Terrellís 2006 Travel Journal
Part One - London
This is the record of the month I spent traveling in the summer of 2006, first to London by myself, then in Scotland with my younger brother and his family, then to Italy where I visited my niece, her husband and their two month old baby and finally in Turkey where I took my third Melitour trip in as many years along the eastern Black Sea Coast and down through Eastern Turkey.
Monday and Tuesday July 17/18 Day One
Long day. I was up early to pack and finish cleaning the apartment and then took the bus to the Seattle airport. The British Air flight was delayed two hours and then the seats on the plane seemed to have shrunk since the last time I flew with them and the ďleg roomĒ was blocked by some kind of metal box. Iím never booking a seat without checking SeatGuru.com again. We finally arrived in London about 2:00 in the afternoon. I made it through the long lines at passport control and found the bus that was shuttling passengers to the tube while the Terminal 3 station is under renovation. The ride in from the airport was uneventful but hot. I unfortunately picked a week of record heat to make this visit. I found Palmer's Lodge, my hostel in Swiss Cottage, with no trouble. It was a nice old house that has been converted to a hostel. The makeover is practically new so everything is still spic and span and in good shape including a large number of free computers. The room I was sharing with three other women seemed fine but hot, of course. We had bunk beds with slide-out wooden lockers under the beds to keep our stuff in. The showers at the end of the hall were numerous but tiny especially for someone like myself with a "real girl" figure. As soon as I got settled in the room, I took a cold shower and then headed off to nearby Regentís Park. I found a relatively shady spot and tried to relax and write a bit while I watched the afternoon crowds go by. It seemed that there were more headscarves in London than I remember from Istanbul. About seven I decided I was seriously fading so I went back to the hostel to try to get some sleep.
ooh, look, I'm in London
Wednesday July 19 Day Two
I started out in the morning intending to walk to Kingís Cross station to pick up my train ticket for later in the week but I wound up going way too far north and not far enough east. I was already beginning to realize how easy it was to get lost in this city. I ran across Regentís canal in my wanderings and followed it for a while and then turned south and eventually got onto Tottenham Court Road. I managed to find the British Museum in Bloomsbury, but it was so hot by then in the un-airconditioned galleries that I barely held on to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles before fleeing outside where I could at least get some air. I must say that there is something particularly grave-robberish about the British Museum that I find a little disturbing. Outside, I walked down Museum Street to Bow Street and then on to Drury Lane to find the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. Itís so amazing to actually walk down streets that Iíve been reading about my whole life. It seemed every building I looked at had one of those blue plaques announcing some famous person had lived there or something historically significant had happened there. They still had tickets for Turandot at the opera but the prices were well out of my price range so I wandered on through a crowded Covent Garden munching on a Cornish pasty. I do think that street food is one of the best parts of foreign travel.
The heat made the museums in Trafalgar Square the most attractive attractions so I went to explore the air-conditioned rooms of the National Gallery. Absolutely astounding, almost too much to take in. The Canaletto rooms were amazing, especially since I planned to be in Venice in ten days. But the real catch-my-breath moment was when I came around a corner and found myself looking at the unmistakable drawing style of Da Vinci. Crazy, man. The galleries were packed with tourists who had come up with the same strategy to escape the heat that I had. Oddly, they all seemed to be Italian. From the National Gallery I went around the corner to the much less crowded National Portrait Gallery, which was really fascinating. So much history caught in so many faces. The Tudor portraits were particularly interesting since I've seen them reproduced so many times in history books and even on television in the PBS Masterpiece Theatre series. I finished off the day by taking the advice of my seatmate from the plane and went up to the top floor cafť at the gallery for tea and biscuits. The very modern restaurant has a spectacular view of rooftops, Nelsonís column in Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament and the Millennium Wheel. Descending into the Underground after my tea break, I found they had taped announcements running every few minutes about the advisability of carrying water in the hot weather and to please not pull the brake cord in case of a medical emergency. Nonetheless, I tubed back to the hostel for a cold shower and then went to dinner at a pub down the road with one of my roommates, a woman from Australia who was in the middle of a six month trip. It was still very hot at bed time but I was so tired I managed to sleep anyway.
