I call for the car service. He's arguing that I need to be at the airport two hours before the flight. No way! I arrange to be picked up 1 hour and 55 minutes before the 9:10 PM flight.
There is a lot of evening traffic. More than I usually see on my way to JFK. It takes 40 minutes to get there. There are no self boarding passes for Europe. But there is only a two minute wait to check in.
At the gate I try to get an exit row seat. On American Airlines only Elite Club members can reserve them. She says I'm first if one of them doesn't check in. They all do, so she offers me a bulkhead seat. I decline. I like having my handbag in front of me.
I get on the plane. I learn that on AA 777s there is a box on the floor in front of the window seats and they have no leg room at all! I make my way to the front of the plane. One of the attendants calls the desk and gets me that bulkhead aisle seat. There are five seats in the middle section, and two Scottish couples had the four other seats. They were returning from a holiday in Boston and NYC.
Dinner comes. There is no gluten-free meal for me. Instead they have a vegetarian one. I take a chicken meal, but all I can eat safely is the salad. One of the women in the group next to me does get her gluten-free meal.
I try to sleep. I have my inflatable neck pillow, eye shades, and ear plugs. Despite being able to stick my legs out as much as I want they are restless. I can only hold them still for 15 seconds before they ache and want to twitch. I never sleep on my back, much less sleep in a chair.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
We made better time than the pilot thought. I'm in no rush. If I get the car too early I'll have to return it too early when I get back to London.
The breakfast is a snack pack, with only the raisins I could eat. Instead I eat a couple of the Larabars that I brought.
We end up spending time in a holding pattern, so no early arrival.
I find Avis. I check in. This becomes the time that I have to get the car back. Plus the 55 minute grace period. But by the time the bus takes me to the lot and I get the car I've lost more than a half hour. (Next time I'll check in at the lot and I'll gain 20 minutes.) I learned that the Avis in London Earl's Court has moved. This is a surprise to the woman behind the counter. We find on a map where the new location is: only a few blocks away. She explains how to get to Oxford.
I head out. I get lost once. I pull over and a fellow in a parked truck sets me back on track.
I follow the signs to Oxford. I had planned on going below it and start visiting towns south of it. But I was sent on M40 instead of M4. Approaching Oxford I figure I may as well visit it now. Everybody encourages you to use the Park and Rides. So I pull into the one I pass. It is entirely full. And if a car pulled out one of the many cars driving around would grab it first.
I drive on. I'm not off to a good start. The countryside lacks any green, except for the non-deciduous trees. And it's all motor way, so I can't stop to navigate, and if I miss a turn it is tough luck.
I get to Witney. I find the parking lot. I head right for the tourism info to get a Cotswold map. I need one that has more than just the highways. I learn where the Indian restaurants are. I walk into the first one: The Curry Paradise. It is rather fancy, but they have a £5.95 lunch special. I order it. The soup is very small. And for the main course there were only three small pieces of chicken and a small wedge of tomato. I've never been served so small a meal! I complain on my way out. The proprietor argues that what do I expect for £5.95, and is yelling at me from the door as I walk away.
I walk a ways and cross the street. I stop in another Indian (actually Bangladesh) restaurant to lament that I didn't find his place first. I ask him where the antique dealers are. He tells me Corn Street, which is off of High Street. I head there. I stop in the first one, W.R. Harvey & Company, and chat a while. There are four antique dealers, but only two focusing on the 18th century furniture I'm looking for. W.R. Harvey had a lovely chest on chest and longcase clock. But they were much more than I was planning to spend on this trip. I visit two more of the dealers, Witney Antiques and Greenway Antiques, the fourth being closed.
I find the town square and church. I return to my car and read my Lonely Planet guide. It mentions Blanket Hall dominating High Street. So I go back. I find the Corn Exchange, which I'd seen before. I ask some kids taking a survey. They didn't know, but pointed out their teacher. He didn't know either. Oh well, so I headed on. Now having a decent map I was able to take the back roads to Burford (where I'm staying).
Along the way I stopped at Minster Lovell. I found some very nice ruins from a 15th c manor house, called Minster Lovel Hall. I drove through Asthall, a scenic village. Being a village the only thing commercial is a pub or two. I then took a detour to Swinbrook, another village listed as scenic on the map. I then followed the scenic trail to Burford.
Arriving in Burford I parked in the first spot I saw. These towns are best seen walking. I found The Highway and checked in. I then found the antique shops. Only two focused on the 18th c quality furniture that I seek. At Swan Gallery he had a lovely typical style bedside commode. I got a picture and some notes. At Jonathan Fyson she had non-traditional bedside tables, and said she had a traditional one coming in. She says she'll e-mail me a picture. (She never did.)
At her suggestion I wandered down to the medieval bridge. Then I wandered around the Church of St. John. I couldn't go in, as they were renovating the lighting.
I made it back to my room. Reading The Highway's guide for guests I learn where the tourism information is. And I see that they are open until 5:30. It is past 5:00, so I gamble that they are still open until 5:30 in low season. They are. I chat with the two women and buy some bicycle maps for when I visit again. Then back to my room. It's still light, but getting rather cold and I'm getting tired. I write these notes. It becomes after 6:00, so I can go out and get dinner.
