of the University.

The Ashmolean Museum is closed on Mondays so we decided to visit Christ Church College.  It was used for some filming in the Harry Potter series.  The Hall (where the students dine) was amazing.

We then looked for a place to eat and ended up at the Organic Deli Cafe.  We then walked back to the train station and took the 5:01 back to Paddington.  It was a very nice, new train and even air conditioned.

We decided to eat leftovers tonight.  We had parts of two pizzas and two sandwiches as well as the rest of our pastries.

Thanks to Gary for some of these pictures (my camera was on the wrong setting and I did not notice so my pics were not so great).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

London - May 16 and 17

Friday, May 16

Today was the day for the Tower of London.  We set out about 10:30.  Gary has not been able to send e-mails from his iPad so we made a stop at the Apple store.  Unfortunately, they were not able to solve the problem so back on the bus to Trafalgar Square where we changed to the 15 bus to the Tower.

We ate at "Eat" which has sandwiches and other things (mostly pre-packaged).  We all had sandwiches (I had a really good egg mayonnaise).

I left the intrepid duo to do their thing about 1:00.  I had finished my book yesterday and needed to get another one so I went to Foyle's.  It is a great bookstore on Charing Cross Road.  I found two books from authors I like and then took the bus back to the Tower.  Sat out in the sun reading and people watching and had a really good ice cream cone.

The temperature has finally warmed up into the high 60s/low 70sF (20-22C).

When Carolyn and Gary were finished we took two busses back to the flat.  We rested for awhile and then headed back to The Tyburn for dinner.  Watched the news and made it an early night (I was in bed by 11:15!).

Saturday, May 17

Decided to take it easy today.  The Tower of London slowed down the intrepid duo with all the spiral (and otherwise) staircases.

Went out around ten for a late breakfast at Patisserie Valerie (Carolyn had pancakes and Gary and I had the bacon, eggs, and toast).  They have a take away special of four slices of pastry for £10 so we brought back a box for nibbling on later.

I suggested we go for a walk (surprisingly, yes, it was me who made that suggestion) around the block.  We walked up to Bryanston Square and then back down Seymour Place.  There are a couple of pricey restaurants around the corner from us with lots of quail and lamb on the menu.  One is a Basque tapas restaurant.  There are also two pubs around the corner - too bad we are not big drinkers!
Bryanston Square

We had our own afternoon tea with the pastries from this morning - the only thing missing was the cucumber sandwiches!

A little about our flat.  We chose the area near Marble Arch for its convenience to bus lines.  We are close to Oxford Street and Edgeware Road.  The flat has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room/dining room area and a modern kitchen.  The kitchen has an apartment sized dishwasher and a washer/dryer combo.  The front-loading washer/dryer combo is very common here and maximizes the space in many older buildings and small flats.  It likely also saves on water but I doubt on electricity.  The interior is small and holds less than my apartment sized washer at home.  The regular cycle lasts for two hours and twenty minutes.  Drying time for a load is between two hours and four for a load depending on the fiber content.  It also beeps frequently!  We have yet to figure out the exact length of time between the end of the wash or dry and when the door will open and release your clothes.

We decided to go back to Leicester Square for dinner.  We ate at a Chinese restaurant which was very popular with the local Chinese.  Watched some TV and went to bed early.

Friday, May 16, 2014

London - May 14 and 15

Wednesday, May 14

Woke up about 4:45 (it was already light out) and took close to an hour to get back to sleep.  Awoke again a little after 8:00.  We left before 10 to go to Windsor.  First a bus to Paddington Station and then the train.  We were able to get a group discount and the three of us got same day return tickets for a total of  £20.25.

To get to Windsor you have to change trains at Slough for the Windsor and Eton Central Station.  It is a small train (2-3 coaches) and Slough to Windsor takes under ten minutes.  Finally arrived around 11:30 and then looked for a good place to eat.   Ended up at "Latino" which featured Greek and Cypriot food.  I had the souvlaki and it was very good.

Carolyn and Gary went off to explore the Castle while I wandered down the pedestrian shopping street.  Looked in a few stores but no purchases (remember the overweight suitcase).  Then walked down the main street and had a Coke at McDonald's.  Finally I found a bench in the sun in the shopping arcade outside the station.  I read for awhile and people watched for some time (there were a number of groups of French school children).

We took the 4:30 train back and after making the connections we arrived back at the flat around 5:45.

After some discussion we decided to go to Piccadilly Circus and walk over to Leicester Square to find some place to eat.  We left about 9:00 and finally decided on "Muriel's Kitchen" for dinner.  Carolyn and Gary shared a pizza and I had a very good chicken Caesar salad.  On the way back we stopped at M&M World - four floors of anything and everything M&M.  We returned around 11:00. (I am working on making them night owls.)

