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"If you really want to hear about it..."--My London 2017 trip

Forgive me from stealing from JD Salinger in the subject line. Despite my disappointment in some of what happened on my recent London trip, I thought some of you might want to read about it anyway. So here goes, part one:

May 28--It was quite a travail getting to the Newark Airport. Hubby and I took the turnpike further out than we were supposed to. Instead of taking the exit we needed. We drove all the way to the Lehigh Valley before realizing our mistake. Worse than that, we had a minor accident (scraped a guardrail). Luckily, both the car and we were unhurt.

A minor note here: Sadly, from Wilkes-Barre to Newark, you must take a bus and then a NYC subway from Grand Central to Penn or something like that> My husband was ill that week and probably should have been home in bed. Looking back, I should have hired Uber or some other private driver. I even insisted I could rent a car and drive myself but he said he would drive me. I HATE the drive to Newark, but the one to Philly is not much better so I'd better learn to like it, I guess!

When we finally got to the airport, I had reserved parking at the Hilton (costs less than the airport). He dropped me off at the terminal, then left for the hotel. He couldn't find the hotel, couldn't find anyone to direct him to the airport shuttle, and by the time he got to Terminal B, I had had to check in. So we didn't even get a chance to say goodbye except by cell phone. This modern life...At least the plane left on time.

There was no way in hell I could sleep on that flight. I didn't realize it, but I was coming down with his cold (a milder version). I watched movies all night and arrived at Dublin Airport around 5:45 a.m.. The signs are in Gaelic and English and it was a lovely airport. It was only an hour to fly from there to London.

Took a cab from Paddington Station to Captain Bligh House, slept for 3 hours, got up and tried to find a Tesco Superstore with no luck. I found a few items at the Xtra Save (a mini market near my B&B) and went back to my room. I couldn't get the front door open and had to ring the bell for the landlords to let me in. Had a meltdown, coughing and crying. Now I knew for sure I was sick. I had no appetite either. The landlord very kindly went out on the bus in the rain to get me some cold remedies. I sat in my comfortable chair and drank tea and ate digestive biscuits.

Another side note: The spiral towel bar in the bathroom continued to mystify me until I realized you just have to fold the towel and sort of jam it in there, and turn up the temp.

On to part II.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Part II, the next day, Spring Bank Holiday:

Monday, May 29--I was taking the equivalent of Robitussen, Tylenol and Sudafed on the advice of my pharmacist sister. I slept OK the night before--the room is very comfy. The weather was rather humid and in the low 70s. Of course, being ill, it may have just been a case of "is it hot in here or is it me". Went out and still couldn't find the Tesco Superstore. At Oval Station, I was told by TFL employees that it was near the cricket ground. I walked a block or two looking for something that I expected would look like a scene from "Downton Abbey." You know, a green field surrounded by trees. Gave up and hailed a cab. The cabbie couldn't find it either, but at least now I know what the Oval cricket ground is. :) Continued to feel crappy.

Went to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square and was deeply disappointed that the Monets were not on display. I especially wanted to see the water lilies. Everyone was crowded all over the place, includng in front of Van Gogh's Sunflowers. I liked the "Two Crabs" by Van Gogh the best. I was unimpressed and horrified by many of the paintings. Such as, a giant painting of St. Sebastian's martyrdom. I cried when I saw one of a rhino in Venice. A guy was holding up the poor animal's severed horn. Too many people.

Went next to the Portrait Gallery, next door. Wouldn't you know it, all the Bloomsbury Group portraits were in storage (I had plans to visit different Bloomsbury exhibitions and locales on that visit). I did see a remarkable painting of Queen Victoria handing a Bible to a black man. The detail on the jewels and lace was unbelievable--how DID the artist do that?? I saw the huge young Victoria painting with the sceptre and crown as well. Portraits of Lord Melbourne and Victoria's mother. I went for tea in the cafe in the basement and cried a little. I wondered if I should go home. I frankly had a sense of the creeps due to the Manchester incident the week before. Everyone's bags were being checked, etc.

Went for a walk and found Cecil Court. It was closed when I got there. Closes at 4, apparently. Found Wyndham's Theatre (where I had tickets for "Don Juan in Soho" with David Tennant later in the week). Went into an art store and felt at home, but did not buy anything. (I'm an amateur artist).

