We were a little tired this morning after the previous night’s events, so we didn’t get up to peek at abandoned London, which is what London looks like on Christmas Day morning. Instead we each had a bowl of cereal before Sarah got stuck in making the trifle and I attempted to do laundry in the flat. Attempted, because the tiny all-in-on washer and dryer doesn’t do what I expect of it. No matter how small a load, everything comes out damp and hot and far from what I would call dry. What was supposed to be a quick task quickly became a reason to worry about the clock and the timing of our departure for Jack’s place.I think Sarah’s trifle looks great, but she worries about it. Working in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar equipment and materials always makes it a challenge to her, but she always does well. Even the plastic punchbowls we picked up at Sainsbury’s are doing a fine job in their roles as trifle bowls! We are each a little on edge as the clock clicks closer to the hired car arriving in front of the building at half two. It took a great deal of begging and negotiation on Jack’s to secure a car on Christmas Day for a reasonable rate of 25 quid. We have spotty reception in the flat and we did not want the driver to leave us behind.
The car arrived a few minutes early, but we got the call. We rushed to gather the food, gifts, coats and anything else we could before running to the lift and out to the road. The drive from Pimlico to Tooting went by our windows quickly as London was closed for the national holiday. We were soon at Jack’s doorstep. Ann showed us where to put our coats and we made our way into the front room to meet their “German friend”, Al. We had been expecting a person who spoke German or at least English with a German accent, but instead it was an old mate of Jack’s from university who happened to be of German decent.Ann brought Sarah a glass of red wine and a pint of bitter for me, along with some delicious canapes, and we sat down in front of the fireplace to get acquainted and reacquainted. Al put on his special winter mix of music which was made up of selections from Captain Beefheart, Del La Soul, Radiohead, Revered Horton Heat and even Snoop Dogg. Not your traditional holiday sounds!
When the turkey was ready, we gathered at the table, pulled crackers, donned hats, and made very merry over a lovely meal. In addition to the bird, there was bread salad, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and a tangy sauerkraut which our new German friend had brought.After the meal we retired to the front room again, loosened our trousers (well, I did!), and tried to play a game far too complicated for the conditions. We decided to have pudding and try another game (Scruples) and had more than a few laughs. I am dubbed a “man of high moral caliber” making it easier for people to get points simply by asking me their questions.
Drunk and happy, we reluctantly call the car hire service for our return trip before they close for the evening, and it arrives so quickly we barely have time to say proper goodbyes. In the backseat on the way back to the flat I follow along with Google Maps as we weave through the heart of the capital while we discuss the evening. To the taxi driver I mention the agreed upon fare of £25 and he fires back that it will be £37! I argue as politely as I can, but once we arrive at the flat I eventually bite through my lower lip and give exactly £37. The driver on the way to Tooting received a nice tip, but not this guy.
Exhausted, we brush our teeth, fall into bed and wish each other a happy Christmas.
It feels like we have been planning this trip forever, and we kind of have. We made the decision to buy the tickets in June, and we have spent the last six months planning nearly every minute of the journey. We printed blank calendars and emailed friends, negotiating for their valuable time. As the trip got closer we booked our trains, buses, planes, and hotels and considered the calendar full.
Now that we’ve landed in London, it hardly feels real.
We were mostly packed last night, and after feeding and walking the dogs for the last time for 2 weeks, we used the morning to pull the toiletries together and go over our lists. Convinced we had packed everything we would need, we drove to Ryen’s house, put Penny in her garage and took Ryen’s car to the Dartmouth Coach depot. Ryen’s a big reason why we are able to take this trip. We’re grateful she agreed to look after the menagerie while we are gone!
The bus trip from Lebanon to Logan Airport was uneventful. We took an early bus, feeling more comfortable people watching at the airport than our watches on a bus later. The movie was new remake of The Karate Kid, but half-way through the movie the DVD stuck. The driver did what he could, but even had it not stopped the trip was less than the length of the film. More than likely it will be the same film on the way back anyway.
We forget that while we will be away for the next two weeks, including Christmas, that it is too early for most holiday travel, so the airport is less busy than expected. We were both surprised that we weren’t asked to participate in the new “enhanced” body pat-down or choose the full-body scanner — and were mostly relieved. Still early, we went to an airport pub to have a beer and meal before the flight. A little after 7 p.m. we boarded and our red-eye was underway.
The flight over was not that great. A few first-time-flying infants were less than enthusiastic and expressed as much most of the way, alternating turns screaming. Our seats were directly in front of the toilets in the mid-section of the plane, which means no one kicking you in the back of the seat, but it also means less legroom and the constant sound of an airplane’s toilet flushing. With earplugs in and headphones tuned into the in-flight entertainment, the flushing sounded as if an announcement was about to come on over the intercom. We both managed to grab a little sleep, but in fits and starts and dreams involving being flushed down a large loo.
We arrived at Heathrow a little after 8 a.m., found our luggage and made our way to the Heathrow Express. The Express had wifi so we checked email and updated friends and family that we were on the ground in London.
The Heathrow Express is about a 15 minute ride, and once we got to Paddington Station, we queued at the cash machine and learned that our debit cards weren’t working. The bank had been updated over a week earlier, so this was confusing. The credit card was working and so we bought Oyster cards and made our way to the hotel in Lambeth. Outside of the Lambeth tube stop we tried another cash machine and got the same result. The hotel was in walking distance, so we decided to check in and wait until the bank was open to contact them.
We got a little turned around, but eventually found the Novotel and checked in to our room. We drew the curtains, turned off the lights and tried to nap, but we’re foiled a few minutes later by staff knocking loudly on the door. We shooed them away and went back to sleep, knowing we need more energy if we are to keep up with Nick and Jess this evening.
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.