A Travellerspoint blog

England Day 5: Eyes Over London

We were once again up early for our 9:45a train from Liverpool to London. After sharing a bacon and egg sandwich with HP sauce and a side of hashbrowns at the hotel restaurant, we stepped outside to wait for our taxi. The night before, I arranged for a car to take us to the train station. The front desk person told us it might be difficult to hail a taxi in the morning. So we waited....and waited...and waited. I started getting irritated and went inside to ask at the front desk about the car. The woman on duty called the car service who said they were on their way. We waited some more. I got more irritated. She called again. Again they said they were on their way. It was getting late and I was worried we were going to miss our train. Finally, we see the car coming down the street. The jerk doesn't stop. He drives right by. By now, I've had enough. I yell at Mike to grab the luggage and we walked down to the corner to a larger intersection. Just a few feet away is a taxi stand with a line of taxis. I was furious. It's obvious to me now that the hotel and the car service have some sort of mutual agreement or they wouldn't have told me it was difficult to get a taxi. By now we only have 20 minutes to make our train. We flagged a taxi and explained the situation. He did an awesome job of getting us there. We made our train with only a couple of minutes to spare. Our reserved tickets were once again for the quiet car but Mike was not having that! We ditched it and went to a regular car where we could talk without fear of dirty looks.

About two hours later we arrived at London's Euston Station where we had left from just three days earlier.


We were welcomed by the usual train station welcoming committee.


We purchased our seven day travelcards, good on the tube and buses, then lugged our bags over to the tube station where we hopped on the Jubilee line to make our way to Bermondsey station. We were heading to our apartment where we'd be spending the next six nights. After a fairly short ride, we arrived at Bermondsey, and set off on the "short" walk with our bags. It actually was a fairly short walk to our apartment but after all of the travelling and then having to deal with hauling bags over uneven streets and sidewalks, it seemed to take forever.

We finally arrived at the apartment around 2p. We were staying in the Southwark borough of London, right on the River Thames. I found a great little one-bedroom apartment with fabulous reviews on vrbo. Our hosts, Janet and Peter, were there to greet us and show us around. They gave us some instructions and tips and left us to settle in.

The entryway. The front door is to the left of the red suitcase and the door to the bedroom is to the right.

The bedroom, with an entrance to the terrace.

The kitchen.

The bathroom.

The living room, with another entrance to the terrace.

The large terrace, with views over the River Thames.

We got things settled and then took off again back to the tube. We wanted to make it over to Borough Market before closing.

And I am so glad we did. What an incredible place! Borough Market has everything - fresh fish, meats, cheeses, fruits, produce, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. There are also tons of homemade meals that you can purchase and eat there or take home. I would love to have a place like this close to home.



Stuffed pies



Wild pheasant, anyone?

We bought a variety of foods to have a snack-type dinner at home that night then jumped back on the tube for our next destination, the London Eye.

The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel on the South Bank of the Thames River.

At one time it was the world's largest ferris wheel but has now been surpassed by the High Roller in Las Vegas. There are 32 sealed and air-conditioned capsules which hold 25 passengers each. The Eye does not stop for loading/unloading but moves continuously, taking about 30 minutes for a complete rotation. Passengers can move around inside the capsule, taking pictures around all sides.

We got some great pictures of the city sights at night.






It had been a long day and by now, we were exhausted. Mike had even fallen asleep on the Eye! We got back on the tube and made the short ride back to our apartment. I laid out our Borough Market treats for dinner but by the time I was done, Mike was already asleep again.

3 different types of venison sausage, anchovy wrapped olives, plain olives, pepper cheese, French bread, and white truffle oil

So I enjoyed the treats myself, watched "Ocean's Eleven", and caught up on emails home. I feel asleep myself soon after.

Posted by zihuatcat 14:32 Archived in England Tagged london england Comments (0)

England Day 4: Fab Four Fun

We woke fairly early on Wednesday morning to another cold, windy, and rainy day. We had scheduled a 9a tour of the Beatles' sights in Liverpool. But first we grabbed some breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

I had eggs benedict and Mike had a sausage and egg sandwich.

Mike is a huge Beatles fan so he was looking forward to our 3-hour private tour. Our guide, Jay, arrived right on time and we made our way to our first stop, the Mount Pleasant register office. This is where John Lennon married his first wife, Cynthia Powell, on August 23, 1962.

John Lennon was born at the Liverpool Maternity Hospital on October 9, 1940, now a student residence hall. Sixty years later, this plaque was placed there in his honor.

From there, you can glimpse the interesting architecture of the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, also called Paddy's Wigwam.