Thursday, May 15

Left around ten for Gary and Carolyn to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  I knew I could not do the walk and stand for over an hour so we went to Victoria Station and I sent them to the ceremony.  I stayed in the train station and read some of my book and people watched.

When they returned we decided to eat in "The Shakespeare" pub.  After a good lunch we set out for Westminster Abbey.  I was going to go in but when I saw the senior rate was £15 I decided not to (I have been in maybe six or seven times).  I sat in Parliament Square.  It is amazing to sit in one place and see (and hear) Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

After their visit we walked to Westminster Pier and toook a river cruise down to Greenwich and back.  I had seen a TV show about the old docks of London on the ship and it was interesting to see where some of them were located.

Returned back to the flat about 7 and contemplated what to do about dinner.  Finally, at about 9, we started walking and ended up at an Italian restaurant called "Prezzo" down the street from us.  I had really good spaghetti and meatballs and Carolyn and Gary had salads.  We got back around 10:45.

Scenes along the River Thames

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

London - May 12 and 13

Monday, May 12

Carolyn and Gary went for breakfast around 9:00 (I was just waking up) and then explored the neighborhood.  When they returned we weighed my suitcases.  One was at about 43 pounds, one at 48 and the third was 55 - uh, oh.  I am going to have to do some reshuffling and maybe trash some things.

We all finally set out around noon for Harrods.  After marveling at the food hall we went to the bookstore and I found an M.C. Beaton book I had not read.  Then we went to the Harrods Shop and looked at all the merchandise.  Carolyn and Gary bought a few things, I refrained (thanks to the weight of my bags).

Then we walked down to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I sat in the garden and had a coke and a scone and read my book while Carolyn and Gary looked all over the museum.  We met back up around 4:30 and sat in the beautiful cafe room (which housed the world's first museum restaurant).  Then bussed back to Edgeware Road.  We ate at a pub called "The Tyburn".  Good fish and chips.  While we were in the pub it started raining and was drizzling as we walked the short block back to the flat.

When we arrived the lift had been fixed!  Made my day.

Tuesday, May 13

Another lazy morning (Gary went to the local convenience store and picked up a few things).  It rained off and on so we decided to go to a matinee.  Set off just before noon to Piccadilly Circus and then walked to the Piccadilly Theatre to buy tickets for "Jersey Boys".  We were able to get good seats in the stalls for £27.50 thanks to being over 60.  While we were buying the tickets there was a downpour and hailstorm.

We asked the young man who sold us the tickets a good place for lunch.  He suggested a number of local places and we settled on Bill's.  We had a good lunch and then Eton Mess for dessert.  I do not know how I have been to Britain so many times and had never heard of it before this trip.  It has three of my favorites - strawberries, cream and meringue.

The show was very good and when we came out the sun was shining brightly.  Back to the flat and we ate leftovers for dinner.

outside of Bill's

inside of Bill's

Jersey Boys

Sunday, May 11, 2014

London - May 10 & 11

Saturday, May 10

Carolyn and Gary went out for breakfast and I did not feel like a hike up and down the stairs (or breakfast either for that matter) so I stayed in the flat.

When they returned we decided to go to the British Museum since it was threatening rain.  A quick bus ride and we were there.  Started by visiting the Rosetta Stone and then the Elgin Marbles.  Then it was upstairs for a walk through all of the rooms.

I took the bus back to the flat and Carolyn and Gary went to look at Hamley's, the largest and oldest toy store in the world.

About 7:30 we headed to our nearest restaurant, Spaghetti House, for dinner.  It was very good.  I had seafood ravioli and Carolyn and Gary had spaghetti.

Stayed up until a little after 11:00.

Monumental Carillon Clock from 1589 (still works) at the British Museum

Sunday, May 11

Another day with a threat of rain and high temperatures only around 55F/13C.  We headed out about 10:00 and had a late breakfast at Patisserie Valerie which is only about a block away.  I had a tasty ham and cheese croissant.

Then it was off to Petticoat Lane.  The fastest way was to take the tube - the Central line runs between Marble Arch (our closest tube station) and Liverpool Street Station.  I have a phobia about down escalators (no doubt it has something to do with my fear of heights) and the one at Marble Arch is very steep and very fast.  I walked down the stairs and there were about 125 of them (I think maybe more).  It probably took me as long to get down the stairs as the tube ride took.  Likely it was my last tube ride.

