All 469 seats on the British Airways Airbus A380 were occupied on the flight from Singapore to Heathrow. Despite the full house, the service on this flight, even in cattle class, was excellent. The unflappable crew were friendly and retained their sense of humour.
We landed at Heathrow at 5:30 am on Friday the 9th September and caught the train into London, changing lines twice to arrive at Hackney central where Michelle our daughter welcomed us at around 7:30. A short walk to the terrace house she shares with three young friends, a quick shower, breakfast and then the sight-seeing started – she had an orientation itinerary lined up for us.
First, a walk through the local Victoria Park where she frequently jogs or cycles along the Regent’s canal, before taking the underground to St Paul’s. From here her tour involved a walk across the Millennium bridge to the South Bank, the Tate Gallery, the National theatre, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, before getting on the underground at Westminster back to Hackney.
No rest though, for the evening meant going to the Dalston Jazz Bar to listen to a jazz trio. This venue is a social enterprise venue for training people in hospitality and after a five course meal, you pay what you think the meal and the service was worth!
Saturday morning, a brisk walk to the Broadway markets for coffees and a look around. Then it started raining.
Plan B kicked in: let’s visit the British Museum. I was relishing this opportunity, as I always wanted to see the Elgin marbles and the Rosetta stone. I must admit that I thought the marbles were just that, maybe a bit bigger than what we played with at school. In my first year of architecture, I learned in architectural history that these were the marble friezes from the Parthenon in Athens “rescued” by Lord Elgin.
We attended the Hackney Empire theatre in the evening for the final night of Macbeth, funded by the Hackney council and the Andrew Lloyd Webber trust.
On Sunday morning we took the underground to Vauxhall, to have breakfast with Michelle’s cousins, Paulo and Julia.
This was followed by a bus ride to Buckingham Palace, from where we walked through Green park to Hyde Park and Speaker’s corner, to listen to some nut case oratory. We then caught the tube at Marble Arch, back to Hackney for a drink at Michelle’s local, the Pub in the Park. We had dinner prepared by Michelle for us and her housemates, Andrew, Tim and Naomi.
Michelle arranged the hire of a compact Vauxhall Corsa and on Monday we set off on a 10 day road trip, starting with Oxford and the Cotswolds. This is a really beautiful part of England.
We were bowled over by Cotswold towns like Bourton-on-the-water and Stow-on-the-Wold, where we stayed over at Jim and Carol, our first Airbnb hosts. This couple, our ages, are motoring enthusiasts and competed at Nurburgring just last month in their Mazda MX5. Different strokes for different folks!
Continuing through the Cotswolds, we visited Bibury, Painswick and Castle Combe, before staying over in Bath at Nick and Madeleine, in their beautiful 200-hundred-year old sandstone terrace house, overlooking Bath.
The following day we visited the Roman baths, the pump house and the Royal Crescent terraces, before driving on to Stonehenge where the management of the hordes of tourists has been improved substantially since my last visit. We stopped off for tea and scones in Salisbury, before visiting the cathedral, still one of my favourite cathedrals.
We stayed over in Brighton, the seaside resort on the South coast where the burnt out pier has been replaced by the controversial British Airways i360 vertical pier.
Our travels then took us into Kent “the garden of England” and towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells from where we headed North on a very busy freeway to Cambridge. More will follow in our next post.