England 2003 Travelogue


Paco and Donna in London
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Paco, Donna, and Kirk in the London Tube
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Hello England!

Monday, September 1, 2003, London, England:
We arrived at London Heathrow Airport around 2:30 PM. It was great to be back in an English-speaking country; it was the first time in a long time! We got our bags and breezed through the non-existant customs. At the airport, we bought an all-zones tube (subway or metro to you non-Brits) pass for £5.1 each. (£1 = $1.58) The tube system here is similar to the one in France - it is a locked-in system. You need a physical ticket to get in and out of it, unlike the Austrian system, which was honor-based. We took the tube from Heathrow to the Lambert North station. From there, we walked to our hostel at the International House. We had previously booked this via www.hostelworld.com for £20/night for a double with shared bath and kitchen. It was another college dorm which becomes into a hostel in the summer time. It was a very nice large room with desks, and a kitchen on every floor. They are open as a hostel until September 10.

After we got settled, we called Paco, Donna's cousin. He lives in London, for only one more night! In fact, he was moving to Washington, D.C. the next morning. We arranged to meet him at the Lambert North metro stop a few hours later at 5:00 PM.

In the meantime, we were famished, so we headed out for food. We took the tube to Picadilly Circus, and walked from there to Soho. We got fish and chips, a traditional English fast food, on Berwick. Donna had been to London many times in her previous travels and jobs, so she acted as tour guide and we walked down Oxford to Soho, and down Charing Cross to Leicester Square. There, we found an internet shop and did a quick email check at Internet City (£1 per 1/2 hour). After that, it was getting close to our appointment time, so we took the tube back to Lambert North to meet Paco.

We met Paco at the tube station and we all walked back to our hostel to get sweaters. It is cold in England! Paco gave us two guidebooks for London that he wasn't going to need anymore. Thanks Paco! Then, we headed out by taking the tube to Embankment. From there, we walked down to the Thames, and walked across the river on the on one of the Jubilee bridges. We walked by the Tate Modern Museum, and the rebuilt Globe Theater. As we walked by the Globe, we saw them preparing for a command performance that was going to happen that evening. Gwyneth Paltrow and others were going to perform for some royals and others.

We crossed the Thames again on the Millenium Bridge and we walked by St Paul's Cathedral, and on to Trafalgar Square. Next stop was Covent Garden. It was getting late by now, so we walked back to the tube and said our good byes to Paco, and took the tube back to our hostel.

On the way from the tube to the hostel, we stopped and topped up on our groceries, so we could have breakfast in the hostel and make sandwiches for our lunches. This is one way we save money in an expensive country like England. We ate a late dinner of meat and cheese sandwiches in our room and listened to a sermon before we went to sleep. Actually, I went to sleep DURING the sermon, ooops! I'll have to listen to that one another time again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003, London, England:
We got up around 8:30 AM, showered, and had breakfast in the kitchen of the hostel. It was nice to have a kitchen again! We hadn't had access to a kitchen since Austria! We made our sandwiches and packed our McVitie's Digestives Biscuits (Chocolate-covered is Donna's Favorite!) in bags for lunch.

We bought a tube pass for zone 1 and 2 (central London) for £4.10 each, and took the tube to Black Friars, where we walked across the Millennium Bridge and went to the Tate Modern Museum. The Tate is built into a former power station right on the Thames in central London. It is a very large building, and lends itself to holding a modern art museum. Outside the museum they had two gigantic blow up sculptures by Paul McCarthy. One is black and is based on the blockhead from Pinocchio, and another pink one called "Daddy's Bighead". They were very large! Inside the museum, we went to all of the free permanent collection. Donna's favorite was the Optical and Kinetic room. I (Kirk) liked the floating basketballs the exploded shed and the Thames Dig. Overall, it was an interesting museum. They did have some stuff we didn't care for, but we just walked on to the better exhibits. We couldn't get a high view from the upper floor or climb the cooling tower that they may eventually open. That will be cool when they do.

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum
Once we had finished our viewing, we headed over to the tube station and caught a train to the British Museum. We ate our lunch on the train on the way over. This museum, too, was free. It is one of the oldest museums in England, founded in 1753. They are famous for having the Rosetta Stone. We went in and first saw all their stolen artifacts. They seem to have a better collection of stolen items than the French had in Paris. Unfortunately, we saw lots of people touching the artifacts, which damages them. There weren't any signs saying not to, and none of the museum employees prevented it, which was much different than in Paris or Egypt.

