Adventures in London

In my last post, Brenna and I were finishing up our stay in Ireland. During our walks around the village of Clifden, I noticed a shop that advertised next-day business cards. I went inside and inquired, and was told that I could send an email with graphics and they would have the cards ready the next day. Since I had been to many conferences and was tired of writing my info on a scrap of paper when everyone else was handing out business cards, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

I sent a head shot and found a Rotary symbol on-line, along with my phone number, email address and just the village and state of Mexico where I live. I also had a heading with the name of my Rotary club – the Rotary e Club of the Southwest USA. When I went to pick up the cards, the person in charge of printing had left out the “e,” thinking it was a typo. And – he had already printed up 200 cards. Oops! I explained that the small “e” was very important, so he said I could pick up the re-printed cards in the morning.

Fortunately, our car service wasn’t due to pick us up until 1pm the next day, so I was able to return to the shop the following morning and left with my business cards. Whew!!!

There was one other hiccup that had been bothering me since before we left the U.S. – Our flight from Ireland was landing at London/Stanstead Airport on Friday the 13th – the same day and same airport President Trump would be there. I had visions of delays and traffic jams dancing in my brain, with the thought that no matter what happened, at least it was a direct flight so I didn’t have to worry about making a connecting flight.

As it turned out, our departure from Ireland was only delayed one hour, and our host in London already knew we were arriving in the evening, so there was no problem.  From the Stanstead Airport we took a bus, and then a taxi to our Air BnB, which turned out to be an apartment on the 10th floor of the building. We needed to ring the apartment, as there were two other guests staying there. We finally arrived at 11pm and once we were in, we were given a key to the building, to the front door of the apartment and to our bedroom.  We never did see the owner of the apartment, but had many pleasant conversations with the other guests.

Our London Dr. Who walking tour wasn’t until that Sunday, so we spent Saturday exploring London via walking and taking the London Underground. We found our way to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which was very interesting. Holmes and Watson, in the novels, lived at 221B Baker Street.  This museum was on Baker Street, but technically had another number, but, I guess, for the tourists and fans of Sherlock Holmes, was designated as 221B.  The building had the furnishings of the time and mannequins depicting various characters from the novels.  The line was very long to get in, and tickets had to first be purchased from the souvenir shop next to the museum. I think we waited about 90 minutes to get in.

The following day, we took the Doctor Who London Walking Tour. Not being a Whovian myself, a lot of what the guide said didn’t mean much to me, but it was still enjoyable, and Brenna was able to meet many people her own age who were also fans, including a girl from North Carolina.

One of the places we stopped on the tour was the actual Stratford-on-Avon theater, where Shakespeare’s plays are still performed.  After the tour, we continued walking around, visiting the London Eye and seeing the Tower of London, which, unfortunately, had netting and scaffolding around it for maintenance and repairs.

Also, when crossing one of the bridges across the Thames, we saw people relieving tourists of their hard-earned cash with shell games, and also a young man practicing on the bagpipes. Apparently, there was also going to be a bagpipe contest at some point in the near future.

During our wanderings, we also visited Paddington Station. Yes, Paddington Station as in Paddington Bear.  In that station, they actually had a shop full of PB merchandise, including books and stuffed bears. I bought a bear in anticipation of our trip to Refuweegee (the organization that helps refugees) in Glasgow.

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Brenna at the Paddington Bear shop in Paddington Station

     We did quite a bit of walking, and Europe was experiencing an unusually hot summer, so eventually we headed back to our apartment. One nice thing about staying in this Air BnB was that we had access to a kitchen and a washing machine, so we bought our own food and cooked it, saving the cost of restaurant meals, and also making it more convenient to be able to eat when we wanted and not be dependent on hours and availability of local restaurants.

The Air BnB was about a 40 minute walk to the nearest Underground station, but in exchange for not being close to public transportation, we had an incredible view of London in the distance. We also used the taxis quite a bit. We were told to use only the black taxis, as they were more regulated. We were supposed to be able to sign on and pay ahead with a credit care, much like Uber and Lyft, but that never worked, so I ended up paying cash for every ride.

As I mentioned, I am a member of Rotary International, and also a member of the International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors (which is actually healthcare workers, not just doctors), and I had been notified by my club that I qualified for my Paul Harris+1 pin. However, there is no club near where I live in Mexico.  My fellow IFRD member, Dr. John Philip lives with his wife Christine outside of London, so I notified him ahead of time that I would be in London and wanted to visit them and attend his local club meeting and receive my pin there,

We arranged to take the train to his home, attend a meeting and stay overnight.  We took the train and it was so nice to have a relaxing visit. Usually we only meet up every two or three years, when I have the time and money to attend the International Convention.

The train tickets were an interesting experience. The two tickets and the receipt all looked the same. You put your ticket into a machine, then it pops back up and the turnstile gate opens to let you through to the platform. I kept wondering why my ticket didn’t work, so I ended up squeezing through with Brenna – both of us at once. When I got on the train and took a good look at my ticket, it turns out that I was using my receipt, not the actual ticket. Since you also need to put the ticket in a machine when you reach your destination, I was wondering what would happen, but as it turned out, there was construction at our destination, so the machines weren’t in use. Well, I DID pay for the ticket, so it wasn’t like I was jumping the turnstile without paying.

It was nice to be able to visit my friends and have leisurely chats, as well as seeing their new home. We walked around the village, which was quite quaint, complete with a canal and a small bridge which could turn to let boats pass. That evening we attended the Newbury Rotary Club meeting.

It was a wonderful club meeting and we met so many nice Rotarians. At our table, sitting next to me was a man who introduced himself by saying, “Would you like to shake the hand of the man who shook hands with Prince Harry?”  The man’s name was Roy Wood and he is a member of mapaction.org, one of the charities that Prince Harry supports ( https://mapaction.org/about-us/ )  Mapaction is an organization that gathers  information during disasters, providing responders with critically important information necessary for them to do their jobs.

During the evening, I was presented with my pin by Irene Waters, president of the Newbury Rotary club.

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Receiving my Paul Harris +1 pin from President Irene Waters

Newbury Rotary Club

England

     And then it was time to return to Dr. Philip’s home for a good night’s rest.

The following morning, we took the train back to London and packed up our suitcases.  Tired of going from place to place by air, I booked two tickets for private berths on the Caledonian Sleeper to take us from London to Glasgow.  For many parts of this trip, I looked for ways to save money, but for some things, since this was a trip of a lifetime for Brenna, I decided to spend the extra money. Having a hotel in Paris just two blocks from the Eiffel Tower with a balcony with a tower-view was one expenditure, and the sleeper train was another.  I felt it was well-worth the extra money in addition to not having to visit another airport and ride in  tiny planes again.

And so we said good by to London – next stop, Glasgow!

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left to right – Dr. Philip, Brenna, Christine Philip, me

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