We walked all over Petticoat Lane but only bought a few souvenirs.  Had something to drink at the McDonald's at the Liverpool Street Station.  Then on the 23 bus to Covent Garden.  Looked at all the arts and crafts (I did not buy anything).  As we were walking to Leicester Square we spotted Cafe Pacifico.  I had eaten there back in 1986 and 1987 and remembered it being good.  I hadn't had any Mexican food in ages so we decided to have an early dinner.  A huge amount of good food (the only thing I did not like was the refried beans).

Walked through Leicester Square over to Piccadilly Circus and caught the bus back to Marble Arch.  Stopped to pick up a newspaper and we were back "home" a little after 6.  We were all a bit tired so we read papers, surfed the internet, played computer games and moaned and groaned about body aches (well, that was mainly me).

Gary watched some football (soccer to the Americans) and to bed about 11.

Cafe Pacifico

Petticoat Lane

Street Performer

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday, May 9

We arrived very early and I slept through the Happy Birthday to QM2.  Awoke a little after 6 and we were docking in Southampton.  I took some pictures and then went back to sleep for awhile.  Left my stateroom at 8:00 and went to the Britannia Restaurant on deck 3 where platinum and diamond members could sit and wait.

I met Phyllis and her husband and we sat and talked and I also said goodbye to Jim.  They made an announcement that they were running behind a little before 9:00.  My scheduled time was 9:15.  They started calling different color tags and about 9:20 they said any remaining people could disembark so I got in the queue.

It took about 10 minutes to get into the terminal.  Two of my suitcases were near each other and the other two were scattered.  Once I found them I realized that there was no way I could stack four large cases on the trolley.  I then started looking for a porter.  I asked a Cunard rep where to get a porter and she directed me to the right place.

The queue to get out of the terminal was very long so it was taking the porters quite some time to get people out and come back in.  I was the third person in line.  Unfortunately, the person ahead of me was a ship's officer and needed four porters for about 25 bags (not sure who they belonged to).  Then a person in a wheelchair showed up and they tried to give the next porter to her even though there were now three people ahead of her.  The porter had other ideas and said he was going with me.  He quickly scooped up my bags and took us to the front of the line to leave the terminal.  I did not complain although on my own I would never cut in line.

We quickly found the driver from Smiths for Airports and we had to go to the car park.  I tipped the porter £10 and wished I had had more to give him.  The ride to London was uneventful (luckily the traffic was all going in the other direction) and I arrived at the flat about 12:15.

Carolyn and Gary welcomed me and Gary was a real trooper and got my luggage in the minuscule lift and up to the second floor.

Evidently my luggage was more than the lift could take and by the time we left to go out around one it had died.  Gary e-mailed the landlord (we chose a flat with a lift specifically).

We walked to Selfridges and had lunch then back to Marble Arch tube station to purchase our Oyster Cards for the tube and buses.  Took the bus to Big Ben and looked around and took pictures.  Sat in the square for awhile (my shoes were rubbing my feet) then back to Oxford Street.  Since we had a late lunch we decided to visit Marks and Spencer's food hall and pick up dinner to be eaten in the flat tonight.

When we returned, the lift was still broken and I had to hoof it up the spiral staircase.  We enjoyed a quiet evening.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day 118 - At sea

Thursday, May 8

Last full day onboard :( :(

Having gone to bed at 2, I did not get up until 10.  It was another cloudy, foggy, rainy day.  I watched the last "Rise and Shine with Amanda" then organized the clothes I needed for London and what was going into the last big suitcase.  I also decided I could cram a few more things into the suitcase I packed last night.

We can start putting bags out at 5pm so I am going to wait until then to pack the biggest case (it is already tricky walking around the stateroom with two packed bags in the way).

Last lunch in the Lido and then sat in the World Voyage section for the last time.

Went to Needlework/Knitting group around 2:00.  We eventually had about 18 present.  I will really miss the daily meetings.

Played trivia with Mike and Judy but we only had 11 1/2 correct (What does the A. A. mean in A. A. Milne?).

Talked to Linda and Richard about CC for awhile in the corridor and then packed the biggest suitcase.   Finally, I started the suitcase I will be using in London and my carry-on.  I am glad I did not wait until today to pack all four cases.

Early evening trivia gave me 11 out of 19 correct.

All seven of us were present for dinner and there were lots of hugs all around.  Came back and changed clothes so I could put out my last case before 11 (the deadline is midnight but they asked if all bags could be out by 11).

Went to the Variety Show which had a singing duo called Elite (two ladies who have been in a number of West End shows), a comic named Adrian Walsh, and the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers.

Picked up my last OJ and then repacked my carry-on.  Looks like I will be carrying my handbag, a tote bag, my coat and my rolling carry-on.

I am going to have a few posts on London and I hope to be able to summarize the World Voyage experience in the next few weeks.

