Friday, February 27, 2009

GRANADA..The Royal Chapel and The Alhambra

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It was a noisy night but beds were comfortable. Best thing is we’ve got a fantastic shower in our room. The last of the roommates turned out the lights about 6 am! But then we bothered them in the morning as we got up about 8 am.

This morning we walked to the Plaza Nueva and caught the bus up to the Alhambra to pick up our tickets for tomorrow morning and also get the lay of the land. Returning down the hill by bus we got off and starting walking the area. We headed towards a church, it was closed but we saw an interesting street and headed up the narrow alley. Before we knew it we were on a bridge that offered a great view of even another church further up and we continued to walk after stopping for some photo opportunities. We used the mini tripod for a joint photo and ended taking shots of three different couples before we meandered on up the hill.

Suddenly we looked to our right and discovered that we’d been slowly walking along the base of the Alhambra and we eventually reached a plaza with fantastic views from the base. Amazing what you can find without trying!

Leaving that area we stopped at an Alimentacion (grocery store) for some supplies and food to cook for ourselves at the Hostel tonight before heading back to the Hostel. Along the way we discovered the entrance to the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel.

Took advantage of the empty room when we returned and both showered and washed our hair…wonderful hot showers! Then we spent an hour looking for Mary’s suitcase keys that eventually were found where they were suppose to be: in her purse!

Walked to the Royal Chapel and found that it was closed for lunch; used the opportunity to walk all the way around the Cathedral…it’s really BIG. Did a lot of “window shopping” for things we’d like to buy but didn’t and then enjoyed the Royal Chapel; known as the Capilla Real. This lavish chapel holds the bodies of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, Philip and Juana their successors and also Isabel & Ferdinand’s son Michael. The main altar is one of the greatest Renaissance works in Spain.

We’re going to see if we can slip inside the Cathedral at 7:30 this evening for Mass. Otherwise it’s another fee.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Never made it to the Cathedral last night, maybe tonight; enjoyed the kids in our room part of the evening and then they headed out to enjoy the night life. One must remember that 2 am is like 10 pm to Americans so we tried to ignore the noise as the evening progressed. Everything quieted down about 2 am as they all had to leave early this morning. We were up about 7 am; ate a light breakfast downstairs (included in the package) and headed out to catch the bus to the Alhambra on the hill. It was so nice to know exactly where we were going this morning; one of the advantages of taking our time in each city is that we have time to scope things out the day before.

Arrived at the Alhambra just before opening; picked up our audio tour systems and arrived at the Palacio Nazaries (Moorish Palace) in time for our 9 am entry. This is the only building that has a required time to enter and after we completed that we spent the balance of our four hours touring both of the Museums housed In the Carlos V Palace, the Alcazaba (the original Moorish Fortress), the church and the extensive gardens.

The Lions around the base of the fountain in the Palacio Nazaries courtyard are now being restored and we only saw one of them in the Museum.

Mary agreed that this was worth the trouble to come to Granada for. The photos will also include one of the “National Bird”; slang for the large cranes found in all European cities; some graffiti that is almost modern art that is found on vacant walls everywhere and a photo of the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains (the original) that sit above Granada. One of our young friends here at the Hostel is leaving today with a very large backpack for a month of hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from village to village. He is from Florida. Also met a young man from Tokyo who is on a fifty five day tour around the world to celebrate his graduation before he starts his job; his last stop will be in Los Angeles. We’ve really had fun with these young people from around the world. You will also notice one photo of Mary that I took from the top of the tallest tower; she stayed behind and I climbed that one by myself and found a wonderful view of the Cathedral in the city far below. Hope you’re enjoying Granada with us. Tomorrow is a rest day and then on Sunday we go back to Madrid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Madrid, Tuesday Feb. 24th… Shrove Tuesday

 We ended up with 4 girls in our dorm room that also has a private bath inside of the room.  Both girls came in after us but were very quiet.  We both went up and showered early and called it a night well before 9 pm.

 Awoke about 8 am…we lost an hour when we came to Spain…but this is the only time change.  Breakfast at the Hostel, some computer time and then out for our daily adventure with maps in hand.  Our first goal was to find the bus station where we will catch our bus to Granada tomorrow.