One of our favorite sections was the clock section. They had all sorts of mechanical clocks from throughout the ages. They show you the different types of mechanisms and the progress from one to the next. It was very interesting.

We also liked a special exhibition they had on "Medicine Man, the Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome" This was a very large collection of medical related artfacts. It was quite interesting.

After the museum, Donna took me on a walk throughout London. She used to work here off and on, and she showed me where she worked, ate and stayed. We walked on to Picadilly Circus and got tickets for the Reduced Shakespeare Company production of "The Complete History of America (Abridged)". Since it was near the performance time, we were able to get two tickets at half price (£17 each). Since we were starved, we headed to Pizza Express for dinner. We split a very nice pizza with pepperoni and mushroom. After pizza, Donna called her mom to see how she was getting on since her mother's (Donna's grandmother's) death on Sunday morning.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company production of "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" was very good. They are VERY funny! It is a three man production, and they go through things quite quickly. A great time! After the show, we took the tube back to the hostel and called Donna's friend Christine, who we would be staying with on Thursday and Friday. Then it was off to bed.

The Tower Bridge

Buckingham Palace

Inside the Globe Theater

The Globe Theater Band
Wednesday, September 3, 2003, London, England:
We were up at 7:30 AM, had breakfast in the kitchen and made our sandwiches, as usual. We took the tube to Black Friar's station, and walked across the Millennium bridge to Shakespeare's Globe Theater. This is a recreation of William Shakespeare's Globe Theater in almost the same spot that the original was in. It is great! We got tickets for the 2:00 PM show of Taming of the Shrew. We got two tickets for £5 each for the yard. This is the area in front of the stage where you have to stand.

Then we took the tube to London Bridge station, and walked to the Tower Bridge. As we were going out of the subway station we saw and helped a woman who had tripped and cut her leg. Her daughter was there helping her as well, but Donna consoled her and helped her to lie down and raise her feet, so the bleeding would stop more quickly. We stayed until they had her bandaged up and were proceeding on their way. Then we walked across the Tower Bridge. It is quite a sight. We didn't do the pay entry thing up into the inside of it, but you can walk across it and admire it for free. On the other side of the Thames, we saw a large group of children from a Japanese school. They were all in the park drawing the Tower Bridge. It was fun to walk behind them and look at all their drawings. Some were shy and hid them from us, but others weren't. As we walked down the river, we stopped in to figure out what the lopsided egg-shaped building was next to the bridge. It turned out to be the new City Hall. There were some interesting displays in the lobby. We walked on to the London Bridge, which is really boring, despite the children's nursery rhyme. (There is another London Bridge in the USA too!) Next, we took the tube to Buckingham Palace. We wanted to see changing of the guard, but we were much too late to see it today! Oh well. It was getting close to show time, so we took the tube back to the Globe, and ate our lunch on the way.

When we went in to the Globe to wait for the doors to open, we found out which door was best for getting to the stage, (door 3), and we got in line. They opened the doors at 1:45 PM, and we rushed in and both got spots right at the stage (almost at the center of the stage). You have to stand up the whole time, but being right at the stage, you can sort of lean on it and your view is completely unobstructed! All of the regular seats in the house have an obstructed view at least part of the time. The Taming of the Shrew was fantastic! It was done by an all-female cast. It was a sort of turning the tables on the old times, when all of the plays were performed by all-male casts. Unfortunately, the woman who normally performed the part of Katherine was sick that day, so they had to do a little shuffling around and there were three people who were playing different parts than they normally do -- they had to carry scripts, as apparently there are no understudies. They all did quite well, and the substitute for Kate did a fantastic job -- she barely referred to the script in her hand at all! I particularly liked Janet McTeer as Petruccio! At times, the cast comes down into the yard area where we were standing, or they bring carts or other actors come in from the outside through the yard and onto the stage. Since we were standing right there, it was great to feel like a part of the action! The theater is fantastic, too. The only real difference between it and Shakespeare's original, besides lights (which they don't use at all during day performances), was the floor of the yard. Originally, it was dirt with oyster and nut shells that the people would throw on it, but they found that too noisy, so it is now cement.