After John and Cynthia were married, they lived in Brian Epstein's secret apartment at 36 Falkner Street. Epstein was the manager of the Beatles and a suspected homosexual. He kept a secret apartment where he met his boyfriends out of the public eye. While living at this apartment, John Lennon wrote, "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" on the toilet there.

John first met Cynthia in 1957 when they were both students at the Liverpool College of Art, shown here in the background.

Also in the picture, Jay and I are standing by a sculpture of concrete luggage called, "A Case History." Each bag has a tag referring to a notable person or institution from Liverpool. These guitar cases have tags labeled for Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The lambanana, the artistic symbol of Liverpool. It's a cross between a lamb and a banana, both once common cargo on Liverpool's trading docks. There are eight of these across Liverpool and each is painted in a different pattern.

We took a small break from Beatles' sights and stopped off at the breathtakingly beautiful Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the UK which took 74 years to build.



The neighboring graveyard is over 600 years old.

Back on the Beatles' route, we stopped off at Ringo Starr's birthplace and first home at 9 Madryn Street.

When the bricking was re-done, the construction guys wrote the word "Beatles" acrosst the top in mortar.

A few blocks away is the bar where Ringo's mom worked when he was a child. Coincidentally, our guide's family owned this building at one time and when he and his now-wife were dating, she fell asleep in the second floor bedroom with a lit cigarette and almost burned the whole place down.

Around the corner from the bar, at 10 Admiral Grove, is the home where Ringo lived until he was 21 years old.

We then made our way to the infamous Penny Lane, the bus stop on the street where Paul McCartney and John Lennon would meet to catch the bus.

"the shelter in the middle of the roundabout"

The barber shop mentioned in the song

Not far from Penny Lane is Paul McCartney's childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road. Here Paul wrote "I Saw Her Standing There" and "When I'm 64."

John Lennon's childhood home, where he lived with his Aunt Mimi, is also not far.

And just behind it is the Salvation Army children's home where John played as a child, which inspired the song, "Strawberry Fields Forever".

And, finally, the home of the last Beatle, George Harrison, where he lived just before becoming famous and buying his parents a new house, at 174 Makets Lane.

Paul and John met for the first time at this church hall during a concert of various bands in 1957. Paul helped John tune his guitar.

Across the street is the graveyard where later they would go to drink and write songs. There they would be inspired by the gravestone of Eleanor Rigby.

Our ride for the tour.

The tour ended with a stop at the Casbah Coffee Club, the place where the Beatles truly got their start. The Casbah was a small club located in the cellar of the Best family home in Liverpool. Mona Best got the idea of the club from a similar one she'd heard about in London. She sold all of her Indian gold jewelry and bet the proceeds on a horse with 33:1 odds. That horse won and she bought this big house and opened the Casbah in 1959. The Beatles, minus Ringo Starr and then known as the Quarrymen, played at the Casbah quite frequently and even helped Mona paint the inside before the grand opening.

Lennon carved his name in the wood wall.

Mona's son, Pete Best, became the Beatles' first drummer in 1960. He was later fired from the band and replaced by Ringo Starr. His brother, Rory, gives the tours of the Casbah.

The unbelievably small stage.



Rory Best and Mike on the larger stage built a few years later.

It was early afternoon when we left the Casbah and still rainy and cold. It was our plan to travel out to the beach to see Antony Gormley's "Another Place" statues but it was just too miserably cold. Jay offered to drop us off at the Cavern Club, a larger downtown club where the Beatles played when they became more famous. We agreed.

Jay had been an excellent tour guide and we enjoyed our morning with him. He even made the Beatles interesting for someone who is not a big fan.

A musician outside the Cavern Club.

The Cavern Club has been the center of rock 'n roll in Liverpool for over 50 years. It's several stories underground and the walls are made entirely of brick. The Beatles first played there in 1961. Since the weather was so bad, we stayed there for a good three hours or so and watched several sets. The music was great and they even had a great strawberry cider on tap that I loved.



After the club, we walked to a little shop and bought some souvenirs then took a taxi to Italian Club Fish for our dinner reservation.


Dinner was fabulous! We shared a bottle of white wine. Mike had smoked salmon with toast and I had lightly fried calamari and prawns with chips.

We walked outside after dinner to find a taxi back to the hotel and a local bum asked us for some money. When we answered that we didn't have any cash, he could tell we were American. He then asked us if we thought Bush was a good man. What a loaded question! Now I don't think Bush was a good President but I don't think he's a bad person so I said yes. Well that just opened the door. He then started on this huge rant about Bush and Saudi Arabia and how he wanted to teach us some history. Ugh! I told him to get lost and we went on our way. It then took us three attempts to get a taxi. The first one we tried had no idea where our hotel was. The second one we tried, we believe, the driver was high as a kite. Finally, the third one was sober and seemed to know where he was going. Success!

