Mr. Bean haunts us in London

2015-06-27 11.34.45_resizedAs we exit the museum, we saw a bike rental rack and immediately thought of Mr. Bean; so we decided should take them for a spin.

They were only two bikes remaining so it was ment to be.  After struggling with instructions, we printed out our codes and we’re ready to ride  Maggie was on her bike in no time only problem was mine was broken, so here we were one bike and I was the one walking?   Wouldn’t you think youth would 20150626_140027 give up her bike?  NO Maggie road and I walked and I walked and I walked until we found the next bike rental on the other side of the park.

Finally we were off! We cruise from one end of Hyde Park to the other through St James Park around Green Park by Buckingham Palace and more.  It was great fun at the end of the day.  It was now 8 o’clock, and we were starving we headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.

Maggie rides a bike like she drives a car, with a led foot and one speed, fast!

We settled on a really nice French Brasserie in Piccadilly with a 1920 jazz corefor dinner. The only challenge was in shorts and a t-shirt Maggie was in short short shorts and a tank top.  They gave us a table just the same only in the corner of the bar. We proceeded to ingest more baguette and butter than I thought was humanly possible.  We had a splendid dinner and really enjoyed it. The only challenge was all the waiters tried to serve Maggie drinks thinking she was 18 and couldn’t understand when she said no thank you.

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The bus…

20150626_111604We have been on The Underground, a London Black Taxi, a Boat, a Train and finally an iconic red double decker bus.

We are off to see Charles Darwin’s stuff at the Natural History Museum.

20150626_121320Maggie was apparently appalled at my use of the word stuff when referring to Charles Darwin. Apparently I am to quote Origin of Species to something.

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What is this?

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The Shore –


20150626_072449 After having our fill of all things London, we decided we should head for the coast this morning!  The sun was out and it looked like we would have a brilliant day!  We have had nothing but non-typical London weather.  It has been in the 70’s with sun every day.  With not a drop of rain, mist or water
20150626_073228of any kind, we thought we would go in search of some and decided on taking the train to Brighton on the south coast of England.

Before the train we once again found ourselves with sneakers on and earbuds and still not really awake.  This time we were in Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in London; and one I have never truly explored.

20150626_082335Hyde Park is over 300 acres and is technically separated into two parks by the long body of water running through it.  We set our course through the smaller of the two- Kensington Gardens- that is packed with paths and gardens and flowers everywhere.

Quiz:  One of us walk the length of the lake and back the other walk down and ran back; Can you guess who is who?

20150626_05100720150626_043454After an hour on the train or a half a book in “Maggie Time,” we entered Brighton. It is an English version of Old Orchard Beach in MA including a Pier, fairground attractions, amusement arcade and a collective group of people.  The sand has been replaced with pebbles and the lobster shacks with Fish and Chips stand, but the feel is the same, especially the cold water.

We started our decent / hike to the water via what are referred 20150626_063201to as the Lanes. A collection of narrow lanes and alleyways packed with small shops, boutiques, funky restaurants, 20150626_062231cafés, and pubs catering to an energetic crowd. The highlight for Maggie was the independent antique aka junk shops that sold old books.  After adding a few books to her backpack we lazily made our way past Royal Pavilion (the main sight in town), a dazzling and exotic buildings.  We snapped a picture or two and keep walking…

20150626_071442First order of the day was an ice cream on the beach in a beach chair, as the Brits would say Brilliant!

20150626_075411(0)We walked the pier but opted for a lunch spot on the beach overlooking the channel and enjoyed some fresh fish and chips.

We worked off lunch with the walk back up the hill to the train station with about half the beach in Maggie backpack – she loved the different colored rocks & pebbles that makes up the beach.

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We started with a run- yes a run   

T20150625_065011he alarm went off and before we really woke up, we were back in Green Park once again.  This time with sneakers on and earbuds in.  Maggie decided we should not actually run together and seeing we were in London, I should go to the left; and she would play the American and go to the right.  We set off on our morning run in opposite directions, passed each other at the half way mark and met back at the hotel for our real excursion of the day… Cambridge!

DSC_2420After a short ride on the Victoria line, we entered King’s Cross station and boarded the Hogwarts Express.  Actually we didn’t have time to search out the infamous Platform 9 3/4, but we jumped on a train to the college town of Cambridge.  As we left the train station, I realized I forgot to bring a map; and much to Maggie sirgrin, I
decided to simply follow a group of Spanish high school DSC_2441students we saw on the train earlier.  Assuming their teacher had a clue to the direction of the center of town, my plan was to go from there to our main objective: Trinity College’s Wren Library.  As the largest library out of all the
multiple Colleges in Cambridge, it was on Maggie’s
must see list for the day with its 300,000 or DSC_2467so books and a display of Milne’s manuscripts of Winnie-the-pooh…Maggie has requested to post a more accurate representation of this library later on.
We followed our guides (the Spanish students) to the first stop on the tour- a store to pick up supplies.  For us that
was a diet coke and a bag of Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Crisps (potatoes chips).