Had dinner at Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin in the Fields. It didn't taste as good as I remember last year. Of course, my taste buds may have been off. The concert was wonderful. I LOVE "The Four Seasons". Other selections on the program were Corelli's Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 4, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 3, Vivaldi's La Stravaganza No 3, Bach's Air 'on the G String' and Purcell's Chaconne. It is such a joy to see the happiness on the musicians and the conductor!

Best thing at the National Gallery: I saw The Virgin and Child w/Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo. Words cannot describe how incredibly beautiful this drawing is. I'll never forget it.

End of Part II

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2728 posts

I read this post thinking I would be disappointed and now I am disappointed I am not disappointed.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4634 posts

I always like to read Trip Reports!

I'm glad you mentioned the Portrait Gallery as I haven't been there in years so maybe I'll pop in there next time. I would have been disappointed that the National Gallery Monets were not on display. Were the whole rooms closed or just the Monets off traveling?

I think on one of your quiet places threads someone mentioned the Wallace Collection. You should definitely have this on your list next time. It is very nice and the time I visited I found it not crowded.

Thanks for taking the time to write this up and post! Looking forward to the rest of the story...lol!

Posted by Pissarro
Daphne, Alabama, United States
102 posts

Thank you for your honest reporting. It is refreshing to hear the good and the bad!! Hope your trip improves in part 3. Nothing worse then traveling when you are sick!! You have reminded me to add cold medicine to my travel kit!!! I have been key challenged. Cannot seem to get them to work for me. The first night in a RS hotel in Scotland I was so jet lagged I could not remember my room number. It was one of those metal keys with no room number. Anyway, the lady behind the desk was NOT happy when she had to look up my room number.. Rude really.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Glad there is not too much disappointment here! ;)
Unfortunately, I can't remember what the issues were with the Monets but I think it was entire rooms that were closed. That was the case with the Bloomsbury pieces at the Portrait Gallery.

I have been to the Wallace Collection, but only for tea, which was really delightful. Perhaps next time...

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
2063 posts

Hi Sandra, I am enjoying your trip report. I am very sympathetic to your being sick on your trip. This happened to me on my last trip to London and England. The second day after we arrived in London I began thinking "why is it so hot today?" Well, that was the beginning of my illness, which lasted 3 weeks. But I was determined to see the things that I went to England to see!

I am glad that you pushed on and went to see some of the sights that were on your itinerary. I certainly understand the frustration you felt, and that you felt like crying sometimes.

I am looking forward to reading your upcoming chapters of your trip report!

I would offer one suggestion, if you do not mind. Going back to the beginning of your trip report, you had quite an ordeal, just to get to the airport.(Newark)

Might I ask, I am sure you have looked at flights from your local airport, into either Newark or JFK, right?
From the information online, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (8 miles from Wilkes-Barre) has many flights to Newark, JFK, and many other major airports. Next time to make your trip easier, would you consider flying out of there to a major airport, instead of driving to Newark (which seems to be a real pain). You would of course have your connecting flight to England (or wherever) leaving out of that airport (JFK, Newark).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton_International_Airport

Just seems like an easier way to begin your trip. I lived in NYC for many years, and I myself wouldn't drive a car to any of the airports there. Seems like you mentioned getting an Uber to the airport next time, but that will be expensive, I'm sure, all the way from WB.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
3544 posts

At Oval Station, I was told by TFL employees that it (Tesco) was near the cricket ground

And of course they were right. It is on Kennington Lane, behind the gas holder, which is the most famous aspect of the ground. Indeed it has some kind of preservation order on it, just like trees would.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

For Rebecca: Believe me, it's crossed my mind. In fact, in 1984, on my first trip to England, I flew from W-B/Scranton to JFK to catch my charter flight. However, I've had some family members have terrible experiences with flights going from Scranton elsewhere being canceled, with the next flight available being the next day! This just happened to my mom and sis on their way to Fla. this past summer. My other reason, quite frankly, is the money. It used to cost about $150 RT and I'm sure that's tripled (like all the other airfare since the '80s, ha ha). But I will look into it.

For Marco: There is a Tesco Express on Kennington that I ended up at, finally. This whole thing was a search for Dean's Shortbread, which apparently can only be found at the Tesco Superstores or some other Tesco ginormous store (I was in one in Brixton, I think).

Posted by Nance
Orange Park, Fl
756 posts

Sandra, wow - what a start to your trip. I'm so glad that there were a few things you got to enjoy on your trip to London. Being sick while traveling is the pits, especially when one is unfamiliar with the area. What a nice landlord to go out and get meds for you!

