Journal of our vacation journey - 10 - end
Sunday, August 18, continued
The biggest positive surprise of this trip, economically speaking, was making international phone calls from our Paris hotel. The hotel described the procedure in a well prepared card, in English, and when I saw that Kevin could call his fiancee in California for an alleged €.50 (fifty cents) a minute, I mentioned it and he called, partly to arrange our rendezvous when we arrive at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday (she flying back from a long weekend in Boston near our own arrival). He tried it and dialed directly to through her. Several days later, realizing I didn't have reservations for a room for our return to London, I called several London hostels listed in a brochure for a similar rate. Though it was a bit tricky figuring out which international access codes to use and which "local" prefixes to omit, I finally got the hang of it, which was good, as it was already difficult finding an available room or rooms. When we checked out in Paris, our entire phone bill was €2. All to say our second stay in London, Sunday and Monday nights, was at the Rotherhithe Youth Hostel, one of four YHA hostels in London, in the Rotherhithe section of the city, near Docklands and Greenwich, the place where Greenwich Mean Time originates and all the world's longitudes are set.
After settling into our room, a dorm for six people but which they had kept for us three exclusively (unlike the previous London hostel, Astor Leinster, which imposed roommates on us), we started walking the Thames Walk in the hope it would take us to the "nearby" Tower Bridge and somewhere to eat. It turned out that walk had many detours and dead ends, so the walk ended up being very long. By the time we reached the Tower of London, we were so hungry we would have eaten at the KFC there, except that it seemed to be 110 degrees inside and we couldn't countenance that. Instead, we returned to the same restaurant in the same tourist complex serving the Tower where Mike and I ate last year and the three of us had in our first week's visit to London. At least they had outside seating in the shade, even if the fish and chips was just passable.
That chore accomplished, we caught the Underground (Tube, subway) to Picadilly Circus where we knew Internet access was available and I sent Sunday's Forum post. Though it was already evening in London, the time difference meant those looking for it should find it in their email in-boxes shortly after Sunday dinner in the States.
After returning to our room about 9 p.m. we decided we were still hungry. The nearest restaurant/bar had already stopped serving dinner, so we asked at the hostel registration and got directions to Chinese and Indian restaurants less than 10 minutes' walk away. We chose the Chinese and thought it was excellent, rivaling some of our favorites in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Monday, August 19
Our last day of vacationing began with breakfast in the hostel dining room. Though it included the "traditional" baked beans, tomatoes (though stewed rather than fresh-grilled), and a banger (sausage), piece of English bacon (more like we would call Canadian bacon or ham), the egg offering was a choice of boiled in the shell or fluffy scrambled. We had no eggs (the scrambled being "out" as we made our way through the queue), but considered the other items a snack to hold us until we got to a restaurant. We started by buying day-passes to the Underground (£5.60 each) and making our way to Picadilly again to send out Monday's Forum post.
On our first visit to London this trip, Kevin had found a 33-1/3 LP album of a favorite group of his fiancee, Maya, and bought it, carrying it with us afterward in a plastic bag, fearful of damaging it if putting it in luggage. Alas, he left it in the London Gatwick Airport when we flew in from Dublin en route to Paris, and discovered the loss too late to go back. So we were off mainly to find a replacement, either in type or close enough to give Maya as a souvenir of his trip. That took us to Soho and surrounding streets, one of which is a real open-air market with large flower stalls (reminiscent of a scene in My Fair Lady), produce, and other merchandise stalls. There are also many music and record stores in the area. The one in which he found the original LP didn't have a second copy, nor could he find it elsewhere. So then it was looking for clothing or jewelry as a substitute. We were also looking for souvenirs for some of our immediate family members, especially grandson/nephew Anthony, seven, who seemed to be the hardest to shop for this time.
Between stops at Starbucks (yes! Starbucks!) several times, and lunch at an Irish pub named O'Neil's, we shopped on, finally settling on a clothing purchase at the French Connection UK, a very popular brand with "hip" Britons (the initials serving as the somewhat affronting logo on "fashions" from T-shirts to handbags, jackets, sweaters and all kinds of items).
Mike and I thought we had talked Kevin into riding the London Eye, world's biggest "Ferris Wheel," across from Westminster (Parliament), but when we got there Kevin didn't want to do it. I think he has vertigo.
After a rest at the park there, we then took the subway to Greenwich, which I had visited on my first trip to London in 1993. But it was after 5 p.m. by the time we arrived at the much-enlarged exhibits and museums there, so we had little time before their closing to enjoy the educational displays. Nevertheless, the green at the Maritime Center is a very restful park, so we sat for a long time recounting the vacation and lamenting and looking forward to its end.
Back to our room to clean up, we then went on to the nearby Indian restaurant we'd passed the previous night. Our waiter seemed curt and unhelpful, so I felt by the time we'd made an order that we'd made a big mistake. However, both the food and the remaining service were excellent, and we regretted only that we didn't know more about the menu and how it worked so we might have had a more complete meal (what's worse than waiters with "attitude"?).
Then, using the day passes to the subway that we'd bought in the morning, we made another trip to Picadilly Circus to send Tuesday's Forum Jonal entry, knowing there would be no time to do it on Tuesday morning, when we were due to depart Heathrow airport for the trip back to San Francisco. While at Piccadilly I finally settled on some souvenirs for Anthony and the shopping was done.
Tuesday, August 20
It was mostly a sleepless night, thereafter, for me, and we missed Mike's wristwatch alarm at 7 a.m., the street noises being so loud that it was drowned out. So it was a rush to get to the airport, but everything fell in place and then our plane sat with its full load waiting almost an hour to depart...so it goes.
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Mother taught me to THINK AHEAD —
—Sent by Mike Harrison
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
— Sidney J. Harris
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