© 2018, 2022 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
As reported in April 2022, in March 2018, I spent two weeks in Prague and Eastern Germany before crossing the Channel to London.
From the German Countryside to London
I was awake quite a bit earlier than my alarm, which is common on Travel Days. Astrid picked me up at 07:45, and we headed for Erfurt in bright sunshine. The snow and ice were gone from the roads, and it looked like a nice day. At the station, we had a snack. My 08:50 train was five minutes late, and by the time we got to Frankfurt, if was 20 minutes behind schedule. My carriage was quite full and even though I was at a table, there was no room to open my large laptop, so I worked on a plan for a June vacation in the Netherlands, and read my new novel. At Frankfurt's main train station, I found an inter-city to Amsterdam leaving within minutes, and got on-board that as its first stop was the Frankfurt airport.
Although I was in priority lines at that airport, check-in and security were quite slow, and so too was the passport control. However, it was all worth the wait. At Lufthansa's Senators' Lounge I had a very nice meal of potato and vegetable soup, salad, juice, and bread while reading a newspaper. My Lufthansa flight was delayed 10 minutes. I boarded the A320 and took up a window seat. Almost all the center seats were empty giving us extra room. The 45-minute flight to London's Heathrow airport (LHR) was uneventful, as one prefers. Passport control was slow. I turned back my clock an hour for local time.
Having forgotten to bring my public transportation Oyster Card, I bought a new one, charged it with £15, and went down to the Tube platform where a train arrived a minute later. The airport line is the Piccadilly, which was exactly the one I needed, so there would be no transfers. I got off at the Gloucester Road station, an area I'd stayed in years ago. Things looked just as I'd last left them.
It was a short walk to my hotel where a very friendly receptionist checked me in, and I dumped my gear in my room. I then went to a bank to get some local currency and some things from the supermarket. As my room didn't have a fridge and I had bought juice, I got inventive and put it outside on the broad window ledge where it was quite cold!
As I had not gotten my full quota of sleep the night before, I abandoned plans to go to the theater. Instead, I snacked in my room while dealing with email, and had an early night.
Chairing a 3-Day Conference
At the meeting place, tea, coffee, and pastries were served, and delegates socialized before I started the meeting at 10 o'clock. By the end of the day, more than 60 people were present, with a few of them attending by videoconference from the US. We broke at 5 pm, and at 5:30, I started a "newcomers' meeting" for the newer attendees to ask any questions they might have about the committee and its work. At 7 o'clock, we moved the discussion to a nearby pub.
Back in my room, I handled email about a new job opportunity, and that took several hours.
[Next day] I was awake way too early, composing and sending more emails about the new job opportunity that had arrived the night before. I then had less than a full English breakfast, and worked on a Sudoku puzzle throughout. I headed out into a nice day with a cool breeze blowing. I started Day 2 of my meeting promptly at 10 am, and we had another busy and productive day. I forewent lunch, saving myself for supper. At 5:30, I walked 15 minutes with a colleague to a pub at which 40 of us had a group meal in a private, upstairs room. I had a wonderful serving of bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes, that is), with onions and a red-wine sauce. The walk back to my hotel around 7:30 pm was very pleasant, and back in my room, I had a very nice cup of coffee while dealing with email. Lights out by 9 o'clock.
[Next day] After a very good sleep, I had a light English breakfast while scanning the morning's news in a paper. The French airline controllers were going on strike, and one line of the London Tube will be struck, but neither affected me.
I was at my seat for the third and final day of my meeting by 9:15. It was another productive day with breaks for unnecessary eating and drinking. We ended at 4 o'clock, and soon after, I headed back to my hotel to change into my tourist clothes.
Taking in Some Theater
I rode the Piccadilly Tube to Leicester Square where I went to the discount theater ticket office. I grabbed a booklet that described all the shows on offer for March, and chose an event for that night for which I bought a ticket. I had two hours to kill, but as it was cold, I looked for a warm place to wait. It was McDonalds! I bought a cup of hot chocolate, and pulled up a stool at a set of community tables. Next to me was a pleasant young woman, a primary school teacher who'd moved from Leeds to London. We chatted at length of many things. Then a Frenchman joined me, and we had a long conversation about his work, life in his city of Lille, and other topics. Finally, several young Polish teenagers arrived. They lived an hour from my ancestral home of Posen. The time passed quickly.
At 7:30, the curtain at the Apollo Theater went up on "Everybody's talking about Jamie." In a word, it was "Fantastic!" The dialog, music, dancing, and acting were all of exceptional quality, and it was full on from the very beginning. It's a story about a gay 16-year-old boy who dreams of being a drag queen. I had one of the best seats in the house, at the back of the stalls in a raised area. It ran 2:40 hours with one intermission.
Outside the weather was pleasantly cool as I walked to the Piccadilly Circus Tube station. The platform clock read 22:22:22, which I thought was an ominous sign! A train arrived immediately, and I headed back to Gloucester Road. Back in my room, I had a belated supper of hot chocolate with some rolls with tuna. Lights out at 11 pm after a great evening.
[Next day] After breakfast at my hotel, I packed my gear and took care of email and administration. I checked out of my hotel around 10:30, and went to a bank to change an old £10 note, which was no longer being circulated. I then rescued two pints of whole milk from a supermarket, and drank one while waiting in line to pay.
