LONDON AND BATH
|Buckle up, Leslie|
Jody and Leslie’s excellent adventure began in the wine bar at Dulles Airport. We had a glass of wine to toast the start of our travels before boarding our flight to Heathrow, in London. The flight was uneventful and we each managed to catch a few minutes of sleep. After gathering our luggage and clearing customs, we found our transfer van for the ride to our hotel in London. Apparently London was a bit busy with some event called the Olympics this past summer? We thought we were being pretty smart by booking our trip for dates after the closing ceremonies and Labor Day, failing to take into account that we would overlap with the final two days of the Paralympics.
We arrived at our hotel in Kensington and found our room to be slightly bigger than a breadbox, more closely approximating the dimensions of a Sears refrigerator box. But, the neighborhood suited us and we knew we would be able to navigate the city fairly well.
|Leslie, Diana and Dodi|
After a little nap to get our internal clocks reset, we did what any self-respecting American tourist would do on their first night in London. We went to a pub for a pint and a bite to eat. Then we headed to Harrods. And, what do you do the minute you get through the doors and past the Harrods security people? Take the Egyptian escalator to the lower level and introduce Leslie to the Dodi and Diana memorial! I think the proper English term is to say that Leslie was gob-smacked.
We shopped a bit, and then began our trek back to Kensington. This was complicated a bit by the fact that for some unknown reason the Knightsbridge tube station was closed, forcing us to start walking toward the next station. Now, here are some words to strike fear into anybody who travels with me. If you ever hear me say “Follow me because I know the way”, don’t. But, thanks to the Olympics and the friendly face that London has put forward, there are these clever tourist ambassadors in little stands all over the city. Fortunately, I had only led us a few blocks off track and we did manage to adjust our route without too much bother.
Back in Kensington, we decided on a final pint before retiring for the night. A block off High Street, we walked into the Britannia and parked ourselves on a couple of stools. In no time at all, we were enjoying a lovely conversation with a couple that had lived across the street from the Britannia for 25 years. They both loved the neighborhood and gave us lots of little bits of info. Allen asked if we liked jazz and would we be interested in a little jazz club he knew of when we returned to London the following week? Yes, we do and we are hoping to meet Allen and Christine again next week!
Saturday morning we headed to the rail station and caught a train from London to Bath. And, as I have so often written, rail service in Great Britain is pretty convenient, smooth, easy and dependable. Our B&B is only a few short blocks from the train station and it is lovely! Our room is charming and we have a fireplace in the bathroom. That’s right. In the bathroom. After checking in, we headed right out and began to explore the city. We bought Hop-On Hop-Off bus tickets and went for a ride all through the main parts of Bath. The taped commentary gave us an overview of the architecture and history of this amazing city. And, the weather was fabulous. When we had made one full circle of the city, we wandered over to the Avon River to look for a place for lunch and to enjoy the gardens along the river bank.
Luck was with us and we found the Riverside Café. The menu is imaginative and everything seems to be made to order. Our chicken caesar salads had fresh shaved parmeasian cheese and lovely slices of streaky bacon. Just outside the café, we could catch glimpses into the sports stadium where the season opening rugby match was being played between Bath and London. It must have been a very close match because every two minutes the 20,000 spectators were on their feet, roaring.
After lunch, we took a cruise up the river to the little town of Bathhampton, chatting with other passengers. There wasn’t too much to see, but it was a nice way to relax. When the cruise ended, we decided to get back on another Hop-On bus for the second half of that tour, following the skyline drive into the hills around Bath.
As this tour ended, we were very surprised to find the city positively awash in pedestrians, all wearing black and blue team jerseys. They were all in a frenzy following the win by Bath over the London Wasps. Well, what better way to show our enthusiasm for this beautiful city than to join the celebration in a pub. We stepped into the entrance and were directed down a flight of stairs to the patio bar. The entire lower level opened into a garden overlooking the river. We carried our beer and took a look around the garden in search of an empty table where we could sip and watch all the celebrations. We spotted a picnic table occupied by a young couple and asked if they would mind if we joined them. Thus began one of the most fun evenings we could have ever hoped for. Our tablemates had taken a train that morning from their home in Wales, traveling to Bath for a wee day trip. By the end of the evening, John and his partner Charlie (short for Charlotte) and Leslie and I were all trading email address and promising to stay in touch. The four of us laughed, mocked each other and ourselves, talked history, compared lives and life styles, swapped vocabulary words and pronunciations. All this conversation, as wild celebrations were swirling about amongst the other patrons. There were rabid Rugby fans everywhere and a huge stag party with men in matching shirts and very odd hats. The place was really rocking.
|Charlie, Jody, Leslie and John|
John and Charlie left to catch their train home and Leslie and I went in search of a suitable dinner spot. Two doors down and a half a flight of stairs up was the very same café where we had had such a lovely lunch. I’m happy to report that dinner was just as wonderful. We lingered over a glass of wine and chatted with other diners. We expressed our appreciation to our adorable waiter, Joachin, and he introduced us to the owner. Now, you probably think that this was the end of our evening, but no. We left the café and began walking toward our B&B. But, wait. What do I spy with my little eye? A man in a leather kilt? I think we should check this out. So, into the bar we go, stepping into what appeared to be another stag party. And. It’s true what they say about a man in a kilt not wearing underwear. The chap in the kilt was standing at the bar and we were about six feet behind him. One of his mates saw us and reached over, grabbed the bottom of the kilt and lifted it straight up. Then, he looked at us and said, “So ladies, what do you think of this?” Behold, a very hairy set of cheeks and no, I did not get a photo. We dissolved into puddles of laughter and had to turn and run for the safety of The Henry House and our beds. Thus ended our first night in Bath.