I head to Aziz for dinner. He asks if I want pappadum. I ask if it is included. He does not answer. (It wasn't.) He brings it. All in all dinner was very nice. Rather large portions for only 50% more than lunch. I return to The Highway and chat with the proprietor. I ask about the sale signs out front. They've sold the place. Their needlecraft shop will be reverting back to a bar and restaurant. They have another shop 10 miles away they will keep. I head to bed.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
I have two sleeps. 8-2 and 2-7. Maybe now I'm on England time? I go take a shower. The person before me didn't figure out how the shower curtain worked. The floor was soaked.
It is cold out. Forecast was -4° C for the nighttime low. I go down for breakfast at 8:00. No other guests around. But there are no vacancies. Still when I finished at 8:30 no other guests have come down. This is a late crowd here.
I head out. It is up to 34° F. I head towards Chipping Norton. I walked around. I found The Parish Church of St. Mary, but a service was taking place. I found a couple of antique dealers, with only Key Antiques memorable. I then headed towards Moreton-in-Marsh, with a detour past Chastleton House. It was not yet open for the season, plus it is only open in the afternoons.
After Moreton I headed towards Bourton-on-the-Hill. I missed the Bourton House, and after directions from a gas station I went back and found it. I was aware that it wasn't yet open for the season, but the entrance was open and I thought I could look around. Nope. I got a real nasty look from a fellow. The house is never open, and it is the grounds that is open, but not until April. And then they charge a fee. I quickly left.
I followed the scenic trail towards Blockley. [See the Page 1, Page 2 links for old photographs.] In Blockley I stopped, took a picture of the Parish Church, walked around, and headed on. Like many of the scenic villages, there are almost no commercial establishments; which increases its quaintness.
I headed to Chipping Campden. I found the antique shops. It was lunch time, but there were no Indian restaurants in the town. So I decided to head to Broadway to see what they have.
Along the way I made a detour to the Broadway Tower. The lovely scenic views were marred by a heavy haze. I didn't even try to take a picture. The tower itself wasn't yet open. I was a week too early. I chatted with a Welsh couple who were staying in Broadway. They had the Ordinance Survey map and were also walking the paths. I forgot to take a picture of the tower until I was starting to drive away. As it is a long walk in a round about way to get back, I settled for a picture of it in the sun's shadow.
I reached Broadway. One pound gave me two hours of parking. I found the one Indian restaurant, but it wasn't open for lunch. This is what the Welsh couple suspected. (I later learned that it may be open for lunch in high season.) I looked at the other restaurants. Offerings were like sandwiches, pies, and lasagna. At one place they had fries, but he couldn't guarantee that someone else hadn't contaminated the oil with something with wheat. So I headed towards my car to eat the two Larabars I had. As the breakfast was huge, I didn't really need lunch. By the car park I passed Foxy Brown's. I decided to give them a try. While it was mostly a pastry shop, they did have meat chili over fried jacket potatoes. Nothing else gets fried. It was a very nice lunch for a reasonable price.
I had now spent one hour getting lunch. That left me one hour for antique shopping. There are only three dealers with furniture. This town is mostly into selling artwork. The first dealer, H.W. Keil Limited, did not respond to his bell. The second dealer, Fenwick and Fenwick, had two tables I liked. We chatted a while, including about the first dealer. Apparently the family has so much money (been selling antiques since 1932) that they put in little effort to sell it.
I go to the third dealer: Stephen Cook Antiques. It was closed. I return to the first. This time he responds. I look around. They did have a couple of 18th c bedside commodes, but I thought they were overpriced.
I got back to my car just as my two hours were up. It was now 4:07. In most places the shops are open until 5:30. I figured I could take a scenic route through Ford to Stow-on-the-Wold, and have some time to see the shops. I arrived in Stow a couple minutes before 5:00. Almost all shops here close at 5:00. And there are more shops here than any other place in the Cotswolds! I walked around. I did find a few shops open. One, Keith Hockin Antiques, is into early oak. I'm not. Another, Baggott Church Street Limited, had a table that could work as a bedside table. And I stopped in Vanburgh House Antiques. I will have to return.
Since it is light until past 6:30 I decided to take a scenic route back to Burford. I headed down to Northleach. From there it would be a single track road to Burford. But I missed the left turn in Northleach. I drove back on A40 to get it, but it run under A40 with no connection. So I settled for picking it up a little further, missing Farmington.
I have a lovely ride through Sherborne, Windrush, and the Barringtons. In the estate village of Sherborne there was a stunning country house, but the light was too low for this camera. I got back to Burford just as it was getting dark. This being a northern latitude there is a long time between sunset and twilight.
Back in my room it was cold. They had turned the heat off thinking I was staying only one night. I had reserved three nights. He turned it on and updated his reservations book.
I return to Aziz for dinner. I decide that £1.50 for pappadum wasn't worth it. I order a Bhuna dish, plus a side of spinach. He asks if I want naan or rice. It is rather annoying to be asked if I want bread after I make it clear that I'm wheat-free. Wasn't he listening? I ask if the rice is included. He doesn't answer and instead lists off my rice choices. I again ask if it is included. It isn't. I pass.
I work on my journal until the food arrives. The fellow bringing the food sees that I didn't order bread or rice. So again I'm asked if I want bread or rice. He can't believe I'm going to eat the curry without rice. I reply that I have the side of spinach. Plus he brings the included salad and the cabbage/carrot vegetable dish that's included. It was more than enough food, especially as I'm not that hungry, having eaten lunch at 2:45.