Posted by Kim
Paris
3252 posts

Sandra, I remember when you posted earlier about what a tough time this trip was for you. I admire your honesty. Seeing more about some of the things that happened suggest a couple of strategies that might help avoid some of the disappointments (of course being sick exacerbates EVERYTHING so once you add feeling poorly to other frustrations, it can indeed all feel not manageable).

  1. If you know you're going to want to buy certain supplies when you arrive, like you wanted to go to the Tesco Superstore but couldn't find it: look it up on Google maps but in addition to the spot on the map, also use Google Street View to do a mock "walk" from your lodging to the store. That will give you much more confidence when it is time to really strike out on foot and find the place. (indeed the same can apply to anyplace you want to visit).

  2. Be sure to look up opening times for attractions you want to visit (on their website) and write them down on a card or calendar you keep with you. For example, I'm going to London in a few weeks and want to visit Sir John Soane's museum. I looked on their website for the opening days-- and found that they're literally changing their opening days a week before I get there! If I had relied on an old book, I would have been very disappointed to show up there on Tuesday to find they were not open, only to read on their door that they had been open on Sunday when I could have gone (especially since I'll be departing London on Tuesday night, thus having missed my chance).

  3. If you know there are certain works that are especially important to you to see, try to see if the museum's website gives information about which pieces are out on loan at a certain time. I know that the Musée d'Orsay does this; it's worth checking to see if others do too. Of course this probably means searching for the literal piece that you want to see (I don't think they'll have section called "works out on loan"), but you could look up for example "The Gleaners" and see if they say it's on tour in the USA or something.

I know that the biggest factor was that you simply didn't feel well, and life has ebbs and flows and sometimes we're in a down part, and in those circumstances, anything and everything can be trying and frustrating. I am not trying to minimize how you felt, just trying to offer a few strategies that might help to minimize some of those frustrations. It's more work at home in advance, but I find it worth it to enhance my trip once I'm on the ground.

(Your post also makes me think of the frequent discussion here about taking one's favorite OTC meds just in case one gets sick. Many people say -- hey, I don't want to carry that stuff if I don't need it. But if one DOES need it, that's the last time in the world you feel like getting out and finding it (and to my mind the space that such things take is minimal). Bless your landlord/host for going and getting those medications for you. That is true hospitality.)

I hope you find my post helpful and not critical. You're brave for expressing those "everything is not always rosy" thoughts. We've all been there.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2728 posts

Many of you are taking this post too seriously. It is comedic genius.

Posted by aquamarinesteph
362 posts

This sounds like one of our trips! I'm sorry your trip wasn't what you wanted, but you must admit that you have some great stories to share!

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Emily--It is so funny that you would say that. Every time in my life that I have tried to write something humorous, it has fallen flat. I am funny without trying, I guess.

Kim--I have done "mock walks" on google maps and they don't seem to do me much good in real life. I think unless I've got the directions right under my nose, in full color, a la GPS/SatNav, I just don't get the hang of it. I don't have a smartphone and I don't carry my tablet around with me in London. I thought it was funny that the cabbie couldn't find the place, especially since we went right around those gasworks and the cricket ground more than once.

I had actually written to the National Gallery about a portrait of Vanessa Bell and was told it was out on loan, but didn't think to ask about the rest of the works I wanted to see.

As my mother says, "next time you'll know better."

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8980 posts

Being sick on a trip is definitely not enjoyable. I have had that on a couple of trips. On one occasion I decided I had better see a doctor since it was more than a summer cold with that high temperature, (this was in Toulon), aside from just going to a pharmacy.

Thanks for the detailed report. Sometimes it is a matter of luck and circumstances. In the 1984 trip getting sick on second day of a three week trip was also a waste of time.

Posted by Shelley
Central Valley, California
258 posts

LOL, Sandra! "Next time you'll know better" is truly Mom's tough-love. Actually these posts are really the best ones on this site; we ALL learn from them! Sorry about getting sick, and yes, your Landlord was a true angel for taking THE BUS out to get you some meds. Screwy towel thing = Culture Shock Item # 4852, alongside "How do I flush this thing?" and "Why does this shower place have no curtain?"

Regarding museums withdrawing certain items from time to time for renovation or outside installations; Museums owe it to the travelling public to make all these listings available online so we can check them and rearrange our schedule as necessary.

