The trip over to England is the worst – the long, long day that is really two days, with a truncated night on the plane where one of us gets a little sleep, thanks to pharmaceuticals, and the other – doesn’t. Premium Economy was an attempt to lessen the pain for the 6’4” Ol’ P, and it did in fact give him a bit more leg room.
Gotta butt right in on that point! In case there is any lingering doubt, I HATE flying … BUT … those evil geniuses at Virgin Atlantic Airlines seem to be devising ways to try to bring me over to their way of thinking. I’m not noted for springing for upgrades or “luxuries,” but I certainly did appreciate the extra hip and leg room that Premium Economy offered. If you throw in the liberal availability of “free” snacks and adult beverages that also came with the package, it’s possible to conclude that this idea of flying in comfort may have even gone to my head. Elizabeth R was constantly hushing me when I verbally wondered if the passengers in steerage were being treated as well.
We arrived at Heathrow at 9 a.m, which of course our elderly bodies believed to be 4 a.m. We had left Newark at 9 p.m. with the temperature at 95 degrees. 12 hours later (sort of) it was 65 degrees. Our poor bodies were so confused. We shivered over to a taxi and began the short ride to our B&B in Windsor.
Flashback time! On our very first trip to London, six years ago, we took a taxi from Heathrow to our hotel in Holborn. While Elizabeth R was in ecstasy over finally seeing actual England, I was staring at the taxi’s meter as the driver took more turns than an inebriated mouse in an inescapable maze. As the revolving numbers soared toward a spot higher than our recent flight had hit crossing the Atlantic, and I tried to keep up with the arithmetic of converting pounds to dollars, I became suspicious that we country bumpkins were being taken for a ride.
There’s nothing quite like a London taxi…..
‘Twas not the case. I have since learned that there is no easy or straight way to get from one spot in London to another, especially by taxi, and that the drivers are scrupulously professional, not to mention well regulated. Our current longer, though direct trip to Windsor was not only more relaxing, but it was also less expensive than our first cab caper. However, that trip would come to mind several times during our stay.
Our son, Ben – a major reason for making the trip in the first place – lives in London. Why stay in Windsor, 30 miles west of our son’s domain, I hear you cry? For me, it’s because of Frances Lodge, a B&B that has become like a second home.
It’s also a charming town, even if a teensy bit touristy, and it has a CASTLE right there in town.
It also has two train stations from which you can easily travel anywhere in England. This is a necessity for us; neither of us would dare to even attempt driving on the wrong side of the road. (Here I know I am setting myself up for a comment that I am already adept at driving on the wrong side – except I do it here in the U.S.)
Wow, Elizabeth R is setting me up for more lob shots than the US Women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball Team. First, I will decline to make the obvious comments about her driving skills, and instead will say that she is quite adept at keeping the car on her side of the road, though occasionally it’s the wrong side of the car (i.e. the roof) that is in contact with the road. I also totally agree with her depiction of Windsor, but must add to her list of attractions the existence of the Windsor Great Park.
What a wonderful place, and my plan was to spend a significant amount of time in that park during our stay. And as for Windsor’s distance to London, I must point out a piece of running trivia.
For the 1908 London Olympics, the marathon route started at the East Terrace of Windsor Castle and proceeded from there to the Olympic Stadium, aka White City Stadium. Inside the stadium, the course concluded with a partial lap of 385 yards that finished at the royal box. This provided the royal family an opportunity to view both the beginning and end of the Olympic Marathon, assuming that they could get a taxi that could beat the fastest runners. It was also this course that has established the standard distance for all subsequent marathon races (26 miles, 385 yards) that countless runners have run ever since. Though White City Stadium no longer exists, its former location is only a couple of miles west of Ben’s apartment, and in my marathon days, I would have been able to run the route. So, all things considered, I guess I really can’t complain that Windsor was too far away,
As expected, our room was not quite ready, so Stuart, the affable concierge at Frances Lodge, stored our bags for us as we went out to take care of killing time till we could sleep a few necessary errands. Cash at the ATM, tea and scones at the Crooked House of Windsor,
and purchasing our senior rail cards at the station. And of course, the obligatory pause to for me to sigh over the changing of the guard (it’s like Buckingham Palace lite – same glorious pageantry, no crowds)- observed countless times and it never gets old. At least to me – I thought I detected some mildly impatient toe-tapping beside me.
I am getting to be a little wordy considering that this is technically not “my” post. So I will simply say that Stuart, equally as reliable as the Guards, was a rock upon which our vacation was anchored, and will come back to that in the future. As for those “senior” rail cards, with all the literary works produced by Shakespeare, Dickens, and Monty Python, don’t you think someone could have come up with a better name?
RailrOLD cards, Trains for Canes? I could go on….
Back in our freshly appointed room at the B&B, we unpacked and took a mini nap (all that is allowed, according to the Lord High Grand Experienced West to East Red-eye Traveler of the Guidebooks, lest you never sleep properly again.) We watched a little telly, chatted with our hosts at the B&B, and finally gave up and went to dinner at 4 p.m.
Our stomachs, of course, had no idea what was going on, having been fed incessantly on the flight and now thinking it was not even time for lunch, but still we set off to an old favorite across from the CASTLE, the Horse and Groom.
They were bemused at our desire for bangers and mash so early in the day, but cheerily set us up with giant platesful and a pint of the house lager.
According to Ben, who has been in England long enough to have a head for such things, the English brews we drank were most likely cask ales. When we opted for lagers, which we often did, we would receive wares imported from Spain, Italy or Belgium. On that first night I can only say with certitude that we had BEER, and it was GOOD!
We shivered home at just before 6, and managed to stay conscious until about 8:00. We had done it. We survived the first day, would now sleep for 12 glorious hours and our internal clocks would wake us up, fully energized and on British time! Tomorrow – London.