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For those of you who know we were in London for
three weeks and have been sending me notes saying, basically, "where
the hec are the travelogues", well,
here IT is. I realize this is a three week travelogue. I'm
all know that Diane and I are big time walkers when we travel and love
to take in as
much as we can on foot. Well, unfortunately, I came back from
a very severe back problem for which medicine and an epidural has not
Sitting and some positions lying down are the only ones that provide
So I have been very limited as to activity. I have been relegated
sitting on one of those bus tours of the city, which go way to fast to
see everything and
near impossible to get good pictures. I don't have as much as
say on this trip and I haven't been particularly motivated to work on a
so I decided to combine everything into a single travelogue for this
Although I have worked in the UK twice for a total of eight weeks, I haven't spent much time in London. I took a one day trip to London in 1993 with a friend who was on assignment in Hursley. Diane and I spent a day in London in July 1994. That was when our entire team was in Europe, half in Paris and half in England, we all got to go to our manager Sue's wedding in England. Other than that, all of my time in the UK was spent in the south down around Portsmouth. This was to be an opportunity to do all the touristy things we didn't have time to do the last time we were here (e.g., Tower of London).
We arrived on Sunday, 8/1, after an overnight flight and finally got to the hotel around 9 AM. We both actually felt pretty good and went out to do some touring and also to pick up the rental car at the Marble Arch location. We are staying at the Kensington Hilton, which is not far from Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace (where Princess Diana lived). Then we took a ride out to Bedfont Lakes to make sure the directions to the IBM location were clear. I didn't want to have to figure out the directions and also deal with Monday morning traffic. It was a nice day for a ride. The commute will take about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Some of the other team member arrived on Monday (Nick, Rufus, Ed). The first day of an audit is usually 'setup' day to make sure we can connect to the network, accommodations are ok, have access to a network or local printer, etc. We got back to the hotel for an early dinner and ended up at an Italian restaurant. Very small and comfy. It turned out to be a fun evening thanks to a couple of Italian waiters who were real jokesters. One guy was teasing that we should watch out for the other waiter lest he steal some of our wine. He
was 'demonstrating' how it would be done and it ended up that he actually took a couple of sips worth of wine. Then I caught him dipping a spoon into the tira misu after he had served a couple some of it from the dessert cart. He saw me catch him and started joking about it. Finally, he noticed Diane checking her lipstick as we were getting ready to leave and he started 'flirting' with her. She went along with him and it was funny as the other guys played along to 'protect' her. But the real funny thing was the next day in our meeting when someone we met was chatting with me about all the traveling we do in Audit. I told her my wife travels with me and she asked me what does she do all day. I was starting to say that she roams around the city to check out the sites and shops when my 'buddies' (Nick and Ed) piped in with "well, today we aren't sure where she is". So I ended up having to explain the waiter thing to this lady. Sigh. With 'buddies' like this, who needs enemies. ;-)
Another evening, it was just Rufus, Diane and I for dinner. We went across the street to check out the Greek and Indian restaurants. We opted for the Greek restaurant. It was also very small, only about 25 people upstairs, maybe another 25 downstairs and a small garden area. We ate upstairs because it was a little too cool for the garden. A guy walked in shortly after we did and was by himself. After checking with Rufus and Diane, I asked him if he would like to join us (I know I hate to eat alone). He said ok and came to our table. His name was Andreas Boukenhout and he was from Germany, near Bremen in the north, He was in London for a two week class on how to speak business English. I told him he could get practice by eating with us. Turns out he loves Greek food and was staying not too far from the restaurant. He was the purchasing manager for a large wallpaper manufacturing (20 million rolls per year). It was a very nice evening. We told him how to reach us and invited him to contact us again if he would like to join us for dinner again. But he never did.
Someone suggested that we had to go to Slough for dinner to a place called House on the Bridge. Diane met us out there and it was her first real challenge to negotiate the tube (subway) and train system by herself. She had to find her way to Waterloo Station via the tube and then figure out which train to take to Sough, and then figure out how to walk to the restaurant. It was a little challenging, but she made it. The restaurant sits just over a bridge that spans the Thames and, with the window open to the small deck, we were able to see the river down below and look out to Windsor Castle. It was another one of those "I can't believe they are paying me to do this" moments.
Diane and I decided to take a bus tour on Saturday that went to Oxford, Stratford and Warwick Castle. The first stop was in Oxford and the guide took us on a short tour. Oxford actually consists of many colleges, I believe he said 36 of them. Some of the buildings were very nice and, although the inside of the church was not part of the tour, I snuck away from the group for a few minutes to get some video.
The next stop was Stratford, birthplace of William
This is where we ate lunch. After lunch, we went into the
museum. One of the down sides to bus tours is that you have to do
things on their
schedule. Stratford was nice enough to spend much more time in
than we were
Then it was off to Warwick (pronounced Warrick) Castle. We had about 1 1/2 hours to visit the castle, which was not really enough time. We didn't get to see any of the grounds and we could easily have spent a day there. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon and only a few miles from Stratford. It was fortified by William the Conqueror in 1068. From a web site:
"For centuries, Warwick Castle was home to the mighty Earls of Warwick, who were to play such key roles in the Wars of the Roses and the Hundred Years War with France. Richard III once owned the Castle and started new fortifications before meeting his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Later, the Castle was a Parliamentarian stronghold during the English Civil War."
