Monday, August 29, 2016

Oxford Adventures

These are notes that were originally posted on Facebook and I've copied and pasted them here for you to enjoy.  I've had trouble getting my computer online and have finally managed to connect.

 Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Left London today...back to Gatwick Airport to pick up our Enterprise rental....a much smaller car than last much easier to drive on these tiny slivers that they call roads.  We headed north around London and stopped near Reading to visit Grey's Court.  A country manor that dates back to the 11th century.  A nice break on our drive to Oxford where we finally arrived about 4 pm .    We are navigating using my cell phone and every time she says "rerouting"....we know we've missed a turn.   Street signs are almost none existent .

But we work together, hug the shrubs on the left side of the road and breathe a sigh of relief when we arrive.

We have four short flights of stairs to our garret  bedroom with a very.modern bathroom.  We've settled a/c or tv...but a view from the windows.  We do have a table which will make playing cards easier.  We're here for 9 nights.
Tomorrow we're walking to the Ashmolean. ..the oldest university museum in the world...per Mr. Jim.

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

It rained all night but we had a beautifully clear day until our hour long drive home at the end of the day in the rain and all on country roads.
Our day began at breakfast when we discovered that one of the neighbors on our block is none other than Desmond Morris...the author of "The Naked Ape" back in 1967....number one in the book sales then.  He is now 88 years old but still traveling and now painting.
Soon we were in the car and headed north west to the country manor known as Waddesdon Manor.  Built by a Rothschild in the 19th century to showcase his wealth when entertaining his guests; it appears as a French Chateau plucked out of the Lorie Valley and dropped in the middle of the English countryside.  Fabulous gardens and a very good aviary with unusual birds.  The wine cellar was filled with wine from their winery estates in France.
Our second country manor was half an hour further down the road and also is owned by another branch of the Rothschild family.  This one is still lived in by members of the family and we only toured in the downstairs living areas.  But this is a hunting lodge and English Tudor in style. We enjoyed this home as much if not more than Waddesdon .
We attempted to find Mentmore Towers which was less than five miles.  We actually saw the tops of the towers as we approached the area but as we got closer...we couldn't see anything.  We did find the gate but they told us that no one is allowed in.  This has been the location of many movies...including Batman for Bruce Wayne's home in Gotham City.  Oh well....back to Oxford where we walked to Summertown for a very fancy Chinese dinner.  About a mile down  the road.  Great day....stay tuned for tomorrow's adventure!

Friday, August 26th, 2016

We are enjoying our stay on Banbury Road in Oxford.  The photos are of our lodging for our 9 nights in this very old university town north of London.  We have 4 short flights of stairs to the condo.  Once inside we have the owners living quarters and the kitchen where she serves us breakfast and conversation each morning.  Then we have a steep curved set of stairs to our bedroom and bath.  I've also included some views from our windows.  We've discovered a tiny air conditioner that sits on the table and is cooler than a fan.  We've had some very warm days.  Fortunately the bugs are almost non existent so we have the windows open.  No screens which is extremely common in all of Europe.  Great place and walking distance to the city center and many restaurants.

Yesterday was another great adventure. We drove north to Northampton and then to Althorp; the home of Princess Diana as a child, and her final resting place. The estate is managed by her brother the 9th Earl of Spencer. The nineteenth generation of Spencers who have lived on this property for five hundred years. It was a long walk from the parking lot but a beautiful day full of sunshine. We had a one hour tour of the house with a young lady who was witty and knowledgeable about the history of the family and the house. Afterwards we walked around the lake to view the island in the middle where Diana was laid to rest and on the far side a visit to the memorial.
On the way out we stopped in the village attached to the estate and visited the very old church where the Spencers are buried. There was a son years ago who became a minister and was assigned to this church until he became a Catholic priest. His mother wore black for her remaining days as her child was the same as dead to her! The news is that he "may" be a saint someday.
From the church we headed back toward Oxford....passing the Silverstone Racetrack along the way. Continued past Oxford and stopped at the village of Bampton. Famous for being used as a location for the television series "Downton Abbey". The church is especially popular for weddings now and they were preparing it for one while we were there.
After two hours of driving I had one thing on my mind when we walked into the local pub....and the three gents at the bar caught me by surprise when they asked me for the name of my favorite song? Lots of fun and Jim stood back and watched. We ordered a pint of Guineas each....but it was only 5 pm and too early for food. I quickly asked where the facilities were before we sat down to enjoy our beer. One of the three men joined us and starting talking about his trip to Pebble Beach with his boss when they won several awards for the Royals Royce they'd restored. He owned 15 of his own cars....not royals Royce... that he loved telling us about. Also...the boss is a cousin of the movie star Ralph Fiennes.
We finally said goodbye and headed to the next village for some dinner and a second pint of Guineas and then very carefully drove the twenty miles back to Oxford. I decided to save the story for later and went to bed early.