Friday, March 24, 2006
I'm down for breakfast at 7:50. I look into the kitchen. The owner says I'll have to wait until the woman that helps shows up. The 8:00 breakfast means 8:00. I go read the paper until she arrives and has it all ready for me.
I head out. It is raining lightly. I don't need to get to Stow-on-the-Wold until the shops open at 10:00. So I take the long scenic route. I head north. My first stop was to be Little Rissington. As I was turning off the highway there was a sign saying "New Road Layout." After the turn the truck behind me then made a right turn. I stopped and checked. My map showed the road leading straight into Little Rissington. So I drove and drove, but didn't go through a town. Then I saw a sign to Bourton-on-the-Water. That was to be my destination after Little Rissington. I pulled over and checked the map. I had driven south. There was no sun to tip me off. [Why don't cars have compasses?] So I was now going through Great Rissington instead of Little Rissington. (I later learn that it is a prettier town anyway.) I stop at the Church of St. John the Baptist and walk around it. I admire the manor house next door (which I later learn is owned by Americans - the Cook (sp?) family).
I head towards Bourton-on-the-Water. I see a sign pointing to the right that says Car Park. I look right and see a row of perpendicular parking spots. I pull in. I look around and see a sign facing the other direction saying for residents only. There are many open spots. I leave my car and head out. I walk along the Windrush River to the The Dragonfly Maze. It was closed. Then I walk to Birdland Park & Gardens. It was closed. I backtrack and walk into town. I find the tourism office. I buy a town map. The woman there was the same one that gave me the map in Stow the day before. We chat. She recommends I bring my car into town.
I look around the center of town and start heading for my car. I pass the Model Village. It's open! The woman says they are open 364 days a year, just not on Christmas. I pay and go in. I have the place to myself. I ask the woman a question about the model village inside the model village. She comes out and gives me a private tour telling me that the model has a model that has a model, etc. But the smaller ones stay inside for the winter. It can't handle the frost. She shows me other things that now need repairing. Plus she tells me other things about the history and upkeep of the model. I tell her about my car. She says I better not leave it. Wendy, the warden, is real nasty and will get me. She recommends a car park, as I'll never find a place in town.
I walk back to my car. No ticket. I drive back to the center and have no problem finding a spot. I walk past the Cotswold Motoring Museum and along the Windrush for a ways. The Windrush was diverted into the town and narrowed to make it run faster for the mill. It looks like the motoring museum is in the old mill. I return to my car and leave.
I head to Lower Slaughter, where I find the small Church of St. Mary. Then I drive through Upper Slaughter and Lower Swell. Then I arrive in Stow-on-the-Wold.
I park and start going from antique shop to antique shop. I chat with some of the proprietors. I collect pictures and notes on tables that would work alongside my bed. I visited: Grey House Antiques, Roger Lamb Antiques, Antony Preston And Queens Parade Antiques, and The Malthouse Antiques.
Around 2:00, while not really hungry yet, I start checking the restaurants. The Indian one is only open for dinner. Having had a successful lunch the day before at a tearoom, I try one. They had nothing but filled jacket potatoes. I look at the fillings. I move on. I try another tearoom, the Treebus. They have a jacket potato with a meat filling. But all the tables are full. She says they serve lunch until they close at 4:30. I tell her I'll be back and what I'm planning to have.
I go to more antique dealers, like Huntington Antiques. I then return for lunch. Then I make it to the all the rest of the dealers that have furniture. Namely Durham House Antiques, Duncan Baggott Antiques, Woolcomber House, Tudor House (where I purchased a coopered barrel to use as an umbrella stand), The Grandfather Clock Shop: Styles of Stow, Christopher Clark Antiques, and Simon Nutter Antiques.
Early on, at Stow Antiques, they told me they had two bedside tables at the restoration Shop. Then the son, Bruce, remembers there are pictures on their mother's camera, but the camera wasn't handy. So I had said that I'd be back. So, after seeing all the other dealers I went back. The pictures were tiny on the back of the tiny camera. Anyway, I ended up chatting with the father and Bruce for more than an hour. I left a little before 6:00, which was well past their closing time.
Not much to do this late. So I simply took the highway to Burford. I was back at 6:15. Exiting the car it made a beeping noise when I opened the door. It wasn't happy about something. I know it sounds if the lights are left on, but they were off. The brake was on. Everything else was off. I tried it in gear and out of gear. I headed to my room. After a while I decided to check the car again. There were a couple of fellows passing by. I asked if they knew about cars. So they helped investigate. Turning on the lights made the sound change to a double sound, i.e. a different sound superimposed on the one I couldn't get rid of. As it only sounded when the door was open, we decided it couldn't be so bad, At least I wouldn't have a run down battery.
I returned to my room. I wasn't all that hungry. I hadn't been eating the Larabars I had brought. So I ate four of them for dinner. I looked at where the antique dealers were south of me, and sort of plotted out how I'd go. And I wrote my journal for the day.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I get up early, like 5:30. On Sunday it will be daylight savings time (called summer time in Europe), so this is wouldn't be early for the next day. Before breakfast I go for a walk in part of Burford that I haven't been to.
