Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Back in London

 As I mentioned in ending our last post, we arrived in London and had a lot to do to get settled in for the summer.    

Since we were not able to take the ship, we had to leave a lot of baggage behind.   Some of the things were considered essentials, and I just figured that I would buy them over here.  One of the things that I had to order from Amazon was a small/medium size cooler.  Since we eat at home a fair amount, we have staples that we travel with and need some way to keep the perishables cold.

First on the order of business however, was getting our rental car.    Since we were scheduled to arrive by ship in Southampton, and I had rented the car for 5 months from there, it was easier to just stick with the  plan and travel the 90 minutes to there to fetch the vehicle.

So on Monday morning the 15th, I walked down the hill to the Finchley Road Underground Station, and took the tube 20 minutes down to Waterloo Station in London.

Waterloo Station in London

From there is was an easy 3 escalator ride up to the train platforms where I caught the 1020 train leaving for Southampton.   I informed the rental agent at Volkswagen that I'd be arriving at the Hedge End Station at about 1130 and he told me he'd be happy to come and pick me up.

Riding Southwestern Railways to Southampton

There has been some rolling strikes on the Railways lately, but fortunately my travel day as not one of them.  My train departed on time, and soon was speeding thru the English Countryside past yellow fields of Rapeseed. 

Like magic, I arrived at Hedge End Station right on time, and Steve from Peter Cooper VW was waiting for me outside of the station.    A few minutes after arriving I was seated at the table signing the documents, and recieving my keys.

Because we were expecting to have 2 dogs, one of them with a suitcase full of meds and a buggy to be pushed around in - I had rented an "Estate" car.  (That's British for Station Wagon)
VW Passat Estate

No worries though.   The longer wheelbase means and even nicer ride, with lots of room for Kates treasures to be acquired over the next several months.

The car has lots of nice bells and whistles and will be a comfortable ride for the summer.

Less than 10 minutes after arriving at VW, I was done with the paperwork and sitting in the seat working up the courage to fire it up and once again set off driving on the wrong side of the road.

I sat there for about 2 minutes, then said to myself the car was not going to drive itself back to London, so I pressed the start button, put it in gear, and hit the road.

My first stop was only about 3 miles (and several roundabouts) away.   My buddy Craig who lives in the UK had placed a "click and collect order" (That's Brittish for online order for pickup) for dog food.

I drove over to Pets Corner, picked up the order which was waiting for me, and then a few minutes later I was motoring up the M3 to London.

Left hand driving on the M3 from the right seat.

If in doubt - stay in the roundabout

One of the things that I learned last time - when I am in a roundabout and not quite sure which exit I want, there is no shame in making the circle one or two times to get your bearings all sorted out.   Sort of like Chevy Chase in Euro Vacation going round and round the Champs-Élysées over and over.

Well I only had one or two of those moments.   Last time I had many more on my first day of left side driving.   I've found its a little like riding a bike.  Once you get your bearings it's much much easier this time.

Well, after lots of traffic I made it back to London.   Our house has off-street parking which is very rare for London, and it makes it very convenient.   

Meanwhile, Kate had been patiently waiting for me to get back home so that she could open up the envelope from the US that we knew was coming that day.  I told her not to wait for me but she insisted.

Inside was Kates Irish Passport!   Its official!   As an Irish Citizen, she has all the benefits that come with an EU Passport.   Almost 3 years of work getting to this point, but the long road had come to a very successful conclusion.

Kates newly minted Passport

While here I have been ordering all sorts of stuff from Amazon.   We had so many deliveries that I am on first name with some of the delivery drivers.    In between all of these shipments however, we started to explore our new surroundings in the outlying area of London called Hampstead.

Our street - our house just past rubbish bin on the left

Hampstead is one of the desirable sections of the city, favored by artists and the type.
There are lots little side alleys with outdoor cafes and coffee shops

From our place it was about an 8 minute walk (up and up the hill) to the High Street

High Street in Hampstead

One morning we connected with our friend Raina who we met on the ship 4 yrs ago.
She lives both in the US and UK and was supposed to sail with us on the ill fated cancelled crossing.  Like us, she flew over.

We walked down the hill to the Finchley Rd Tube and took it down to the London Bridge Station.
Then right around the corner from the station we met her and her friend Simon (who we also met on the ship 4 yrs ago) at the Borough Market.   (more on the market later.)

While there we took a stroll thru the impressive Southwark Cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral

One really impressive thing was that one of Simon's ancestors is buried in the Cathedral.  We saw his grave while passing thru.

One really nice thing about London is that a good stretch of the Thames River is pedestrian friendly.   
We walked along the riverfront where I snapped this photo of the city with London Bridge on the right.

