Spring Break in Europe - London, Cotswolds, and Kent

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April 4th 2004
Published: April 6th 2011
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In November 1995, before leaving Belgium, I promised the kids we would visit our former home in Overijse before Tamara graduated from high school. As Tamara would be graduating in June 2004, I bought tickets for the entire family to fly to London and tour London, the Cotswolds, and Kent in England; Paris, France; and Brussels and Overijse, Belgium; and then Basingstoke, England to visit friends before our return flight. When Linda saw the itinerary she stubbornly refused to go with us. She stayed home to garden and spring clean. She was right; she never would have survived the trip.

4 April 2004 Sunday. We set our alarms for 5 am and made it to Dulles in time for the daytime flight on British Airways to London Heathrow. This was the first time we took the day flight east bound across the Atlantic. We arrived at 8 pm (3 pm EDT). We took the tube to Earls Court and walked a hundred meters to the Travel Inn which had a family room for four; checking in at 10:30 pm (5:30 pm EDT). It was time for supper, and not much was open. We found an Italian restaurant that met our needs precisely. We soon realized that food and lodging would be expensive with the dollar at $1.86/pound. We tried to fall asleep at 11:30 pm (6:30 pm EDT). That’s the problem with taking a day flight; you are not sleepy when it is very late at your destination. I didn’t try that again; preferring istead the overnight flights.

5 April Monday. We did London. Before we left home I checked the weather forecast for the week which said that we would encounter showers for the entire time. We were prepared, but fortunately whenever we had to walk outside this day we had good weather. We awoke about 8 am with the sun shining. We stopped at a local bakery to buy hot crossed buns for breakfast. The kids didn’t like the raisins so I had to buy them croissants. We caught the tube at precisely 9:30; non rush hour when the Oyster card kicked in and got off at Green Park. We walked to Buckingham Palace, but they were not changing the guard until 11:30 am so we walked through St James Park to Westminster Abbey. There were long lines to get in there and the Houses of Parliament, so we walked down Whitehall to the Horse Guards. Rosanna patted the horse which almost bit her. We saw the Changing of the Horseguards, and then walked to Trafalgar Square. We took a double decker bus to the Tower of London, but decided the lines were too long and $90 was too much to pay to get in; and we had done the Tower before. So we returned to Trafalgar Square and ate a pub lunch at the Sherlock Holmes Pub. After lunch we caught another bus to Knightsbridge and Harrods, which is always good for a couple hours of ooooing and aweing. From ther we caught a bus to Oxford Street. The girls wanted to shop by themselves, so I told them to meet Will and I at the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus in 1 ½ hours. Will and I stopped at a number of sports shops and I tried to find Dinky cars (nostalgia of my elementary school days at Dalat, Vietnam) at Hamlyn’s, but there were none. We ended up at Whytelily’s at Piccadilly Circus, a five floor sports store, where Will bought 3 football jerseys. I was sure we had seen the last of the girls, but amazingly they showed up right on time. It turned out that the previous hour they had spend asking direction to the statue of some guy shooting arrows. I was glad I didn’t pick a statue of some guy riding a horse! We took the tube back to our hotel to freshen up and have sandwiches (available almost everywhere for cheap) for supper. We decided to return to Harrods for desert. From there we walked to Buckingham Palace, which was further than we estimated. As our feet were killing us, we took a cab to Westminster Abby which was closed. We walked across the Thames River to London Eye, a 135 meter high Ferris wheel that is constantly moving and takes 30 minutes to go around. The view was fantastic, especially as a thundershower was passing creating rainbows as the sun was setting. We caught the tube back to our hotel and watched TV. I had a pedometer, and although we bought an Oyster card that provided public transportation, the meter still showed we each walked 17,000 steps that day. No wonder Linda stayed home!

6 April 2004 Tuesday. We caught the tube back to Heathrow where we caught the shuttle to the rental car company at the same airport hotel where Linda and I had spent a night in 1974; thirty years earlier. By 11:40 am we were on the road, and within minutes and after some criticism by the kids of my driving ability, had become used to using a manual transmission with the gear shift on the wrong side, and driving on the wrong side of the road. We passed through Henley on Thames and Oxford on our way to the quintessential village of Bibury in the Cotswolds. We had a late a gourmet lunch at a manor house, sitting in overstuffed chairs in front of a roaring fire. As we walked outside to see the sheep the rain came, so we drove to Bourton-on-the-Water where we walked some more as the rain had stopped. Bourton is probably my favorite Cotswold village as there is a brook running through the center of town, with paths and bridges connecting the two sides. We then drove through Chipping Campden to Hidecote Manor Garden and strolled around the gardens. We checked into the Evesham Travel Inn. We left some money with Will so he could eat at the restaurant next door, while Tamara, Rosanna, and I drove into Stratford on Avon to the Shakespeare Theater to see “Romeo and Juliet.” What a wonderful evening! We returned to our hotel about midnight.

7 April 2004 Wednesday. We then headed back towards London taking the m-25 around the south side to Kent; arriving at Knole, one of England’s largest Elizabethan castles near Seven Oaks about 1 pm. (Its forest had lasted for 400 year until the storm of 1987 had knocked over 70%. I was trying to land at Gatwick in that storm, but after descending and almost touching down the pilot diverted to Stanstead, instead. When I got to my meeting off Trafalgar Square, construction debris almost cut me down. The good part was that I could get a cancelled ticket to Miss Saigon that evening). We toured the castle and attempted to feed the many deer in their deer park. We bought some gifts for Linda at the National Trust gift shop. Our next stop was medieval moated Scotney Castle; which was quite cozy, and had beautiful gardens. Then it was on to Bodiam Castle, another moated castle from the 14th century. By 4 pm the kids were very hungry for lunch so we ate sandwiches and a soft drink when we got to Rye. I walked around town while they ate in the car. We then drove through Stone on Oxney, and rove past the Post Hose where Joe, Carol, Linda and I had stayed in 1982 and where we stayed with Uncle Tom in 1986; but it was closed. The old sisters who ran the B&B must have passed away. Time changes all. We drove to the Travel Inn on the coastal road between Folkestone and Dover. I went to the ferry terminal in Dover to buy tickets for the ferry the next morning. We had dinner at the Beefeaters restaurant attached to our hotel. Beefeaters was the favorite restaurant when the kids were growing up as there was one in Brussels and one in our hometown of Overijse. We went to bed early as the next morning would be an early start.

Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 27


Rosanna and Tamara by Serpinetine LakeRosanna and Tamara by Serpinetine Lake
Rosanna and Tamara by Serpinetine Lake

with Buckingham Palace in the background
Will, Rosanna and Tamara by the Serpentine LakeWill, Rosanna and Tamara by the Serpentine Lake
Will, Rosanna and Tamara by the Serpentine Lake

with Buckingham Palace in the background

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