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Where to Begin?

I imagine by now you are all dying to know about the trip. Well, here we go.....

Yesterday morning Bruce and I awoke at 4:00 EST; apparently our bodies were convinced it was 9AM GMT. First thing I did was look at my pictures, which truth be told, are not terribly exciting. For one thing, with London's busy streets it is hard to just stop and take a photo. Furthermore, mostly we were on missions, either following our London tour guide (Matt) or the three other tours we took. Because we'd never taken a tour before it was a new sensation--following the Pied Piper. Did I mention I could not keep up with our city boy? It was a darn good thing he wore some very colorful shirts!

Instead of a true narration, I'm going to divide this into three sections. Sights, impressions and photographs. Ready? This could get long.....

Where we went and what we saw:
  • Broadway Market
  • London Fields
  • Hackney Museum
  • Saw where Matt works 
  • Spitafields
  • Poppies Fish and Chips for dinner
  • Banksy work in Matt's neighborhood
  • Regent's Canal
  • Geffrye Museum
  • Columbia Road flower market
  • Independence Day picinic
  • Soho for dinner
  • Monday is mostly a blank for me except for dinner at Pizza Express and Tift Merritt concert
  • Paddington station to Bath
  • Royal Crescent in Bath and other sights
  • Celebrated Matt's birthday at Demeuths (wonderful meal)
  •  Stonehenge, Avebury, Castle Combe
  • Our only iffy meal of the whole trip at Crystal Palace
  • Cotswolds Discovery Tour
  • Transport Museum
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Mayfaire
  • Green Park
  • Dinner at Leon
  • Street Art Tour with Griff
  • Dinner at Nandos (fantastic)
  • War Horse at the National Theater
  • Drink at Princess Louise pub
  • St. Pancreas station to Leicester
  • Wonderful lunch and conversation with Ray and Jane Flude (Tom's parents)
  • Gifts galore
  • Dinner at the station--another yummy meal
  • Remembered Monday--London Museum
  • South Bank
  • Courtald Gallery
  • Westminster Bridge crossing
  • Docklands
  • Olympic Park

Impressions:
  • The food was SO MUCH better than I expected!!! 
  • After a few days, Bruce discovered that we paid in pounds, what we pay in dollars.
  • The buses, trains, and underground were all amazing in their efficiency. We even navigated one day on our own.
  • You have to move fast or you can get run over! As mentioned above I was usually lagging behind but no one was pushy or rude. 
  • It's possible to live in a quiet neighborhood a few bus stops away from the center of the city.
  • Bikes are wildly popular.
  • Matt and Tom are terrific together.
  • London is a wild, vibrant mix of people.
  • The English countryside is beautiful in person. I've seen a hedgerow for myself now.
  • Flowers! Flowers! Flowers!
  • The weather changes hourly, although, there was more rain in Florida during our absence than there was in England.
  • Matt's flat uses space so cleverly.
  • It is hard to underestimate how old much of England is. Seeing the Roman Baths is mind boggling.
  • I'm no good at breezing through museums, which Matt discovered for himself. We probably spent more time in the Museum of London than most folks. Thousands of years of history will do that to a curious person. 
  • Service in all the restaurants was terrific, unlike here where the staff usually has attitude.
  • A very noticeable lack of tattoos and breast implants.
  • Bruce remarked on the beautiful complexions he noticed.
  • Very little honking on the streets which is striking because there is a wild jumble of buses, taxis, cars and cyclists all sharing very narrow roads.
  • London feels very safe. It may not be, however, we were never concerned even at night.
  • Street markets are very, very popular.
Photographs:

You can well imagine I took a lot of photographs. Indeed, 1224 on my two cameras. Some on Bruce's because one evening my battery died and I'd neglected to pack a spare. As I imagined the majority are typical tourist photos with no saleable future. I'm posting some with explanations today, however, you may be seeing more in the foreseeable future as I spend more time looking at them. Off we go.....
The obligatory Stonehenge photo. Although most everyone has seen a photograph before, in person it is extraordinary.
These are not in order of appearance btw. One of our favorite street artists, James Cochrane from Australia.  Imagine doing this with spray paint!

 
Bruce and I disagree on the street artist Stiks whose work is pictured below. I love the simplicity, he thinks it's silly. Nevertheless, he makes his work with only six lines and color and to me the expressiveness is extraordinary.