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Today was going to be a day off for me but after breakfast we took the car out to add petrol. Found that most of the in town stations have disappeared and you have to go out on the highways. Once back to our lodgings I decided to walk to city center with Jim who was going back to the Ashmolean Museum. I left him there and continued down into the oldest section to visit Christ Church Cathedral. Once I'd arrived I knew that Jim would really love visiting it also so I walked back to the Museum and waited for him to finish. Then together we walked back and thoroughly enjoyed visiting one of the oldest buildings in Oxford. Built in the 12th century by Cardinal Wolsey, it is both one of the smallest Anglican Cathedrals in England but is also a college Chapel as it sits in the center Christ Church College. It sits along side the Thames River...very narrow at this point. We had an early rain...was not due until 4 pm....with lightening and thunder. The storm has continued on and off all afternoon. We managed to walk home between drops. We're planning to attend the 6:30 Mass at Black Fairs Church and are going to attempt to ride the bus at least one way. It is about a block before the Ashmolean Museum. Tomorrow is another day of driving as we're visiting Cambridge and then another manor just north of there.

A nice evening...Rain quit about 5 pm so we walked towards town to Black Friars Hall for 6:15 mass; Dominican priests said the mass in this permanent Hall that is part of the University of Oxford. We each walked over six miles today by the time we returned home after mass.
We found out from our hostess this afternoon that the main staircase of Christ Church College was used in the Harry Potter's film for the Hogwarts School and the dining room was the model...they recreated it as it would have been too difficult to remove all of the many paintings you saw on the walls in my photos. Thought some of you might be Harry Potter fans. We played a hand and foot card game this evening and Jim won for the second night in a row. It's called no television. But we enjoyed wine and chocolate as we played cards.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Links to photos for London

Hopefully this will take you to the photos that I've downloaded from our six days in London.

They are divided by days:

August 17th our first day:

August 18th, Hampton Court Palace:

August 19th, Buckingham Palace:

August 20th, Portobello Road & V&A Museum:

August 21st, Ben Franklin Home, The Shard:

This is a whole new system from Picasa and Google so I hope it works for you....


Three Days of adventures in London

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Rain and sunshine today. We left the house early today after sharing breakfast with a young couple who arrived last night from Australia and our Japanese lady who has stayed here for five years during her visits to London. We ventured to the famous Saturday Markets at Portobello Road. Walked out of the Underground to pouring rain!  We had fun finding all of film locations for the movie "Notting Hill".. some were easier than others but after the rain stopped we managed to find all three that were listed in the Rick Steves Tour Book.  There were two different shops, one used for the outside shots of the bookstore and the other for the interiors.  The "blue door" was used to indicate the home of Hugh Grant but the interiors were filmed in a studio.   We  passed on the sales up and down the road, but did enjoy walking inside several of the shops.  There was a good one on old maps but we have enough of those!  After getting instructions from the phone; we soon found ourselves on the bus to V&A Museum.  

We spent three hours wandering the massive exhibits.  One of my favorites hangs from the ceiling over the information desk as you walk into the main door; the Dale Chihuly chandelier.   There were rooms so full of china that it was in cabinets reaching to the ceiling of the tall rooms.  I looked and looked for a five fingered vase but couldn't find one.  Our friend Shari collects them and we always search the museums for one.  Generally, we find at least one.   One room was under restoration but we were able to look down into it from the higher floor and had a wonderful view of the Trajan's Column (split in half because of the height) and the "door of Glory" from the interior of St. James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.   Both recreations of the actual but wonderfully created.   

