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12 - 27 May 2016


Introduction.  Our grandson, Andy, works for Google in their London office. Although we had been to the United kingdom about four times before, we thought a visit with him and his lovely wife, Liz, would also provide us an opportunity to see a few places we had missed, primarily the Cotswolds and Bath. We originally planned to visit them in September 2015, and we made all the necessary arrangements, including a very expensive five-day, 15-passenger tour that included the Cotswolds and Bath. Just a few weeks before our planned departure, Jane was diagnosed with cancer and required surgery. We cancelled the trip, of course. Fortunately, the medical situation was resolved quickly and favorably. (I might add that we also were able to recoup just about all of the several thousand dollars we had already paid toward the trip.)

We thought Andy might be transferred over the summer of 2016 so, once we were sure that Jane’s problem was taken care of, we decided to reschedule the visit with him and Liz for May 2016. By coincidence, British Airways (BA) had a sale on business class tickets, and we were able to get them for only a little more than economy. In another development, we found a guide who would give us a private tour replicating the five-day Cotswolds and Bath tour, and at a slightly lower price. So here we were embarking on a luxury tour, flying business class and having a private car and driver.

Thursday, May 12. We left our home in Massanutten at noon and drove over the Blue Ridge to our son Joseph’s house in Culpeper. He drove us to Dulles Airport where we arrived about 14:30. That was early for our 18:30 flight, but it allowed him to miss the rush hour. Besides, we were eager to try out the business class lounge, a luxury we had never experienced. Having missed lunch, we had a light snack there on arrival, then ate a buffet dinner about 17:00. That was supposed to be in lieu of dinner on board so we could get to sleep early but, of course, that is not the way it worked out.

Business class seats up

Business class seats fully reclined
We boarded the plane at 17:45 and were in the air by 19:15. We had a light supper (salmon) soon after, then prepared to get some rest. We were impressed by the opposite-facing seats that would fold fully flat. It was not like being at home in bed, but it was very nice.

Friday, May 13. We woke at 06:00 as the plane’s lights were turned on. A light breakfast was served almost immediately, though we planned on having a big breakfast in the arrivals lounge. We landed at 7:20 and were in the terminal a few minutes later. Immigration was unbelievably slow, so much so that we skipped breakfast in the arrivals lounge.

We bought “oyster cards” for the tube (subway), but at a manned counter rather than from a kiosk or vending machine as we had been led to expect. (Those are only for adding money to a card you already have.) We finally got onto a train at 8:45, and we were at the Wood Green station at 10:05. We had texted Andy from the airport and he met us at the station. It was an easy three-block walk to his flat. The weather was cool and windy, a big change from what we had left in Virginia.

We must have talked for a couple of hours, then had a light lunch before we unpacked. About 14:00 Jane and I napped for more than an hour. We visited with Andy again until Liz got home from work at 18:45. Then we caught the bus to a Vietnamese restaurant.

Alexandra palace
On the way we got off the bus at Alexandra Palace, primarily for the fantastic panoramic view. The original palace was built in 1873, but it burned down and was restored a couple of times. Now it serves mainly as a public park and a venue for private events. Andy had been talking up the view for hours, but by the time we got there it was dusk and cloudy. There was no view whatsoever. The Palace sat on an elevated site, fully exposed to an icy wind that was blowing about 30 miles per hour. We could not wait to get catch the next bus.

At the restaurant we were joined by three British friends of Andy and Liz. We shared multiple appetizers, then all of us had pho, a soup loaded with rice noodles, meat and vegetables. They were a very lively group. One of the women offered to drive Andy, Liz and us back to Andy’s flat, even though she then had to come back to the restaurant for her partner. That was very nice of her. Jane and I were both suffering from the time change and went to bed around 21:00.

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