After the play, we took the tube back to Picadilly Circus to check on tickets for another production by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. This time, we wanted to see their most famous production, the "Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." They didn't want to offer us any discounts, so we decided to come back later closer to show time. Instead, we went to the local internet shop and checked our email for a while. Then, we had dinner of a toasted sandwich and coffee. By the time we came back, it was about 30 minutes to show time, and they sold us two tickets for £17 each (half price)! Hooray! They were great seats, too! We sat on the front and center of the first balcony. This is even better than down on the bottom level since the floor isn't sloped very much in the theater. The "Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" was great! They went through all 37 plays, and the sonnets in 97 minutes! They were quite funny! The cast utilized quite a bit of audience participation in this production, especially in the second act. We had a great time!

After the show, we took the tube back to our hostel, read some papers we had picked up on the tube, and then were off to bed. We had a great time in London!

Big Ben
Friendly England...

Thursday, September 4, 2003, London to Bristol, England:
We got up this morning at 7AM, showered, packed and made sandwiches for the day.  Then, we checked out.  We left our bags at the hostel for a while and headed over to Russell Square.  Kirk had found a bookstore listed in the Lonely Planet where he thought we would be able to trade in our used books.  I particularly appreciated this idea, since I hadn't had a new book to read since we left South Africa -- I had read all his books anyway, even though I'd read them all before (some of them twice before).  Unfortunately, when we arrived, the bookstore wasn't open yet, and wouldn't open for at least an hour, which would cut into our seriously short sightseeing time.  We decided to skip it. 
We took the tube over to Buckingham Palace, hoping to catch the changing of the guard.  It would be a close call to see if we could make it.  Unfortunately, in September, they only do the changing ofthe guard every other day...they did it YESTERDAY.  Bummer!  On the way back to the tube station, we stopped and bought batteries -- Kirk spotted a place that had a good deal on them (which is hard to find in merry ole England). 
We jumped back on the tube and sped over to Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben.  Interestingly, I had noticed a quiz in one of the London papers which mentioned that many Brits don't even know much about their own town!  For instance, do you know what "Big Ben" really is?  Apparently, few Brits do.  I'll give you a hint...it's NOT the clock.  It's NOT the tower.  "Big Ben" is technically the chimes!  Westminster Abbey is beautiful.  It is full of history and a giant complex.  However, we looked at it only from the outside, as they wanted over £7 each to go in.  We walked next door to the Houses of Parliament buildings and then over to Big Ben. 
After a short discussion and a look at the time, we decided to head over to take a quick look at Harrods, London's most famous store.  Harrods consists of 111,500 square meters with almost 74,000 square meters of selling space.  On a single day, up to 300,000 customers can visit the store.  More than 5,000 staff from over 50 countries work in 330 departments on seven selling floors.  They employ a fleet of 47 delivery vehicles to make up to 225,000 deliveries each year.  11,500 light bulbs turn Harrods into a beacon of light each night. Now, we certainly didn't have time to explore everything, but we thought we could go take a look around for a few minutes!  And we did!  I even tried out a new perfume that I really liked...Ghost Summer Moon.  Of course, the guy claimed it was very exclusive and they were about to discontinue it -- but they always say that! 
It was time to go.  We jumped on the tube and had lunch while we rode it back to the hostel.  We retrieved our backpacks and then caught the tube to Victoria Station, where we bought a roundtrip bus ticket for £21 each to Bristol.  We were heading down to see my friend from Dallas, Christine!  We tried to make the 2PM bus, just in case the 3PM was full, but didn't quite make it there in time.  No worries; the 3PM had plenty of room. 
We were on the bus at 3 and had a smooth 2 1/2 hour ride to Bristol.  We spent the time on the bus reading, listening to sermons and music and relaxing.  There were no tables on the seatbacks, so we couldn't play cards.  We arrived in Bristol right on time -- at 5:30.  Christine was waiting at the bus station for us.  She had gotten off work at 5 and walked there to meet us, as she has no car. 
We all caught a cab together to her flat, which is an adorable 2 bedroom, 2 story place in a nice area of Bristol, only a 10-minute walk from where she works.  I've seen tons of flats in London before and this one was quite nice!  And she's not even paying a fortune for it!  We chatted for a while.  Kirk started a load of laundry while we made a run to the store.  We ordered from a Chinese delivery place for dinner...one of Christine's favorites!  It was quite delicious! 
After dinner, we talked for quite a while and taught Christine to play Palace and speed scrabble.  Eventually, we called it a night.  After all, she did have to go to work tomorrow! 