We rode the tube back to Victoria Station and then searched all over for Westminster Cathedral to check Mass times for tomorrow...we knew it was in the area as we'd seen it yesterday.  Finally rounded the right corner using our google maps and found it.  The area is under massive construction as they enlarge Victoria Station and very confusing.  After a short visit and a walk through the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy; we ended in the Willow Walk Pub for beer and then decided to also stay for dinner.   It never rained hard enough to open the umbrellas for the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 21st, 2016

Sunday morning breakfast then off to the bus in our Sunday best for the 10:30 am high mass at Westminster Cathedral (Catholic) not the abbey. Four priest, a beautiful organ and a cantor that sang the Latin like an angel.  Bus #24 took us from our front door to the door of the church!

Outside, after mass, we checked our planned route and went towards the bus....oops....suddenly we lost each other....I was waiting at the crosswalk and Jim was on the wrong bus. Thank goodness for texting! Afterwards we caught the bus 24 again and continued to Trafalgar Square. There we jumped off and walked the short block to the only remaining building in the world where Benjamin Franklin lived. He was there in late life for sixteen years, trying to negotiate an agreement regarding taxes between the colonies and Britain.  He worked on many of his discoveries while he lived there. This was our first use of our National Trust annual pass that we purchased before leaving home. It was a 40 minute tour that was informative and well executed.   Jim remembers that one of the first major exhibits when he became a docent for Bowers was a Benjamin Franklin exhibit.  He said the photo was for the girls at Bowers.

Back over to Trafalgar square and into the National Gallery for an hour and a half of museum time for Jim. I had fun shopping in the gift shop. Soon he was back, we shared our banana from breakfast and he went to find a trashcan. Suddenly a guard was bringing him back...he missed a small step and had fallen.  His knee hurt a bit but otherwise he seemed fine.  Embarrassed but not hurt, soon we were on our way to the Tube.   As we got on .... Jim tangled with a stroller and got caught in the closing doors....I was able to pull them apart and he got in.  As we got off several people stopped to ask if he was okay...that was nice!   That was the last mishap of the day. 

Soon we were at The Shard...located at Tower Bridge...95 stories high.  When we had dinner at Shakespeare's Pub on Friday evening, we met a nice young man named Damian,  who had been raised in Denver Colorado and returned home to England to attend Cambridge University.  He has stayed in England and he highly recommended we go to The Shard for a drink and enjoy the views.  Better than riding the London Eye, he said.  And, Jim doesn't like the slow pace of the Eye which does one loop stopping regularly for you to enjoy the views.   We went to the bar on floor 52 and enjoyed drinks, some food and a fantastic view. Pricey, but we'll worth it. No causal clothing allowed (we were in our Sunday best....I was a bit worried about the small backpack but they ignored it); and a minimum of 30 GBP per person in food and/or drink.  We probably should have asked for tea on the 32nd floor but were not sure of how to do that so followed the staff lead and went to the 52nd.   But we were very happy with our decision and Jim enjoyed a glass of beer with fois gras on toast and I had wine with a three cheese selection.  This was our dinner plus the cheeseburgers that we picked up at McDonalds on the way home!  We had a small table in the corner which gave us fantastic views in each direction.  Of course, my phone died as soon as we arrived!  It is also my camera.  Fortunately we each carry a small power pac to recharge when this happens.  So, I had to wait a bit but did take many great views of the Thames River, London Tower, City Hall, and the Tower Bridge which were below us along with the Lipstick building and many others.

And so we ended another great day and the rain began a block from home. And we passed Big Ben, Ten Downing Street and Westminster Abbey twice on our trips by bus today.  Took some nice photos from the moving bus for our memories.

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Today is a rest day.  Jim woke during the night and found that he could not put weight on his knee; yes the one that he'd fallen on at the Museum.  He put the knee brace on (we always travel with one and also a folding cane for these occasions), elevated it, took some Motrin and went back to sleep.