 Down into the Metro we found a very friendly guard who told us where we had to go after giving us a Metro Map.  It was only one euro each way for this adventure.  We had to make one transfer; if we were thinking about using this method tomorrow…not a chance.  There are lots of up and down steps so we will definitely be taking a taxi.

 We found the bus station, looked around and discovered that it was the one we’d arrived at early Monday morning.  After much searching and asking for help we discovered the bus line we need and also where the tickets are purchased.  Then back on the Metro to return to the Anton Martin Metro Station where we’d started. 

 From there we had an easy walk to The Prado Museum where we spent several hours finding all of the different famous painting recommended by our Rick Steves Guide Book.   This was my third time there so it was fun to recognize them as we approached the different areas.  It’s a very large museum with over three thousand paintings and we did miles of walking!!!   The weather was very warm when we came out of the museum and it was a pleasant stroll back to the Hostel. 

 Wednesday, February 25, 2009

 Up early we caught the 10:30 am bus to Granada in the south east part of Spain.  It was a five and half hour drive with only one stop.  We saw many olive groves, one set of “Don Quoite” windmills, many solar panel farms; rolling plains and also mountains.  Actually saw snow covered mountains in one area.  Many crumbling deserted haciendas and large modern towns along the highway.

 Our Hostel is up a very narrow alleyway where cars cannot drive.  We walked the area and feel at home already.  One of our roommates is a college girl from Boston who is studying in France.  This is one of the oldest cities in Spain and definitely has a Moorish flavor everywhere from the architecture to the food.  They are cooking a common meal tonight, rice and vegetables in an electric wok the size of an automobile tire!  We walked and found a falafel for dinner in a quaint little shop just down the alley from our Hostel. 


Monday, February 23, 2009

SPAIN...Madrid whether we wanted to or not....

Monday, February 23, 2009 Madrid

Yes, I know…if you’re following our schedule we should be in Sevilla and then Tarifa for two nights. Well…as seasoned solo travelers know, the best of plans go astray sometimes.

Last night we read our bus ticket as 10:45 pm; it was military time: 20:45…and that’s 8:45 pm. We were only half an hour late as we’d arrived well ahead of schedule or so we thought. The next bus would be at 9:00 am on Monday. There was one last bus scheduled to leave: Madrid. This bus station is in the middle of nowhere and about the size of a small bedroom with only one bathroom that’s kept locked. So being good eggs we changed our ticket and boarded the bus to Madrid where we arrived somewhat worst for the wear about 7 am. No one spoke English that we could find so we went to the taxi line and took a cab to the Hostel that we were schedule to stay at on March 1st.

They are being great and giving us beds for two nights. Then we cancelled by email the reservations for Tarifa, Malaga and Cordova; and extended Granada one day on either end all by email within an hour and received confirmation back already. We’ve emailed the husbands to let them know of the changes as they’ve slept through our whole adventure. Modern technology does help. We have free wi-fi here at the Mad Hostel; that’s keeping us occupied until we can actually check in at 1 pm. Then we’re heading out to explore the town.

We got into our room….very tiny with two bunk beds but we are both on the bottom bunk which will be easier getting in and out of. So far we have one female roommate.
We’re on the third floor but there is a tiny elevator for luggage.

Walked all the way to the Palace; did the tour reading the Rick Steves’ book. Sad part was that only one of the five Stradivarius instruments that are 350 years old was on view. This is the only surviving matched set of four for a quartet: two violins, a viola, and a cello. There are only about 300 instruments made by Antonius Stradivarius in the world today. Princess Sophia loves classical music and these are used to perform for her and her guests.

After that we toured the Cathedral next door; see some of the photos that we were allowed to take inside.

Then we walked to the Plaza Mayor where people were performing for tourist, sitting on the stones on the plaza, eating at the restaurants, etc. Then on to the Puerta del Sol…the center of Spain. There is a metal plate in front of the Government building that states it is Kilo. Zero. All distances in Spain are measured from that spot.

Arrived back at the Hostel about 5 pm and will try to send this newest blog before showers and early to bed. Who knows what adventure tomorrow holds for us!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

LAST DAY IN PORTUGAL...Church & Museum

Sunday, February 22, 2009 Last day in Lisbon, Portugal

Some of the photos above: Mary in our Hostel...we've got some wild wall paintings! The alarm on Mary is one of the loud things if you pull the plug...thought we'd keep it handy. Many photos of church and museum. The kids are our roommates this morning at breakfast. Enjoy!

