We flew to Baltimore on June 15 and were met by Evan at the airport. On the evening of June 18, we met Chloe and her family, Margaret, Susanna, Ron, and Chloe at Dulles International Airport. Here's the other family, Ian, Evan, Fiona, and Laura, and here are the happy travelers, Chloe, Fiona, Amelia, and Dick. Getting a little closer view of the excuse for the trip, Fiona and Chloe. We were soon on the way, and arrived at Heathrow Airport a bit early, before 10am the next morning.
After dropping our luggage at the hotel and having a bite to eat, we were soon on the bus toward central London. Along the way we saw modern Baker Street and the Baker Street Station, and the corner with Marylebone. They weren't too tired to ham it up a bit. First stop, a view (first of many) of Big Ben. After seeing the lines for the London Eye, we didn't pursue that any further. See tomorrow, though. Shortly, after remembering we didn't have a lot of sleep during the flight, we headed back to the hotel on the Underground, being careful to MIND THE GAP. After a rest we went to the Holly Bush pub in Hampstead. Here's a shot of the inside, and of chocolate mousse with strawberries.
Bright and early (well, relatively) we were out the door to the dreaded Underground (dreaded because it was rush hour, and crowded, but we wanted to get where we were going as soon as possible). We managed to get to the Tower of London in good time, and after finally figuring out how to trade our statement for prebought tickets for actual tickets (far longer than it would have taken to just buy tickets), we were going in and headed for the crown jewels. Here's where they are . No pictures of the CJ allowed, though. Fiona took a number of interesting pictures around the grounds:Before we left I got this picture of the Tower Bridge, and a construction project that looks almost like the Transamerica pyramid.
After leaving the Tower we got our "hop on/hop off" bus pass and proceeded to take the tour. Weather was mostly nice, but we did move inside during some drizzle.
Fiona took more pictures than I did, and here's few of hers:
Then it was on to the London Eye. We had prebought Fast-Pass tickets, and there was no line to pick them up. In fact, no line to just buy them on the spot. I'd suggest that is the thing to do, based on my experience. Long lines for the regular tickets, though. In less than 15 minutes, we approached the Eye and shortly thereafter we were aboard. Here's a shot of the mechanics, well, two, actually.
Views of and from the pod:We hot-footed it to the Westminster Undergound station, and hopped on the Jubilee back to Finchley Road Station and the hotel. Technically, we stopped to take a picture of Fiona spiked by Big Ben.
After a rest, caught a bus that would take us close to the resturant, but due to construction and rush hour, we bailed out on Baker Street and caught a taxi to the theatre district for dinner before going to see Mama Mia. There we met our AFS student of long ago, Hilde, and her niece, Maria. Fortunately, unlike me, becoming to old to take pictures (I forgot my camera), Fiona had hers. Here are Chloe and Fiona, and Maria, Hilde, Fiona, and Chloe, then Hilde with her host parents. Mama Mia was a big hit with all.
After a hard day shopping and saving up appetite, we grabbed a taxi to the Royal Horseguards Hotel for High Tea. We were joined by Hilde and Maria, and Chloe's sister Olivia, fresh in from Dublin. An aside here, Fiona liked this taxi, but it wasn't ours. The setup was wonderful. Here's a full view, along with Amelia, Olivia, Fiona, and Chloe. Then, add Hilde and Maria. In a short while, befitting the place settings and participants, the towers of goodies arrived. A single tower shown here. Hilde agreed to take a picture with me in it, so here it is (I'm on the right with five of my six escorts; or should that be, escortees?). Hilde and I swapped places. After a little more than two hours, we were full of tea and goodies, as you call tell. After, Maria got special attention from Fiona and me. I got this nice shot of Olivia and Chloe. Then, Maria and Hilde, and Olivia, Fiona, and Chloe, and Fiona and Chloe. We took a bus home (one going nearby went to near our hotel). Then quick, change clothes, and head back to town to go shopping. Underground, of course. Amelia opted out. But I went along as the banker, and Fiona, Chloe, and I met Maria and Hilde at Top Shop on Oxford Circus. Hilde and I met at the entrance to the Top Shop. It took a while and a cell phone call or two, but we finally figured out we were waiting at different entrances. Arg!! The gals shopped and shopped. I took a walk down Oxford Street, and back. On the way back, looking down an alley across from Top Shop, I noticed the full moon and a crane. With some manuevering around, I got this shot of the crane and moon at 6x, then with a small building for support, took this one at 24x. Store closed at 10pm, so then it was head for home on the Underground. Not too surprising, after such a day it was hard to sleep, or even get settled down.