Posted by zihuatcat 16:27 Archived in England Tagged england liverpool Comments (0)

England Day 3: Here Comes the Sun

We woke very early to a cold and rainy day as we had an 8:30a train to catch for our journey to Liverpool. Debs made us bacon sandwiches with HP sauce (or brown sauce as it's called in England). The bacon is much different than in the US, it's in round pieces, not strips, and is more like ham than what we know as bacon. I love HP sauce, however, and eat it now at home on many things. Scott delayed going to work so that he could ride into London with us on the train. He drove us to the train station in Wivenhoe and we caught the train to London Liverpool St. Once we arrived there a little over an hour later, we changed from the train to the underground tube and rode to Euston Station. Scott got off at the stop before us and continued on to work. At Euston Station, we had to climb the stairs to street level, walk around the block, and transfer again to the train station.

We had a few minutes to kill before the train left so we had a drink at the station. I needed to use the bathroom and got a big surprise - it cost me 30 pence to use it! I had to put money into a turnstile to even get in the door. Inside the stall, there was an advertisement printed on the wall, "Jack and Jill went up the hill to have a bit of fun. Sadly Jill forgot the pill and now they have a son." I could not stop laughing at that. Way to go liberal England! No wonder they have a lower pregnancy rate than the US. We found our train and our reserved seats which, unfortunately for Mike, I had inadvertently booked in the "quiet car". I didn't know what that meant but we quickly found out and he was none too happy. We arrived in Liverpool about two hours later where it was still cold but sunny and beautiful. We grabbed one of their black cabs to our hotel for the next two nights, Heywood House.


There was a souvenir rubber ducky in the shower.

And a balcony with a view of the building next door.

We didn't stay at the hotel long because we wanted to make it down to the docks for a ferry ride before dark. We were only a couple of blocks away from the seafront.





Down at the waterfront, we saw a diabetic alert dog getting a drink.

Around 3p, it was time to board the ferry. Normally the ferry makes several stops where you can get off and tour a German U-boat, a space museum, and some other attractions but since it was the last ferry of the day, this one would not be making any stops. Instead, we would spend about 50 minutes making a large circle in the bay in front of the Liverpool waterfront.

We started out on the open deck but holy crap it was cold!

The view of the waterfont and the contrast between the old and new buildings was striking.

What the hell is this weird box on top of this building?

We thought this yellow thing on top was a helicopter but upon closer inspection it was actually a crane.

We had to take a break inside to warm up.



When we returned to the docks, we took a look around "The Beatles Story," a collection of black and white photos taken by Paul Berriff in 1963 and 1964. We bought several souvenirs including a miniature version of George Harrison's Gretsch guitar. It was already getting dark so we made our way down the waterfront towards the Albert Docks area and on to a little brewpub I wanted to visit called the Baltic Fleet. The Baltic Fleet has been around since the 1600s and I don't think it's been cleaned in all that time. It was filthy but it did have character. We met an older couple from Yorkshire there and struck up a conversation about their/our world travels. After a couple of drinks, we headed out into the cold, dark night again to walk over to Salt House Tapas for dinner. There we shared a jug of sangria and tapas of sardines with orange, fennel, and almonds, steamed mussels, and Korean ribs. Sitting next to us at dinner were two strapping men who were oil workers from London. We chatted with them about American and English politics for a couple of rounds after dinner then caught a taxi back to our hotel to call it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:00 Archived in England Tagged england liverpool Comments (0)

England Days 1 and 2: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

England in November. It's probably not the best time of year to go. The weather's crappy. It's cold and rainy. The upside is that there aren't hordes of tourists everywhere. We had planned a dive trip, somewhere warm and beachy. But then one day Mike was talking to his friends from high school who now live across the pond and they convinced him that we must come to England. I admit, I still wanted to go to the beach. But I did get to go to Africa while Mike stayed home with the dogs so who was I to say no? England it was!