SO sorry also about the stressful start to your trip, over-driving the exit, getting a scrape on the car, etc. I also (like you) have to do a lot of planning to get to SFO from 3 hours away; normally I spend the night at my friend's house who lives within 1 hour of SFO, so I can get there directly using BART. But even metro transportation has problems/closures sometimes.

I'm leaving for Vienna next week, and am going to put cold meds in my bag right now.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Tuesday, May 30:

I woke up very early, around 6:30. Opened the window shade and looked down into the garden, and there was a fox staring at me! He was rather scruffy-looking. I wanted to get my camera, but part of me wanted to stay in the moment and not startle him. He looked up and saw me watching him and our eyes met for a few moments. He turned and scampered toward the back, through a thicket of greenery. A few minutes later, he emerged in a sort of gravelly alley, then snuck into the next garden through what must have been a hole in the fence. This time, I went for my camera, only to reach the window in time to see him gracefully leap onto a brick wall and disappear.

First up on the agenda was Westminster Abbey. I was especially glad I took the Verger's Tour upon the advice of several forum members. We got to see the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, which most tours don't do. As soon as you entered the church, you could feel the hush and the quiet. Outside it was overwhelmingly busy.

I took the 159 bus over Westminster Bridge, where I saw bouquets of flowers left from the incident in March. It was sobering, to say the very least. In fact, as I walked toward Parliament Square earlier, I got really scared. The very real possibility of a bomb going off or a person going berserk really began to upset me.

It's hard to describe the Abbey. There are parts where the faces are nearly worn off the stone statues, the delicate stone tracery looks like it would crumble if you touched it--yet there are windows in the Lady Chapel that are 2010s. It was impressive to stand near where the Regents are crowned, to be in the same place Victoria and Albert were married. Could not find the Cloister Garden--the place is enormous. Hard to describe how enormous. I was also too tired to look very hard.

Really liked the Lady Chapel blue and white windows, and the shrine. And the special floor right by the alter--the Cosmati pavement.

The afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason...well, I don't know what to say. I felt the service was slow and the food at the Wallace Collection was just as tasty. Maybe the clotted cream was better at F&M?

Now I know what a macaron tastes like: A dry bit of meringue with a filling of some sort. Didn't finish mine. I felt worse and worse as the tea went on. I was the only person there alone (that I saw, anyway). It was lonely, lonely, lonely and it sucked. It was, however, clean and shiny, all in good taste and beauituflly presented.
I actually cried at the table when I heard a piano playing "Santa Lucia." (Maybe it's because I'm half Italian?) It got worse when they played "O Mio Babbino Caro" (which usually makes me cry with joy). Walked out feeling just awful.

I wasn't even feeling well enough to enjoy Hatchard's or Waterstones. Made my way to Boots near Ero's statue and threw myself on the mercy of the chemist. Bought what they recommended. By then, I had a massive headache, a tummy ache (cured by Gaviscon) and was desperate to sit down. I returned to Waterstones and sat down to loook at a book about hares. It did help, thankfully.

A little later I got my hair and nails done at House of Rush salon in Piccadilly. They were very nice, gave me hot lemon tea, and I walked out feeling more human than I had in 2 days.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

A little P.S. from me: I think, instead of making this one big thread, I am going to split it up. So anything from May 31 onward is going to be in separate threads.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4634 posts

It's up to you how you do it, but when I read a TR I like to follow along in one thread so I can make sure I don't miss a piece of it. But again, do as you choose!

I'm glad you enjoyed the Verger's tour. I particularly liked it as well!

Thanks for continuing your TR, whether it is in this thread or separately!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
9073 posts

Yes, please don't split up the thread - it make it impossible to find all the pieces later. Just keep adding to this one, when and as you see fit.

I've had milder versions of what you are writing about, where I just wanted to cry with frustration, physical discomfort, emotional discomfort, etc. I'm so sorry this happened to you this way.

As for the cost of the flight from Scranton to EWR or another airport: you should book this all as one ticket. You may find that it's not any more expensive, for instance, as AVP to LHR (via EWR) than EWR to LHR. I do understand your concern about the canceled flight problem.

I see that a recurring theme is directional problems, whether getting to Newark airport or to the Tesco Superstore. You may want to consider getting a device with a GPS you could carry with you, whether a tablet, iPod Touch, or something else, so you can indeed have the "directions right under your nose."

