England – London – Part 2

After our dinner we went to hop back on the water bus. This morning the bus we had taken took us from Westminster to the tower of London, where it turned around and headed back to Westminster. So I got the bright idea that we could hop on at the Globe, and ride it to the Tower, and then back to Westminster, initially going in the opposite direction. But this boat kept going East. So I figured, that’s cool, we get to see more of the Thames than before, and kick back and enjoy the ride. But it kept going, and soon it was dark, and we were surrounded by people who were clearly commuters, popping open beers and settling in for a long ride. We were getting a bit nervous about how long this ride was, when Dave went and asked one of the stewards how far the boat went, and he said Woolwich, which it turns out is quite a long ways!


So we got off at the next stop, which was Greenwich. By then it was raining, and dark, but we had a quick walk around town.

2018-10-11 10.48.54

Of course everything was closed as far as visiting the observatory or anything, but we did get a peek at the Cutty Sark from the outside, which was pretty cool.

2018-10-11 11.25.11

We had a front row seat on the boat coming back because there were no commuters heading INTO town. Great view! We also quite enjoyed watching the men rope the boat to each dock it stopped at, tossing the docklines skillfully over the mooring posts, quickly and smoothly each stop, then giving it a quick toss to unmoor and the boat would be off for the next stop in seconds.

2018-10-11 11.56.54

We got back to Westminster, and had a good look at Big Ben. It is not all I hoped it would be. It is under restoration for the next three years.

2018-10-11 11.59.51-2

We headed for the underground and stopped to listen to this guy playing beautiful violin music in the tunnel. When I posted it to FB a friend said he had seen the SAME GUY playing in a tunnel in London years before!

The next day, we decided to head out to see Winston Churchill’s War Rooms, and drop by the Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews along the way. When we got to Buckingham Palace we heard a band playing, and noticed mounted police gathering, so we stopped to watch.

2018-10-12 01.53.31

2018-10-12 02.01.42-Edit

Then we heard the band playing ‘September’, which was a surprising choice for a marching band, and when they finished they marched on out, and continued on towards the palace. There were a LOT of people gathering there, so we headed over to the Gallery and the Mews.


The Gallery had a collection of items from India, which was all very interesting. The Mews is where the Royal horse and carriages are kept.

2018-10-12 03.33.02

We saw a groom walking this horse around the parking area, and he was getting a bit feisty about all the leaves blowing around.

2018-10-12 03.31.44

It was cool to come to one of the biggest cities we’ve ever visited, and see horses!

2018-10-12 03.42.30

2018-10-12 03.44.12

Inside the museum, along with other carriages and cars the Queen uses, was this display of a carriage used in coronations – The Gold State Coach, built in 1760. It was neat they had it set up with horse mannequins to display the ornate tack the horses wear while pulling it.

By the time we got done with the Mews the crowds outside had thinned out a bit, and we headed down to the War Rooms. Unfortunately the crowd had apparently gone there, because the line was VERY long. We re-evaluated how badly we wanted some WWII history, and decided to pass for now.

2018-10-12 04.42.39-1

We continued walking, and eventually came to Trafalger Square. Neat architecture here as well. Everywhere in London is a mix of old and new.


Dave was excited to see this pub since he’d just finished playing Sherlock! We passed on it, as it was just another chain pub.


When we couldn’t walk any further we stopped for lunch at a little cafe across from this theater where Iam Mckellen was doing a show. Pretty cool. The little cafe was nice, with an open window looking out on the street, and we were sitting at the window, enjoying watching the people go by. When I ordered Fish & Chips, the guy wrote it on his order pad and said ‘fish & chips & beer’ and we were like ‘wait, what’, and he says ‘it comes with beer’, and we said ‘we don’t want beer’, which puzzled him ‘no beer?’ ‘No, no beer’ and ordered a Sprite, which is when I think we found out that in the UK Sprite = Diet Sprite. If you order ‘lemonade’ you get something like 7Up. Cultural differences, I guess!

Next up: The British Museum, and surprisingly expensive Indian food.


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

England – London

Our train pulled into Victoria Station, and we followed the flow of the crowd out onto the street. We looked at our offline maps and confidently went in the wrong direction for a few blocks, then turned around and tried the other direction. On the way we passed this:

2018-10-10 10.22.23


We continued and found The Grosvenor Hotel. After checking in we followed the long, convoluted trail to our room which involved TWO elevator rides with a long walk between them, as we were in the annex. Later we discovered we were at the farthest end of the hotel, as indicated here:


And if we’d taken the right exit from the station, we would have come out literally right next to our hotel.