Matt attempted to photograph his parents on several occasions with me spoiling most of them. At any rate, here's one from Bath.
Although Matt had a blow dryer for me to use, I didn't make much use of it, thus my hair is kinda crazy. A light sweater or rain jacket over my sleeveless dresses was all I needed.
A darling picture of Matthew with his birthday desert at Demeuths in Bath, which serves vegetarian/vegan fine dining. Next time I'll show you the extraordinary cake Tom made before we left London.
Years ago I was a collector of David Winter cottages which prepared me for our Costwolds trip. Now that I've seen the area in person I realize all the more what a great job he did replicating the darling homes and businesses of the region.
This is an example from Bibury. A lovely stream held some swans, ducks, and what I learned from Tom, a morehen, or at least that's what I think I remember. We were both amused and amazed by the antics of one of the mute swans as he harrased the ducks:
A regular terrorizer! Here is the morehen with a brand spanking new little chick, actually there were two newborns and some unhatched eggs as well.
We had lunch in a traditional pub dating back hundreds of years (my memory escapes me) and after my ploughmen's lunch I wandered a bit on the two streets of the village coming across this charming place:
The English love to walk in the country with multiple footpaths marked. We took one through a
sheep meadow which was just delightful as long as you watched your step! That husband of mine is just so darn photogenic isn't he? He was making sure I was coming along:
That was our foray into the countryside and I can't say enough how delighted I am we took those tours. The sole problem for someone like me is I had very little time to take anything but tourist shots.


Back in the city, this kind of display is in front of shops on each block near Matt's flat:
On our last night there I finally stopped buying about a three pound basket of nectarines for one pound. Having just returned from a little visit to Clemons this morning, I can tell you that it would have cost about three times that here. Curious, however, I suppose the competition is great.


A walk on a Thames bridge over to the South Bank offered this view of London which is jam packed with cranes. Construction projects everywhere which was a nice bonus for Bruce.
We enjoyed lunch then meandered along the Thames. This charming scene is of little beach shacks, decorated by local artist which are set up for the summer.
There is a really cool water jet fountain, which apparently if you are very clever, can be stood in without getting wet. This young boy wasn't that lucky! 
After this relaxing walk we headed out to the site of the Olympic park which offered us this view:
The red sculpture is being constructed for the games, an Anish Kapoor design. Tom is working on the transport for the millions of expected visitors. 


Speaking of Tom, our trip to meet his parents was delightful. The comfortable train trip was just under two hours, followed by a taxi ride to their home. And what a lovely home it is! The hospitality shown by Ray and Jane was tremendous, as was the vegan lunch. Everything about the inside of their book filled home was charming. Double doors lead out to a wonderful, controlled chaos garden as described by Jane.
 Tom loving up one of the cats:
I now understand more fully Angela's garden obsession. I'm freely admitting to a bad case of jealousy! I only wish this were the size of our yard.
Jane and Tom must be pointing out something very interesting to Matthew!


After our trip to the London Museum, Matthew had to have been thrilled that I wanted to go to the Courtland Gallery because there was virtually no way I could spend hours there. Although their collection included works by Picaso, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Serault and Pisarro, what really sticks in my mind is this interesting piece shown in the Gravity special exhibit.
Suspended by what appears to be fishing line, these are bricks collected from the shoreline of the White Cliffs of Dover from the lasting remnants of houses that have collapsed into the sea over the years. Really, really cool.


After seeing War Horse at the National Theater we went to one of London's prettiest and oldest pubs, The Princess Louise:
We were not there for too long because when it's time to close, they are very serious. Ringing the bell for last call and within the half hour, the bell rings once again and it's time to leave!


By now you may be exhausted reading all this and frankly I'm exhausted writing it! Seriously, I do know it's a lot and believe me, I won't go two weeks without blogging again. Our flight home was made all the better by the special treatment Bruce receives for being a gazillion miler with Delta. Here is the appetizer for lunch:
Can you believe that? Looks like lunch to me! Watching movies, eating, drinking, reading and sleeping our way home, we finally arrived around 9:30 at night. The first thing Nancy said when she saw me was, "You poor thing, you look so tired!" She was right, it had been a very long day.


Forgive me my errors please; it has taken me so long to do this I can't go back!
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