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

OK, I shall continue in this thread. Thanks for your input!

Regarding GPS: If I carried my tablet around London with me, it would make my life much easier. But I have back issues and am afraid of putting too much in my backpack. It's not a huge tablet (Nexus Asus 7, I think) so maybe next time I'll bite the bullet and do it. Better than wandering around in circles!

Posted by Agnes
Washington DC Region, USA
4332 posts

You can also:
* Use a smartphone (it's a little lighter than tablet but screen size is smaller)
* Plot out your walk on Google Maps and print directions beforehand (very easy to see point-by-point turns and distances in meters)
* Use an old-school hard copy map (works for me!)
* Ask for directions if turned around
* Not sweat it - you're on vacation after all, and there's no need to stress over little things

Posted by emma
London
3548 posts

If you visit the UK again use the post codes.

Every address has a postcode, like a zip code but made up of 5 or 6 letters and numbers. They cover a very small area, max 30-40 houses in the suburbs and some just relate to one building
For example, the area around Buckingham Palace is SW1A 1AA.

Put the post code into a GPS, google maps, smartphone or any other map tool and it will show you exactly where it is and how to get there. It is perfectly normal when using a cab, especially mini cabs/private hire, to give them the post code to direct them.

So for future reference the Tesco on Kennington Lane is SE11 5QU :-)

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Wednesday, May 31

I woke up feeling a wee bit worse. But I was upright and mobile; that's something. Excited because I was going to the Vanessa Bell exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is a good 40 minutes on the bus. I don't like the buses much (even at home). I decided to leave my raincoat at my room because the day before, I ended up carrying it a lot. I was hot; I was cold--maybe it was more than a cold and more like the flu?

I had planned to do my "smalls" in the sink and rest up a bit, and maybe read, after returning to my room after the exhibition. I had tickets to see David Tennant in "Don Juan in Soho" and wanted to go to dinner first, despite my lack of appetite. Also on my to-do list was finding a post office

The Vanessa Bell show was wonderful. We were not able to take any photos, however, so I bought a postcard of her portrait of her sister. The picture is so beautiful and makes Virginia Woolf look so, even though I had never thought of her as a beautiful woman. The pink color and delicacy of her mouth in the painting was so tenderly done. I loved the book covers Vanessa did for Virginia's books at Hogarth Press, as well as the fabrics she printed for the Omega Group. It was a pretty thorough show, complete with photos of and by Vanessa. After that, I was really looking forward to my visit to Charleston House on Sunday.

I found Dulwich nice and quiet (and I did find a post office). I ate at the Cafe Rouge, which I understand has since closed. Had a delicious omelet with smoked salmon and a cup of tea.

And then, dear reader, my troubles began. I got on the wrong bus because I figured No. 159 would get me back to Captain Bligh House. It would, but I was going in the wrong direction. I don't know how long I was on that bus before I realized something was wrong. I was hot and sweaty. Then I had to get on the one going the opposite way and sit through all the hot sweaty shops. One good thing: I got my Dean's shortbread as there was an enormous Tesco at the end of the line (near Brixton, maybe?).

By the time I got to my room, I was once again in tears. I called my husband on Skype and he managed to talk me down. I also discovered that it is better to do one or two pieces of laundry per night than to save a bunch and try to do it in the sink all at once. Lots and lots of squeezing and towel rolling! Sadly, I felt my luggage wasn't THAT much lighter due to fewer undies and socks.

The David Tennant play was great! Really funny and bawdy. The whole cast was terrific. I waited outside like a total fangirl and got some video footage of him, but no autograph.

I had plans for the next day to meet up with my old pen pal from the '80s, but I wasn't sure I wanted to go. I warned her that I wasn't feeling well and we decided to play it by ear and meet on the steps of St. Paul's, as we planned to visit the Museum of London. I wanted to take the London Walks' "Blitz Walk" afterward too.

Again, ended my night with a cup of tea, some shortbread and writing in my journal.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Thursday, June 1

Met up with my pen pal Catherine on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral. Recognized each other right away--like last year! She has not changed a bit.

We went to the Museum of London. She had never been there before, nor had I. I wanted to see Anna Pavlova's Dying Swan costume, but we were told it was at the V&A. I think I got the idea it was at the M of L because of a photo I'd seen online,, attributed to that institution. In any event...\

Had a great time catching up, talking about everything and anything--girl stuff, family stuff, political stuff. It is as if no time has passed at all--the mark of a true friendship, I believe. I wish I heard more from her during the rest of the year, though. I'm glad I was feeling able to meet up with her, however.