The view from our window. Neat!

We decided to head right out and walk off all those hours spent on the train by swinging by Her Majesty’s home.


This was pretty close to our hotel, and we would be walking by it many times in the next couple days.


Wow, now THAT’S GOLD!


I have a crush on these little black taxis, I wonder if I can get one in the US?

The first night we decided to take a night time bus tour, as Rick Steve’s guidebook recommended them as a great way to get your bearings, and during a time when you probably wouldn’t be doing anything else. I think it probably did help a bit. Problem was, getting to it. We bought tickets online, then were supposed to catch it by the Ritz, on the other side of the park next to the Palace. But when we walked there, we got a little lost, and ended up hurrying, and ultimately flat out running to catch the bus just as it was ready to go! I did not think I had any running left in me after all the walking we had done, but there you go. We got our seats, and enjoyed a cool evening tour around town.

The next morning we got breakfast at a nearby coffeeshop, then took a bus down to Westminster to catch a waterbus to Tower of London, because I believe the main thing we had to do that day was go to a play at the Globe, and we already had tickets, so we couldn’t be late.


Water Bus! These were part of the bus system and you paid for them with your Oyster card, same as regular buses, so that was pretty cool. Transportation, plus a fun ride on the river all in one!


We got off at Tower of London, but after seeing the lines and the price of admission, we decided to pass on it. We headed over to cross to the South Embankment to walk to the Globe. And to do that we had to cross:


Tower Bridge! It’s beautiful!


Once on the other side there’s a nice promenade that runs the length of the waterfront, at least as far as we went. Lots to see, and benches to rest on (we were getting REALLY tired from all the walking).


Along the way we saw whatever this is. It wasn’t moving, but it looked like a lot of its parts were water-animated when it was turned on.


We also saw this beautiful ship in drydock.

Finally we got to the Globe, where we got our cushions and waited with a mob to get in. For a weekday afternoon, there were plenty of patrons!


Lots of people on the floor! The whole theater was packed. The seats in the balconies were benches scrunched up to the railing so tight my knees were touching the railing and I couldn’t quite put my feet on the floor. It was super-uncomfortable, and my legs fell asleep, which definitely cut into my enjoyment of Othello. It was probably the best performance I have seen of Othello, but if Dave hadn’t wanted to stay I would have bailed at intermission.

Afterwards I had a little meltdown as I was tired, my feet were tired, my legs were sore, and we didn’t have a phone to direct us to a good restaurant, so the last thing I wanted to do was wander aimlessly looking for a place to eat and end up at some weird pub that didn’t have table service. Dave stayed cool and led me to an italian restaurant nearby with a view of the river and St Paul’s Cathedral, and table service. Perfect.

Next: A long boat ride to nowhere, as I get us lost.


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

England – York (part 2)

I am mixing up what happened when a bit. We got in a lot of walking and exploring. We wandered all over that town, down little alleys, hung out in a town square or two, admired the old buildings, and stopped for tea and pastries in little cafes. Our three days in York are a bit of a blur!

2018-10-09 02.23.17

That is not warped because of lens distortion – that is how it looked!

2018-10-08 07.18.41

Wherever you go, there’s the Minster!

2018-10-09 02.23.34

2018-10-09 02.19.56

The Shambles – look at those buildings leaning this way and that. The overhanging floors were on purpose to give maximum walking space below. This was a butcher’s row back in the day, and the windows on the street levels have wide sills for laying out meat on.

2018-10-09 02.20.52

Pastries (yum)! I abandoned my low-carb diet for the duration of the trip. This stuff was too good to pass up on.

2018-10-09 02.15.21

This is the street where our flat was, with a pub below and a lovely pastry shop across the street, and restaurants and shops all around.

2018-10-09 01.24.26-1

Hmm, I didn’t read this bit in my Rick Steves book until one evening while laying in bed…

2018-10-09 02.15.45

..in our flat on Grape Lane!! Ahhhh! We’re in the brothel district! Well that’s pretty memorable!

Also memorable – while trying to take a picture of our flat’s front door, I fumbled the phone and it fell flat on it’s screen..and shattered. First phone I’ve broken, and I literally bought it a week before the trip because it had a better camera than my old phone! Luckily it was a cheap one!


