London, Day 2

We rode this vintage double-decker bus on our Viator tour of haunted London.
We rode this vintage double-decker bus on our Viator tour of haunted London.

The second day of our vacation we had breakfast with a friend and then spent the day walking about. We visited Trafalgar Square and wandered down near the Thames to the south bank until late afternoon.

We had a tour to get to so we made our way across town to Victoria Station. We had to walk quickly — the appointed hour was catching up fast and we had blocks to go, and we arrived at the station a little out of breath and starving. Our afternoon ice cream treat’s calories had long since been burned off, so we “dined” on potato chips and water while waiting for the tour to start.

At seven o’clock we boarded a vintage double-decker bus for our Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Tour of Haunted London. We rode upstairs even though it was threatening to rain on us, and we did get a little wet but then the weather cleared up. The tour was interesting even though I knew some of the history, but actually seeing the places adds another dimension to the Jack the Ripper stories. Some of the old buildings are gone, but it’s still possible to get a good feel for the urban setting.

Last year I didn’t think I would be interested in this kind of a tour, but I’m glad we went. The bus ride was interesting in and of itself, but having someone point out landmarks was nice. The tour was mostly about the Ripper murders but our guide told us some other stories as well. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really feature except that it’s the name of a pub where the tour comes to an end.

We were going to visit the pub but by the end of the evening we were exhausted and still feeling the effects of jet lag, so we headed back to the hotel to relax and get ready for Saturday’s outing.

London Vacation, Day 1

Detail in the gates to the British Library, in case you couldn't guess where this photo was taken.
Detail in the gates to the British Library, in case you couldn’t guess where this photo was taken.

Okay, so I haven’t exactly been on the ball with writing my travel journal. I’m not sure what’s up with that but I guess I just have too many other projects going to be able to sit down and just relax with the writing. We arrived in London on Thursday morning, August 28 and got to our hotel a bit before check-in, so we dropped off our bags and walked up to the British Library. Our hotel was a serviced apartment at Cartwright Gardens, which turned out to be a really good location because it was close to Euston Road and the train stations.

Neither of us slept very long on the plane and by the time we arrived at the British Library it was probably around 1:00 p.m. local time, which would be 6:00 p.m. in Washington. Essentially we’d be up since seven-ish the previous morning with a few half-hour naps and I would say we were running on adrenaline. A half hour into the library tour it hit us just how tired we were, but we managed to look at some exhibits anyway. The Magna Carta was not on display but we did see the Gutenberg Bible, some Leonardo da Vinci drawings, and a piece of fabric from a Zeppelin, among other items. I would love to go back and get a reader’s card and disappear into the stacks for a few weeks!

We got a few souvenirs from the library museum store (I’ve got a neat London skyline ruler and some books – yes – imagine that!) and headed back to the hotel to check in, then I showered, got dressed in fresh clothes, and we both promptly sprawled on the bed and slept for about three hours. I didn’t want to “waste” the time sleeping since I was in tourist mode, but I have to say the nap was really necessary. Once we’d recharged we felt pretty good and went out to dinner at a pub and did a bit of walking before turning in for the night. I think the nap fended off jet lag because the next day I felt pretty normal.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 105

My latest crochet project.
My latest crochet project.

We’re well into fall and the leaves are already turning colors. I’ve been on a crochet kick lately and I’ve been making leaves from 100 Lace Flowers to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio. I have so many long-term projects on my desk right now that making a leaf or flower each day or a couple of times a week gives me a feeling that I’ve completed something. I also think I’m using the crochet as a way to focus my mind — a sort of creative meditation that helps me settle my thoughts and get down to work.

Since I’m inspired by the leaves, this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt will be, too. Wikipedia’s List of trees entry includes varieties of trees from around the world. Some of the trees have stories associated with them, such as the Guilty Chinese Scholartree in Jingshan Park, China, and the Queen Elizabeth Oak in Hertfordshire, England. Your task is to pick one of these trees with an ancient history and rewrite its story as a modern-day urban legend. The point-of-view and word count is up to you.

We’re Off to London

Vacation finally arrived! We set out on August 27 for London for just over two weeks of sightseeing and arrived home late on Thursday, September 11. That left three days to unpack and get ready to go back to work.

Usually vacation eve is an angst-ridden time, but somehow I managed to keep involved with my to-do list up until the last minute. I think it helped that we had an evening flight scheduled so there was no need to crawl out of bed at the crack of dawn and rush around trying to remember to pack all our stuff. On Tuesday I made sure all our paperwork and tickets were sorted and ready to go.

The seatback video system included a flight-path monitor that allowed us to see where we were. Take a look at the temperature!
The seatback video system included a flight-path monitor that allowed us to see where we were. Take a look at that temperature and pass me the hot chocolate!

I had pre-packed some clothes and cosmetics, so Wednesday we had a relaxed breakfast and then spent the morning packing our new, bright-orange suitcases. We left the house around noon and headed for Dulles airport. The Washington metro area can be ridiculous for traffic, so we headed out extra early and stopped for coffee en route. The problem is that you either end up having too much time to spend waiting, or else you risk getting stuck in traffic and worrying about getting to the airport on time. As it was, we arrived in plenty of time.  I’d booked offsite parking and it the shuttle bus got us to Dulles quickly. Security took less time than we thought and so we had a long wait for our flight.

I have a fear of heights and I was worried that I might have a panic attack on the plane, but once we boarded I was able to relax and watch movies. It was an overnight flight and our plane landed at Heathrow just before nine Thursday morning. The customs line was long but it moved quickly, and by 10:30 we were sipping huge coffees and just glad to figuratively be on our feet again.

Paddington Station, London.
Paddington Station, London.

The first day in England was mostly spent in transit. After our coffee we boarded the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station and from there took the Underground to Euston Station. We trundled our pumpkin-colored luggage out of the station and rolled it down the sidewalk, clack, clack, clack. Fortunately the hotel was a only few minutes away. We arrived before check-in, so we dropped off the luggage and headed to the British Library.