The Museum is an interesting place, especially the Victorian recreation, like a movie set. Also took lots of photos of clothing, a Vespa scooter, the Selfridges elevator, and a suffragette display.

I felt better--less sneezing and nose-blowing. I went back to my room around 5 p.m., got some things ready for my trip to Oxford the next day, then lay down for a nap. I intended to walk to a local pub for a pint and some dinner but I slept until 9 p.m. I needed to get up at 6 a.m. to catch the train. My plans included a Morse, Lewis and Endeavour tour. Then I hoped to see the area where Evelyn Waugh had his rooms at Hertford College. Then what, I wasn't sure. Figured I would ask at the Tourist Office. I hoped Oxford would not be as crazy-busy as London.

Seeing Catherine went a long way toward making me feel better.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
1136 posts

I just want to give you a hug! Thank you for doing this report. I'm slowly working through mine and now realize why more people don't. It takes a lot of time and I'm always having to check and make sure my specific info is correct. I feel your pain on getting misdirected. No matter how hard I try, we always seem to go off course somewhere.

Posted by mulhall
53 posts

I landed in London literally one hour after the tube bombing. And it was "Open House London" that weekend. I guess I really need to write something up.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4634 posts

Did you wind up doing the London Blitz walk? I’m considering it next trip. Although maybe you wound up just spending the time with your friend?

Thanks for continuing!

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Hi, Pam--No, this is the 2nd year I missed the Blitz Walk. I had also planned to attend Evensong at St. Paul's, but was just too tired after meeting up with my friend to do much more than go back to my room.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Dear Patty--Thanks for the hug and the encouragement!!!

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Friday, June 2 (The Adventure Continues)

On the train to Oxford, I fell asleep. Hadn't slept well the night before (probably because of my unplanned nap!). I was excited to see Oxford, but a little nervous to see a new city when I was only just getting used to London. Saw a swan on a river from the train window.

Got to Oxford around noon and bought a ticket for a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. Found my way to the tourist information center, where the Morse, Lewis and Endeavour tour was scheduled to leave from. Stopped in at the White Horse pub, next to Blackwell's bookshop. Turns out the White Horse was a Morse pub: there were photos of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour on the walls. Had really good fish and chips and a half pint of cider. It was good to have a hot meal (and I hoped the alcohol would kill the cold germs). Visited Blackwell's and its print shop, as well as a little boutique called Isola, where I bought a very nice grey, black and white scarf.

The undergrads were walking around and riding their bikes everywhere. Many were in full regalia (called subfusc) since it was exam time: starched shirt front, white bow tie, academic gowns and mortarboards. Some had pink carnations in their lapels. I found the color of the flower represents which exam they have completed (first, second or third).

The walk was wonderful, Elizabeth, our guide, knew all sorts of things about all three TV programs. I thought it would be more like a pub crawl, but we spent much of our time at Trinity College, near the Bodleian and Radcliffe Camera, in Brasenose Lane and other filming locations. It's funny--she remarked that the yards and quads looked so much bigger on TV--and they do!

She also had tales to tell about the various actors (many of whom she had met), as well as Colin Dexter. The coming weekend, they would be filming at the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford. Turns out Hertford was super easy to find (I was worried about that).

An odd thing happened to me in Trinity College Chapel. We'd been sitting in these sort of choir stalls while Elizabeth was speaking. She then invited us to look around the chapel. While doing so, I kind of got dizzy and nearly fell down. Elizabeth and I sort of grabbed for each other, and she led me to a chair. It was frightening--I've never fainted or passed out in my whole life! I was OK after that--just kept drinking water and walked slowly.

After the tour ended, I went to Hertford. They let me in at the Porter's Lodge, and I ran into a young lady named Sabine who apparently was supposed to show me around. Which I don't recall arranging for at all. She took two pictures of me in front of the Famous Window of Evelyn Waugh's rooms (if you've seen "Brideshead Revisited," you know which window I mean!).

I had intended to visit the Botanical Gardens, but by that time, I was tired and hungry and needed to eat. I wound up at a department store called Boswell & Co., where I had a very nice afternoon tea. Then it was time to catch the big red HOHO bus again.

I slept all the way back to London on the train.