We landed on a Sunday morning a little after 9a, after a nine hour flight and some really bad airline food. After walking what seemed like a marathon through Heathrow, we finally made it through immigration and customs, and seated ourselves at the Globe Freehouse Pub to wait for our ride. Our first two nights in England were to be spent at the home of Mike's high school friend Debs, her man Scott, and their two young children Holly and Dylan. Scott works for the rail system in London and he was getting off work that morning so he offered to pick us up at Heathrow and drive us to their home in Wivenhoe, a village in Essex, northeast of London. We were trying to figure out how to call him but the pay phones wouldn't take my credit card. Finally, Mike remembered we had a laptop so he pulled that out, hooked up to the Heathrow Wi-Fi and Facebook messaged him. Ahhhh technology! Scott arrived about thirty minutes later and we were off.

It was about an hour and a half drive to Wivenhoe and most of the trip I just spent trying to stay awake. We arrived at their home and received a quick tour but Debs was anxious to get us to the neighborhood pub. It was only about 100 yards away so we walked on over, the whole family went, kids and all.


Mike got to have his first Guinness in England.

Ours wasn't the only group with kids. Apparently the neighborhood pub really is just that.

Everyone there was unbelievably friendly. Mike and I didn't pay for a single drink. The other patrons were so happy to welcome us to their town that they wouldn't allow us to pay for anything. We had a great time and were disappointed when the pub closed at 5p. We walked home, stopping off at the store on the way for some beer and rum. Debs had been cooking a traditional English Sunday roast all day so for dinner we were treated to lamb roast with mint jelly, gravy, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli. It was the best lamb we've ever had!

By now, jetlag was starting to really catch up with us so we called it a night around 9p.

A good 12 hours later, we woke feeling much better. Debs made us crumpets with butter and jam. They were so good. The kids were in school until early afternoon so we decided to walk down to the waterfront and explore town a little bit. Wivenhoe is a peaceful, cute little village with neatly built houses.






We passed by Scott and Debs' favorite town pub that was closed due to a recent fire. It particularly hit home for us.

We passed by their church, St. Mary the Virgin.

Debs was speedwalking.

We arrived at the waterfront.

A spaniel that had obviously been swimming was there waiting for someone to throw her ball. Mike obliged and threw it for her a couple of times.

We decided to stop in for a drink at the Rose and Crown. We ordered a snack, too, but I guess they forgot to tell the kitchen because we never got it.



It was almost 1p and time to pick up Dylan from school so we made our way back into town to the school he attends. Mike liked this old rowboat turned into a planter we passed along the way.



We picked up Dylan then walked over to the grocery store where we caught the bus to the next town over, Colchester.

Just a few miles from Wivenhoe, Colchester is one of the oldest towns in Britain.

We were starving by now so we stopped for lunch at the Slug and Lettuce, an English chain restaurant, kind of like Chili's here in the US. Debs and I had an extreme cheeseburger with fries. Mike had the bangers and mash, his favorite English food.

After lunch, we walked around town a little bit but even around 3p it was already starting to get dark and cold.

We walked down to Colchester Castle which was built in the late 11th century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

In front of the castle is a monument and surrounding the castle grounds is a park.






It started to rain so we headed to the bus stop and caught the bus back to Wivenhoe. Holly and Dylan entertained us for a bit while Debs and Scott took care of dinner.



For dinner, Scott and Debs made delicious pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy and baby corn with pea shoots. Scott and Debs were pretty tired so they went to bed early. Mike and I followed later on. We had to get up early the next day to catch the train to Liverpool.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:09 Archived in England Tagged england wivenhoe Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 12: Elephant Crossing Once More

It was our last day on safari. Since we had seen wild dogs the day before, we decided to do the morning game drive and an afternoon boat ride. Brenda wanted the chance to see elephants crossing the river. So we headed out early on that Saturday morning. I'm not sure about other times of year, but at least in June, there were few flowers in the parts of Tanzania we visited. We stopped at this flower and asked what it was. Ezra said it was an Impala lily.

Although beautiful, they are extremely poisonous. The bushmen used to ground them up and use them as poison for their arrows to hunt impala.

Some African cacti.


The first animal sighting of the day were some female kudu. When they are scared, they curl their tail up so that the white part shows as a sign for the others to follow.


We then found a small pride of lions who had just killed a cape buffalo.




They were still resting after the kill so we decided to go have breakfast and come back later to check on things. We had breakfast with the wildebeest again.


And this cute little ground squirrel.


After breakfast, we went back to see what the lions were up to. One was resting in the shade of the bushes.

Another was charged with guarding the carcass from vultures. Ezra said that they most likely wouldn't eat during the heat of the day; they would wait until it was cooler. In the meantime, someone had to keep the vultures and other animals away. This lion was hiding in the bushes and anytime a vulture would come near, he would come running out of the bushes to chase it off.


He let this one get a little close.

But then he came charging out.

Before retreating back to the bushes, he decided to have a little snack.