Bath Abbey

Detail of Jacob's Ladder

Inside Bath Abbey

Stained Glass in the Abbey



Guild Hall Chandelier

Pulteney Bridge

Kirk, Christine, and Donna
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Friday, September 5, 2003, Bristol to Bath, England...and back:
We were up at 7:15, which was actually a bit earlier than Christine.  When Christine and I had gone to the grocery store yesterday, it was actually to buy the makings for breakfast.  Kirk had promised to make his specialty...French Toast!  But try finding maple syrup in a little country store in the UK!  Actually, we managed it, but all they had was the REAL stuff -- real maple syrup, which was a TREAT, let me tell you!  Yum! 
Anyway, we got up early and Kirk make the French Toast while I did the hard work -- setting the table!  (ha!)  We had fresh OJ, pressed tea, and french toast.  We had a nice breakfast with Christine before she had to go to work.  She explained to us how to catch the bus to the train station and then to take the train over to Bath, where we planned to spend the day. 
After she had left, we had our showers, made lunches to take with us and walked over to the bus stop, where we caught the bus to the Temple Meads train station for £1 each.  We booked the train to Bath for £5.20 return each.  The trip took only 21 minutes.  Christine had given us a nice tour book of Bath that had a walking tour on the back of 24 different sights of Bath.  We decided to walk the whole thing. 
The tour started at the Bath Abbey.  There has been an Abbey on this site since the 8th century, although the present building dates from the late 16th century. The West Front, with its carved angels ascending ladders to heaven, was inspired by the dream of Bishop Oliver King. Inside there are many interesting memorials and inspiring stained glass windows. The fan-vaulting is magnificent. There is also quite an impressive pipe organ that we got to listen to while we were in the Abbey. 
Behind the Abbey was the Bath Abbey Heritage Vaults, but we decided to forego the entrance fee and not go in. The Bath Abbey Heritage Vaults contain displays celebrating the history of Christian worship at the Abbey site from Roman times to the present, and the people, such as Bishop Oliver King and Sir George Gilbert Scott, whose vision and faith have ensured the Abbey's survival through the centuries. The museum contains important finds from recent archaeological excavations, including Saxon and Norman stonework, and the 800 year old skeleton of a woman, believed to have been an important benefactress. A model contrasts the Abbey site today with how it looked in the 13th century.
Instead, we headed out of the Abbey and on to the next site, which was right across the courtyard...the ancient Roman Baths (in Bath).  There was a substantial fee to get into the baths (£8 each), so we didn't go in, but we looked around the atrium to get the gist of it. 
Right next to the baths is the famous Pump Room, an opulent restaurant that exemplifies the elegant style that once drew aristocrats in droves.  We didn't go in there, either!  We didn't think they'd appreciate our backpacker-style. 
From there, we made our way along the streets passing several sights along the way toward the next major point of interest -- we were heading for the Royal Crescent.  We walked along the "Gravel Walk", stopping to check out the Georgian Garden.  The Georgian Garden has been recreated following the original plan of c.1760 to show a typical layout of the period. The position of flower beds, paths and the trellis were located after excavations by Bath Archaeological Trust. The Garden has been filled with plant species found in other town gardens of the time. It was rather interesting. 
Afterwards, we walked a bit further along the Gravel Walk and stopped for lunch.  After lunch, we continued along the trail up to No. 1 Royal Crescent.  The Royal Crescent was built to the designs of John Wood (junior) between 1767 and 1774 and is considered one of the finest achievements of urban 18th century architecture and represents the highest point of palladian architecture in Bath. The Royal Crescent met the individual requirements of wealthy and distinguished visitors to Bath.  Master craftsmen were responsible for the interior decoration to designs drawn from the many pattern books published at the time. Only materials available in the 18th century were used. Visitors can now see a grand town house redecorated and furnished to show how it might have appeared in the late 18th century. 