Many thanks to those who followed me on this wonderful voyage.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 117 - At Sea

Wednesday, May 7

Went to bed last night around 1:30 and expected to sleep until about 10 but I started having a series of dreams about not being packed to disembark.  So, I got up a little before 9 to a cloudy, rainy day which went along with my outlook on packing.

Watched the morning show while I figured out where I wanted to start packing and which case I would pack first.  I finally decided to start with my souvenirs and put them in the case that has a hard bottom and is expandable.  I started pulling things out of the under bed drawers.  Did I really buy all this stuff?  I found things I had totally forgotten.

I switched over to watching John Bridcut's lecture on Hillary Clinton as I packed.  I rearranged things a few times and finally finished around 10:45.  One down, three to go.  Ugh!

Left the stateroom about 11 and went up to the Lido area to use up a few more internet minutes.    Had lunch with Hilda and then went to the World Voyage lounge to finish my book.

At 1:45 I headed down to deck three to queue up for UK immigration.  They opened a little before two and since I was about the twelfth in line I was through by 2:00.  They only asked when I was going home and if I had a place to stay and a ticket home.

Then to Needlework/Knitting group early.  Only had about twelve people today.

Trivia was fairly hard and I only had eleven correct (none of my team was there).  I will be interested to see next year on HAL if I will do better since I am expecting more US/Canadian questions (although I still will be no good with sports questions).

Tonight was our last formal night.  It was also the Parade of Chefs and Lobster or Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska night.  We received our copies of the menus and I had a waiter take a picture of the seven of us plus our waiter, assistant waiter, and wine steward.

The show was a repeat so I surfed the net again trying to use up minutes.  Then went to the Purser's Office to get envelopes for the extra tips I am leaving.  The nice young man, Pascal, who helped us find the lift in Naples was working the desk.  I am turning in one of the "You Have Been A Star" cards for him.

Picked up my OJ and came back to pack my formal wear.  Two down two to go.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Day 116 - Lisbon, Portugal

Tuesday, May 6

How can this possibly be our last port?

I was up early (6:20) to watch the three Queens sail in but could not find a good location to see both of the other two so I gave up and came back and took a snooze on the sofa.  Woke up about 8:45 to see us dock.

My tour (Lisbon by Land and River) did not start until noon so I wasn't sure if I wanted to attempt to get into the downtown area and back before noon.  I finally decided to do so ( I still had Euros to spend) but when I got to the shuttle bus we were told that the traffic was so bad that you could walk it in 15 minutes (for me 30-45).  [Note to Carnival Corp. - Is it really a good idea to put five of your ships (1 HAL, 1 Princess, and 3 Cunard) in port on the same day?  P&O Arcadia was supposed to be in port as well but I never saw her.]

Since the bus was going to be so slow I set out walking hoping I would find some shops before going to far.  About halfway to the main square I did find a shop and had no trouble spending most of my money.  Walked back to the ship and had a late breakfast.

At noon I walked through the terminal (which I had not had to go through on my earlier walk) and joined my tour group.  We started with a bus tour around the city hearing its history and seeing some of the beautifully painted or tiled buildings and the mosaic walkways.

Next we joined a River boat with two other tour groups.  We sailed past the three Cunard Queens and then back under the 25 de Abril Bridge.  We saw the Belem Tower, Monument to the Discoveries, the monument to Christ the King (looks like the one in Rio but smaller), among others.

We were given a snack of a ham and cheese roll, a meringue and one of the Belem Custard Tarts which are a specialty of the area.

The traffic in Lisbon was so bad that it took us over an hour to get back to the ship.  This was once when I was very glad that I was on a ship excursion.  If you are late, they will wait for you.  We finally made it back at 4:30 and all aboard was at 5:00.  I was out on deck 9 aft at 5:00.  There were British flags being passed out, Nexus was playing and the place was packed.

The Captain made an announcement that I could not hear but eventually word passed down we would be late sailing.  At 5:50 we saw why.  Four bus loads of people on excursions arrived back to QM2.  She finally set sail around 6:10, then we left and finally QV.  There was lots of flag waving and patriotic British songs being played once Nexus finished.  I finally left my last sail-away for the World Voyage around 7:15.

Joanne, Allison, Lynn and I ate dinner together although I thought I would be eating alone for the first few minutes.  Decided against the show and used up some of my internet minutes instead.

Views of Lisbon

the international railway station

one of the beautifully tiled building with wrought iron balconies

street art

one of the mosaic sidewalks (all set by hand and all different)

interesting paint job

more street art

Church of Santa Engracia

Edward VII Park

one of the Electicos - the old electric trams

the Coat of Arms of Lisbon

Smooth sailing until next time!