Thursday, July 31, 2014

London III - Alison Joins Us

July 22
Alison at the Baker
Street Station

Boy are we lucky travelers! Alison L., the exchange student from the Ukraine who lived with us in Charlotte over the 2012-2013 school year, came to London to spend some time with us.

Alison flew into Lutton airport last night but came it too late to get transportation into London. So she spent the night at the airport and met us at the Baker Street Underground Station around 7 A.M.. She had to be exhausted!

We haven't seen her for over a year and we have lots to catch up on, including her successes at law school.

Band returning to
Wellington Barracks
After taking her back to the flat for a short rest and to drop her bag, we walked across the Tower Bridge and then along the Thames toward Westminster Bridge. Then worked our way past the Horse Guards to Buckingham Palace, then to the Wellington Barracks, where we were lucky to see the band and guards returning from the changing of the guards at the Palace.

We had lunch at The Cask & Glass and then back to the flat. Later that evening we went back out near the flat and to show Alison how pretty it is at night.

July 23

Pat and Alison went to Camden Markets without me (I was not feeling well). Then also stopped at Daunt Books, another cool book store.

At Camden Markets Daunt Books

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fun with Coins - A Pound of London Fiddlybits*

As our time in London was quickly closing in on us all - Ray, Alison, and me - we started gathering up all the flotsam that accumulates around a busy vacation. We started looking through what we had set aside to take home and what we bought for souvenirs. I always take some of the local fiddlybits* home.

Alison and I noticed there were several variations of the British coins and were trying to find one of each kind. We then noticed that the newer minted coins had an odd asymmetrical design to each one, slightly off center and just odd. Alison looked it up on the Internet and sure enough the newer coins did have a planned design. See photo below...

 If you look at the top coin - the Pound coin - it has a shield on it. The rest of the denominations when arranged make up the same shield. Cool, huh? Being an appreciator (and a very small-time collector) of interesting coins I found this very fun. My packet of coins is in my Save pile and Alison took a packet home, too.

BTW, I think having a coin instead of a paper bill for the $1.00 or £1.00 is a great idea. Singapore also has a S$1.00 coin that is silver with a gold band around it. Very easy to spot.

* OK, what is a fiddlybit, you say? A castle tour guide in Northern Wales told us many years ago that her favorite word was fiddlybits which are all the little coins she collects in her pocket each day. All the small change that most people find hard to get rid of except for Ray who makes it a challenge to pay a bill with as many coins as possible. "Got rid of 7 coins that time" he'll say triumphantly.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Dale Chihuly in London

The Sun by Dale Chihuly
While wandering around London with Alison Litvinova, we ran across this sculpture in Berkeley Square! Totally unexpected!

As we approached the Square, I said to Pat and Alison: "That's a Chihuly" and it was. Can't believe it's outside in a public park, with no protection from the elements or from vandals. Amazing!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Clipper Round the World Race

Last Monday we got to see the Tour de France when it went through London. Today we got to see the parade of sailing boats that finished the Clipper Round the World race. The boats sailed up the Thames and, just before the Tower Bridge, entered St. Katherine Docks.

One of the prettiest was the Chinese boat...

On the Thames

Entering St. Katherine Dock

Friday, July 11, 2014

London I - Michelle and Patrick

At the end of our second day in London, Michelle and Patrick Payne joined us.

July 2

First pint after arriving
After a day visiting the British Library, doing three geocaches (including one at the BL) and having lunch and dinner, we met them at Heathrow at about 10 P.M.. They were late getting through immigration and customs, so when we stopped at the Liberty Bounds pub for a beer and something for them to eat, the pub kitchen was closed and all we could do was drink and have some crisps (chips in American). Patrick had a Truman Attaboy; Michelle and Pat, Weston's Old Rosie cider; me, Green King IPA.
July 3

Breakfast was at the Liberty Bounds, where Patrick and I had a traditional English breakfast.
Then it was off to the Tower of London.

Group selfie waiting to enter the Tower

Michelle with a Yeoman Warder

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Plans have changed

Plans have changed and Pat and I will be flying to Singapore from London at the end of July, rather than returning to North Carolina! This will leave the final packing to the kids, stuff that we thought we would be able to do the first week of August - but we will already be gone...

We will cancel our return ticket to Charlotte and get a flight to Singapore instead. We certainly need to be flexible in this family!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Just Arrived In London

[Note: This is an update for a posting that was originally done in July 2014 while we were in London, before coming to Singapore. I accidentally deleted the photos and now am re-posting a few articles.]

That is the Thames behind me!

Just arrived in our flat in London. Dumped our gear and headed out for lunch at the Town of Ramsgate Pub ( Fish 'n chips 'n a pint. The weather is beautiful right now.

Life is good!

We rented a nearby flat for the month of July, using AirBnb. The listing for the flat is at The flat is located a 10-15 minute walk from the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. You can see the location of the flat and the pub on the map below (click on it to see a larger version).

London around our flat near the Tower of London
We could see the Thames from our balcony and the Gherkin (a cool building in the City - see the pictures below) from our bedroom! We had one bedroom with a king-size bed and a living room with an Ikea couch that converted to another bed. There was a small table we used primarily for our laptops. The kitchen also housed a washing machine - the dryer was in the bedroom.

Probably the two worst things about the flat: (1) it was a walkup 3 flights which at the end of the day seemed like 10 floors; and (2) adjusting the shower to get warm water was a challenge. None the less, we loved the place and were very happy staying there. So much better than a hotel.

The Thames from our balcony

Looking down from the balcony