Our Travels to the UK and a bit beyond, Part 4
By Diane, with comments from Holly and Allan.

Note: The photos used here were chosen to go with the narrative....to see photos of all of the places visted on each trip, go to our home page and click on "Vacation Photos".

2002 – October 23 through November 2 (Allan, Diane and Holly)

Holly was with us for this entire trip, which started out in London with a one night stay at the Best Western Shaftsbury Piccadilly and a guided Jack the Ripper Walk (given by a guide not nearly as good as Simon). [Holly: Mom and I almost got separated from the group at one point . . .they really should include restroom breaks on that tour] After that one night in London, we all boarded the Eurostar for a three day visit to Paris, where we stayed in a nice hotel near Gard du Nord – The Hotel Albert 1er (our triple room had TWO bathrooms – one on each end!) [Holly: yes but the smaller one which I took was so small you had to either sit sideways on the toilet or have the door open in order to accommodate your knees.]. We spent one entire day with Vincent and his family in Presles. Upon our return to London via the Chunnel, we then went on to a four day stay at the Fish Court Apartment at Hampton Court, followed by one night back in London at the Best Western Paddington Court.

Quests: (1) to find someplace open to shop in Paris on a SUNDAY – we did it on the Rue de Rivoli – Cote Cote!!! (2) to see as much as possible of the Louvre in about an hour (you've never seen such speed walking through those corridors) [Holly: we were just lucky I’d been already and I remembered where the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were]; (3) to go to Edinburgh FOR LUNCH from Hampton Court – believe it or not, we made it there and back, but just barely. We were within four minutes of missing the last train back to Hampton Court from Waterloo Station [Holly : we actually had quite a bit of fun on the train w/ Paul anyways, fortunately they serve drinks and food on trains.]; (4) to make a return trip to Lincoln to see Katherine Swynford's tomb at the Cathedral, which I'd somehow missed in 1999.


Highlights: (1) walking through the beautiful Forest of Carnelle with Vincent's family, and collecting chestnuts to roast; (2) playing cards with Gaby and Lola [Holly: French playing cards aren’t K, Q, J like ours – they use the FRENCH initials (duh), but it made the game even more interesting for me, trying to remember what was what.]; (3) the fabulous meal cooked for us by Sophie finished off with the most wonderful French cheese and bread you can imagine! [Allan: Cheese, wine and bread with the Maheys is a memory I’ll treasure forever.] (4) dinner later that night with Vincent and family in Monmartre; (5) taking the train from Hampton Court Station all the way to Edinburgh for lunch, picking up Paul in Doncaster in route, and spending an hour or so walking Edinburgh's Royal Mile [Holly: and dad eating haggis, he didn’t even have to be bribed with five pounds!]. [ Allan: Eating haggis, I have the proof, see photograph above.][Allan: The picture above where I have my hand outstretched, was a funny situation: I had handed my new Minolta Dimage 5, to a complete stranger who was nice enough to offer to take our picture on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. This helpful Scotsman was also completely inebriated . After a few attempts it became clear that he was unable to perform the task he had volunteered for, so I approached him with my hand outstretched to catch my camera should he drop it. It was very entertaining as you can see from Holly and Diane's faces.] [Allan: Steep Hill in Lincoln is a wonderful, magical place where you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.]

Lowlights: (1) At the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station, there is a wide escalator - no steps, just a ramp so you can pull your luggage behind you. Well, we are minding our own business going up the ramp towards the trains when a complete and utter moron with a massive luggage cart, gets to the top, steps off and STOPS in baffled wonderment, looking slack-jawed all around, trying to figure out what to do next. Well, as you might imagine, this caused a domino effect behind Mr. Doofus since the rest of us were unable to get off the still moving escalator with our suitcases and several of us (myself included) fell down and dropped our luggage which then slid back down the ramp causing a huge pile up of people and luggage. This ultra-idiot CONTINUED to stand there looking around and blocking the exit path from the escalator completely oblivious to the chaos he was causing. This jackass was completley clueless and most probably still is. Some people should have to get a special license before being allowed to travel.(2) getting on a train to Vincent's house (we thought) and then having it stop and go back to Gare du Nord one stop short of our destination; (3) calling Sophie to find out another train to take and having to run to catch it – and falling and skinning my knee on the train platform at the same time dropping the bottles of California wine we’d brought for Vincent and Sophie; [Holly: they didn’t break]; (4) having our time in Edinburgh shortened because the trains were slower than the usual schedule due to wet leaves on the rails??? [Allan: Our first night at the Shaftsbury Hotel on Piccadilly, not only was I jet lagged but I felt like I was on another planet.]


