We were up early for the bus trip to the airport and had an uneven true trip to the airport and flight to London. Once we arrived we got the heathrow express to Paddington station and caught a London cab to our new digs. I had booked this one directly through Priceline, I didn't bid as I was unsure of where we would end up and I wanted to be close to the underground. It's pictures showed it was small, but included breakfast and Internet. SMALL, s***, it was smaller than the NY cupboard, nowhere to put our suitcases and the bathroom was smaller again, we could of fit 2 of the whole bathroom in our enquire at home. It was also in the attic on the fourth floor with no elevator. The icing of course was the lid to the cistern sitting in the sink.
On our way out for a look around we asked about the cistern and he said someone was coming at 4pm to fix it. We also asked him to do something about the door as it had to be slammed to be shut. We were pretty pissed off at this stage because their advertising doesn't mention the size and the pictures look much bigger.
Long story short, we asked him about a bigger room and he said he could move us the next morning. When we headed out for dinner at about 6pm we asked the new duty manager about the cistern and he immediately moved us to a new slightly larger room, in the basement, at least we had somewhere to put out luggage in this room, but the ensuite wasn't any bigger, and within a few minutes we realized we were under the dining room and like all old buildings in Europe the noise transferred from one room to the next below. Looks like we would be using earplugs tonight.
The new manager recommended the Thai restaurant down the road and it was by very good, even had Peking Duck which we both love.
We had a sleep in as we were both really tired and breakfast didn't start till 8.30am, normal for Europe. We then headed off to find the underground and see good ole London again. We found the local station and caught the train to Westminster, we only had 2 definite things we wanted to do and that was get a picture similar to the picture we have in our lounge, and have a guinness pie & chips at the same place we had it last time. We got the pictures we wanted but unfortunately we suspect the picture in our lounge was taken before they built the London Eye, as the fence was no longer there.
We then watched a few street performers and walked over another bridge, through the gardens on the riverbank and then found the pub and had our pie and chips,it is soooo yummy.
Back on the underground and we found Harrods, I had wanted to see it last time, but we ran out of time so Marty was determined I would see it this time. What was most fascinating about it was firstly the ornateness of the building and the exquisite foodstuffs they have in there. They also have the usual highly overpriced apparel that you find in any upmarket shops but we didn't really spend much time looking at that as you know how I feel about shopping.
Back to our room via a supermarket to get some supplies, and we spent the night watching Scotland and England play union. The weather prediction claimed that most of England and Wales were going to be getting 15cm of snow the next day, so we decided to plan our ongoing journey once we new what areas were the least effective by the weather. They had even canceled 1/3 of flights out of Heathrow in preparation, I thought that strange as they didn't really know how bad it would be and why only cancel 1/3?
The weather prediction was accurate, we woke to about 15cm of snow, checked the underground website to see if there were any problems, some lines were cancelled but the ones we needed were running.
We made our way to the Embankment station, where we met up with the guide that was taking the 'Subterranean Tour'. We did a walking tour last time we were here and we loved it. We were however a bit disappointed to find that we wouldn't be going underground like in Seattle, but for 2 hours we walked around Westminster learning about the subway, the secret tunnels that no one apparently knows about except the military, the war rooms, the underground rivers and many other underground secrets. Its almost like there is a whole world under Westminster.
One of the interesting attractions was Churchill's War Rooms, so after we had some soup for lunch, we made our way back through the snow, slush and mud to the war rooms and spent a good hour and half exploring this magnificent museum.
One of the things that amazed me on this visit to London was that there were as many people here in their low season as when we were here in their high season. I asked the guide about it and he said that there are always people visiting London, it never gets quiet. Although even he was surprised that he still had 7 people doing the walk even Witt the snow.
We made our way back to our room then headed out for dinner down the road, at a lovely Italian restaurant.
We were so glad to leave this hotel, and promised ourselves we would never book a cheap room in London again. The problem is that you are basically paying for space, all the rooms are clean and breakfast is included but the more space the more expensive. I asked the young manager how much he would be charging for the room during the Olympics - my guess was right, $200 per night while we paid $89 per night.
Anyways, we caught the express to Heathrow, then found the thrifty bus to the depot and the fun began. Although the USA requires you to have an ongoing ticket before they will allow you into the country we also knew that the UK didn't have this requirement, so we had no ongoing tickets. When we got to the car hire depot, they wanted passport, license and ongoing ticket, I calmly explained that we didn't have an ongoing ticket, to which they replied that they couldn't honor our booking, so see you later. I had booked through an agency and when I read through the terms and conditions, I realized that that specification wasn't in it so went back to argue the point. The bottom line was that we ended up getting a car, after several negotiations, phone calls and readjustments, but Marty had to leave his passport in their safe. Not something we ever thought we would do, but we were a little flustered and thought we had no other option. As it turned out, it will probably be financially better for us to do it this way, as we will bring the car back before we go to island and fly to Ireland rather than take the car on the ferry which is quite expensive.
The good part is that we ended up with a VW Passat, gorgeous medium size car with all the bells and whistles, for the price of a compact, maybe their way of saying sorry for their stuff up. But we were however back on the right side of the road, and the car had its own gps system, we tried to get it going to no avail, so, brought out Moneypenny and fired her up. She got us to Portsmouth no worries.
The only reason we picked Portsmouth was that we wanted to avoid the snow that had encased most of England and Wales since we arrived. So we basically thought let's go south, and picked this place. Well, did we fluke it. This is the prettiest place we have ever seen (I am sure there are going to be many many more), and our accommodation is gorgeous, plenty of room, sea view, a la carte breakfast, parking and Internet included. We weren't sure what there was to see here, but went for a walk down to the city centre and got some brochures and decided that we liked it so much and what it had to offer that we would book a couple of extra nights. Jumped straight onto booking.com and did exactly that. We then went down to the hotels restaurant and had an extraordinary traditional British meal.
We knew exactly what we doing today, so set our alarm, which we don't do often, and set off for the Historic Portsmouth Docks. This museum included the original HMS Victory, commissioned 1765, HMS Warrior commissioned 1856, the HMS Mary Rose Museum, a ship commissioned by Henry VIII 500 years ago which has been partially retrieved, but also has 19000 artifacts on display, an interactive fun space, where we got to go back to our reserve days and together get a high score on the shooting range. It also had heaps of so many other things, an original sail from the Victory, museums, basically a 7 hour tour which left us in awe.
Just to bring us to the present, we are currently sitting at the window in our room, having our evening drink, watching the ferries and ships come into port.
I had found and booked a hairdressing appointment this morning, so after breakfast walked to the salon and left Marty to his own devices. I had been really frustrated with my hair so got it all chopped off.
We walked to the Southsea castle just down the road on the waterfront but unfortunately it was closed for winter, so we headed to the D-Day Museum, this was also another gem. It housed the Overlord Embroidery, which was 83m of embroidery depicting and commemorating the Battle of Britain, including the Battle of Normandy. Followed by a wonderful display and explanation of WWII.
We then headed to Portchester Castle, which housed a beautiful old church, but unfortunately the castle was once again closed for winter. We weren't too worried about this as we knew we would be seeing a few castles on our journey, so off to the hill to see the view of Portsmouth from up high and Nelson's castle including the armory, but, CLOSED. The view was wonderful. Next we went to see the birthplace of Charles Dickens, which wasn't all that exciting because he only spent the first 5 months of his life there, but it was his 200th birthday the day before and apparently his 260 descendants had gathered over the weekend to celebrate.
On our return home we managed to get onto Marty's friend Paul and organize spending some time with him and his family next week. Reply to: Reply to Ruth Casey