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Entries from August 1, 2011 - August 31, 2011

Wednesday
Aug102011

Home from London

After breakfast we walked Oxford St, looking at the shops and filling in time before we had to depart for the airport and home. We checkout just before noon and then took underground to Bank and then the DLR to London City airport. Unfortunately we'd incorrectly assumed that all DLR trains went to the airport but when I felt unsure and decided to check we found we were on the wrong train. Luckily we hadn't gone very far so it was just a case of getting off and the next station along the line and then waiting a short while for the correct train to come along.

I was quite glad to be leaving London. I've never really had a successful holiday there; it's often short breaks tagged on after a main holiday and I often tend to be suffering from some travel bugs but this time while I was OK there were the unsettling riots. I almost felt happy when the plane landed on a wet and miserable afternoon in the Isle of Man.

Tuesday
Aug092011

London

I got the message that my wife wanted some time to herself today. She has a high pressure job and sometimes needs a bit of down time so I took my mother off to visit the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms that were mentioned on the WWII Duck Tour. This was a very interesting museum and a good way to pass part of the morning.

Afterwards we went to Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one, not the Abbey) and as there was a service just starting we stayed for a while. The sound of nearby construction works drowned out parts of the service though and it was impossible to hear the priest.

We then took taxi to St Martin's Theatre to book tickets for "The Mousetrap". We'd often talked about seeing this play but had never previously got around to it. After buying tickets for that afternoon's performance we retired to the nearby "The Spice of Life" pub for lunch and a drink.

Back at the theatre I was amazed at how small it is. It's certainly one of the smallest theatres I've ever been in but then I suppose a production that's been running  for sixty years can't keep filling larger theatres. I don't know if we were tired or if it was the liquid lunch but we both kept falling asleep during the play and were gently nudging each other to wake up. My mother slept soundly through the last ten minutes so she still doesn't know "whodunnit" to this day.

After the play we headed back to our hotel. There was a definite tension in the air with city workers seeming anxious to get home before any rioting started. It reminded me of the old vampire films with the villagers wanting to be safe in their homes before darkness fell.

Rather than risk going out for something to eat that night we stocked up with sandwiches and drinks and stayed in. There was a police presence all night outside out hotel at Marble Arch and I was worried if it was intelligence lead or "just in case". As it turned out there were 16,000 police on the London streets that night but apart from the usual sirens it was probably the quietest night of the riots so far. It did look like copycat rioting had started in some other English cities though.

Monday
Aug082011

London

We did the tourist bit again today and went to St Paul's cathedral. We'd obviously been past it before, but I'd never seen inside so we bought tickets and spent the next couple of hours looking around inside. My wife and I went up to the Whispering Gallery. I'd been a bit unsure about whether to climb the steps up to this galley and I'm not fit and several stones overweight but I didn't find it too bad. We couldn't get the "whispering" part to work and I thought I'd continue on up to the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery right at the very top of the dome where there are excellent views over the city.

After our visit to St Paul's we crossed the Millennium Bridge to the Tate on the south side of the Thames. We weren't impressed by the Tate at all. I do like some "modern art" but I couldn't see any redeeming features in any of the exhibitions at the Tate that day.  

We crossed back over the Millennium Bridge and stopped at The Centre Page for a drink before back to the hotel. Later that afternoon my mother and I walked through Hyde Park to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. I took off my shoes and socks to dip my toes into the water as plenty of children were paddling in the water and other adults were dipping their feet in the water. It was bloody freezing! We continued on to the Italian Fountains before getting Underground from Lancaster Gate back to Marble Arch as my mother was feeling quite tired by now.

As it was my mother's 85th birthday we had our evening meal at Rhodes Brasserie in our hotel and the Rhodes W1 restaurant was closed. We had a good meal and the staff bought out a small birthday cake when they realised it was my mother's birthday. As well as having drinks with the meal we also had some champagne and whisky back in our bedroom.

I later regretted having so much to drink that night. Lying in bed, watching the continuing riots in London, I realised I was in no fit state to do anything should the rioting spread nearer our hotel. Shops and other premises were being set on fire by rioters and I was acutely aware that our hotel was above a range of shops and restaurants. I spent a rather sleepless night listening to emergency service sirens passing by and occasionally getting out of bed to peer out of the window to see what was happening outside.  

Sunday
Aug072011

London

We left my mother to go to a church service and my wife and I took the underground to Covent Garden to visit the Apple shop. As it wasn't open yet we wandered around the area and I spotted a Rohan shop so I popped in and ended up buying a Rohan Affinity jacket.

Eventually the Apple store opened and we went inside to look at the MacBook Air. We'd bought one a few months earlier as a sort of wedding anniversary present for ourselves but we thought it was so good that one each was the way to go. A new model of the Air had recently been released with better spec and an illuminated keyboard so my wife bought the top spec 13" model for herself. Needless to say I was a bit envious, but even the slightly older model that was now mine alone was far more useful to us that the much heavier MacBook Pro we had before.

In the afternoon we met up with my mother and had an excellent Duck tour around London and on the Thames. We'd booked the World War II themed tour which was far more interesting and entertaining than the standard tour.

In the evening we went to Chinatown and enjoyed a meal at the  Golden Pagoda, although we could have done without the owner's mockney "lovely jubbly " comments.

We then returned to our hotel to watch news of the riots spreading to other parts of London as emergency service sirens blared past our hotel room during the night.

Saturday
Aug062011

London Calling

We'd had a late night last night as we'd gone to the Villa Marina to see Alan Carr and then had to pack when we got home. Getting up early this morning was a bit of a struggle and then we collected my mother to take her to London for her 85th birthday. The Aer Arran flight to London City airport was slightly unusual as they provided free drinks and snacks; we're used to FlyBe asking a ridiculous price for their refreshments.

After landing we took the Docklnads Light Railway and then the Central Line to the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch. I was struggling a bit on some of the stairs on the underground as I had my mothers case as well as mine. plus hand luggage, and was pleasantly surprised when an Irish lad gave me a hand with one of the cases.  

After checking in we did the usual tourist bit by taking the open top bus tour of London. This time we got off at the Tower of Lindon as my wife and I had never seen inside before. I was pleased to find that the tour group we were in was lead by the humorous Yeoman Warder "Beefeater" that I'd seen on YouTube. I enjoyed the tour more than I'd expected, but we gave the crown jewels a miss as the queue to see them was horrendous.

After the Tower tour we took the river boat tour and then headed back to out hotel on the tour bus following the rest of the route.

As we were all feeling a bit tired by now we just ate in a nearby Pizza Hut, which I found to be totally disappointing. How can a large pizza chain make such bland and poor pizzas?

Back in out hotel rooms we watched the television news about some rioting in Tottenham, North London.