Places visited:

Hampton Court (of course)
Edinburgh (lunch only)


2003 – November 2 through November 14 (Allan, Diane and Holly)

This trip began with a four night stay at Hampton Court, followed by two nights in Dublin, Ireland at Waterloo House B&B, then on to two nights at the Castle Hotel in Conwy, Wales, followed by two nights in York at the Novotel, and one final night at the Thistle Lancaster Gate in London.

Quests: (1) To purchase as much Boots Royal Jelly product as I could carry home; (2) to make sure I didn't leave Ireland without having had mashed potatoes and/or Colcannan.


Highlights: (1) Finally seeing Dublin, even though we really only had time to see O'Connell Street and Grafton Street; (2) visiting the oldest known book, the Book of Kells, at Trinity College; (3) going on the highly entertaining Dublin Literary Pub Crawl; (4) finding out while waiting to board our ferry in Holyhead, Isle of Angelsey, that Allan was afraid of water! Don't know how I missed knowing this in almost thirty years of marriage [Holly: he got over it!!! The rough water on the way back made for a few HIGHLY entertaining walks to the ferry gift shop.]; (5) the beautiful room we had at the Castle Hotel, an old coaching inn on the high street in Conwy. Our room had a stained glass oriel window with window seat – Holly had her own nice room at the hotel, but no window seat [Holly: it was still great to have my own room, and my own TV for a night] ; [Allan: I thought I’d had the best breakfast of my life in Dublin…..until we got to Conwy.] (6) introducing Holly to Irish Coffee [Holly: in Wales]; (7) the tour of Conwy Castle conducted by colorful local guide, Neville, who kept poking at me with his walking stick and calling me "madam". Conwy is a gorgeous town – we hope to return someday; [Allan: A major highlight for me was morning picture taking by the estuary in Conwy. ] [Holly: I think those nights in Conwy were the best I’ve had on any trip, it was just absolutely beautiful] (7) meeting up with friend Paul in Doncaster and having him drive us back to Conisbrough Castle so Holly could see it, then on to a fabulous pub lunch at the Cumberland with a quick stop first at Cusworth Hall; (8) meeting Joe W. at the Palace and having him obtain permission to take us for a private viewing of the painting of the Mystery Lady, and then sharing his vast knowledge of the history of the palace with us. He even pointed out which rooms had belonged to Anne Boleyn when she was living there. Those rooms are now used for storage!; (9) having Trevor and Malcolm show us where the Hampton Court Ghost had recently appeared and opened a firedoor! (10) meeting my friend Joanne at Trafalgar Square and spending the evening with her doing brass rubbings in the crypt at St. Martin in the Fields, having dinner at Sofra in Shepherd's Market , and then going back to her hotel and all of us getting very tipsy in the bar. [Holly: we got some great photos that evening before the getting tipsy part, in Trafalgar Square ]

Lowlights: (1) the completely ridiculous brouhaha between me and Holly in Dublin after the Literary Pub Crawl; (2) arriving by taxi on a rainy Sunday morning at the Dun Laoghaire ferryport and having Holly say "I don't have my purse" – the very nice taxi driver drove us back into Dublin to our B&B to retrieve said purse (and her passport), making a stop at an ATM along the way so we could pay the now tripled taxi fare (3) seeing a middle aged woman absconding with Holly's suitcase at the Bangor Wales bus/train station (Holly had a bright blue scarf tied to the handle – it couldn't have been a mistake); (4) seeing Holly chase after the middle-aged woman who was absconding with her suitcase and having her carry-on's strap choose that moment to break! She did get her suitcase back, but the poor pink well-traveled carry-on, which had been carried by Holly on every single trip since 1989, was toast. [Holly: It’s toast, but I kept it] [Allan: losing some pictures from Conwy and Dublin because we’d bought “CHEAP” memory cards for our camera.]