2018-10-09 04.13.44

One day we hopped on a boat and took a little ride up and down the River Ouse. We saw more of these adorable canal boats, and got a lovely view of town and countryside. We saw more men with carp fishing setups just like we’d seen in Stratford.

2018-10-09 02.36.18

We walked to the other end of the historic part of town to see York Castle, dramatically perched above a car park. The wiki says this stone castle was built in the 13th century to replace wood structures that had stood there since 1068!

2018-10-09 02.54.43

We walked around the upper wall. Dave is not fond of heights, but I enjoyed the view.

2018-10-09 03.26.50

Back into town, this part is new compared to the part we were staying in. Victorian, I’d guess from the looks of that building.


We walked our feet off in York! This was a nice bench with a view of the Minster where we enjoyed some take-away fish & chips for lunch one day.

On our final evening we went and saw a play at the York Theater Royal, which was a very nice theater, recently restored, but beautiful and classic inside. We saw a play called ‘They Don’t Pay, We Won’t Pay’, which was a comedy farce with five players, one of who plays multiple parts, and exposes all the problems of the world for blue collar workers set against a humorous looting of the local grocery store. It was very funny and well done, and showed us that although UK has some things figured out better than we in the US do, they still have a lot of the same problems and worries for folks at the bottom of the pile. The actors warmed up the audience before the show with some folk songs.The player who played multiple parts differentiated his parts by popping on a mustache and changing hats, and the other characters made fun of how similar the characters looked, it was VERY funny.

All good things must come to an end. We LOVED York! There was so much to see and do, and it was all in easy walking distance. I’d be game to come back to both Bath and York for a visit again.

2018-10-10 03.39.44

It was finally time to jump on a train (after first visiting the train museum and looking over a collection of royal train coaches) in the neat Victorian-era train station, and head for our next stop..London.


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

England – York

We arrived in York just as the sun was setting. We grabbed our rolly suitcases and headed into town, navigating by phone, to find our AirBnB flat, above a pub. After we settled in, we went down and wandered around the immediate area, trying to decide on where to go for dinner, and finally came back to our pub and ate there. It was very good, kind of gourmet pub-food!

Our flat had an entrance on the ground floor, where a little room had a clothes washer, and then the next floor had the bedroom and bath, and up one more was a living room/dining room/kitchen. It was quite roomy for us!


For some reason there was a small reflector telescope there, set up all wrong. I entertained myself by sorting it out. It wasn’t even pointing up!

The next morning we grabbed breakfast at our pub and headed out to catch the local volunteer guide tour. We met at the museum just outside the city walls. Although there is a modern part of York, we were staying in the historic portion, which is ancient, and is still mostly surrounded by medieval protective walls.


The guide took us to see some of the original Roman walls, topped by medieval walls.


In one place as we walked along the wall you could see where the moat used to be.

2018-10-08 04.03.52

In the center of historic York is the Minster, which dates back to at least the 1200s. Obviously it took a very long time to build something that big! It looks amazing from every angle. It very much dominates the skyline.

2018-10-08 04.36.29

At one point the tour group stopped in the shadow of the Minster while the guide told us about how the medieval stained glass windows were removed and shipped out to be hidden in countryside homes during WWII to protect them from bombing. We were freezing the whole time, because the Minster is so big it causes winds to blow down the sides of it.


When he let us go, we went back and explored inside the Minster. Unfortunately it was under restoration inside. I would have liked to be able to see it without all the scaffolding. Maybe next time.



Outside the city walls, near the museum, is what’s left of another church. Built in the 1200s, St Mary’s Abbey was torn down during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539-ish.   I think this was one of my favorite things in York!


As we walked around it, we looked down and realized the footprint of the original building is clearly visible, and it was HUGE (as you can see in this view from Google Earth). The best part is that if you go into the museum next door, down in the basement you will find more of the Abbey preserved on display!




And back outside, if you walk around you will find the remnants of the wall that would have protected the Abbey grounds.

2018-10-08 07.30.33

We just sat on a bench and rested for a bit and enjoyed looking at this and imagining what it must have looked like in it’s day.

With the big churches out of the way, lets go look around in town…


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3


England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

We took the short ride to Stratford on Avon (I think it took us back through Reading again), and arrived there in the afternoon just as all the food carts and such in the square were winding down.

2018-10-07 00.21.51

By the time we found our AirBnB (an unassuming black door in the midst of shops) and figured out how to get inside, and headed back out, everything was being packed away. We headed off in search of dinner, and ended up at a little pub, which seemed like a good idea, except they said they had a party coming in and the whole place was reserved, but they’d give us a table if we could eat fast and clear out! We had already wandered up and down the length of the street, and still without phone data to do any research, we went for it, and ate fast (though they were not all that fast getting the food to us, for being in such a hurry).