20150625_085317Maggie thought it was creepy to continue to stalk the kids, so we ducked into Emmanuel College- just on the right as we 20150625_085255made our way to the old town center.  We walked through the court yards; and when we found the library closed (thank god), we quickly moved on.

Next up was the city center with it shops, café, restaurants and market.  Before exploring the sites, we found a spot a coffee for me and a snack for Maggie to recover from the walk into town.

20150625_070725Just across from Charles Darwin’s al mater, the University of Cambridge, we poked into a church and found a small spiral DSC_2441stair case. Instantly we decided to see where it lead before someone could question us.  After more than 100 steps we were on the top of the bell tower.  With bells ringing at 1:00, we enjoyed the tremendous vantage point overlooking the city.  Maggie, much like her mom, didn’t like the confined space, not really knowing where it led or what was DSC_2445around the next corner; but she tolerated me and made the trip up and down without a complaint other than her feet and legs hurt!

DSC_2494As we set out, we quickly found out it was graduation week and many of the colleges were closed to visitors.  Bummed but undeterred we pushed on and DSC_2464ignored the “Closed to Visitors” signs.  Our rational was we were tourists not visitors.  With this attitude we entered Trinity College like the tourist we were- me with my shorts and polo shirt, and Maggie in
something less than that.  Needless to say we stuck out just a bit with everyone dressed up for graduation.  Maggie and I can officially say we were kicked out of Trinity College.  My thinking is we had to be in before in order to be kicked out so that was an accomplishment.

Eventually we found the Trinity College Library and it was everything Maggie loves; old books and more old books with a few Mac DSC_2458computers mixed in every so often for the researcher. The only disappointment was she couldn’t take any pictures or books.

DSC_2500From the library we walked along the river watching the boaters and admiring the grounds for a bit. Found a great spot to people-watch for lunch and had the best “garlic bread” ever (despite the fact it isn’t what you think of with garlic bread)

DSC_2506With full stomachs Maggie set off to find a 20150625_095517book store and I to find a coffee and a tree in the shade to wait and wait and wait some more…

We continued to explore many of the Colleges including, University of Cambridge, Christ College, Clare College, Kings College, DSC_2474Queens’ College and of course my name sake St John’s College.  Some of them we wandered DSC_2515around unobstructed others not so much.

We retraced our steps back to the train station, Maggie feeling much more comfortable knowing that we knew were we were going and not trailing the Spaniards.  As we approached the station we realized the DSC_2471train back to London was about to depart, and the two of us still hurting from the DSC_2497walking today and the two previous days and definitely from the run this morning sprinted to the platform.  We did a version of a drunk sprinter with a broken leg and a bad knee with asthma, but we made it just as the conductor yelled “Jump Now and mind the gap!”

DSC_2497At some point in the day Maggie’s said “I think I could go to school here”

DSC_2536We arrived backing at King’s Cross Train DSC_2553Station and yes did the Harry Potter thing … We jumped through the wall at Platform 9 ¾ and DSC_2540got the pictures to prove it.  Note who have what houses scarfs on and the smile on Maggie!

20150625_161220A Starwood moment with John Legend at the O2 center in London

2015-06-25 17.05.33A few days ago the woman at the front desk at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel (my go to hotel when in London) asked me if I would be interested in two complementary VIP box seats to take my daughter to see John Legend Thursday night!  One of the benefits of traveling and being a life time member of Starwood’s reward program!

After a long day, we cleaned up and headed off to the show – The seats and food were great!!!  Definitely a fun night, but ended up being a late one.  Neither one of us had any problem getting to sleep.

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London Day Two … Greenwich, the Tower and the Eye

DSC_2250One of us was up at 7:00, working over breakfast while the other finished her 12 DSC_2264hours of beauty rest.  Needless to say we had a late start to the day.  Eventually we left the hotel.  Making the decision to take the London Underground vs walking and telling Maggie it was for the experience and not because I was hurting from all the walking we did DSC_2266yesterday, honest!   From the train we boarded a boat to take us up the Thames for a morning, now approaching afternoon, in DSC_2269Greenwich.  The time on the water was a great way to see the London’s sites from a totally different prospective.  At one point a group 20150624_111902of Japanese tourist boarded and Maggie was able to experience the stereotypical Japanese tourist and them to Americans!

We discovered Greenwich is a beautiful and historic area full of green grass and a DSC_2273DSC_2332refreshment from the city. We were met by the Cutty Sark, the last surviving tea clipper as we left the boat dock, but really it was simply a boat out of the water.

We worked our way through the small streets of the town and DSC_2280eventually found a spot in the shade on the lawn of the National Maritime Museum reviewing our plan of attack for the day with 100s of school kids running all around.  DSC_2295Maggie found a great spot to sit on some of the impressive collection of Britain’s seafaring history.

