All steps easy through to the underground at Terminal 4 of Heathrow. Onto the wifi and rapid contact with Alex. We always forget just how far it is from this airport to the centre of London. Also how noisey the Tube carriages are. Through to Green Park and onto the Jubilee line for West Hampstead station. Alex and Jill were there to meet us which was excellent. Both looking fit and flourishing in the environment. A few blocks past trendy and diverse shops and cafes and into there flat complex. Multi-storey terrace houses that had been 9 bed-sits after WWII. Now two generous apartments. Theirs, on the top floor is light and airy and surprisingly quiet given its inner city location. We rapidly caught up on the story so far and made plans to head out.
Alex and Greg have an interest in big infrastructure and logistics, and it was a relatively quiet Saturday so we decided to head down to the mouth of the Thames. Although a bit nerdish we thought everyone might find something in this. Alex and Jill had hired a share car for the day. We wandered up through the streets of beautiful Hampstead, among stately
mansions and active renovation work to find the car: a Ford Fiesta. Through the tangled streets of London, across the northern outskirts to the freeways heading east. First stop Tilbury. Big ships, container terminals and wind generator towers. Bit of an industrial wasteland really, but it was a start. Then further south east to the Tilbury Fort, right opposite Gravesend. Interesting little museum and monuments. The Brits do this type of historical recognition well. It was starting to blow stiffly from the east. Jill called ahead to see whether we would be able to visit Mersea Island, which occasionally gets cut off by high tidal waters running over the road. Booked in for lunch at a key little restaurant.
After winding our way through back lanes and past low country pastures we crossed the causeway onto Mersea Island and down to the little village of West Mersea. Very cute and clearly preparing for the influx of English tourists over the summer. Interesting house boats virtually moored, but high and dry on the shoreline. Old hulks that people had renovated and are now using as homes or holiday houses. We had massive fish and chip meals at the Coast Inn.
Also Jill and I had a lovely bitter ale. Vegetarian is not as hard to get nowadays as it used to be. Noted also a little shop in town called "Cakehole". Nice marketing. A brief walk down to the pier where a group of young kids, maybe Cubs, we're catching crabs in hand nets. Also using spam on the end of a string. Maximum length would have been three inches and it seemed like it was more for the sport than for sustenance. Visited the West Mersea Yacht Club which had a lovely old club house. Pot of tea that only the pommes can do.
Headed home via Colchester and Chelmsford, and it needs to be said that one of us (G) was pretty damn weary - dropping off repeatedly. Jill prepared the non-comatose travel partner (C) a fresh salad with real artichokes, and they sat up and worked through the details of travel for the next few days and the Camino.
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