2018-10-06 12.54.18

We retired to the flat to recover from the busy day.

2018-10-06 08.55.18

Dave tried to sort out all the different forms of coins he had accumulated in his pocket, and figure out what they were worth.

2018-10-06 12.54.47

Look at these ancient looking beams running through the apartment! They look hand-hewn. Otherwise, everything inside was modern. It was a very nice place to stay, and very quiet even though it was on a busy street.

The next morning we bought an umbrella at Boots, since we were getting some of that legendary English weather, and headed for Warwick to see a castle.

2018-10-06 01.47.31

To do so, we hopped on a public bus. It was a nice ride, except the windows were fogging up. The countryside (that I could see) was lovely, and the little villages looked so cozy!


When we got to Warwick the bus driver pointed us in the general direction of the castle. Every town, it seems, has a spectacular church at its center.

2018-10-06 02.51.55-2

We took a loop around the church to peek at the ancient gravestones.


We found the castle! It was HUGE, you couldn’t miss it.


2018-10-06 03.42.10

Inside were displays of armor in the Great Hall, illustrating the castle’s medieval history.


The rooms around the Great Hall were decorated in Victorian style, and illustrated the lifestyle of the last owner, from the 1920s.


Dave even found a Lord Roberts, must have been an ancestor of his!


We went back out into the courtyard and went to explore the little castle on the hill – which I immediately decided was my favorite part.


Looking back at the main castle from the hill.


The beautiful countryside view from the top.

2018-10-06 04.36.55

After we had wandered around the castle in the rain enough for our satisfaction, we headed back into town, and this interesting building(s) caught our eye. It is Lord Leycester Hospital, a charity for ex-servicepeople.

2018-10-06 04.50.17

There has been a building there since 1126, but it says this group of buildings was built later, and you can see it says 1571 on the fireplace behind Dave. There is a little cafe there, and we slipped in for lunch. It was actually very nice, and the chef and his assistants were putting out some very nice lunches and fancy pastries.


The tea is growing on me. With a bit of sugar and cream, it’s downright tolerable.


We continued wandering around Warwick, marveling at the old homes, so different than the buildings we had seen in Bath. A person with OCD would never make it in this town, some of these houses didn’t have a straight line on them and leaned this way and that.

We took the bus back to Stratford on Avon, and after a bit of a rest, went out to a Thai place nearby that looked to be well reviewed. I honestly don’t remember much about it except we were seated at a micro-table right next to the cashier, which didn’t make for the most peaceful dinner.

The next morning we got everything cleaned up and checked out, and headed out to find a place for breakfast, duffel bags in hand again. We stopped at one of the few places that was open, hoping to get some hot food. We still were not getting used to the idea of a place to eat with no table service, but we seated ourselves, and looked over the menu, and Dave went up and ordered our food.

2018-10-07 00.43.50

We had ordered hot cocoa, and he came back with two mugs, and chocolate on a stick to swirl in the hot milk – it was like a hot cocoa kit! Weird! Then they brought the food, which was sub-par. Weirdest thing was Dave went to use the restroom, and he said it contained the biggest condom machine he had ever seen!

2018-10-07 01.52.36

We wandered around a bit more and landed back at a Starbucks near our flat. I used to think when I got to England, I would never go to a Starbucks, because they are everywhere here, but Starbucks started to feel like a welcome bit of home.

I was getting tired of dragging my duffel bag everywhere, and I didn’t want to carry it any further, but it would have been nice to do a little more exploring, so I looked up luggage online, and as soon as the department store across the street opened, we went over and picked up some new suitcases

2018-10-07 04.50.22-1

– with wheels!

Now that we were free to roll our burdens around, we headed up to take a peek at the church  where Shakespeare was buried. We could not go inside, but we admired the outside.

We sat by the river and watched carp fishermen setting up their gear, and people rowing up and down the river. There were lots of swans, and we watched the boatmen getting the tourist boats ready for the day ahead.

2018-10-07 01.08.54-1-1

I took this nice picture of the rowboats tied up at the dock. That will make a nice piece of art.

Then we headed over to the Royal Shakespeare Company theater.


We had tried to see a show there the day before, but were unable to. But this day we got to check our bags and take a little tour and see a bunch of costumes and set design displays.