As I'm checking out I discuss my route options with the proprietor. He recommends Fairford, Cirencester, and Tetbury. I head south. Not wanting to get to Fairford too early I take the scenic route through Fiskins, Fyfield, Eastleach, and Turville. I take a few pictures along the way. I open the door when the car is level. There was no warning sound when the door is open. So it must have been a warning that I was parked on an incline. Except the night before I parked on a downward incline and it didn't sound. So only when parked on an uphill incline?
In Fairford I find only one dealer: Blenheim Antiques. The others have closed. He does have some things that I like, though they weren't the bedside tables I was looking for.
I head into Cirencester. I park my car with two hours on the ticket. I walk towards the Parish Church of St. John Baptist in Market Square. It's easy to see. I then find the information office and get a map. The woman points out where the antique dealers are. There aren't all that many. One, William H. Stokes, is only oak. Another, Hares Antiques, had some tables. The next, Patrick Waldron Antiques, did have a lot of lovely things. What this means is he has the same taste as I do: clean simple lines with nice woods. [I bought a bedside cupboard from him.] And the final dealer, Rankine Taylor Antiques, was going out of business. I chatted for a while, and ended up buying a corkscrew torchère from her.
I head on to Tetbury. In the first shop, Day Antiques, he gives me a map with all the dealers listed. There are lots and lots of them! I visit another: Peter Norden Antiques, then I decide I had better get lunch before it's too late. I find the Indian restaurant closed. I find one tea room with a sign on the door saying that they don't serve tap water, but only mineral water. I find the Chinese restaurant, but it is closed until dinner. The next tea room has jacket potatoes, but beef chili isn't a filling option. The third and last tea room has curries, but they all have flour in them. I return to the second: The Two Frogs. Instead of a ratatouille filled potato I have another breakfast.
A go back to visiting the antique shops. The rain is pretty steady now. Some shops are filled with junk. A few have fine antiques. The bedside tables I see are of low quality. I do see a few other things of interest which I photograph. One, a Victorian pine chest of drawers I tried to buy after I got back home, but it was sold.
Shops I visited that have web sites: Jester Antiques, Long Street Antiques, Top Banana Antiques Malls, Ball & Claw Antiques, and Sieff.
I head for Bradford-on-Avon. It's getting late. (This is a town that I had hoped to visit five years before when I was in Bath. But it was the foot and mouth disease year, and the tow path between the towns was closed.) I don't know if the shops will still be open. I arrive at a few minutes after 5:00. I see a shop: Avon Antiques. There is parking space in front. I park and find he's open. He's a BADA dealer. All of his things are exceptional. He will have a pair of bedside commodes in June. This will be just in time for him to exhibit them at the Grosvenor House Show. This is the premier antiques show in Britain. This is the only place I've seen a true pair. I've been telling people that dealers save them for this show. And here's such an example. I settle for a picture of a lovely small chest. The same size as a mahogany one I have, but much finer.
He tells me where the two other furniture dealers in Bradford are. One, Mac Humble Antiques, is closed, as he is exhibiting in the BADA show in London. I run over to the other one: Moxhams Antiques. He's closed, though according to his hours he should have been open. Looking in the window I don't see anything of interest.
I wander around Bradford. I see the church and walk along the Avon River. I take a picture of the Town Bridge. I ask a couple about Indian restaurants. They tell me where a sit down one is and a take away one is. I had passed the take away one earlier, but I saw pizza on the window and didn't realize it was Indian. I go there. They have pizza, burgers, and Indian dishes. He tells me which are dairy-free. I order a Balti. Back in the car I start to eat it. The temperature is too hot. I set it down for later.
At the Indian place I ask for directions out of town. I try to follow then, but after a while it's clear I'm going the wrong way. At an intersection with a lot of signs I pull into a side road. Even standing there with my map I can't figure it out. I walk up to a car stopped at the light. She's asks if I'm lost. I reply very. She tells me to continue until I see a sign to Southwick, turn, and then look for signs to Warminster.
I pass the Southwick sign. The sign is tiny. I turn around and take it. After it T's I turn in the logical direction, but then what? I pull into a pub and ask. They give me more detailed directions. Even then things were confusing for a while. Once, along the way, I turned around and went back, only to discover I was on the correct road.
It was not a fun drive. The rain varied between a mist and a steady rain. In places it was foggy. In several places it was very foggy, and 30 mph was the maximum speed. At times the road curved around and went up and down hills. Eventually I reached Weymouth.
I pulled into a gas station for directions to the hotel. I decided I'd also buy some gas. But how do I open the flap? Tugging on it didn't seem to work. I couldn't find anything in the car to open it. The woman collecting money came out. She couldn't figure it out. She asked a fellow to come over. He simply pulled hard on the flap and it opened. I bought some gas.
I followed her directions to The Glenburn Hotel. The bar was jumping and full of smoke. It was a 50th anniversary party. The manager loans me a map of Weymouth and Dorchester. He doesn't think I can make it to London in time on Monday morning, and suggests I return the car to Heathrow instead. He suggests going over to Sea Cliff Restaurant to eat, as they are closed for the party.
I walk over to Sea Cliff. Not to eat, but to see the view. It is still raining. I see the view and return. I catch up on all my notes for the day.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I make it to breakfast by 8:00, but I'm not first. Some are party guests that leave right after breakfast.
