Back in the UK

Here we are back in the UK for a month. We are of course most excited to visit with our girl Kristin, but also looking forward to a journey to Scotland.

We spent the first two nights in London – or to be more specific, at the Heathrow Airport Holiday Inn Express. This was a great hotel – brand new and we could redeem our IHG points at a much more reasonable rate than in London proper. The Piccadilly underground line runs directly from the airport into the city so out came our Oyster cards.

After the overnight flight from Calgary, we arrived at Heathrow, checked into the hotel and decided that taking a rest would not be the best way to conquer jet lag. So off we went on the tube to Kings Cross Station. At the station we needed to purchase our “Two Together Railcard”. We had booked all of our rail transit in the UK using the two together rate. This railcard cost only 30 pounds and provides a significant discount (at least 30%) for two people traveling together. I would recommend that anyone planning UK rail travel look into the various railcards that are offered. We accomplished this task (including having pictures taken in a photo booth for the pass), picked up our reserved tickets to Cambridge, got a little cash from an ATM and all our required tasks were done.

Wandering down the street, we came upon the British Library and stopped in for a visit. I just love that the majority of British Museums have no fee for entry. British citizens must find it quite annoying when they visit museums in other countries.

The historical documents housed in the library were quite fascinating. Everything from the earliest evidence of the written word to John Lennon’s scribbling of the lyrics for “Help” – on the back of his son Julian’s birthday card. And most amazing – the Magna Carta! Of course no pictures were allowed in the galleries to protect the documents.

After the library, we wandered through the Bloomsbury neighbourhood (which is where our hotel was when we visited in December) and stopped at a pub, the Marquis of Cornwall, for an early dinner. Quite a traditional meal – fish & chips for Harv and chicken & mushroom pot pie for Bev – and our first pints of the trip!

We then strolled down Oxford & Regent Streets (sadly more dreary than December with the Christmas decorations gone – but on the upside, not as ridiculously busy) to Piccadilly Circus. We reminisced about our first visit to Piccadilly in 1983, when we so intrigued by the first pink & spiked hair youth that we had ever seen. We then caught the tube back to the hotel – with both of us nodding off on the journey.

After a bit of a sleep-in and hotel breakfast on Wednesday, we hopped back on the tube and headed to the British Museum. We had walked by it many times in December but hadn’t stopped in. Not having any specific plans for the day, we thought this would be an interesting activity. And it most certainly was. There was only a short line up for bag inspection and the museum was busy but not overly crowded.

The museum is a huge building that houses a vast array of antiquities. Items spanning the ages from 1000 years BC to current days chronicle the journey of civilization. Featured are Egyptian mummies, Assyrian lions, and a large hall featuring the best parts of the frieze that once ran around the exterior of Athens’ Parthenon.

Other exhibits include artifacts from all corners of the globe, including an African cloth made from soda bottle caps, a seal gut parka from the Canadian Arctic, gold from the Rothschild collection and an intricate two-headed snake from Mexico.

One of the premier exhibits is the Rosetta Stone. Found in 1799, the Stone proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, thereby opening a window into ancient Egyptian history.

After spending about 3.5 hours in the museum, I declared that I had seen enough artifacts for one day and we made our exit. It was an amazing place to visit and I can only imagine how fascinating it must be for a true historian.

We wandered from the museum through the Covent Garden and Seven Dials areas and stopped for tea and a pastry at a delightful little bakery. We then continued on through Holburn to the area around St Paul’s Cathedral.

For an early dinner, we chose the Bread Street Kitchen, one of Gordon Ramsey’s 15 London restaurants. It lived up to the standards that we would expect from Gordon, in service and food taste and presentation. We shared a Caesar salad, Harv had a burger & chips and Bev enjoyed the grilled Skrie cod with artichokes and mashed potatoes. For dessert, we shared a delicious custard tart, topped with rhubarb and passion fruit sorbet.

To settle our dinner, we strolled back along the Thames, up to Trafalger Square and across to Piccadilly Circus where we once again caught the tube.

Two great days in London (over 20,000 steps each day). Now off to Cambridge and our girl!!


Bev & Harv