Finally we rolled by Shakespeare’s birthplace before heading back to the train station for the next leg of our journey. Luckily by now we had figured out the reservation system, so we had seats for the entire trip, and watched a couple episodes of The Crown on the iPad to pass the time.

Although we enjoyed Warwick, we found Stratford on Avon a bit over-rated and touristy for our taste. Next stop: York.


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

England – Bath

Bath was incredible. The town is filled with Georgian architecture, and it is all made out of the same beautiful yellow/gold stone so the whole town sort of glows, and right in the center is a spectacular abbey towering over everything. We really loved the architecture.

2018-10-03 00.17.11

This isn’t even the Abbey, this is the church whose spire we can see from our bedroom window, we walked by it on our way to the town center.

We wandered out early the next morning, but not that early, and found that most places weren’t open yet! I was dreaming of lovely pastries, but we were lucky to find a place open for breakfast, where I got to try my first English Breakfast. Not sure it was my thing. Beans for breakfast? But the rest was fine.

2018-10-03 00.47.18

We started out the first morning by taking the free volunteer-run tour from the abbey courtyard. He walked us all over town, telling us stories about how the Romans settled the town and built their baths, and how it’s been a vacation destination for the well-to-do for centuries.

2018-10-03 02.53.09

2018-10-04 03.25.53

We walked out to the Crescent and to the Circus, and got a nice overview of where everything was, so we could go back and explore on our own.

2018-10-03 00.31.37

This bridge has shops on it, and they intended to build shops further down the road, but construction was halted for a few (or fifty) years because of some pesky uprising in the colonies that caused investors to go spend their money elsewhere…

2018-10-03 00.23.01

2018-10-04 03.18.35

The tour took us through a big park along a path that went behind the Crescent, where we spotted this cool little stage, and the guide told us some memorable stories about how Georgians handled their sewage, and then the wonders of modernizing with the Victorian ‘hanging toilets’ which were basically outhouses mounted on the exterior wall. Lets just say, I’m sure their gardens grew well.

2018-10-04 03.20.14

2018-10-03 05.03.58

We went back and explored the Abbey after the tour, and ran into Becky and Jeff, who we knew would be in town, but it was still weird to just run into them! We arranged to meet for a nice dinner later, as it was their last day in town. (and we completely forgot to take a picture of us all together! Social Media Fail!)

2018-10-03 07.23.28

2018-10-03 07.23.58

2018-10-04 02.11.05

Dave was still trying to get our phones working, by getting AT&T to give us the unlock code so we could use the UK Simm card, but they had no pity for us being stuck without phone service on our vacation. So we had to just take advantage of wi-fi whenever we found it. It made navigating a lot trickier. Luckily I had offline maps on my phone, so we wouldn’t get lost, but we couldn’t look up restaurants, or call Uber, or anything like that.

2018-10-03 10.41.14

View out the front of our place.

2018-10-03 10.21.00

View out the back – so pretty!

The next day (maybe) we had a fancy breakfast on the main drag at a hotel. I was getting the hang of drinking tea, and Dave was getting the hang of not asking for milk, because it confused them to have an adult drinking milk. Off to see the Roman Baths.

2018-10-03 07.58.00

2018-10-03 08.01.42

There was the above ground portion, which was not Roman age, but below there were actual Roman ruins, and quite a bit of museum underneath to wander through and see more actual Roman ruins. It was a lot to take in. Amazing to think of people building that stuff and walking around on it 2000 years ago.

We had a busy day of walking around looking at stuff, went and toured the Museum at Crescent #1, very cool, I’m just going to link it so you can check it out. We then had a nice lunch at an Italian place in a little back alley, and enjoyed the views on what turned out to be a surprisingly nice day for October.

2018-10-04 07.39.40

2018-10-04 06.27.22

There were a lot of buskers around.

2018-10-04 11.22.43

We finished the evening off by catching a cab to the Rondo Theater north of town, and the cabbie chatted our ears off about the history of Bath, clearly he was very proud of his town. The theater was in a part of town that had more of a village atmosphere. We had dinner at a pub there, and then wandered around and looked at the neighborhood until it was showtime. Then we saw a very funny two person show about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  I was worried it wouldn’t make sense to us, but it was hilarious! So that was a great first experience for seeing some theater that was equivalent to our theater at home. We successfully caught a public bus back into town and it dropped us off just down the block from our place. Perfect.