It is completely overcast outside, but no rain. At least it isn't when I start out. I head towards Weymouth. I see a parking lot for the nearby beach. I pull in. I walk through the Lodmoor Nature Reserve to get to Preston and Overcombe Beach. Then I walk back along the beach boardwalk to return to my car. Then I drive up the hill to the Jordan Hill Roman Temple ruins. Then I take a walk on the cliff top park. Then I drive into downtown Weymouth. I stop a couple times to get a picture of the beach and the boats. I then drive up to Nothe Fort, but it isn't open for the season yet. I then drive to Chesil Beach. By now it is lightly raining and has become foggy. I can't see much of the beach. I pass on driving out to Portland. Everything in my Lonely Planet is either not open yet for the season, or is a scenic view. There will be no views of anything today.
Following the map loaned to me by the hotel I get out of town and head to Abbotsbury. I park and walk to the St. Nicholas Church. I then walk along the main street until I reach a small antiques shop. No furniture here. It just had old stuff. More like a second hand shop. We chat. Then I return to my car and drive to The Swannery. I arrive just in time to see the 12:00 feeding. The whole operation is quite amazing. Unfortunately by the time the rain is rather heavy. Double unfortunately I left my umbrella in the car. At least my jacket has a hood. As I was leaving I chat with a couple. They recommend eating at the Hive Beach Café. They suggest dishes and give me directions.
There are two other attractions in Abbotsbury. One is a children's farm and play area. The third is the Sub Tropical Gardens. As the daffodils are barely out here in Dorset I pass.
I find the Hive Beach Café It is mobbed. The roast beef ran out a few people ahead of me. They suggest the grilled cod. Instead I order their tomato-based seafood chowder. I find a half table I could share in one of the rooms, but there are no chairs. The couple, just having coffee or tea, says they'll get up. We comment about the crowd. They mention that it is not normally like this, but that it is the UK Mother's Day; which I'd forgotten about. The soup was very nice.
I drive on to Lyme Regis. This is the place everybody says I have to go to. I park my car and head to The Philpot Museum. Then I walk east for a ways, trying to see the cliffs. The cliffs are what the place is known for. Problem is with the fog I can't see a thing. I walk up one of the streets seeing if I could get over to the Cobb (the main harbor) not walking along the waterfront. After a while I give up and walk back down the hill. I'm now rather hungry. The soup wasn't all that much. A cop pulls over near an illegally parked car. He then chats with a woman. Another car pulls up and illegally parks near him. I go over and ask where an Indian restaurant is. He tells me. Then I comment on how a fellow illegally parked right in front of him. I'm told that the police can't give tickets for double line parking, Wardens have been hired for that, and they no longer can.
I find the Indian restaurant. It is closed until 6:00. I walk over to the Cobb. I check out the amusement center. I reach the Cobb. I pass on the small local fish aquarium. The two hours on my car park ticket are running out. I decide to leave and return to my hotel.
The signs to Weymouth have one taking better roads through Dorchester. But I decide I'll take the more direct route back. This is a mistake. It is much slower going. Then in Abbotsbury I see a sign to Dorchester. Since it isn't dark yet I decide I'll go see the town. Then I remember it's now summer time. I have a lot of light left!
I park in Dorchester at the first car park I see. I need not have. There are free places on the street. The rain has stopped. (And remains stopped for my entire Dorchester stay.) I ask a couple leaving a Chinese takeaway where the Indian restaurants are. They tell me. I walk there. I find two. Both are closed. One has a sign saying it will reopen for dinner at 6:00. The other has no sign saying what days or hours they are open.
I see a sign to the Roman Town House. I follow it and find the ruins. I return to the Town Pump, which is the town center with a big map of walking tours. I see in my walk that I mostly followed what the map called the A Roman Town Walk, except I didn't notice any of the other highlighted sights.
It's now 6:10. I return to The Spice Centre. I explain that in addition to being wheat-free I'm also dairy-free. The first fellow doesn't seem to know what dairy is. I order two dishes: Malay with Chicken, and Spinach with Lamb. I say no when asked if I want bread or rice. A little while later a fellow comes out. He isn't sure which meat I had with what. He thinks it is lamb with the Malay and chicken with the spinach. I correct him, commenting that saag is usually with lamb. I'm asked again if I want rice. I again say no, and point out that they should listen to their customers.
A party of eight enters. Probably they are a Mother's Day group. They are loud. Very loud! They sound as if they are drunk already.
The food comes. I'm asked a third time if I want rice! They sure don't listen. I start eating my food. One of the fellows comes over and asks if this is the first time I've eaten Indian food. Huh!? I finish my food and get the check. I leave the regular tip, but as I'm leaving I tell the fellow that they should learn to listen to their customers. And I should not have been asked three times if I want rice.
I return to the Town Pump. I decide to take the A Town and River Walk. I study the map before leaving. Down the road the signpost is confusing. I make a long detour, so I can walk along more of the river. I end up again at the Town Pump. I decide to take A Gallows Walk, as it passes more Roman ruins. But it is beginning to get dark, and it appears that the ruins are only seen from inside the Waitrose lower parking garage, and that is closed.