Interestingly, the entire city of Bath was designed primarily by the architectural team of either John Wood (senior) or John Wood (junior).  After getting a good look at the Royal Crescent with its hidden wall to keep sheep and other livestock at bay, and other ingenious architectural techniques, we walked over to the Circus, which was designed by John Wood (senior).  It is a circle of 3-story houses built around a central green. It was begun by John Wood the Elder in 1754, and completed by his son. 
There is an old legend that a leprous king was a swine herder and came to Bath with his herd.  They found a spring filled with mud and were wallowing around and he couldn't get them to come away.  He finally managed to entice them away with acorns, and when he did, he noticed that all of their warts and scrapes had healed from being in the spring.  It got him thinking, so he tried putting the mud on his leprous skin and discovered that he was healed the next day, too!  He built his kingdom right there in Bath.  Much of the architecture in Bath is built with a tribute to this legend.  For example, the top of the buildings at the Circus are lined with giant acorns. 
We went along several side streets and by a few of the museums.  They all had entrance fees, so we didn't go in.  We looked at, but didn't go into the Bath Postal Museum, the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific InstitutionBeckford's Tower and Museum, the Building of Bath Museum, the Holburne Museum and Crafts Study Centre, the Jane Austen Center, the Museum of Bath at Work, the Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms, the Museum of East Asian Art, the Royal Photographic Society, the Victoria Art Gallery, and the William Herschel Museum.
Then, we headed over to the Guildhall, which turned out to be free.  It was truly magnificent, with its royal portraits and crystal chandeliers. It had a Georgian banqueting room with crystal chandeliers that were truly mesmerizing!  
From there, we walked over to Pulteney Bridge, spanning the Avon, built by Robert Adam.  It is lined with tiny shops.  If you cross the bridge and continue along to Sydney Place, you will come to the house where Jane Austen once lived with her parents.  In fact, she actually hated Bath, thinking it much too pretentious a place.  She preferred wandering in the countryside, writing. 
We crossed the bridge and walked along the waterfront.  We stopped and walked through a small maze that is a favorite of the local children.  It wasn't a difficult one. There is no way to lose...some routes just take longer than others.  Then we headed back along another bridge further down. 
We stopped and splurged on an ice cream!  It was 80 pence each!  But it sure was nice to have some!  Too bad they only had vanilla and no zitrone!  We walked across the Parade Gardens and headed off in search of our last few "sights". 
We located Sally Lunn's Museum.  It was pretty interesting.  It's in the cellars of the oldest house in Bath (1482), which reveal its Roman and Medieval foundations -- a 900 year old bakery, stalagmites and stalactites, and objects from recent excavations. It's also the home of the delicious Sally Lunn Bun, made according to a unique and secret recipe.
We saw a couple more buildings and then headed back toward the train station.  On the way, we saw an internet shop and stopped in to check our email.  It wasn't cheap -- £1 for 20 minutes!  We got off after 20 minutes.  We took our train back to Bristol and then caught a bus back to Christine's.  As we were heading back on the bus, we spotted an internet place that was only  £1 for 1 hour. 
When Christine got home, we decided to rent a movie.  So, we walked down to the rental store before dinner.  There were tons of movies out that Kirk and I hadn't seen, and Christine was happy to let us pick whatever.  We ended up selecting a silly comedy -- The Tuxedo, with Jackie Chan.  Christine cooked a delicious dinner -- tortellini and salad.  We all sat around talking for a bit, and looking at photos.  We had made her sit through our photos the night before and now we got to look at some of hers.  She is an amateur (but excellent) photographer and has about 12 different cameras that she uses, some with special effects.  So, we looked through some of the photos before we started the movie.   
The movie was pretty funny.  Typical Jackie Chan.  As always, the takeouts were hilarious.  Jennifer Love Hewitt was hysterical.  She couldn't stop laughing throughout the filming, which made it very hard to do a lot of the scenes!  Finally, we all called it a night.

