Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The British Museum and the Homeward Trek

We awakened to rainy skies on our last full day in London, but we didn’t let that stop us from paying a quick visit to the British Museum, even if our online map judged it to be “as busy as it gets.”

Yes, the queue stretched around the corner but it moved fairly briskly, and before long we were inside.

The inside was crowded as well, so we decided to limit our visit to a couple of our favorite places.

This included a stroll through the rooms containing Egyptian mummies.

The Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles are still in place, and we gather the Greeks still want them back.

Then, of course, we had to gaze again at the Rosetta Stone, the key to translating Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Why not the other side as well?

We maneuvered our way through the madding crowds to the exit and decided to walk the 1 1/2 miles back to our hotel, rather than walk nearly half as far to take the Underground.

That was fortunate, because just across the Thames from our hotel we happened upon the London Marsthon, and now we can say we’ve seen it.

We took advantage of the weather for a final walk around Southbank and snapped photos of a London double-decker bus and the 73-floor Shard.

For our final night in London, we managed to find a cute little Italian joint, Osteria del Machellaio, up (or was it down?) a picturesque alley.

Everything on the menu is priced at 10 pounds.

We chose Arancini and Carpaccio to open. 

Our mains were lasagne and an Italian beef stew.

It was perhaps the best meal of our trip, and certainly superior to the choices on our trip home.

The next morning we checked out of the Hilton Bankside, walked to the Blackfriars train station next to the Thames, and took a Thames Link train to Gatwick Airport. 

We could use our Oyster Card to pay for the train, and were allowed to tap out with 6-7 pounds owing on each card.We’ll have to pay that off first the next time we want to use our Oyster Cards.

At LGW the train stops at the South Terminal, a three-minute automated train ride from the North Terminal, Despite being one of the world’s busier airports, and until 2017 the world’s busiest single-runway airport (overtaken by Mumbai), it’s a lot easier to get around than Heathrow.

We found the Hampton by Hilton, next to the vast array of easyJet checkin counters, without difficulty.

Yet another tunnel, albeit a short one. What is it with the British thing about tubes?

The Hampton was was fine but seemed to offer a dismal choice for a convenient dinner between the hotel’s own restaurant and the nearby Nicholas Culpeper’s, so we reluctantly chose the latter. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all bad, a curry for Kathy and one huge piece of sadly soft cod and chips for Brian.

We were bemused to find a bottle of Breakfast Sauce on the table.

It wasn’t breakfast so we didn’t sample it.

Tuesday morning we slipped effortlessly through Gatwick security and spent a little time in Icelandair’s contract No. 1 Lounge before boarding our 737 Max flight LGW-KEF.

We enjoyed a light lunch in the flight before landing at Keflavík slightly over three hours later.

The Aurora (formerly Aurora Star) Hotel is a perfectly satisfactory three-star hotel located across a parking lot from the airport, as this photo from our window reveals. The directions could read “Zig, zag, zig.”

The rooms are clean and functional, the included breakfast is  adequate, and the restaurant’s dinner menu was unsurprisingly overpriced but decent.


Beef Bourgogne…

With a beer and a glass of wine each, at US $125 it was by far the trip’s most expensive dinner, but on the other hand no tipping in Iceland.

The employees are courteous and friendly. All in all, it’s not a bad stop, and a good place to sleep before our upcoming eight-hour flight to a Seattle. 

It also made more sense than a half-hour ride into Reykjavik, only to return the next day at a cost exceeding a hundred bucks.for the bus ride.

We’re back at the airport after the returning zig, zag, zig from the Aurora and plan to enter the Saga Lounge soon to await our flight. On the meantime, it’s quite uncrowded and an attractive place in which to hang out.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Here and There in London

There’s a lot to see in London and we used our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Oyster Card, which might just be a collector’s item, to move around on the Underground.

We stopped in at the British Library, one of the world’s largest. We found our way to the special documents display, and before long we were gazing at original music manuscripts penned by Mozart (below) and Handel.

Nearby was Oscar Wilde’s early handwritten draft of The Importance of Being Ernest.

We also admired among the treasures an early Wycliffite translation of the Wycliffe Bible into English, condemned as heretical and outlawed in 1409. It’s surprising it wasn’t burned or otherwise destroyed. Penalties could be harsh in olden days.

One could spend days there, but we contented ourselves with concluding our visit with a look at two original Magna Cartas, one the only surviving one with King John’s seal still attached. Amazing!

From there we moved onward to Trafalgar Square, past Canada House and all 169 feet 3 inches (51.59 meters -although Horatio Nelson would doubtless have disapproved of a French system of measurement) of Nelson’s Column to queue for entry to the National Gallery.

It’s comforting to know the British still know how to queue.

It’s another overwhelming institution in which one could spend days, weeks, or months.

Brian, no art expert, recognized Gainsborough’s portrait of Mrs. Siddons, the actress Sarah Siddons, from across the room.

On our way back to the hotel, to enter the Tube we had to pass through a large but peaceful demonstration.

They’ve been at it for awhile.

Fortunately we weren’t pulling our rollaboards with the attached FlyerTalk labels.

After a visit to the Hilton Executive Lounge Happy Hour, we walked across the street for some Asian appetizers at Wagamama, a large chain with outlets in many countries.

Earlier today, we took advantage of decent weather to stroll with Saturday crowds across the nearby pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge to get a closer look at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.

We then turned around and walked back, enjoying the views in all directions.

And now it’s again time for Happy Hour in the Hilton Bankside’s Executive Lounge. 

It’s à demanding schedule, but so far we’re managing.