I return to my car and return to the hotel. I find a note on my door to ring at the reception. I head there and find the manager. He talked with another guest, whom is also driving to London. He says leaving at 7:30 is too late. He will give me some fruit now which I can eat in the morning, in order to leave earlier. He asks what I do for a living. He had suspected that I was a programmer. Programming had been his first career, but after he worked up to managing people and spending all his time in meetings he grew tired of it. So in a round about way he ended up managing the hotel. He still likes to program, though now it's just html programming of the hotel's website. He goes to get the fruit and sets the alarm clock that I found down on a bottom shelf. I write out the route to London, and write my journal.
Monday, March 27, 2006
I'm up before the alarm goes off. Actually it doesn't go off. Last night he set the time for 8:30 AM, instead of the 8:30 PM that is was. I'm on my way at 6:37. This gives me four hours and 15 minutes to return the car.
I make one mistake early on. Some roundabouts don't have signs within the roundabout saying where that road goes to. So I took one past the one that I should have. I thought I might be wrong, so when stopped at a stoplight I jump out and ask the woman behind me. She says turn left at the next light. I do, and I find the signs to the town that I needed to go through.
The country roads turn into highways. Then the traffic appears. Around Southampton, and a few other places, it gets down to stop-and-go. I'm unsure if I have enough gas (I only need enough to not run out before I return the car), so I stop for a little. Again I have great difficulty opening the flap over the petrol filler. This time I know there is no lever inside the car. I try to pry it open. It doesn't budge. I ask the fellow in front of me. He pulls it out some and sticks his key in. He does get it open.
As I approach London the radio reports delays on M4 and A4. It had been suggested that I turn off M3 and use M25 to get to M4. That will supposedly lead me in more directly to the Avis in West Brompton. But maybe it won't really? I would be going north, and then back down south. So right at the decision point I decide to continue on M3 into London. It would appear from the map that it leads me directly to where I need to go to drop off the car. Unfortunately I only have a countrywide map and one of Central London. I have nothing for greater London with me.
I follow the signs to Central London. I figure this should bring me in a little under West Brompton. At one point there is a flyover. At the last minute I decide to take it. The opening is extremely narrow. Presumably to keep trucks out. My left front wheel hits the curb that is sticking out at the opening. Bang! The surface of the flyover is so bad that until I got off it did I know that the wheel and tire were still okay. At one point I make a left. After going a ways I ask a taxi driver stopped at a light. He says I've passed over Lillie Road. He lets me make a left and u-turn in front of him.
I go back south a few blocks, but then I have to make a left. I'm now heading east again. I stop and ask some pedestrians. One says I'm on South Kensington. I need to be south of that, so I make a right turn. In a couple blocks I pass Lillie Road, but lo and behold it is closed for construction. I continue on and using side streets I make it around the construction. And there is Seagrave Road and there is Avis.
I pull in. I'm right in front of their window. I walk around the car and glance at my left front wheel. I try not to be obvious. The wheel cover, or maybe it's the rim, is mangled a bit. Now I'm nervous. I didn't buy CDW, and any charge I'd have to go after the insurance from my credit card. Another car pulls along side of mine. Quite close to my left side. The woman goes out to check out the car. She comes back and finishes the paperwork. She didn't notice. Possibly as the other car was so close she couldn't easily see the wheel. Or maybe damaged wheels are okay?
I decide I'd walk to my room. It is about 1 1/2 miles. I cross the shoulder straps across my neck and head off. Approaching Kensington Church Street there is a flood coming down the street. A little ways up Kensington Church Street there is a geyser. I learn that they are moving the bus stop and they are installing a pay toilet. The workmen broke the water main.
I am able to get around it keeping my feet dry. I find the Abbey House Hotel. I check in. My plans are to attend the BADA Fair at Duke of York Square, Kings Road, off Sloane Square. He says Sloan Square is about 1 1/2 miles. I can certainly walk that, plus it will pass Norman Adams, my favorite antique dealer. I make it around the geyser. I take pictures, like many other people. I have to walk a bit out of my way to keep my feet dry.
I find Norman Adams. I didn't go the most direct way, as I headed to Hans Square first, though I knew I wanted Hans Place. Stewart Wittington is there and remembers me. He shows me around. He then tells me where there is a nearby Indian Restaurant, and how I have to go around to the back to get in. I head out and find Haandi. The food was very good.
I walk down to the fair. It is in a grand tent. I ended up staying until it closed at 8:00. I have no problem chatting with antique dealers. Many of the dealers were selling things other than English furniture, but that still left numerous that were. The first thing that caught my eye was a Georgian Canterbury. Just the style I have admired in the past. But I'm not sure what I'd do with this one. [I ended up buying it anyway.] Then I come upon a regulator longcase clock at Jillings. This is something I've been interested in for a long time. And this one is gorgeous. I wander around. I find a near pair of Georgian bedside tables at Christopher Buck Antiques. Not being a true pair the price is not commanding an astronomical premium. At J. Collins & Son I find several items of interest: a bedside commode, and a Regency work table. Plus the Canterbury I saw earlier in another stand was theirs. It is the son that is into the furniture. (The father sells art by catalog.) I like his taste. At Norman Adams they had a lovely square table with different woods on the top. But being Norman Adams it is almost as expensive as the long case clock.
I end up chatting with Dora and John Jillings. We get into cameras, web page design, low carb diets, and Paleolithic diets. Then 8:00 comes. When I get my coat the fellow looks at the number and comments that I've been there all day. Well, not quite. It opened at 11:00 and I don't think I got there until 1:00.