Dinner last night was a great group of thirteen of us around the kitchen table. Pedro made garlic soup, salad, lasagna and mixed fresh fruit for dessert. We were joined by a couple from Australia and also two friends of the cook along with all of our roommates. Really a fun evening meal that lasted nearly two hours.

We barely heard the roommates and French people returning from their evening outing after dinner. Slept through the night and other than hearing the showers running early in the morning; it was very quiet. Up for breakfast at 8:30 and then packed our things for storage during our last day in Lisboa.

Valter is back on duty this morning and I again told him how great Ines, the desk clerk yesterday, had been regarding our unfortunate incident. She again assured me at dinner that she would make a complaint for us on Monday and let us know the outcome by email. We’re not expecting any money back but maybe a reprimand to the officer who would not help us purchase a ticket.

We’d decided to walk to the Cathedral for mass at 11:30 this morning. Started early to see the inside and then realizing we still had a good half an hour before mass started so we decided to walk a block to St. Anthony du Padua to see if they had an earlier mass. When we arrived there we discovered that one was starting in a few minutes at 11:00 am.

The mass was very long…we think that the pastor read a letter from their archbishop asking for money after the homily. Arrived back at the Hostel about 12:30; stored a few things and then headed for the Metro Station.

We were riding a short distance to the San Sabastian station located near the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. It was a short walk but we soon discovered that the museum is comprised of several buildings scattered across a beautiful park. The museums are free every Sunday so there were many people in the various buildings of the museum. The first building was an exhibit of very modern art. The second building we found was an Art Library so we walked past that one. The third building was an exhibit on Darwin. Finally, the fourth building held their permanent exhibit of old masters along with eighteenth century furniture, sculptures by Rodin and a unique exhibit of jeweley and glass by Rene Lalique.

In all a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon; and as we walked it was warm enough to take off our coats. About 4 pm we were back at the Hostel and picked up a pizza to share for an early dinner. They are calling a cab for us about 9 pm to take us to the InterCentro Bus Station where we will catch a bus about 10:30 for an all night ride to Sevilla, Spain.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

LISBON: St. Jorge Tour & Belem

Friday, Feb. 20th Our visit to the St. Jorge Castle on the hill

Dinner last night was very lively: our three Romanian roommates and a couple that just arrived from South Korea. He is actually staying in our dorm room in the empty bunk. They are full up for the weekend with a large group from France that is here for a Seminar. Dinner was Watercress Soup, Salad and baked cod fish along with a tasty orange cake for dessert.

We were awake and ready for breakfast at 8:30 am this morning and that gave us time to do some computer work before starting our adventure for today.

We signed up for the free tour of the Castelo De Sao Jorge and the Alfama District that is offered by our Hostel. Tuesday’s tour had numbered nineteen so we were pleasantly surprised at our small group of only six people, two German couples. Everyone spoke English so we were spoiled again language wise!

First we caught the yellow trolley that took us up the hill towards the Castle and then we commenced our walk near the top. We stopped for a short visit with an artist who paints tiles. She gave us a demonstration while we watched.

From there we continued to walk uphill towards the castle. We thought that we would have wonderful views of the bridge across the bay but the bridge was encased in fog with only the very tippy tops showing. The fog did continue to dissipate and we could finally see the entire bridge before we left the top of the hill.

The castle goes back to the eighth century B.C. and is only a remnant of its former glory but was very interesting to tour; especially since we received the “senior rate” and got in free instead of paying five euros. I’m not quite sure if the policy has changed or we’re just being very fortunate because we’ve been receiving the benefits of being a “senior” everywhere even though we’re not members of the European Union.

After the tour we headed down many steps until we arrive at a small authentic Portuguese Restaurant named Restaurante Martima Das Colunas. We started with a wine, cheese and bread before ordering our food based on our guide Vanasa’s recommendations. Mary agreed to share a dish with me: I ordered the Octopus, she cringed but stayed with the program and actually agreed that she enjoyed the meal. Normally I’m served slices of tentacles; this was a whole small octopus and extremely tender and very tasty. It was served with onion and small potatoes. Our dessert was cream brulee.