Saturday, September 6, 2003, Bristol to Hertford, England:
We got up a tad bit later this morning -- at 8AM.  After our shower, we packed.  Christine and I ran out and got some more breakfast supplies and Kirk made french toast again.  We sat around and talked until we had to leave.  The taxi came and got us at 10:20 to take us to the bus station.  When we arrived at the bus station, it turned out that there may not be room for us on the bus...they weren't sure.  We had to go "standby".  Ack!  We stood in the standby line, hoping we'd get on.
In fact, the bus that pulled up was a 49 passenger bus and the official told us he was pretty sure we'd get on at that point.  Of course, they'd have to load all the confirmed passengers first.  We waited our turn and then he waved us on.  I got on the bus and there were no seats together!  Drat!  We had planned on listening to another sermon today! 
I did manage to find two seats across the aisle from one another.  I even asked the girl next to me if she'd change seats but she flatly refused.  Oh, well.  We had to sit across the aisle from one another, but we weren't able to listen to the CD player at all.  The bus left the station at 10:50.  We read or played games (but not cards) most of the way.  We arrived at Victoria station at 1:20 and promptly bought tube tickets to Liverpool Street for £1.60 each.  The ride to Liverpool was fairly quick. 
We arrived just barely in time to catch the train to Hertford.  Kirk bought the tickets for £6.90 each and I called Heather to let her know which train we were on.  We tried to listen to a sermon on the train, but as it turned out, we didn't even get to listen to the whole thing.  We arrived before it was over.  We also didn't get to eat at the station, which I had hoped we would have time to do, so we snacked on cookies on the train.  We were starving by the time we reached Heather's at a little after 3PM. 
It started raining as we rode the train up to Heather's.  Heather, Molly and Nancy picked us up at the station in Geoff's car so we wouldn't have to walk to the house in the rain.  Once we were settled in at the house, Heather made us some sandwiches (grapes and feta cheese on open faced bread & toasted) and tea.  It was excellent.  We sat around chatting for a bit and I got to look at her wedding photos, which I hadn't seen.  She had gotten married while we were on our RTW. 
Then, we stayed and played with Molly, while Heather and Nancy went grocery shopping.  Heather even picked up a few items I wanted to take home with me (like McVities).  Molly was only 7 months old when I last saw her, so she doesn't really remember me (she's 5 now).  She has certainly grown up!
When Heather got back, we had a great time chatting while she made dinner.  Kirk worked on the computer a bit.  Dinner was a wonderful chicken risotto.  Heather asked us if we wanted to go to church tomorrow and helped us to look up a church in the yellow pages.  We weren't able to get services times.  We'll try to call again in the morning.  We talked for quite a long time after dinner, after the girls went to sleep.  It was a nice, relaxing evening.  I was surprised how late it was when we actually went to sleep!