2018-10-05 02.03.16

The next morning we grabbed some pastries and hot cocoa and sat in the abbey courtyard and watched the pavement zamboni cleaning up for the day ahead. We had to check out of our place, so we were pretty tired and had our duffle bags, so we decided to get on the hop-on bus and just ride around until it was time to get off. That way we got a nice tour around town without exhausting ourselves any further. We grabbed a bit of lunch at a place next to the bus station and enjoyed some last minute people-watching, and then found our way onto the train for the short hop to Stratford on Avon.

Farewell Bath! Rick Steves was absolutely right about making Bath our first stop. It was the perfect speed to relax, get over jet lag, and start learning how to use the money and get around. There was so much interesting architecture and history to take in. We really enjoyed our visit, I hope we can visit again someday!

The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3




England – Getting There

Portland to London to Bath

We have never been overseas before. Our only trips outside the country have been to Vancouver, BC, and that is basically just like home, but bigger. So we saved up my vacation time this year and planned a trip in the fall, after the crazy summer vacation season was over, to England.

We planned to follow the two week trip outlined in Rick Steve’s Best of England book, but modified a bit for our interests and how much time we had to spend. We didn’t have quite two weeks so we shortened it up a bit. We aimed to include some local theater as we went. We spent lots of time pouring over maps and reading travel journals, and ended up deciding to fly to London and go directly to Bath, as Rick recommends, then on to Stratford on Avon to see Shakespeare’s hometown, and Warwick Castle (can’t go to England and NOT see a castle), then on to York, to see some of the countryside from my beloved James Herriot books, then back to London to finally experience the big city. Dave organized trains to get us from one place to another.

We arrived at the Portland Airport all ready for our adventure. Dave insisted we take the required airport carpet shot.


And our chariot awaits!

2018-10-01 15.31.29

We had a LONG flight ahead of us  – 9 hours, 4500 miles, or thereabouts. I was a bit nervous about it, because I have never been in a tube hurtling over the ocean in the middle of the night before.

2018-10-02 00.05.18

This made it all more bearable. Particularly since once we crossed over into Canada we couldn’t see anything out the window because of the clouds.

2018-10-02 01.22.23-1

The next morning we landed in London, got through customs pretty quickly, and were off on our adventure! As soon as we could get out of the airport. To do that we would use our train tickets, and get our train discount pass, which we couldn’t get sent to us in the US, but websites had indicated all we had to do was pick it up once we arrived. But we soon found out you couldn’t pick it up in Heathrow, and in fact the people there didn’t think we could get one at all. ‘Oh no,’ they said, ‘you have to mail away for that, you can’t just go get one!’ But someone suggested we take the train out of the airport and get off at our first stop and talk to the train office there, and hopefully if anyone asked us for our pass before that they would be merciful. So we did just that. And sure enough at the first stop there was a train office, and we asked the guy if we could get a pass and he handed us a long piece of paper to fill out. Dave said ‘can we get it today?’ and the guy was like ‘sure, I’ll make it right up for you’! Whew! First Problem, solved!

Soon we were back on the train, and a short ride later we were in Reading on a layover, waiting for our train to Bath. Reading was not on our itinerary, but we had a bit of time to walk around, and so it was the first place in England we really saw. We didn’t even really get a glimpse of London as we zipped away on the train. We were amazed by the cool old buildings mixed in with new ones in Reading.

2018-10-02 06.26.20

2018-10-02 06.29.00

2018-10-02 06.29.23-1

2018-10-02 05.41.19-1

We stopped for some hot cocoa to pass the time at a Starbucks while Dave tried to get our phone working with the UK Simm card. That would soon become Problem Number 2. It turned out our unlocked Samsung was a US -only model, and apparently could not talk to the UK network. We found this out after spending much of our Reading layover hanging out in a ‘3’ store while they tried to help us get it working. Their final conclusion was that that phone was not going to work for us, and since our other phones were still locked to AT&T, we would have to buy another phone that would work, or go without.

We grabbed some lunch in the train station (a real pastie!) and headed on to Bath. We had a bit of trouble because we had reserved seats, but people were sitting in them. We weren’t even sure we were in the right cars. Loading on the train happened fast! We found places to sit, but it was kind of awkward. Luckily it was a short trip. Soon we were in beautiful Bath.

We had to walk about a mile to our AirBnB, hauling our duffle bags over our shoulders. It was feeling like a bit of a marathon at that point. There was so much to see! But we bee-lined it to our new home for the next few days. Bath is full of Georgian townhomes, many of them in long lines all right together. Ours was in one of these (I took this photo a couple days later, it was pretty gloomy the day we arrived) Count up 6 chimneys, and it was the green door. We were up on the very very top floor.