We walked with the guide all the way back to the Hostel and after storing our backpacks we headed out for the Metro to purchase our tickets for our bus ride to Sevilla on Sunday night. We’ve discovered that we will save half a euro each time we purchase a ticket if we hand them our green card that is renewable. Always learning something new!

Returning to the Hostel, Mary and I got on the Skype and each talked to our husbands and then she talked with sister Betty on Skype while I talked with Shirley, our fourth sister, on my Skype. Then we headed upstairs as I think I tuckered her out today. She is already fast asleep and it’s only 9 pm. The young crowd has headed out for some dinner and fun but we both feel that it will do us good to pass on dinner tonight. We had our levis washed with our other laundry and they are TIGHT!

Saturday, February 21, 2009 Trip to Belem

Stayed in bed while listening to the large French group get up and go on their way for the day. Then we ventured out for our breakfast about 8:30 am. By 11 we were out the door on our way to Belem; a short tram ride up the coast to see the large ship shaped monument celebrating the fact that for more than a century Portuguese ships left from Belem in search of new worlds.

On the plaza just in front of the monument is a large map of the world showing the dates of all the major discoveries made by ships that left from Belem.

We reached the tram area and found many people waiting, most had a day ticket but others like us planned to purchase their ticket on the tram. We jumped on and headed for the machine to purchase our tickets as the tram started out. I couldn’t get the machine to accept my coins so I made my way to the front to ask for help. When we asked for help, with money in hand…the ticket was 1.40 euro….the conductor told us we were being arrested for riding without a ticket! When I tried to explain that the machine was not working he would not listen to us. He said we had to pay him the fine for one person of 113 euros or else he would take us to the police. We chose the police…big mistake; they did absolutely nothing to help us and stood there and watched as they demanded that we now pay 113 euros each or agreed to appear Monday (after we are gone) and possibly be fined 250 euros each and we’d need a lawyer to go to court. We asked where we could find their offices and of course they are closed until Monday!

By this time we were “royally screwed” and so we paid the 113 euros each and started walking back towards our Hostel. After a half hour of walking I finally convinced Mary to get on a tram going back toward the Hostel but only if I could get one where the entry was where the driver was seated and only if he took our money. Finally found one that would. We reached the Hostel and relayed our sad tale to the clerk who said something similar had happened to her in Spain. She was very sorry but didn’t feel that we would have much of a case. She was very sorry that the conductor would not check the machine for us. She did make a photocopy of our very expensive souvenir from Portugal…the copy of the arrest report…and said she would file a complaint with the proper authorities.

I finally convinced Mary to leave the Hostel and go to Belem again. This time we found the kiosk that sold tickets before we got on the tram. It was only about a fifteen minute ride and we walked to the different sites for photos before heading back to the Hostel for the day. Arrived about 4 pm and signed up for dinner at the Hostel tonight. Only way to look at this experience is that it was a good lesson and definitely a journal entry!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

LISBON Portugal: Fatima & Sintra

I sent out the full journal to date; if you’re interested in that and didn’t receive it let me know and I’ll add you to the list.  It was about 13 pages with no photos; I attached it as a document to download.

We arrived by airplane on Tuesday morning in Lisbon, Portugal about ten in the morning and settled into The Lisbon Lounge Youth Hostel in the center of the old downtown only a few blocks from the waterfront just before noon.  It is only a few years old and very nice.  Mary and I are in a mixed dorm of six on the third floor; we decided to take out what we need and leave the large suitcases in the luggage room.  Since we were awake most of the night we decided to spend the day here at the Hostel working on our computers and relaxing.  We did eventually go out about 7 pm for a stroll around the area and a view of the beautiful bridge that stretches across the bay; it looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  We ate dinner at the Hostel with six others for a very reasonable price and also really got to know some of the people staying here.  Mary and I are the only ones over 40 years of age so it’s a young group.  We have guests from Japan, Morocco, Australia, Romania, Ireland and Great Britain.    