I head back towards Kensington, looking along the way for an Indian restaurant. At the beginning of Kensington High Street I find an expensive one. Then walking down Kensington High Street I find a Chinese takeaway. Maybe. Then I find a Thai and then a Lebanese. They are possibilities. Then I look down a side street and see Kensington Tandoori Ltd. I go in. I order a soup, a meat dish, and a side of okra. I tell them no rice. £2.45 for rice worth 5¢ is a bit high. When the fellow brings the food he asks if I want naan or rice. These places really try to push the overpriced rice on you. And they can't seem to be able to visualize someone eating Indian food without all those carbs. The food is okay. The okra was rather interesting. It was cooked dry, instead of the usual soupiness.
I return to my room. I've driven for four hours. I've walked over five miles. I've stood around for seven hours. I'm tired.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I'm up early. Breakfast isn't until 7:45, so I take a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood. Most of the townhouses around here have been chopped into flats. And, except for the block I'm on (which are partially unpainted) all are painted white. Is there rule requiring white? I return via Kensington Church Street and look in the windows of some real estate brokers. These places are expensive!! Rental prices are per week. There are some for £500, but more like £1000, with some like £4000, and one for £8000. These are per week! To buy, they range from £1,000,000 to £25,000,000. [Exchange rate at the time was around $1.75.]
I return for breakfast right at 7:45. A Danish woman and I are first. The woman taking the breakfast order thinks that gluten-free means no sugar. The full English breakfast isn't so full. No beans, potatoes, or mushrooms. I miss the mushrooms.
I go up to my room. I decide I will make a visit now to see the Gherkin, the new office building erected by Swiss Re. It will fill up my time until the shops open. I head out and stop at the reception desk to look at his A-Z map. I get lectured that I should not have asked for four eggs. They prepare an exact amount of bacon, sausage, and eggs for their guests, and my taking extra messes them up. I have to order them in advance and pay extra. There is no credit for sausage and toast not taken.
I head for the Underground. I find it is £3.00 per inner city trip. And it is more for longer rides. People in NYC shouldn't be complaining about the $2.00 it costs there (for any length trip).
I arrive in Liverpool St. Station. I head in the direction of the Gherkin. In a couple blocks it becomes visible. It's fatter than I imagined. I get to the front desk. I give them the name of my contact. [The only way you can get in is to be invited by someone working there.] They get someone on the phone that says Brian is in a private dining room. I speak with the fellow and tell him that I have to cancel my Wednesday appointment and could I see the building now. He'll come down and get me. A fellow in a waiter's jacket comes down. He takes me up and walks me through the kitchen. This is a bit strange. He tells me how fancy the facilities are. We get to a private dining room. I'm introduced to Brian ____. It is a completely wrong last name. While I chat with this Brian, a couple of fellows running the restaurant run around to straighten things out. In a short while they hand me a phone with the correct Brian on. He'll come get me. The correct Brian takes me to the 40th floor. The bar is the top floor. The views are stunningly panoramic. The glass goes all the way to the top, and goes down to the bottom of the 39th floor, which is the dining room, which you can see some of by hanging over the edge. I tell Brian what I've been doing.
I head back to the Underground and return to Kensington Church Street. I start going down and up the street. While there are many antique dealers here, many aren't furniture. I only stop in the furniture ones. (Plus one kitchen store with plumbing fixtures I've not seen in the US.) I spent the most time chatting with the fellow in Reindeer Antiques. The fellow is also into bicycling and has a stainless steel Moulton folding bicycle (which he bought used for a rather reasonable amount). Other shops I stopped in: Patrick Sandberg Antiques, Eddy Bardawil, Brian Rolleston Antiques Ltd., Richard Courtney, and Raffety & Walwyn.
I asked and found where along Fulham Road the remaining dealers are located. I head that way, making a stop in my room first. It is on the way. An advantage of staying in Kensington! I see that walking down Palace Gate is my most direct route. It is now past 2:00 and I'm hungry. Soon I come upon Memories of India. I go in. A little fancy, as it has cloth napkins. (I prefer paper.) I start by telling the waiter that I'm wheat and dairy free. He looks a little puzzled. He understood me, but he didn't know the ingredients. The proprietor comes over. When I tell him I'm wheat free I ask that they not ask me if I want bread. He recommends a main dish. For a side dish I can't have the saag, as it is cooked in butter. So he recommends aloo gobi. I decline the rice, as it is not included. The food arrives. The fellow asks me if I want naan or rice. They really are into pushing these profitable extras! I finish and ask for the check. The fellow then asks if I want tea or coffee. If I wanted them why would I have asked for the check?
I head out. It has started raining lightly. A headache appears. I don't get them, unless hung over or have had MSG. Probably there was MSG in the food. I pass a tree in bloom. My first one this trip!
I make it to Fulham Road. There are four dealers there of interest: Apter Fredericks, Peter Lipitch, Anthony James, and Michael Foster. I visited the first three and looked around. Of course, there were a few things that I liked, but beyond what I planned to spend on this trip. Michael Foster was closed. I had heard that he's not there much. As I bought a peat bucket from him years ago I wanted to stop in and say hi. I spent time looking and chatting with the three dealers that were open. While inside Apter Fredericks we had a short hail shower. But it had melted by the time I got my camera ready.