2018-10-04 07.43.24

It was very cute inside, all modern, and it had a lovely view of the hills.

2018-10-05 01.24.20


Dave found this on the nightstand, which was cool because he had just finished doing a play of Baskerville.


2018-10-02 09.10.45

So, here we were, in a new town, halfway (well, a third of the way maybe) around the planet, in a different time zone, wide awake while our friends at home were still in bed. Crazy! I think we had an early dinner somewhere, then went to bed and crashed, because although it was barely evening here, our bodies thought it was something like 4AM. There would be plenty of time to explore tomorrow!


The whole trip:

England – Getting There

England – Bath

England – Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle

England – York

England – York Part 2

England – London

England – London Part 2

England – London Part 3

Horseshoe Lake (Woodland)


Dave and I packed some snacks, grabbed the kayak, and headed up to Horseshoe Lake in Woodland. We got going a little late, so we stopped and grabbed lunch to eat on the water. After we launched we paddled down past the fancy homes on the shore and found a peaceful shady spot to park and eat and have a little rest, watching the world go by.

Eventually we paddled over to the outside of the horseshoe bend and there were all these old tree stumps or dock pilings sticking up out of the water, so we tied the kayak to one and I enjoyed a little fishing while Dave worked on his script.


The pilings all had these otherworldly globs of something growing on them. They were cool but freaky looking.


I had my usual luck fishing…


A good time was had by all.

No pictures of the following weekend, but Dave launched me at Lacamas while he went to a theater event. My phone camera doesn’t work, so no pics, but I had a lovely time fishing with the help of my new anchor trolley. This allows me to anchor the kayak and move the anchor point to the bow or stern, so when I get the hang of it I should be able to point the kayak in the direction I want and keep it there, until the wind shifts anyway.

Also on that same adventure we got to Lacamas, unpacked, and realized we had forgotten the paddles! Luckily there is a vendor there renting kayaks, and they rented me a paddle for $5, which saved the day, because there was no time for Dave to go get the paddle and still make his theater event. When I got home I decided I would rig our new kayak cart n the garage to hold the paddles so we wouldn’t forget them again (they were hanging on the wall before), then I looked at the kayak and had a realization – and just set them inside the kayak – duh! We will have to move them to load it, so that should solve the problem.



Ashes Lake

We went out in search of bass at Ashes Lake. Ashes is down Hwy 14 almost to Stevenson. It is one of those lakes on the north side of Hwy 14, separated from the mighty Columbia by a berm with a little tunnel between them. I was told it had plentiful small and largemouth bass, as well as pikeminnows, and would be a great place to break my losing streak.

The road down to the lake, visible on Google Earth else I would never have believe it was a road, was an overgrown path between blackberry bushes that was not quite a Flex wide. So unfortunately I culd hear it scraping along the side of the car all the way down to the tiny parking area which only had room for three cars. Luckily there was only one car there when we arrived.

We parked and unpacked the kayak and walked it down the hill to the water. The road was very rough and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the Flex try to climb back up that hill on loose gravel . Pretty soon we were paddling our way out into the lake.


It’s a big lake, and it was really pretty, and a perfect tempurature, blue sky day. But like it often is in the Columbia River Gorge, it was also windy. So paddling was a challenge, and unless we were both paddling, it felt like we weren’t making any headway during gusts.

Finally we made our way to the sheltered west end of the lake, and it was very nice. There was a family of canadian geese floating around, we saw fish jumping, and every tree overhanging the lake seemed to make a shady spot for fish to hang out in the rocks.


I got several nibbles in this area, including one that grabbed my bait and took off, dragging the float behind him! But I was unable to hook up. I certainly had fun trying anyway!

We still don’t have an anchor on the kayak, so we tried drifting up against a log where I could cast towards he shore. The log seemed to be popular with tiny blue damselflies who were hanging around, landing on our paddles. Big dragonflies also zoomed overhead, with clear wings with black spots on them. Strangely enough, the majority of birds we saw were seagulls, and they seemed to be flying around high up in the fir trees around the lake in big flocks the whole time we were there. They looked spectacular, flashing white against the blue sky! We also saw a bald eagle at one point.


We came around a corner and found a secluded little beach, and went ashore. The kayak’s seats are made to come out and be used as beach chairs, so that’s just what we did.