On Wednesday we enjoyed breakfast and then headed for the Metro to the Bus Station where we traveled by bus for an hour and a half to the Catholic Shrine of Fatima.  We spent two hours touring the site that stretches for about four city blocks from the old Basilica to the new conference center at the far end.  That building has several halls, one of which will seat over 2500 people for Mass.  The esplanade can hold a million people and is twice the size of St. Peter’s Square in Rome.   Millions of people visit this site every year that was made famous by the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917 to three small children. 

Arrived back in Lisbon and visited the church built on the birthplace of St. Anthonio of Padua who is the patron saint of finding lost things.  We stayed for the Mass that was in progress as we arrived. 

 Dinner was a toasted sandwich and then we enjoyed the evening in the Hostel with all of our new found friends.  They all get a kick out of the traveling grandmas!  By moving our webcam around we were able to show our husbands how nice this place is when we talked to them on Skype this evening. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This morning we left for the train to Sintra about 9 am.  Found it without too many problems saw a grocery store along the way and stopped to purchase bananas and some yogurt drinks for later.  The train took about an hour and we were soon in the beautiful mountain town of Sintra; the place the royal families used for centuries to get away from the hot summer weather in Lisbon.  We walked to the Palace National from the train station; a slight slope that took about twenty minutes.  There we discovered that this was closed for renovations.   We then found Bus # 434 that does a circular route from the train station to all of the palaces and back.  We got off at the wrong stop on the mountain and the girl said we could either wait for the next bus or walk the short five minute walk of about two hundred meters…we walked….big mistake.  But we did eventually get up the hill and enjoyed the Palace of Pena; the summer home (a former Monastery) for the royals until early in the 20th Century.  

You’ll note in the photos I have a case of hives today…I think an allergic reaction to too much citrus acid in the Airborne we’ve been taking frequently for cold prevention.  Hopefully that will be much improved by tomorrow.   Only on my face and one hand so have ruled out bug bites. 

 Arrived back in Lisbon and our Hostel about 4 pm and now we’re in for the night; eating dinner here with the other guests.


Monday, February 16, 2009


February 15, 2009

I forgot to tell you that “Mind The Gap” referred to the statement that is given over and over on the loudspeakers at the Underground and train stations because of the gap between the car and the platform!

“Over…Over..Over” refers to what Mary told me every few minutes while I was driving today to keep me from hitting the curbs and/or other cars as I gingerly drove on the left side of the road!

We were awake at 6 am this morning and after enjoying an English breakfast we caught the bus to Heathrow Airport. Arrived there at 9 am and picked up our luggage and headed by shuttle bus to the car park to pick up our rental car. I decided not to tackle the manual shift and upgraded to an automatic; a wise decision we found out! We saw a bit more of the airport than necessary but finally found the correct road to M25 and soon we were on the M40 headed north towards Stratford Upon Avon. Weather is clear and sun is out but there is still snow on the fields here and there from the recent weather.

We arrived at our Youth Hostel outside of Stratford Upon Avon in about two hours; checked in and then headed out to find Warwick Castle; a few villages over. Located parking just outside the entrance and enjoyed all of the various activities and tours available in the castle for the next two hours. Mary even agreed to climb the 530 steep steps to go up the tower and around the ramparts. She slipped coming down but caught herself and only stubbed her toe (she’s wearing sandals with three pairs of socks) and landed on her derriere! She’s fine but a reminder to us to go slow! She’s very good about always holding the rails but this was a step without a rail, dark, narrow and twisting similar to bell tower steps! But she was still glad that she made the climb with me.

This castle is one of the few that allows visitors to take photos inside. The state apartments depict a Royal Weekend Party in 1898; the wax manikins are very lifelike and are modeled after real people who attended the party hosted by Lady Warwick in honor of the Duke of Wales. A young (age 23) Winston Spenser Churchill is in attendance. It makes for a fun exhibit.

Arrived back at the Hostel about 4:30 pm; selected our bunk beds and made our beds. We each have a bottom bunk and clean sheets are provided for us to make up our beds with…that way we know they are clean. We have three bunk beds in our room so shouldn’t be too noisy. The price is great compared to our previous rooms, about half the price. London was 50£, the B&B was 65£ including breakfast and this is 37£ including breakfast. They also have a restaurant here and we were able to purchase dinner of Warwickshire Beef Stew for only 7£. We thought we’d have free wireless Internet but there is a few of 5£ so we decided to call Phil and have him email Jim that we’d arrived safely.