We were told to find the Red Knight, who is usually on the grounds, and we did. It's a guy who is in full armor on a horse that is also all decked out. He was pretty funny and said he had been doing his thing at the castle for a long time. With all the armor on, he said he weighed upwards of 250 pounds. That was with about 100 pounds of armor, including a 7 pound chain headgear under his 6 pound helmet.
We had two pretty interesting dinners in week #2. Tuesday was Rufus' last day and Dan Eifert's first day with the team. We have a sort of custom on my regular team that someone departing the team before the end of the review gets to pick the restaurant on their last evening. Rufus selected Off Shore, a seafood place a couple of blocks from the hotel. We had seven for dinner and, of course, had lots of interesting conversations, including talking about Dan's experiences in a seminary. He studied for 11 years to become a Jesuit priest,
but left prior to being ordained, and it was interesting to hear what it takes to become a Jesuit, which is much more than the studies required for a parish priest.
The other interesting evening was Friday evening when we ate in the Japanese restaurant in the hotel. There were eight of us for dinner that evening. Conversation drifted all over the place. You'll see the point when I tell you that Diane said to me on the way back to the room "That was different. We talked about the two things that are not supposed to be discussed in mixed groups - politics and religion." It turned out to be pretty interesting. When you have someone around who studied to become a Jesuit, it's probably almost irresistible for the Catholics in the group to not ask questions. It actually was pretty interesting. These were two good, enjoyable dinners.
Diane and I had planned a full day for Saturday to go to Leeds Castle, Dover (as in the White Cliffs of Dover), and Canterbury. Unfortunately, I couldn't get out of bed on Saturday due to the pain and Diane suggested (actually, she forced me) to soak in a hot tub. The relief was only temporary, but it just about got me back to the point where I was before Saturday morning. Around noon I thought I could at least take the city bus tour. It's one of those get off and get on bus tours and the ticket is good for 24 hours. There are three routes and the longest one takes about 2 1/2 hours if you stay on the bus. We pretty much did that, except for a couple of stops. We saw all the normal sites, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, etc. We didn't get to see Buckingham Palace because of the way the bus turned the corner at that location, and I didn't feel good enough to get off at that stop. We did get off to go into St. Paul's Cathedral where Charles and Diana got married. We also got off to go to Westminster Abbey, but it was closed. Diane wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe, so we switched to the Blue Line and went there. The problem was that it was across from the bus stop with no way to get across without going a couple of blocks down the hill, across the street, and back up. There was no way I was going to be able to do that, so we just went to Henry's Cafe to eat and then got a bus back to the hotel.
On Sunday, it took until about noon to decide if I could do any touring. We really wanted to see Canterbury Cathedral, so we decided to drive out that way. I noticed from the highway signs that Dover wasn't all that far from Canterbury, so we just kept driving to Dover first. I missed a couple of signs to turn off, so we just ended up seeing the white cliffs as we drove by. Actually, Diane got to see the white cliffs as I drove by. ;-) Then it was on to Canterbury, which was less than 20 miles from Dover. What a great town. We could have spent a day there walking around the old town and visiting the cathedral. But that wasn't possible this trip.
By the time we got to the cathedral, they were starting to shut down parts of it for the Evensong service that starts at 3:15PM on Sundays. We paid our 4 pounds (about $7) to get in, which I find very annoying to have to pay to visit a church. I always find that to be a rip-off, especially when they add insult to injury and have signs all over the place saying you can't take photos or videos of the church. We have visited lots of churches and cathedrals in Europe and, for the most part, there is no charge. And that includes some of the great cathedrals, such as Notre Dame and the duomos in Florence and Milan. Oh well, if you want to see Canterbury, you have to ante up, so we did. Since the nicest part of the cathedral is where the service was going to be held, Diane and I decided to attend. We were very glad we did. The choir consisted of men and boys and they were great. I love to listen to choirs like that, so it was worth the price of admission. I am usually not totally denied in places that prohibit taking videos, especially if I paid to get in. I had the camera sitting on the floor and I did manage to turn it on and capture the choir singing one of the hymns. ;-) I have never been to one of these services, but I totally enjoyed EVENSONG AT CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL.
Week #3 went pretty quickly and most of the folks started to head out about mid-week. For Diane, this was just another great opportunity to see more of the world. We had only spent a day in London back in 1994 and only got to see some of the main 'downtown' attractions, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe. This time, she got to go all over the city, on foot, and via tube and bus. She figured out very quickly that spending 17.60 pounds for a one week pass that allowed her unlimited access to the tube and bus systems was
a great deal for her. She got a pass for each of the first two weeks and then daily passes for the extra days. She took one tour that included Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, and Runnymeade. She liked all three places, and said she would have liked more time at Windsor Castle. The queen goes there to live at times and one knows she is there when a certain flag is flying. Diane told me she came all this way to England, and went to Windsor Castle, and whadya know, THE QUEEN WASN'T EVEN HOME! How rude. ;-)
The weather was pretty good the entire time we were there, although I would have liked it 5-10 degrees warmer. The first week was great and we got to wear shorts and T-shirt much of the time. The last two weeks were cool and required a sweater or long sleeve shirt.
The plan was to add two weeks vacation to this trip. My mom has never been out of the USA and she got her very first passport for this trip. More about that in the next travelogue, "Vacation with Mom". :-)
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