The Americans Are Coming! The Americans Are Coming!

Friday, October 04, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Ken's bag was already in the car
European Adventure, Day 1
LONDON, EnglandUnbeknownst to our allies across the Atlantic, we were headed to England again.  This time we brought my sister Jeanne with us.  Though we have offered to take other relatives on birthday trips before, Jeanne is the first to respond enthusiastically when we suggested a trip abroad.  When we joined her at the beach last week to talk about possibilities, the best time to go seemed to be "now!"

So yesterday, off we went.  Flying from Atlanta, we left with one bag each for a three-week trip.  No problem.  We know how to pack light, and since we avoided the hassle and potential problems of checking our bags, we were very glad we did.

During a two-hour layover in Newark, Jeanne capitalized on one last opportunity to stay in touch with her children.  The football team David coaches at Mississippi's Jones County Junior College had a game Thursday night.  What better way to while away the layover than watching the game online on her smartphone?  The Bobcats did their part, producing a 47-0 victory to give us a great sendoff.

JCJC is scoring again!
Departing from Newark at 9:15 p.m., we endured a long and restless six-hour flight, arriving in London at 9:10 a.m. local time.  Jeanne made a new friend in her seatmate on the flight, a 25-year-old young man from New Jersey who is moving to London to begin a new job with an international law firm.  Like her, he is a bit of a nervous flyer, so they commiserated with each other as the plane touched down at Heathrow.

Immigration and customs routines were uneventful, and after winding our way through the labyrinthine corridors and passageways of Heathrow airport, we finally caught a train to Paddington station.  Not the express we intended to take, however.  We accidentally boarded a local train, so we had plenty of time to relax as we stopped at each station on the way into town.

Listening to an oldie by the Supremes
After purchasing our Oyster cards (an electronic ticketing system used on public transport in Greater London), we boarded the Tube's Central line for Shepherd's Bush. At this point, we were all flagging pretty significantly, having been up for almost 24 hours with only a few snatches of sleep on board the plane.  When we spotted a Starbucks store on the way to Barclays Bank for some local currency, we had no difficulty figuring out what to do.  A jolt of java (or other caffeine of one's choice) was just what we needed.

With another hour to kill before 1:00, when we could check in to the Royal Crescent apartment we had rented for the next eight days, we dropped in at the Hilton across the street to sit and snack.  Predictably, Royal Crescent is a semicircular street which is home to two distinctive four-story curved buildings facing the street.  Built around 1840, many of the individual townhouses have now been carved up into individual flats, housed on single floors.  In the curve of the crescent lies a landscaped park with expanses of grass and trees. The houses boast porticoed entrances, above which are small first-floor balconies with iron railings. At either end of the two semi-crescent buildings are pepperbox end houses with circular structures.

Royal Crescent  (Our retreat is at the far right end, where Royal Crescent intersects Holland Park Avenue.)
With the keys to our sanctuary finally in hand around 1 p..m., we retreated to our separate bedrooms and let sleep overtake us at last.  Three hours of respite refreshed us enough to walk over to Westfield Shopping Center a half mile away to stock up on groceries, including supplies for tonight's dinner.  Jeanne admitted feeling surprisingly in tune with Goldilocks when she began shopping for one of her favorite breakfasts.  Who knew that the porridge that naughty girl stole from the three bears was actually oatmeal?

Jeanne shops for porridge (aka oatmeal).
Back at our apartment, we noticed on my pedometer that we had walked 4.6 miles today.  That certainly called for opening a bottle of wine as we prepared salad and risotto for dinner, admittedly not without some stumbles as we learned to use a different kind of kitchen (more about that later).  Our creme brulee dessert (well done, Ken!) finished off a delicious meal and an interesting, if tiring, first day.  A few plans for tomorrow, and it was off to bed for us all.