After an early breakfast, I caught the Underground to Heathrow and then to Alamo Car Rental to pick up a vehicle. Long lines. But lots of agents working. I finally got the vehicle, a Vauxhall Zafira with around 750 miles on the odometer. Pretty nice small SUV type vehicle. After some fumbling around in Hampstead or thereabouts, I finally made it to the hotel. We loaded up and headed out west. Our plan was to go to Glastonbury. However, our Google directions took us a strange way, and we wandered around through hedgerows here and there. One thing for sure, no one could legitimately accuse the British government of overspending on road signage. Once one makes a wrong turn, one doesn't really know it, for there are no signs saying what road you are on, until, just perhaps, at the next intersection. Well, after touring some very scenic areas, seeing stone walls, and wind power, this tree tunnel, and lots of other scenery, we finally made it back to the M5. By then we were all very hungry, and I finally took an exit, hoping to find a place to eat something. We did, near Chudley, find the Highwayman's Haunt. Turned out to be very good. Satiated, we headed on to Cornwall. All went well until we took the wrong turn to the A390 off the A38 near Liskeard, heading the wrong direction. It was late, and dark, and we wandered around Liskeard without ever finding our way. We called Allison at the Bocaddon Holiday Cottages who tried to help. We were beyond that, I guess. Called again and she asked where we were. We told her. She graciously came a led us to the Cottages. Phew! What a day. Oh, and did I mention that they drive on the wrong side of the road (not that a lot of roads actually have two sides).
Sunday we didn't do too much. We did drive down to Looe. We saw some colorful houses on the hillside, seagulls, even up close and personal, lots of boats and East Looe across the river, the Viking Lady, a bridge along the shore road, the rocky seashore, and the ocean. We did partake of some Cornish Pasties for a late lunch. This was a day we mainly took it easy.
First a couple of shots around the Cottages. Pastoral scenes abound. Here is the hedgerow lane leading to the Cottages. Then a shot of the sign for the actual working farm, although the milk cow herd no longer is maintained. Here is a shot of our cottage Dairy Dell. Here's a bit better shot of our rental Vauxhall Zafira.
Chloe and Fiona made great use of the trampoline.I continued around the farm and got pictures of some foxglove and other flowers and greens, and finally, some productive elements of the farm. Early afternoon, and Chloe and Fiona went for some riding lessons (brief - English Saddles) and a trail ride. Here they are, happily back, and Fiona with her mount and Chloe with hers. A tough trail ride deserves some compensation, so they took to the hot tub (well, luke-warm tub, they corrected me), and the swimming pool complete with water guns.
A bit later we went to Fowey. There was a nice (but small) Readymoney Beach with a nice observation area where we could look out to sea and also keep an eye on the waders. A sailboat came by on its way up the inlet. From the quay downtown we could see the a sampling of boats and the cross river village of Polruan.
This was a very interesting day for us. We took the journey over to Port Isaac to see Cindy and Ian. Due to the fact that it probably would have been impossible to find their house (Port Isaac is small, but it is hilly and are the streets even marked? At the risk of just not having paid attention, I'm saying so), Cindy met us at a farm market a couple of miles out of town. We got there earlier than anticipated, so I strolled around while the others shopped. They have some nice areas for picknicking. They had a number of attractions for kids, such as a few wallabies. Lots of fields for farm produce. Cindy arrived and we followed her into Port Isaac. Well, actually Chloe and Fiona rode with Cindy in her Mini convertible, but I neglected to get a picture, for which I feel poorly. Well, I said I was too old to take pictures. Here is a view of some of Port Isaac, the brick house near center (not the big one) being Doc Martin's house. Walking down to the inlet I got pictures of these Jupiter's Beard, which puts ours to shame. I'm going to tack this picture on the fence close of ours to see if I can shame them a bit. Ha! Here's a shot of the inlet at low tide. Cars have floated away at high tide (see Doc Martin, first episode). We had lunch with Cindy and Ian at the Mote Bar and Restaurant at the "square" above the inlet. Here's Chloe and Fiona with Ian. Just up from the "square" toward Doc Martin's house is the location for Bert Large's restaurant. Not actually a restaurant at all. Looking back up the hill toward Cindy and Ian's ivy covered home. The Mote from near Doc Martin's house. We finally headed back to Cindy and Ian's house where we took a time delay picture of all of us. Finally a shot of Cindy with her Cancer Research bucket she used during a recent run and which Ian used to accept coin for pictures.