Got milk, single cream and water and visited the ATM to get cash before returning to my room. I was glad I had no firm plans for the next day.

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1219 posts

Gosh, Sandra-I sincerely hope you start feeling better soon. I'm sure it's a bummer to not feel well during your much anticipated trip back to London. I'm sending you a hug, too, and a wish for your speedy return to good health soon so you can better enjoy your visit to fabulous London and its environs!

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Thank you, Andi, for your good wishes. However, my trip was in June, and I am doing well. So far I've avoided the colds going around at work! ;)

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1219 posts

Oops! Didn't look at the date. My fault but am certainly glad to hear you're recovered!

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Saturday, June 4

While my husband and I were Skyping the night of June 3, men in a van ran over people on London Bridge, then got out and stabbed people at Borough market. At the time, six people were dead and 48 were in hospital.

Police responded within 8 minutes and shot and killed the perpetrators. My tablet kept pinging during the morning of the 4th—six or seven private messages asked me if I was OK. I turned on BBC One and saw what happened. I texted my friend Catherine if it was OK to go out. People were carrying on, and so I decided to go on my trip to Lewes. A place where people lived to make art and beautiful surroundings, where shelter was given to pacifists, homosexuals, artists and free thinkers. I decided to try and keep my mind on that, and not the awful world we seem(ed) to be in right now. Life is fragile.

I felt weird—was I in shock? I had been in shock before, and it didn’t feel the same.

I really began to think about whether I ever wanted to return to Europe. Another reminder that life is short.

Good news for the day: I was no longer coughing up a storm or blowing my nose excessively. It was a whole week since I’d gotten sick, so maybe it was starting to go away.

It was predicted to be 61F in Lewes so I brought my rain jacket in case I was cold.

Everyone seemed rather subdued when I walked to the Tube station. The streets were quieter. Of course, it was Sunday morning. A van of policemen pulled up at the police station around the corner from Captain Bligh House. I smiled and said “Good morning” to two of the officers. I hope it conveyed my gratitude and encouragement to them. They looked grim and tired.

Still could not understand why I did not feel anything other than anger. I did not think lightning would strike twice, as Manchester had just been attacked before my trip. I heard sirens and started to think something awful happened again.

On the train: The train was wobbly and it was hard to write in my journal. It smelled like nail polish in the carriage.

Later: Charleston House made me want to be a painter, or a potter or something! Oh my…I didn’t even know what to say. I was so happy to be out in the countryside and away from the city. The same feeling I had in the Cotswolds in 2016.

The house is unreal—how on earth did they decorate all those rooms and keep working on their own paintings at the same time?
Lots of fish (some gold) in the big pond, coming up with their mouths open. Statues here and there; love the “ghost lady.”
I’m pretty sure the café used to be Quentin Bell’s pottery—or at least he made the little stained glass window in it. Bought a ceramic tile with a leaf on it for my desk, postcards, earrings and a hedgehog card.

The train ride home was slow and tedious. People were standing in the aisles. I felt that was dangerous.

My plans for the next day included the Tate Britain. Was looking forward to seeing "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" by John Singer Sargent.

Last note for the day: “There goes another siren. It’s been nearly constant. Was it like this 30 years ago? I honestly was too busy having a good time to notice.”

Posted by emma
London
3548 posts

Captain Blyth House is smack bang on the main route between the site of the attack and one of the main Metropolitan Police offices dealing with terrorism, so yes you will have heard a lot of sirens.

You might not have heard the sirens 30 years ago but there was still terrorism. Back then it was the IRA trying to kill us.

Posted by cgichard
English but living in Melbourne, Australia
334 posts

Thank you, SandraL, for taking the time to share your trip with us. It is so rare to have an honest account of how it feels to travel alone. While I do sometimes take the opportunity to write down for myself an account of some special experience, I find that in general I am either too tired or the day was too disappointing to be worth recording. Or disorientation meant that I wasted time finding my way and I'm unwilling to record my stupidity. For example, after many years of taking holidays alone In France, this year I kept heading in the wrong direction in small towns, even with a detailed map, and eventually realized that I had failed to adapt to the different position of the sun in the northen hemisphere, so going north felt like going south.

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your travels.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

Thanks for your kind words! and I am glad people are still reading. I feel a bit behind on all this. I'm also working on two separate travel journals.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

cgichard--you didn't do anything stupid. We all make mistakes! Look at me, with the wrong bus journey that cost me most of the afternoon. Being in a foreign environment is hard. I'm afraid to go to New York City alone!