Places Visited:

London (the usual spots)
Hever Castle
St. Albans
Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
Conwy, Wales
Caernarvon, Wales

2004 – September 15 through September 27 (Allan and Diane) and September 19-27 (Holly)

Allan and I flew to London and then on to Paris after a short flight delay. We stayed three nights at the Hotel Libertel Mulhouse in Paris, followed by one night at our friend Vincent's home in Presles. We then returned to London to meet up with Holly, who'd flown in from LA and was already at the Fish Court flat in Hampton Court Palace. By the time we arrived, she had already made a quick trip into Kingston Upon Thames to buy a few groceries at the Waitrose [Holly: it was like I was sleepwalking. There wasn’t anyone around to entertain me and keep me awake so the jet lag wouldn’t set in! I remember walking around Kingston killing time before buying groceries since I couldn’t take them back to the palace right away. I bought a copy of NME and decided I was hungry so I wandered into a Burger King. Sat there staring at my magazine and wiping mayo off of my veggie burger for at least an hour. People must’ve thought I was insane. I finally got the groceries and took them back to the palace, then made another shorter trip to the little East Molesey market for water and drinks (easier to carry from a shorter distance). Did end up falling asleep briefly on the sofa in Fish Court after my “shower” waiting for mom and dad. I remember thinking as I fell asleep that they were quite late and I had no way to get in touch with them to find out why]. We all three then spent an entire glorious week at HCP. Note: we were "late" because we ended up having to wait longer in the customs line at Heathrow than we'd spent on the flight over from Paris.


Quests: (1) Once again, to purchase vast quantities of Royal Jelly product at Boots the Chemist; (2) to purchase colorful cheap knock-off pashminas for Holly in Paris [Holly: I still should have bought a few more in London. Those things are great.].


Highlights: (1) being driven to Northamptonshire by our friend Pat to visit Althorp House, Princess Diana's childhood home. Pat then drove us to visit his sister and niece in Little Harrowden and we all had a lovely dinner at Magellens Restaurant in the Hind Hotel in Wellingborough where Cromwell's troops stayed during the Civil War; (2) the completely amazing and extraordinary personal tour given to us by Brian at HCP. Can't say more here but it was a very special day, not just on this trip, but in my life!; (3) a really fun dinner with Malcolm and Denise at Blubecker's across the road from the Palace; (4) running into Joe at a palace "night event" and laughing ourselves silly; (5) a trip to The Bell Pub in West Molesey with Pat [Holly: after a dinner at Wagamama which I love, very cheesy I know but it’s so nice to have a big bowl of soup like I’d make at home] ; (6) spending time with Vincent and family in France – especially a picnic in Forest of Carnelle and visiting the Royamount and Notre Dame du Val Abbeys on Patrimony Day, not to mention the wonderful array of cheese purchased by Vincent in honor of our visit; (3) finally visiting the beautiful Ightham Mote in Kent, setting of one of my all-time favorite books (see my book pages). [Allan: Versailles is a place I’d love to return to and spend more time.]


Lowlights: (1) Leaving my purse at a Heathrow security checkpoint and not realizing it until I'd gone up an escalator to another floor – necessitating a panicked run down the up escalator to retrieve it – this could have ruined our entire trip! Security was actually swabbing it when I arrived to reclaim it. [Holly: I guess this means it’s dad’s turn to loose his purse on the next trip][Allan : I did loose a bag on the 2000 trip and it had all of our cameras and film in it, see our 2000 trip notes for reference.] (2) trying to get to Versailles and boarding a train traveling in the wrong direction – not just once, but TWICE!; (3) Allan inadvertently tripping the burglar alarm at Althorp House. He was completely mortified, but a security guard assured us it wasn't his fault – the electric eyes had been knocked out of whack by a pigeon earlier that day (we do seem to have pigeon trouble on our travels, see 1998 trip); (4) having Holly announce that she'd left her bag of souvenirs which she'd purchased at Ightham Mote under the table in a pub in Sevenoaks. We had to get off the train in Orpington and go back to retrieve it (Kirk did get his socks); (5) Allan losing his favorite jacket while on a walk in Paris; (5) finding out that we could no longer have early morning unrestricted access to Hampton Court's East Front before the Palace's normal opening hours. This is a huge loss to us. Allan has taken some of our best photos on HCP's East Front at dawn. [Holly: Also, on this trip, I was cold. I didn’t bring a real coat since we were there much earlier in the year than usual. Big mistake.]


Places Visited:

London (went up in the EYE this time! Fabulous views, and we had SUNSHINE)
Temple Church (a Da Vinci Code quest – Couldn't get in to see the Knights Templar Tombs – place was locked up tight! – Will have to go back next year).
First time visit to Cabinet War Rooms (more interesting than I thought it would be)
Ightham Mote
Paris (went up the Eiffel Tower this time, but only halfway – too scary for me)
Auvers sur Oise
Versailles (you'd really need a week to see this place properly)



On to Part 5