From Port Isaac we headed to Tintagel. While we didn't take the hike to the castle ruin, we did have a look around at the surrounding countryside and the inlet, nearby rock formations, some tourists. Fiona also got some nice pictures, one of a rock in the inlet, one of the hillside below the castle and part of trail up to it, and this one of the castle ruins backlighted by the sun. Then, it was head for home. Along the way we saw these cows enjoying the green fields, and near our Cottage, this train trestle that seemed reminiscent of Roman water ways (note that this picture proves I did not take it, being the only driver).
Our last full day in Cornwall. We decided to go back to Fowey to see more of the town and to take a boat ride on the River Fowey. First, we had to park some distance away and walk down a path to the dock area. Along the way, Fiona took this picture of flowers climbing on a wall. Along the way we saw Daphne Du Maurier's house with the bowsprit on the corner of her house. A relative still lives there. This is the car ferry from Bodinnick. Without the ferry it is about a 15 mile trip around the Fowey River. There is also a foot ferry from Polruan. Each ferry is (maybe) a couple hundred meters. Much of the sides of the river are rocky and steep. We saw the loading point for china clay (uh, no, they don't actually dig that deep for it, so it's not China clay). Cornwall is a major source for it. There are quite a few boats moored on the river, along with cows moored on the hillside. Fiona particularly liked the Calypso. The Coast Guard has a fairly new rescue boat based on the river. The castle looking building is actually a private residence. In the 1500s the French tended to be nasty to the Brits, so they built these towers on each side of the entrance to the river channel. When the French vessels came, they raised a heavy chain to they could not enter the river. Here is the beach Chloe and Fiona waded at earlier, from a different viewpoint. Here's a shot of what looks like some housing, but through the trees behind is the inspiration for Toad Hall, of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. Grahame was married in Fowey in 1899. Coming back to the quay, we saw a number of wooden boats that sail in a regatta regularly. Finally, swan.
After lunch in Fowey, we decided to go back to Looe. While the ladies went shopping and whatever, I went to the beach, where people were swimming and wading. This shot is back and away from the beach. Going back to the car, I took this shot of the main street in Looe, and Fiona took this one of a church. So ended our last full day in Cornwall.
Well, maybe not quite the end. Chloe and Fiona spent a couple of hours on the trampoline, coming in after 10pm.
Before we got away this morning, I took a few more pictures of the countryside. Three are around the surrounding area, followed by three around the yard of the Cottages.
Finally, here is the final picture of Chloe and Fiona enjoying their farm experience, looking at the chickens.
Then, on to Bath. We managed to find where we were going this time, and even parked not too far away. Fiona took this picture of the Bath River cascade (well, that's what I'm calling it). This domed ceiling is in the entrance area. Here's her picture of one of the many statues. Then there are Bath bath pictures.
Here's the Bath Abbey from the Roman Bath grounds. Here's four good looking folks in front of the pool:
Chloe and Fiona paid rapt attention to the explanation of Roman cosmetics.
After the bathworks, we had a late lunch before moving on. We went to Bill's . Among other things, Fiona had hot chocolate. Fiona and Chloe were in high spirits, as was Amelia. Then came the macaroni and cheese. Actually, all of the food was pretty good. Then, off to Heathrow, where we checked into the Holiday Inn and then I dropped off the car without mishap. We had an expensive light supper at the restaurant and called it a night.
Opting out of the 20 GBP breakfast at the hotel, we caught the free shuttle bus to Heathrow, checked in. Heading toward the security line, we were intercepted by a kind agent, who took us quite a ways to a line that had essentially no one in it, after which we found ourselves in the shopping area. We quickly located a restaurant where the girls and Amelia and I had breakfast. After, there was some shopping taken care of. Here's Harrod's, behind the London Bear.
After a flight that was largely uneventful, but taking back the time made up going over, and then some orbiting around Pennsylvania to wait out thunderstorms, we made it to Dulles. Then, having visited a farm, we were further delayed while our shoes were decontaminated (if they were contaminated) to satisfy the agricultural folks. More delay. Anyway, we finally got out and met Ron and Margaret, shown here with the happy returnees. Evan, Laura, and Ian were also there, but we didn't manage to get a picture of them.
It was a great trip, and one that all participants will long remember.Richard Franke