Posted by Kim
Paris
3252 posts

Sandra - we're still here. And I noted how you enjoyed so much more your time being in smaller towns and how it reminded you of the Cotswolds, which you had also enjoyed. Some of us just enjoy country more than city and there's nothing wrong with that!! Keep that in mind as you plan future trips.

Posted by SandraL OP
Pennsylvania, USA
486 posts

No, I did not fall off the face of the earth. I've just had a lot of stuff going on.

But for those still interested, here is another part of my trip report.

Monday, June 5

I felt better yet when I woke up that morning. The cough subsided a lot and I was not blowing my nose as frequently.
One thing I learned about myself--part of a vacation, for me, needs to be pure leisure. Not just going from place to place, or getting up early like I'm going to work. Some extra rest would also be helpful. Or going to a spa and being fussed over. I do not thrive on the high energy of London as I did 30 years ago.

Planned to go out for a pint that evening, and bring a book so I would not feel lonely.

Went to the Tate Britain on the C10 bus with no problem. Finally got to see "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" by John Singer Sargent. It's astonishing. The light conveyed on the lanterns, the innocence of childhood, the flowers, the sheer size of the canvas. My favorite of all at the Tate.

Saw a man sketching and painting with watercolors in his sketchbook. He was copying Millais' "Ophelia." I wish I could find an art teacher. I don't think you can learn that sort of thing online. I need guidance and I haven't found the right teacher yet. Maybe I don't have the patience, either, to draw very slow lines.

Had an egg salad sandwich and Diet Coke (with ice!) for lunch.

It was a lovely day outside. The temperature had finally backed down, even though it might have been ME that was the problem with my body not regulating properly (considering how sick I was).

Made it to the Courthauld Gallery with the help of a cabbie. It was great! Impressionism everywhere! I like Monet and Van Gogh the best, but Renoir has a lovely softness to his work. They had an autumn scene by Monet that I liked a lot.

There was also a Bloomsbury Group room, dedicated mostly to the Omega Workshop designs. I'm glad I got to Charleston and the Vanessa Bell exhibition, as there was a much wider selection of work.

Bought some postcards, a leather Bloomsbury bookmark, and a book by Ralph Partridge's wife, Frances, called "Love in Bloomsbury." Ralph was in love with Dora Carrington, who was in love with Lytton Strachey.

Got the #59 bus home and walked to the Ship, a nearby pub. I had a pint of cider and ordered fish and chips. Two families were sitting nearby, and I wished they'd either asked me to join them or I had had the nerve to ask them if I could sit with them. That's one of the hard part about my solo trips: No one to talk to.

Wrote out some postcards to my mom and friends while in the pub. It always seems odd to see kids in a pub. Also, there was a cat.

Back in my room, I talked to my husband on Skype. He, too, was feeling better, which I was glad to hear.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4634 posts

I'm glad you're back at your Trip Report! Life can get in the way, can't it? I love to re-read my TRs to remind myself of the fun things I did.

I'm also glad you enjoyed the Courtauld Gallery. I very much enjoyed my visit there a few years ago and liked that I didn't run in to much in the way of crowds so I could feel free to stop and examine the paintings that caught my eye.

I do tend to chat up people more when I am traveling solo. I had a really nice chat with an Aussie lady as we both sat in front of Constable's The Hay Wain but I know what you mean about needing someone to talk to once in a while. This last trip I met up with a RS forum member, her husband and her sister for dinner. She is a delight (well, they all were, lol) and I had a wonderful time! I also met up with someone else from the forum and did a day trip when I was in Paris. She was really interesting and fun to spend the day with. Next trip, keep an eye out on the forum for people that might be traveling at the same time and see about a meet up. I will tell you I am comfortable with this approach with RS forum members because it is a smaller group and most people have a posting history so they are familiar to me. I would not feel comfortable doing this with a random person off Trip Advisor, lol!!

Posted by themeadery
14 posts

Please post some more. As a Brit who rarely visits London and would never visit arty places. I am fascinated by your posts.

You mentioned that you weren't sure if terrorism was a problem 30 years ago. In the uk and London in particular it was due to the Irish IRA bombing campaign.... I won't go into the politics of that situation. There is the positive that it is almost completely solved now. And people like you who clearly love travel stopping doing so is just what these current terrorists want.