Right now we’re both in the common room with families with children…yes…it’s noisy…typing on our computers and preparing journals for the next wireless adventure. We may have a chance at the airport tomorrow night.

Tomorrow we’re spending the day touring Stratford Upon Avon; the birthplace of William Shakespeare and also where he spent his final days. We’re doing the bus tour, house tours and then tomorrow night we have tickets for a Shakespeare Play, “The Tempest” before departing for Heathrow Airport and our “four hour Hotel called a Yotel” that is located in Terminal Four. Our flight to Portugal leaves early Tuesday morning.

Monday evening…we spent the day exploring Stratford Upon Avon. Rode the on and off bus and did three of the Shakespeare houses. Ate dessert at The Dirty Duck and saw the Shakespeare play: “The Tempest”. A very full day and then a two hour drive back to Hearthrow Airport at night. We’re going in for a couple of hours of sleep in our Yotel.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 14, 2009
Remember, you can make the photos larger by clicking on them....

Friday was spent posting a blog and photos at MacDonald’s with our breakfast before packing our bags and heading out to our new lodgings. We were awakened by the wailing of a siren hurtling down our street at 6 am; so we were off to an early start.

We discovered how to ride the bus to Paddington Train Station where we caught a train to Heathrow. There we checked our two large suitcases for the next two days before catching the bus # 285 to Hanworth located outside of Feltham, about thirty minutes by bus from Heathrow. The process took three hours! But, we arrived and found our B&B: Heathrow House; across from the Horse & Groom Pub. Very nice five bedroom home with two shared bathrooms, all recently redecorated.

Dropped our bags and headed by bus to the Feltham Train Station where we purchased round trip tickets for the twenty minute train ride to Windsor Castle. The weather has warmed a few degrees and though there are black clouds chasing us we had nary a drop of rain all day. Windsor Castle has truly been completely restored to all its glory since the fires in the early 1990’s. We were one of very few visitors as we strolled around with our free audio guides telling us the history of the items in each of the rooms, including where there was fire damage and how it was repaired. We visited Queen Mary’s Doll house, The State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel where ten reigning sovereigns are now buried.

Back on the train and headed to our B&B; we stopped at the Subway across from the bus stop and purchased Subway Salads for dinner. Just like a sandwich but without the bread. Very tasty and plenty of vegetables; something we haven’t had much of on the trip. We told the Innkeeper that we wanted breakfast at 9 am so that we could sleep in and sleep in we did; awoke about 8:30 am. Good to be in the countryside without the traffic noise.

We enjoyed a full English breakfast that is included in our room price of 65£ per night this morning. We had beans, eggs, toast, bacon and a banger with coffee! Then back to our rooms for a day of computer work. The proprietor has generously given us a passcode to use his wireless Internet right here at the house! So good to be able to sit in our rooms and use the Internet and Skype! My telephone service on Skype is also working beautifully so we’ve been able to call and talk to many friends and family. Hope to do this regularly along the trip when possible instead of sending postcards! The fee is only ten dollars a month to be able to connect so it’s truly a fabulous plus for us on this trip. We do have cell phones when the Internet is not available but that is an expensive proposition.

Since this is going to be a “day of rest” we will probably only venture out to get another Subway Salad or if we’re adventurous we may go see what the Horse & Groom Pub has to offer. Enjoyed our chat; hope that you are also enjoying them from your armchair.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


February 10th - 11th - 12th

Our trip across the pond was rather uneventful except when the flight attendants threatened to turn the plane around and arrest the man seated in front of me if he didn’t give them the large open bottle of vodka that he had brought on board with him. Both Mary and I were very good about wearing our surgical face mask; easy to do when everyone around you is coughing and sneezing. It also provided us with moisture in the dry air. The attendants said they thought we were very smart in using them.

