Today was one of the most exhausting New Year’s Eve I can remember, and we didn’t even attend a party. Well, not including the spontaneous one we created with Chris and David the night before.
Instead we spent the entire day returning home from our excellent adventure in England. We slept in as long as we calculated we could safely do without missing our flight. We fantasized about some change in the rules that would allow us to stay for as long as we wanted if we missed our flight, but decided we missed the dogs, and should head on home.
Contemplating how thankful we were that we packed lightly, we each took a pull bag and one to sling our our shoulder, checked out of the Pavilion, and dragged our slightly hung-over bodies to the Edgware Road tube stop a few blocks away. We stopped briefly at a chemist shop and purchased some Nytol to help me sleep on the flight.
We each got a tube ticket for Heathrow, and found a place to wait on the platform. After switching trains, we settled in to our seats on a packed train to the airport. The trip seemed to take forever, and we were starting to wonder if perhaps we should have splurged on the express. We were in no hurry to leave the country, but we could think of better places to be.
When we woke we were glad we had been talked into the full English breakfast buffet when we checked in the night before. We stuffed ourselves knowing we would not be eating until later when we met up with David and Chris. After breakfast, we grabbed our bags and walked the few short blocks to the Reading train station. A short wait and we were on the train back to London.
We arrived at Paddington Station a bit earlier than we expected, so we made our way to a coffee shop around the corner from the Pavilion, where we had booked the same room we had two days prior. At the coffee shop we sipped our drinks and shared a pastry while finishing up the last of the post cards.
We were at the hotel only long enough to drop our bags, and use the loo, before making our way to the Tate Modern. On the way to the museum we stopped for a pint at one of my favourite pubs, the Blackfriar. The place seems to be more of a tourist spot than anyone’s local, but the building is unusual, the decor is lovely, and the beer is good, and in warmer months than December one can sit outside in the garden and watch London rush past.
When we went to bed last night the wind was howling and rain was beating against the windows. We were concerned we wouldn’t have good weather for our trip to Glastonbury; however, when we got up the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful blue.
I went down stairs to rouse the sleeping, and loudly snoring Tait, which is how I learned the poor sod had been up half the night watching a film. I am not sure he could sleep well on the floor and so stayed up until he crashed. It was very nice of him to let us stay in his bed, but now I was feeling guilty.
Once we were all up, and had a quick cup of tea, we made our way to the train station, where we easily caught a fast train to Basingstoke. Waiting there was Tait’s girlfriend Paula, who was serving as our guide. We made introductions, hopped into her comfortable car, and I began to drift off in the back seat.
The Friday morning of our last weekend in England started pretty much the way the night before had finished—looking for food. We awoke hungry for food and eager to get out of the city for a few days. The night before, while wandering about in search of food, we had seen a middle eastern place near Edgware Road that also offered variations on the full English breakfast. We decided to try our luck. We were the only diners and we very much enjoyed the generous portions, which we knew would keep us until dinner.
Once fed, we went back to the hotel to gather our belongings and walk the few blocks to Paddington Station to catch a train to Reading where we were meeting Mr. Tait. We had decided it was cheaper to check out of the hotel and book ourselves back in for Sunday in order to save money. After schlepping our luggage to the station, we bought our tickets and waited for our departure platform to be sorted. Sarah wandered over to a vendor’s booth and bought a Paddington Bear pin, while I watched pigeons and train schedules.
Our first night away from the comforts of the Mear home was a hard adjustment, but we woke up ready to explore. The first part of the day was to wander around Oxford Circus and check out the insanity of post-holiday sales, and wow was today mad. We thought it was crazy when people were out doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, but this was much worse. Each store had signs advertising up to 70% off, and it made me wonder why anyone even bothers with shopping until after Christmas. We only braved the crowds in Liberty because we had planned to pick up a holiday ornament as a memento of spending our 2007 Christmas in England, and it seemed appropriate. The tough part was finding something we could bring back with us that wouldn’t end up as broken glass at the bottom our our luggage. We found a couple of cute little unbreakable items which were small, pretty and only cost a couple of quid.
Afterwards, we looked for a place to eat and decide to sate our desire for tapas by having lunch at a local La Tasca. The place was deserted when we arrived, and we settled in for a lovely meal. The menu was a bit overwhelming, so we ordered a pre-set sampling meal that had half vegetarian and half meat items. We also ordered wine, and after the meal a couple of glasses of sweet Muscatel. It was difficult to move after that large lunch, but the wine helped reinvigorate us for the crowds still out on the sidewalk.
We decided to head back to the hotel to drop off the ornaments we bought and the heavy backpack I was carrying. The latter was because we had the laptop with us to check-in with Tait about our plans to go to Reading to see him the next day. All day we had trouble finding anyplace with free wi-fi so we had to go to the local Apple store to check email, and firm up plans for the next few days. The lack of free wi-fi in the UK surprises me.
We dropped our stuff and got ready for the rest of our long evening of doing touristy stuff. We took the Tube to Embankment, walked across the Jubilee bridge, and took in the beauty of the Thames at night. It was a clear night and places like the London Eye, Parliament, and St. Paul’s were brightly lit and glowing in the rippling river which was at high tide. We wander along the river, past the London Eye and eventually crossed over on the Westminster Bridge just as Big Ben was about to chime five o’clock.