This morning Mario fixed him a tray for breakfast and carried it up the two flights of stairs for me.  I enjoyed breakfast with a young couple from Shanghai, China.   Their English was relatively good and they spoke beautiful French having lived in France for eight years.  He is in the design business and we talked about my hometown of Columbus, Indiana when he started talking about the architects of the various buildings they were visiting in London.  He seemed impressed?   They have yet to visit the United States.  Columbus is well known for having a number of buildings designed by many different famous architects.  

Today we'd planned to visit St. Paul's Cathedral, walk the Tower Bridge, visit the new city hall with the glass spiral walls, the British Museum, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.   They will have to wait for another trip.  Other than Parliament, I have toured all of the others before, a few would have been new for Jim.

Tomorrow we head back to Gatwick Airport to pickup our automobile and then drive to Oxford for our next home.  We will be there for nine nights as we explore the areas north of London that we want to see; many of them for the second time.   This will also include our day at Highclere Castle where they filmed Downton Abbey; the reason for this adventure!

Only a day of rest will tell how well Jim will walk.  We plan to attempt to walk to the Pub next door for dinner this evening.  So glad we have the wonderful window to look out at the trees and the sky from our bed today.  The prediction was for a day of rain...but the sun is shining brightly!  At our ages, a day off is not all that bad of an ideal!    I will attempt to download some of the photos to the computer and if successful, I will add a link for you on the blog. 

And so until next time.....

Friday, August 19, 2016


We're starting our third day here in London.  I've been posting daily on Facebook and if you have access you'll find lots of photos and news of our adventure every day.  It's easy to post on Facebook and the photos are already in my phone.  But for those who only have the computer for access to our trip; I promise to post every few days.

Today we're taking a late start as our tickets for Buckingham Palace begin at 1 pm; and Mr. Jim needs a rest up morning.  Expecting rain today but so far only a few light sprinkles.

This adventure began early last spring as we watched the final program of Downton may remember we tried to visit Highclere Castle where it was filmed in 2015 during our visit but only got as far as the locked gate.   After the show ended, Jim asked "if I'd like him to try to get some tickets?"  I said "sure" knowing that it was not a likely possibility.  Within fifteen minutes he was back to proudly announce that he had secured "TWO TICKETS FOR AUGUST 31ST" !  And so, our planning began for a summertime adventure in England.  Never realizing that we would be putting our home of twenty plus years on the market at the beginning of the summer!

We decided to stay within England, spend a week in London and then the balance of the stay in four additional locations:  Oxford, Salisbury, Brighton Beach and Leeds Castle; all within the southern part of England.  Using AirBnB we contracted with private parties to rent two different rooms with private baths and three private cottages.   We rented a car for the time after London.

Once the basics were taken care of, life continued in Yorba Linda.  Before leaving on a month long drive across the USA to Florida; we decided to put our home on the market when we returned.  If it didn't sell prior to our trip; we'd lock the door and go, deciding what to do when we returned from England.  We also started exploring places to move to as Jim wanted to keep a home in the general area.  We considered the mountains but didn't like the drive up the hill to Lake Arrowhead.  We fell in love with a new complex in Brea; only five miles from East Lake.  It is called La Floresta and is a complete development similar to East Lake.   When finished it will have attached and detached single family homes, condominiums, apartments and three areas for senior citizens along with a long term care facilities for the elderly.  Plus, a fabulous shopping center that is a level two block walk from our unit.  We are in escrow for completion in late February of a 1200 sq ft, single level on the third floor with a common elevator.  No Stairs!  They are called Stacked Flats.  Our first brand new home in 56 years of marriage.   Our house on the lake sold in July and closed escrow on August 10th.  We left for England on August 16th.   Our home away from home will be with Jim's sister Barbara in Newport Beach. 

We scheduled our travel with a new airlines called WOW Airlines; an Iceland company that just began flights out of LAX in June.  A basic, no frills airlines, but the price was fantastic.  Seating is all one class, no entertainment and you purchase any food or drinks you want.  It was eight hours to Iceland, all flights stop there; and another three hours to Gatwick Airport south of London.   We rather enjoyed the experience but will pack more food for the trip is very expensive on the airplane.