We kicked back on our own private beach and had a snack and watched the world go by for a bit.


Since it was such a nice beach, I waded in and did a little fishing with a bobber and worm. Still no luck, even though I saw some big fish jumping not far off shore. They were not interested in what I was offering.

Finally we decided to head back. While out there we had seen a couple other kayaks and small boats join us, and when we got to the launch the 3 parking spots were full, plus one more truck which they had parked right in the middle of the beach where everyone was launching from, so everyone else had to walk around them! There was a guy there who had come in the truck, but it wasn’t his truck so he couldn’t move it, and there was some younger guy with him who looked completely wasted. So we just packed our stuff back up the hill, walking around them as they made no effort to move out of the way.

All around though, it was a great day, and I could have stayed out on the little beach all afternoon except we needed to get home to the doggies. No fish were caught, but I had some exciting close calls, learned some stuff, saw some things, and spent some great time alone with Dave to catch up on our week. Perfect.




Fishing at Mosquito Lake

We had a rare free weekend for a change, and I wanted to get out and do something fun, so I decided we would go up to Goose Lake, which I have heard has good trout fishing. We got up at 6am and drove up to Trout Lake, and stopped by the ranger’s station to ask about conditions. She asked what we planned to do at Goose Lake and I told her we brought our kayak to go paddling.

She said “This name is going to sound off-putting, but you might have more fun at Mosquito Lake, because Goose Lake is super popular in the summer.” Dave said later she probably took one look at us and went ‘oh, these aren’t Goose Lake people, I’d better send them to Mosquito Lake!’

So we zipped on up there, and almost blew right by the parking area, because it is so small. Just room for 4 cars, just off the PCT, but the lake looked glorious! Beautiful clear water reflecting the perfectly blue sky.



We put in at the beach by the parking area, and then had to weave our way around a little serpentine path to get out to the lake. Along the way we had to go over an old collapsed dock, and it was pretty shallow and narrow. But pretty soon we were out there, and I cast out a streamer on my sinking fly line and let it drift behind us as the breeze slowly blew us across the lake.


No need to paddle when you’ve got wind!


Dave is helpful for holding my rod while I tie a new streamer on after losing one in the reeds. We drifted halfway around the lake before I checked and discovered it was gone – doh!


We paddled back across the lake to the starting point, but we were really fighting the wind, which had picked up a bit. We could only make progress when we were both paddling hard together. Back at the parking lot end I spotted this little area in the reeds where we could park it for a bit and not have to fight the wind. I’ll be glad when the rest of my anchor parts show up – an anchor would have been really useful today!


The water was the clearest I’ve ever seen. You could see all the way to the bottom over most of the lake. There were lots of water lilly pads still under the water. I’ll bet this lake will be packed with them later in the summer.


Sitting in the reeds we could see some little trout – like 2-3 inches. I guess they were trout, they were shaped like trout and had spots. We had fun watching them, while just kicking back, discussing vacation plans, and enjoying the day. When we had enough, I cast out my streamer one more time and we paddled back to the parking area. I didn’t even get a bite, though I saw a lot of big fish jumping. Maybe next time.

The best part of this trip – no mosquitoes and NO people! Yes, we had this little lake all to ourselves. It was so quiet you could sit and just hear the wind blowing through the trees. Sometimes you could hear a car driving by on the forest road, but that was about it. As we were packing up to leave, another car drove up with 2 kayaks on top. Well now they could have the lake to themselves!

On our way home we decided to go by Goose Lake just to take a look at it. Along the way we saw a sign for Natural Bridges and stopped there. The area was a collapsed lava tube.


Kind of hard to get the scale without a person in the shot.


I’m not sure that helps, but it was a really big tube, maybe 50 ft deep. And in places there were natural bridges where the tube had not collapsed fully, and you could cross over the culvert left by the tube.


It’s just really hard to photograph. Neat area though. I would like to come back here next time we are nearby and work on photographing it better. There is a lot of interesting lava in this part of the woods, and Goose Lake itself is right next to The Big Lava Flow, which looks very rugged, but we were too tired to explore today.

We continued past Goose Lake, and although the lake was pretty, it was full of partying people, and so not for us. We continued to Stevenson, where we stopped at our favorite lunch spot for post-Gorge activities, Big T’s Diner in Stevenson, Washington, with a spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge and delicious Hawaiian Burgers. We enjoyed our well-earned lunch which watching wind-surfers playing on the river below. The perfect end to an unexpectedly perfect day.