We arrived in London after an eight hour flight about 10 am. We were both a bit sleep deprived but in surprisingly good shape. It was about 1 pm by the time we purchased our London Pass, used the ATM and traveled by train and then Underground Tube to our hotel located near the British Museum. The Underground proved to be a real problem with the two large suitcases plus our hand luggage and too many trips up and down stairs without escalators. Most of the time we’d be given assistance by a willing gentlemen and that helped but we were both exhausted by the time we arrive. On street level the bags are not a problem; just the lifting of them and there was no way to do them one at a time in the crowded stairwells of the Underground.

Checked into the hotel and found our twin bedded room on the second floor. It is a narrow room but in very good condition with a clean bathroom and shower just doors away down the hall. Soon we were off to see London!

Traveling by the Underground we arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral just as it started to sprinkle. We’d brought along our rain ponchos so we were prepared. We hopped on the Tube again for a ride to Westminster Station to visit Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and we walked across the Westminster Bridge to the south side and the London Eye.

What a spectacular experience. It is a large glass pod (possibly heavy plastic) that holds about a dozen people. Like the one in Vienna that was used in the old movie “The Third Man Theme”, it moves in a slow continuous circle that allows loading and unloading of passengers without actually stopping. You are only on for one revolution; but what a view we had of London at sunset from the top of the wheel. It was raining but that only added to the experience. Soon we were back down to earth and with rain gear on headed for the Waterloo Station for our ride home on the Underground Tube.

Feeling very confident when we arrived at the Tottenham Court Station we went up stairs and soon discovered I’d lost my bearings. It was pouring raindrops and I was completely lost; and I’d done so good earlier in the day finding the hotel from the Tube with absolutely no problems. There are three exits and we’d taken a different one tonight. We went around in circles; finding a MacDonald’s with free wireless Internet, the Starbucks and then finally after a good twenty minutes…our route to the hotel. There we changed our wet socks and then walked around the corner to a Fish & Chips Restaurant to enjoy our one big meal in London. Finally hit the hay about 9 pm.

Thursday morning we were awake by 5 am and decided to walk to MacDonald’s with the computers to try out the Internet and get some breakfast. Both worked fine. By 8 am we were headed out for the Tower of London Tour. It’s cold but dry; so cold the puddles have ice on them and we occasionally saw small piles of snow! We were the first ones into the Towers so enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the exhibits before walking over to tour the Tower Bridge. Then we walked along the Queen’s Walk all the way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for an hour tour of the reconstructed copy of the original playhouse.

By 1 pm we were on our way by the Tube to Kensington Palace to begin our “Princess Diana Tour”. We toured the palace and then walked through Hyde Park to see her Water Memorial; a very moving experience. It is a circular waterway with different features representing different periods of her life. Still walking we made a short visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum before entering Harrods for the final stop of our tour to see the statutes.

By the time we left it was snowing and by the time we’d arrived at Tottenham Station it was really snowing but we continued to the British Museum for a short visit before completing our day about 6 pm. A very long day spent mostly walking in London!  

A quick dinner at MacDonald’s gave us Internet time and we were both able to use Skype to talk to the husbands by webcam. It really does work. Hope you’ve enjoyed sharing our first two days in London.

My sister Mary has a blogspot also with more photos of me and her version of our story.

Check her out at:

For those that signed up with me, I will be emailing the full version of our story in London when we arrive in Portugal....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family Reunion in Florida

Hard to believe that in less than 48 hours we'll be on our way to London.  The past five days have flown with working on computers for relatives, dinners with extended family and friends along with fun events.  It's been a mini reunion with my brother and sisters here in Florida.  My brother has been visiting since Christmas from Indiana; two sisters live here and another flew in from Indiana for the week.  Our first gathering in three years.

We've played cards, bingo and had fun at the annual Trash and Treasure event at the clubhouse.  Amazing what you can find for a dollar!  The weather has been on the cold side...actually 32 degrees one morning...but we put it to good use by taking a walk in our "London clothes" to see if we'd be warm enough.  You've heard they had snow there last week!  
Friday night we attended a "Stimulus Home Party" to provide feedback for the government on what our thoughts and problems are these days.   A group of about 25 people from all across the nation from California to New York and Canada to Florida!  
This afternoon we enjoyed a visit with old friends from Indiana, Dave & Jan; who drove up from Venice to see us.  Tomorrow we'll get our hair cut, do the laundry and spend some quality time with Mary's husband Phil before leaving on Tuesday afternoon.