left: boating on Regent's Canal
right: the view from the National Portrait Gallery Cafe
Thursday July 20 Day Three
The heat woke me up early so I took my pillow out to the window seat on the grand staircase and napped until it was time for breakfast. I checked the weather report on the lobby computers and saw that the 19th was the hottest July day ever recorded in London which has, you know, rather a lot of recorded history. Temperatures in the subway had been well over a hundred. After breakfast, I took the tube to the train station to pick up the ticket I had booked on line for Scotland. It was so easy, I was a little worried I had done it wrong. My roommate from Bristol was impressed at the low price I had found. Apparently booking ahead counts. I tubed over to Oxford Street to do a little shopping (I only got lost once in the process. I think Iím getting the hang of this.) Found some pants at Marks and Spencer. I walked over to Marble Arch stopping at Selfridgeís food court on the way and then picked up a sandwich at Pret a Manger to eat in Hyde Park. I didnít see anyone out riding horses but, again, it was cool to see the park I have walked and ridden through in so many novels. I did have a nice conversation with some kids studying English. They had to ask questions to English speaking strangers. I guess as an American I almost qualified.
After the park, I took the tube down to the Tate Gallery and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the South Bank of the Thames which takes you directly underneath the London Eye. Despite the heat, I was determined to make it all the way to the Tower Bridge. From there the Underground took me back to Westminster so I could wait in line for Evensong at the abbey. The choir was from Belfast, teenagers, and they did very well. The sopranos were lovely. It was really something to hear the music Iíve been singing in choirs all these years sung in the place it was actually written for. One more tube ride back to the hostel where I took a long cold-as-possible shower and then went to dinner with my two younger roommates, Andrea from Bristol and Oda from Sweden. I realized later that the barman at the pub probably thought I was out with my daughter and her friend. Oh well, I had a nice time. Some reading in my lovely window seat and then sleep in the hot, hot, room.
left: walking under the London Eye
right: the end of the walk
Friday July 21 Day Four
Although the weather forecast called for cooler temperatures the higher humidity made it very sticky and uncomfortable for sightseeing. I decided any walking would have to happen early in the day so I started south, going along Avenue Road (no kidding) admiring the fancy houses that included some with armed guards. I think they were embassies. Arriving at Regentís Park I tried to stay in the shady areas and eventually came to Queen Maryís gardens, which has a lovely rose garden and a nice little pond. I read and wrote for a while. Finally summoning my courage to face the heat, I started out to look for the Underground and, naturally, went the wrong way again. I ended up walking the long way round past Madame Tussaudís to the Baker Street (yes, that Baker Street) station and then tubed over to Notting Hill Gate. I had another picnic lunch, this time in Kensington Park (got lost once). After lunch I went to look for the Portabello Road Market (got lost twice) where I found the one really good deal in London. They were selling huge delicious raspberries for a pound a pint. I was so hot by this time that I decided to go back to the hostel before I got sick. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in my nice cool window seat. Itís my vacation. I can spend it any way I like. Lorraine from Tasmania came by and invited me for a drink down the pub where we had a nice talk. I convinced her that all Americans are not blindly approving of our president and she invited me to stop by next time Iím in Tazzie.
left: Queen Mary's roses baking in the sun
right: The Thames and attendant famous sights
Saturday July 22 Day Five
I woke up a little later than I had planned and had to rush through packing and breakfast. I said goodbye to the girls, checked out and headed to the tube one more time. As it was Saturday, there were lots of service shutdowns so I had to work out an alternate route to get to Kingís Cross. I was quite proud of my newly acquired transit skills. I got to the station in plenty of time to queue for the train. Since we were all supposed to have reserved seats, I donít quite see why they made us do that. I found my car and asked some nice boys to help me find my seat. It was the smallest seat in the car, but I figured that was OK since I had paid such a small fare. At least we had air-conditioning! The best sights from the train were: a pond filled with model sailboats and no visible people (it looked like someone had shrunk a lake), the blond fields of hay that seemed almost lit from within against the silvery gray sky, the sea, the extreme Englishness of the lady in the seat in front (she actually said ďnever mind, deariesĒ to the little girls next to her), the stone buildings decorated with flowers in the town with the river just before Edinburgh.