I headed back to the BADA fair. By the time I got there it was 5:30. It would only be open for 30 more minutes. I saw that the clock and bedside tables that I liked had not sold. I quickly ran around and circled on the program the dealers I liked. This so I can look them up on the web. I said goodbye to the Jillings and at 6:00 I was out on the street. Twilight is now 8:00, so I decide to walk east, and then west through the parks. I walked down Eaton Square. Then I walked around Buckingham Palace. Then I walked through The Green Park. I stopped to check out a pair of black and white birds. A woman was nearby feeding the birds. I asked her what they were. She said they were Magpies. We talked about birds. She noted how clever crows were. She had been to NYC once recently and really liked it. She lamented that she hadn't picked it to live. She told me that a picture of the water main rupture on Kensington Church Street made the paper. I then learned that she was Czech. We walked until we got to Hyde Park. Then she went off in a different direction. I headed across the park. It started to rain steadily. By the time I made it through the park the fronts of my pants and my feet were soaked. I exit from the park at Queensway. This is a street of restaurants that I remember from my first visit (by myself) to London in 1982. At that time all restaurants closed at 11 PM. Only one on Queensway stayed open all night. I found an Indian restaurant. A couple also looking at the menu says there are no others in the direction they came from. So I go in. I tell the fellow I'm wheat-free. He says all dishes have a small amount of wheat. The only one that doesn't is their vegetable biranis (a vegetable and rice dish). This is the first time I've found wheat in Indian curries in the 16 years I've been asking!
I head on. As the couple said, there were no more on Queensway. I turn on Westbourne Grove. At one time this street also had antique dealers. I stop in the first Indian restaurant I see: Khan's Restaurant. The tables are very close together. It was like I was sitting at the same long table as my neighbors. The place is big and noisy. No carpet. It has a high ceiling. And there was a party in the back that was cheering and clapping. I tell the fellow I'm wheat and dairy free. He said that the only dish that didn't have dairy was the chick peas. Not very vegan friendly! I left. The next restaurant is the Standard Indian Restaurant. I go in. It is smaller, carpeted, and quieter. While most of the dishes have dairy, the woman points out the few that don't. The saag did, so I had aloo gobi as a side again. I also got them to not ask if I wanted bread or rice. And of course, as soon as I settle in it stops raining. It was also by far my cheapest meal. It was all very nice. I tell her I'll be back on my next visit to London.
I make it back to my room and call it a day.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
I make it down to breakfast right at 7:45. I beat the Danish woman that day. The waitress tells me I can't have four eggs. I tell her I ordered the extra yesterday and I'm paying for them. I ask to see the ingredients on the sausage. While I don't see any wheat, it is filled with a variety of chemicals, including MSG. I pass. I eat my four eggs, half a small tomato, and one strip of bacon. The Danish woman tells me she spent the day at the Tate Modern. Visiting modern art museums is her thing. She has a friend with her, but the friend sleeps late. She tells me that in her past she worked for a NGO educating the peasants in the hills of El Salvador. I break away and return to my room to pack.
A 1:00 flight is an odd time. I don't remember why I didn't book an earlier flight. There isn't enough time before I have to head to the airport to do much.
I head out for a walk. I walk down Kensington Palace Gardens. This is a private road with about 33 of the grandest mansions in London. They were built in the 1840s on what was the kitchen garden for Kensington Palace. Now most are owned by foreign governments. I then walked through Kensington Gardens and checked out Kensington Palace. I went back to Kensington Palace Gardens where I passed the Israeli Embassy. The road was blocked to keep one away from it. There were military men, one with a machine gun, keeping watch. I walked up Kensington Church Street to my room.
I grab my bags and head for the tube. I had a mostly uneventful ride to Heathrow. I did see a picture in the newspaper the person next to me was reading. The picture was of an SUV that had fallen into a sinkhole in Brooklyn. I wondered where in Brooklyn. [I later learn that it was in Bay Ridge.] At the check in area I come across an enormous queue, all waiting for Virgin Atlantic. The next section, B, for American Airlines, had no queue at all. But the security queue was long. It was about a half hour. Then after security they make you walk in a round about way to force you to pass the shops selling cosmetics and such. Then I come upon real restaurants, with fish, sushi, etc. Then there was a short wait for the boarding call. I pick up an International Herald Tribune and eat some Larabars for lunch.
We board. I find that row F also has a TV box blocking the leg room! But at least without the outer curve of the plane there is some room alongside for one's feet, but not feet plus a small bag. I take out what I think I'll want and put my bag in the overhead. So a recap: On an AA 777 you do not want to be in A, D, F, or J. The woman in the aisle seat, G, moves to a window where there are two seats free. This is surprising, as the plane is full, and some people were upgraded to business class without asking. So I move to G and now have an aisle seat with full leg room.
My gluten-free meal comes. It includes Rye Crisps. In bold letters it has: "Includes Gluten." One of the flight attendants said she'd write it up. Then there was a small loaf of gluten-free bread; except it was not truly gluten-free. In the UK the Coeliac Society pushes this proprietary wheat starch (which contains less than 0.03% gluten). In North America it is not recommended, as it makes some celiacs sick. AA, being an American carrier, shouldn't be serving it.
I watch the classic James Bond film Dr. No. Then I watch four sitcoms. Other than I Love Lucy they were ones I'd never seen before. But at least I had heard of Frazier. I had never heard of Taxi and Out of Practice.