We decided to leave the lions to their snack, passing some guineas on the way out. Of course, Brenda yelled "GUINEAS!". Of course, I thought she said, "Denise". Then there was a short, Africanized guinea version of "Who's on First?"

We also passed a herd of thirsty impala girls.

And some zebra along the side of the road.

These two baby giraffes were hanging out together with some adults.

One was missing a tail, probably already nearly a victim of a lion.

On the way back to camp, we encountered several giraffe lying down in the heat of the middle of the day.



Our favorite Maasai warrior, the one who giggled at us frequently, was in camp when we arrived for lunch so we asked him for a quick picture.

Today's lunch was stew mince meatballs served with Tanzania ugali, salad, and a mango shake for dessert. The ugali was the first local food I had tasted and it really didn't taste like much. It's made from maize and cooked to a dough-like consistency. It's really used as a filler for people who don't have a lot of food otherwise but many Africans love the taste of it. I tried eating it with the meatballs and this helped give it some taste.

After lunch and the rest period we headed out for our last boat ride with Ezra and Toboke. A lone, bull cape buffalo watched us from shore as we rode by, watching the African fish eagle.

We saw a Hammerkop on a limb.

And a Goliath Heron creeping along the shore.

Lots of waterbuck and had come down to drink and graze.

Of course, everyone has to watch out for the crocodiles on shore and in the water.


Some giraffes were having a sundown drink as well.

We came around a corner in the river to the spot where the elephants sometimes cross. Along the shore, were lots of waterbuck with babies and these Egyptian geese with their goslings.



Around that time, a herd of elephants came down to the river to cross. Brenda would get her river crossing.









After that herd crossed, another herd crossed as well. We got two river crossings.




It was interesting to watch the older elephants help the smaller ones along, to make sure they got across, as some of the smallest ones were almost completely under water. Once across, all of the elephants continued in the brush and disappeared. What a coincidence that our safari began with an elephant crossing and ended with one as well. We made our way back to camp for dinner.

For our last dinner, we asked Barbara, the camp manager, if our guides Ezra and Rajabu could dine with us at our table. This appeared to be extremely uncommon at Selous as she was quite taken aback by our request. But to her credit, she arranged everything and didn't even charge us for our guides' dinners as we had expected. The courses that evening were olives bread soup, tuna salad, soya lime chicken with lentils and chapati (Indian flatbread), and coconut trifle for dessert. At dinner, Ezra didn't drink alcohol at all and Rajabu claimed to but sipped one drink all night. They seemed a little uncomfortable but we managed through it. It was good to get to know them a little better. Ezra was an excellent guide and Rajabu an excellent driver. Rajabu would also make an excellent guide if his English were better. I would ride with either one again in a heartbeat.

That night, during the night, the power went out. The fans went off and it was quite warm. This either brought the bush babies out or allowed us to hear them. They had some kind of party on our porch, running around and making all kinds of noise. We didn't get much sleep. We woke for breakfast then were driven to the airstrip for our flight to Dar es Salaam. Once there, we took a goodbye picture with Ezra (left) and Rajabu (right).

Our flight to Dar was short and uneventful. Once there, a driver was waiting to take us to our hotel day room at Harbour View Suites. I talked to Mike on the balcony while Brenda found a computer to print our international boarding passes. Then we had a delicious seafood meal in the hotel restaurant. We had arranged for a driver to take us shopping at the local crafts market where we both purchased many souvenirs including several wood carvings and Tinga Tinga paintings (mine of a giraffe, the Tanzanian national symbol and Brenda's of zebras). Once we started to get overly harassed, we returned to the hotel to re-pack, shower, and wait for our night flight home. The hotel driver returned us to the Dar airport and we left Tanzania around 11p. We parted in Amsterdam with Brenda flying to Houston and me returning to Dallas.

For both of us, this trip had been a lifetime dream and for both of us, this trip was a life-changing experience. Being able to spend time with animals in their environment is fascinating. It's exciting to drive through the bush, not knowing what you might see next. At the same time, it was emotional. Nature is cruel and these animals have a hard life. For one to survive, another must perish. I wondered the whole time how I would feel if we saw a hunt and kill. We did not so I am still left to wonder. But it was upsetting to see limping wildebeest or other animals that appeared sickly or injured because I knew what was soon to come for them. Since we've returned, not a day goes by that I don't think about some aspect of this trip and that I want to return to Africa. The animals that call it home and the experience of spending time with them have a permanent place in my heart.


Posted by zihuatcat 18:11 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania selous brenda Comments (1)

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