Kirk, Heather, Nancy, Donna and Molly
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Sunday, September 7, 2003, Hertford, England:
Oh, my!  We are in shock that we are actually going home tomorrow!  We got up and showered and had some breakfast.  We chatted with Heather for a bit and tried to call the church again.  There was no answer.  We decided to just walk over there and hope we arrived around the right time.  We left around 9:30 with a map and directions from Heather. 
We arrived at the Hertford Baptist Church around 10.  It turns out that they have services at 9:15 and 11:00.  We walked back to the park we had walked through and watched some folks playing footie for a bit as we waited for the next service to start.  As it neared 11AM, we went back to the church.  It was a nice service.  It's quite a good little church and they seem quite involved in the community. 
After church, we headed back over to Heather's.  She was planning to take the girls over to the wild animal park in the afternoon.  She had offerred to take us to her office to use her CD burner so we could burn the sermons onto CD and listen to them on the plane.  We are trying to catch up to where the church by the time we get home.  Kirk decided he would go with her and catch the train home.  I'd stay at the house.  There was nothing I could do there anyway, and it would save us the train fare. 
After a quick lunch, Kirk, Heather, Molly and Nancy headed off.  I cleaned up a bit and then sat back and relaxed with an old book I'd read before but was happy to pick up again, "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson.  I'd been trying to get Kirk to read it again, but was happy to pick it up in his stead.  I had seen it sitting on Heather's shelf.  I figured with a couple of uninterrupted hours, I could read the whole thing.  And I did. 
Kirk came back first.  Unfortunately, he was unable to do the burning.  The connection at Heather's office wasn't fast enough and he wasn't able to download the files to burn them.  He kept getting disconnected.  He gave up and came back.  We'd have to do it when we got home.  Heather and the girls got home a bit later.  Molly's face was painted.  She looked adorable! 
We had spaghetti for dinner.  Given the choice between bangers and mash and spaghetti bolognaise, Kirk chose spaghetti.  It was excellent.  Again, we had a nice night of chatting after the girls went to sleep.  It was fun to just relax and catch up with old friends. 
Monday, September 8, 2003, Hertford, England to Los Angeles, California:
UNREAL!  A year gone by already!  It's hard to believe!  And yet it feels like it's been that long...or does it? 
We were up early -- at 6, to pack and shower.  But then, I realized if I showered that early, I'd wake Heather, and she wasn't awake yet, so I went back into the room, waiting for her to wake up.  When she got up, and left to go and get Dee, the babysitter, Kirk and I took turns hopping in the shower and listening for Nancy to wake up. 
She was quite cooperative and didn't wake until moments before Dee and Heather walked back in the door.  I was so surprised that she wasn't upset that it was a near stranger that came and got her when she did wake up.  She was quite happy!  Wow!  I hope our kids are that happy when we have some! 
We didn't have time to grab food, but Heather made us to-go breakfasts -- bagels and juiceboxes!  We loaded up the car and we were off to Heathrow!  It was quite a drive but Heather was familiar with the traffic and the best route.  She'd done it a million times before.  She took us right to the United terminal (although none of us was entirely positive where we were supposed to be).  We double checked that it was the right terminal and then I gave her the thumbs up and she left.  She was a wonderful hostess and friend.  We were very blessed to have had the opportunity to spend some time with her! 
We waited through the insane line at United and finally got to the front of the line after more than 45 minutes of waiting.  They had actually closed check in for our flight even though it was more than an hour and a half before the flight left!!  Good grief!  They had to reopen it to get our bags on.  Apparently, we weren't the only ones...I heard someone next to us going through the same thing.   Our seat assignments weren't the greatest either, but we were used to that - an aisle and a middle seat in the middle (the plane has a 2-5-2 configuration and all the window seats were taken). 
We were heading through immigration and security.  The woman at the counter hadn't said a thing about hurrying.  She had only said that they didn't have a gate for our flight yet, so we needed to check the monitors when we got upstairs.  Well, when we got upstairs, all the monitors were saying we were at Gate 13, and it was boarding our flight.  That HAD to be a mistake.  We weren't leaving for more than an hour.  We didn't hurry that much.  There wasn't much we could do at this point anyway.  We were standing in an insane security bottleneck line.
Eventually, we got through THAT line and we continued to our gate.  As we got closer, the monitors were saying that our flight was closing.  What?!?  That's crazy.  Then, we heard an announcement.  Last call for our flight, all passengers had better get there if they want to get on the flight.  All the sudden, we saw people around us start running.  We didn't run, but we did start walking pretty fast.  We turned a corner and found our gate.  Sheesh.  They were taking tickets!!  We went in. It was more than an hour before the flight!  I've never heard of this happening!  Perhaps this is United's new way of trying to have "on time" flights. 
We went down a corridor and we were at another desk, where a woman wanted to see our tickets again.  She started shaking her head when she saw our seats and typing on her computer.  I saw her start handwriting changes on our seats.  Uhoh.  She just wrote E on one of the tickets.  That's a middle seat.  And D on the other.  Another middle seat.  I asked her about them.  She said, "I think you'll be very happy with your seat changes."  And she handed the tickets back to us.  She had just upgraded us to business class!!  Praise God!!  This was our longest leg in a long while...and our last flight.  I usually really dislike flying United.  Business is the best way to go.  Hooray!! 
We boarded the plane and scoped out our new home for the next 12 hours...not bad at all!    And all the seats are equipped with personal televisions. You can choose from about 14 different channels of programming.  They fed us very nice food (you get to choose from a menu with 3 different selections of entrees -- we chose the filet mignon) and we watched a variety of movies (the Italian Job, Whale Rider, Bruce Almighty, The In-Laws).  Kirk watched the Italian Job about 3 times, I think...perhaps it was the Mini-Cooper chase scene that he liked...
Well, we're no longer in England...so look for one last post... 
That's all for now...
Kirk and Donna