DSC_2306The highlight was the Royal Observatory DSC_2310with views over the river Thames towards London’s Canary Wharf.  We had fun taking pictures on the Meridian line and hopping over it.  The only disappointing aspect was DSC_2296all of this required we walk up and back down a large hill.  We rewarded our efforts DSC_2323with lunch outside the Greenwich Tavern before discovering a book store on our way back to the boat.  The stop at the book store initial sounded like a good Idea. Maggie sold it as a chance for me to sit and have a cup of coffee and check my work e-mails.  I did not realize this was not a short stop as eventually after my coffee and DSC_2318DSC_2318cleaning up my e-mails, I had to go in search of her and help her make a decision between about 20 books.  She settled on one – It All in your Head.  It was now about 4:00 and we had limited time to hit our next stop the London Tower.DSC_2329

We arrived at the Tower, having pre booked our tickets and found we only had an hour DSC_2344until they closed.  The women suggested it would take well over two hours and we should consider coming back another day.  Maggie and I looked at each other and said to one another, one hour should be fine and set off as fast as we could.  We covered every room from the White Tower to the room with DSC_2362the Crown Jewels of England, the inner and outer wards and even the top of the wallsDSC_2343 themselves.  The only thing that slowed us down was when someone yelled Mr. Hall… As we turned we saw Joe Byrnes and his 3 boys – It’s a small world.

DSC_2366We were herded out of the tower and crossed the River Themes via “The Tower Bridge” (But we still called it London Bridge); and yes, we did sing “London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down…”

After a short walk on the Queens Walk way along the river, we were on the DSC_2241Underground again for the experience not to save walking.  Our destination was the DSC_2381London Eye…  With fast passes in hand we skipped the line and made the 30 minute ride, mesmerized by the view and starting to think about dinner.

DSC_2386It was a long walk back to Piccadilly, both with sore feet.  It was about 8:00 when we finally made it to the room and 10:00 when we called it a night and after a nice dinner in a little square behind our hotel.

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An afternoon in London…

Maggie and the trees of Green ParkDSC_2192 St James FlowersAfter spending way too much time standing in rows, waiting and watching the Britishspend an hour to do what should have taken about 5 minutes, we headed to the tranquility of St James Park’s full walking paths, great spots for a nap, a pond and gardens.  After convincing Maggie we did not need

Thank god a chair!

Thank god a chair!

to rest, we made our way down Birdcage walk from Buckingham palace to Westminster, passed by Westminster St MaggieAbbey (the line was a mile long), and payed our respect in St Margaret’s Chapel. Eventually we needed to find a place to sit for 5 minutes.

Now after 1:00 we crossed over Westminster Big Ben 2Bridge in search of lunch!  We check out the massive Houses of Parliament and of course Big Ben along the way.  We found a little lunch spot outside on the bank of River Thames with a great view of Big Ben.

After lunch we re-crossed the Thames with bagpipe music playing and found the lines to Westminster Abbey all but gone- thank god as we could not handle standing any more.  We spent the next hour in search of Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Isaac Newton graves.  DSC_2207We actually did an audio tour and checked out the gardens and a café too!  This place is really impressive: a real architectural masterpiece and full of history with its shrine to Edward the Confessor, the tombs of kings and queens, and countless memorials to the famous and the great (Maggie like the poets and scientists who she actually know something about) and the site of numerous royal weddings etc. ect. ect.

We left the Westminster area with Big Ben chiming in the background and made our way to Churchill’s Museum and underground war rooms.  Yes Maggie agreed to this and actually must have learned something in History class, as she quoted the London Booming of WWII.  In realty if she was being honest the best part about the museum was the strong Wi-Fi signal as we left.

The funniest part of the museum experience: as we rounded a corner and entered a new room, we both spotted several chairs to relax in and apparently decided independently and without speaking to one another that one of them looked more comfortable- an old battered green leather arm chair that has seen better days.  At the same instance we both realized we needed to beat the other to it or end up in a straight back wooden chair.  Without words the race was on, youth had the lead girth won out at the end with a little hip check at the last instance.  As my butt hit the green leather had hers the hard wood, we burst in to laughter and then realized the entire room was laughing too.

20150623_123538Deciding not to push my luck, we walked by (actually under the) Cavalry Museum in search of Number 10 Downing Street.  Did you know you can no longer really walk by?  We viewed the building from Whitehall Street.  Pissed me off that because of terrorism me could not walk by.

T Squar meNext up Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column and tamed the lions guarding the monument.

We worked our way through the Back Street and allies of Piccadilly, but avoiding the Piccadilly Circus on our way back to the hotel and dinner.

We were back in our hotel by 8:30. About 5 minutes after Maggie announced she would not be able to sleep with the noise form the street, the humming of the air-conditioning, and the light my computer, the light from the desk and me typing, she was out cold with about 3 pages read in her book read.  We had a full day and must have walked more than 10 miles.

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