Those of you who recall my posts from previous winters, will recall the "real" London Bridge that was removed from this exact site, and moved stone by stone to be re-assembled in Arizona.   It's a shame, but the new London Bridge is a plain looking industrial thing.   Just the approaches on either end remain from the old bridge, giving a hint to the nicer structure that once spanned the river at this place.

The "New"London Bridge on the right

We stopped at a pub along the river for some lunch.   Steak and Ale Pie for Kate.

Later, we continued our walk along the Thames to Waterloo Station (where I previously caught the train to Southampton) and took the tube back up to Finchley Road.

Then, it was back up the steep steep hill to our house.

Lucy has the right idea here!

The next day Kate and I took a stroll up to Hampstead Heath.   Known as "The Lungs of London" it is a large forested park in the outlying area, just a mile or two from where we were staying.

Like everywhere here, its super dog friendly and even has swimming lakes for people and pups.

Swimming lake in Hampstead Heath

Strolling further into the park, we walked up to the top of Parliament Hill, where you get a good view of downtown London in the distance.

The view from Parliament Hill

We met Raina for lunch at the Freemason Arms,  a nearby pub, after our ramble thru the park.   After lunch she came back to our place to spend the night.    The next morning the three of us hopped back on the underground and headed back down to Borough Market to pick up some goodies for our traveling larder.

The market is one of Londons largest and oldest.   There has been a market operating at this location since at least the 12th century, and possibly a couple hundred years before that.

Our train arriving at Finchley Road

Fresh fruit and veg at the Borough Market

Cheese?  Yes please!

In addition to grocery items, the market has numerous places to pick up a quick meal.
We stopped by The Ginger Pig, who is famous for their sausages, meats, and especially their cooked sausage rolls and meat pies.

There was a long lunchtime line at their stall, but it moved very quickly.   We brought home a couple of sausage rolls for breakfast, as well as 4 meat pies for dinner.   We froze a pair of the pies for a quick dinner later on down the road.

Sausage roll

A Beef & Stilton Meat Pie

Our tour guide Raina had one last great suggestion before we parted ways.   There was 2 tube stations about equal distance from our house.   One was uphill, and the other downhill.   We had planned on returning to Finchley Road and walking back up the steep hill, but she suggested that we take a different line from the Waterloo Station back home and arrive at the Hampstead Station instead.   Hampstead is the other station near us, and its a downhill walk to our house.   Now that is smart!

Heading West to go East

Well Sunday morning had arrived and in a blink of an eye our 8 days in London was already over!   

Our original plan was that upon arrival in Southampton, I was going to place our hanging suit bags containing our "grownup clothes" in a storage facility there rather than dragging them all over the UK and Ireland for the summer.    I had figured that I'd bring them with me on the train when I picked up the car,  but I nixed that idea due to all the walking involved.  I also thought the car would be big enough to just leave them inside of it.

When I started to pack the car however, it became painfully obvious that while I could squeeze 20lbs of crap into a 15lb bag - it would be rather uncomfortable for Lucy in the back.

So plan C emerged.   I called the storage company and for the 5th time resorted my plans and told them that I was indeed coming and needed the space.    So when we departed London on Sunday morning, rather than heading east to Canterbury, our next destination, we first headed west 90 minutes to Southampton to the immaculate Locknstore facility to drop off the suitcases.     A much better plan.   Now Lucy only has to share the back seat with the cooler.

Departing Sunday morning on Finchley Rd 

Meanwhile, the weather has been fantastic.   While we were in NY it rained almost the entire time.   We had a sunny day to drive to Newark and fly out, but then the rain returned in France and it rained there almost the whole time.  We entered the Chunnel on a cloudy day but emerged out the other side to a bright sun shiney UK day.    Since then we've not had a drop of rain.   Great temperatures for walking too.

So now we are in Canterbury.  (think Thomas Becket)  Lots of castles, cathedrals, and great things to see here.   We are here for 6 nights, and already 3 of them are over.   Yikes!   I think we are living life in dog years!   

But Canterbury is the subject of the next post....


  1. Brian and Heather - This is amazing! Kinda feel like I’m there. As a finicky - but improving - eater, I am curious what the meat pies are like? The one says beef and Stilton pie?

    1. Think Pot Pies. Not the frozen store bought type, but real homemade. Stilton is a type of British Blue Cheese so my pie had a bit of that in it to give it a nice cheezy "zing". Kates was Beef & Ale

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your travels! I do enjoy your posts, Greg. Today is our anniversary. I have fond memories of the wonderful carrot cake you and Kate made to help us celebrate!! Love you two! Margie in Beaufort (71 degrees here today).

    1. Happy Anniversary to you both! That was quite a cake. I never decorated anything quite like that and I even surprised myself how it came out.. Was a good time!

  3. Congratulations on your Irish citizenship! Your mom would be so proud. Xox

  4. Congratulations on your new Irish citizenship!! Very cool. Glad you had fun in England,!


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