Arrived in England at 10 am ;and after a meal, where we shared a table with a gentleman from South Africia; we purchased our Oyster Pass (used for buses and trains) and took the train rather than the bus which would have required us to wait another two hours before leaving the airport.  Arrived in Victoria Station and caught the #24 Bus to our first rental.  Oops....the stop we needed was closed and we got out at the previous stop....had to walk for about a mile pulling our luggage.  The bus stop we wanted was directly in front of our unit!  Oh laid plans.  It was a very hot day and we were very happy when we located our lodgings with the assistance of the google maps on the cell phone.

Our cell phones are T-Mobile and the plan gives us unlimited data and texting plus twenty cents a minute for phone if on wifi.   This plan is no longer available we hear; but so far has worked in Europe for us beautifully for two years.  So nice not to deal with sim card changes.  I did notice that the screen on my phone has a major crack but it is under the glass cover and I can't feel it and it doesn't seem to affect the phone performance so have decided to wait until after the trip to get it replaced.  I found it the night before we were scheduled to leave.  So far so good.

Our first six nights in London are in a small private B&B in a private home.  Three in-suite rooms including a full English Breakfast each morning.  We are located on Grosvenor Road between the Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges on the River Thames.  The back of the house overlooks the river and that is where our beautiful room is located on the third floor...two flights of stairs...a bit noisy from the traffic but delightful for the view.  

We relaxed a bit on that first day and then after an early dinner at the King William IV Pub just two lots down; we walked down to the Chelsea Bridge and back before calling it a day.  We both had a bit of jet lag.  I'd slept well on the airplane but Jim had little sleep except for the final three hours.

August 18th:   Our first full day in London; after a filling English Breakfast...juice, coffee & chocolate for Jim, cereal, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast and if we wanted fruit or yogurt.   I took a banana with me and we were out the door to walk to the Tate Museum, about half a mile down the river.  Enjoyed the large collection of Turner paintings and many others.  Then off to the Vauxhall Train Station, a two block walk from the museum; where we caught the train for a half hour ride to the Hampton Court Palace on the Thames River.  

Jim was thrilled with the unexpected gallery of the Queens paintings within the palace.  She owns the largest private collection of paintings in the world and they are distributed in thirteen private and public residences for personal enjoyment and for the public enjoyment also.  We saw Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Van Dyke and other paintings by famous artists.  The rooms were restored and appeared very authentic.   This palace was originally built by Cardinal Woolsey and given to King Henry VIII when he showed envy of his castle.  Elizabeth I grew up in this palace.  The palace sits in a spacious park with fabulous gardens and trees that were trimmed to perfection shaped as cones.  There were fountains, waterways for boating, a fun park for children, a rose garden and a Maze which I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost inside of while Jim enjoyed a break sitting in the rose garden.   We also saw the inside tennis courts which are still enjoyed by royalty today.  

It was nearly five o'clock when we started our journey back to London.  We'd planned to take a boat back to town but had missed the only one that went directly to where we wanted to go.  So we got back on the train.  We discovered that we'd overstepped our limits on the Oyster card that we'd purchased as a zone one and two only, one week pass.  Oops...had to put a bit more money on the cards to cover the fact that we'd traveled to zone six!

Walking home we stopped at the Grosvenor Pub about four blocks from home for another delicious dinner.  Jim had a Sheppard's Pie and I had Beer Battered Fish & Chips also with a tall glass of lager beer.  We shared a brownie and ice cream for dessert before walking the rest of the way home.

In through the garden gate to be greeted by our hostess Carole who wanted to hear the details of our days adventure before we climbed the stairs to our beautiful room.

August 19th:   This morning it is raining lightly and we're preparing for our trip to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Tour scheduled to start at one o'clock.  We purchased our tickets before leaving home for this event that is only possible in August and September when the Queen is on vacation.  We're taking our umbrellas and catching the #24 bus to Victoria Station and will walk from there to the palace.  Hope you're enjoying our trip up to now.