Off to Norwich, Norfolk
At the Tube station, I rode the Circle Line to Liverpool station where I walked to the adjoining train station. I bought an off-peak return ticket to Norwich, Norfolk, for £55. The noon train left on time, and I had a 4-person table to myself even though I'd put on deodorant that morning. I was lacking sleep, but managed to stay awake during the 1:50-hour journey. The countryside was quite flat with a lot of agriculture. The fields were green, and trees were beginning to bud.
At the Norwich station, I spied a Cornish pasty shop from which I bought a large sausage roll that I smothered with ketchup. I had a hand-drawn map of the city, and set out to find the tourist information center. I took a wrong turn, but after consulting some locals, I found the place, and a friendly woman gave me a map and brochures. From there, it was a short walk to my home for the next six nights, a room in a flat.
Unfortunately, my hosts hadn't told me the flat number, so I borrowed a mobile phone from a passer-by to call. Theodora welcomed me to the place she shared with partner James, and gave me an orientation. She'd cleared a shelf in the kitchen cupboard and the fridge to put my stuff. After I dumped my gear, I walked five minutes to a Tesco supermarket to lay in some basic groceries. After a nice hot shower, I stayed in for the rest of the day working on various projects. Lights out at 8 o'clock.
[Next day] After 11 wonderful hours of sleep, I was up early exploring the kitchen and making a light breakfast. James joined me soon after and we chatted a while. Soon after, I headed out for the station stopping to take photos of interesting signage on the way. I had planned to catch what I thought would be an 8:45 train, but hadn't checked the schedule. However, I found the train left at 8:20 instead, so I had to wait for the 9:45. C'est la vie! So, I had a good look around the station, which I must say was one of the cleanest and nicest I've ever been to. I paid a visit to my friendly Cornish pasty man from the day before, and had another sausage roll. There was a very comfortable waiting room with soft sofas and heating. And once I convinced a railway employee to close the doors that had been locked open, the heater kicked in.
Sheringham and Surrounds
For £8.80, I bought a day-return ticket to the town of Sheringham, the end of the line, with unlimited stopovers on the way back. I noticed something odd on my ticket; the abbreviation for the month of march was MCH rather than the usual MAR! The 2-carriage train departed on-time, and we rolled along at a steady pace past a small river with white swans, people kayaking, and a yacht factory. There were several large fields of solar panels. Many fields were bordered with the classic English hedgerows. There was forest, some rolling hills, black-faced sheep (which I guessed were Suffolk), and beef cattle. We stopped in the coastal town of Cromer for several minutes.
The reason I'd decided to go to Sheringham was to see the small market in the parking lot by the train station, so I walked around that. On sale were plants, fruit, vegetables, fresh and smoked fish, hardware, clothes, footwear, haberdashery items, crafts, and hot food. I bought a nice leather wallet. Nearby was the old train station, which had been very nicely restored. A section of line went with it, and a diesel and steam service alternated for the tourists. I bought a ticket on the next steam train, which I rode to the village of Holt. I sat with two young women from Germany and Spain who were on their gap year. We stopped for 30 minutes in Holt where I toured the railway museum. The round trip took 90 minutes, and all the stations and equipment were in impeccable order, and the staff friendly. I took lots of photos including one of the fire box after I climbed into the locomotive. I rode back in a compartment with an English couple on holiday with their lovable bulldog.
Back in Sheringham, I walked around the town and down to the sea taking photos of signage and houses. An elderly woman dressed in full uniform was holding a donation can for the Salvation Army, and after I gave her a generous donation, we chatted at length about the projects her group was working on locally. Much of it involved food banks. As I had a long wait for the next train, I dropped into the Star Fish Tea Shop where a very nice young woman served me a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a slice of lemon-drizzle cake. I then rode the 14:47 train eight minutes to Cromer.
I walked into town from the station and stopped at the tourist office. Like other people I'd talked with, the woman attendant recommended a walk to the lighthouse and then the pier. So, I set off for the cliff-top walk path, which was on a steady uphill incline. Many hikers had their dogs, all of which were disciplined and running free. At the top of the final hill, I sat on a bench and put my heart back in my chest while chatting with a retired couple who had a holiday cottage in the area. I was visited by many dogs, all of which wanted attention. Fortunately, the rain that had been forecast did not occur, and there was no wind. However, it was quite cold, and I was rugged up for the 3-mile round trip.
I walked down to the beach where quite a few old tractors were parked. Their job was to pull large boats from the sea. And given they drove into the water, they all had signs of rust from the salt. I walked out on the long, impressive pier where a number of people were fishing.
I caught the 17:00 express train back to Norwich where I walked home stopping to buy supper. Back home, I settled into a cup of boiling leek soup and a chicken salad. It had been quite a physical day, and I was ready to stay warm and inside! Soon after I got home, James and Theo left for London. Although he'd be back on Monday, she was headed to her native France for a while, so I'd be alone in the flat for the weekend. I spent the evening snacking and working on various projects. It had been a great first day in Norfolk.
[Next day] The UK started daylight-savings time, so I lost an hour. Much of the morning was spent looking for it! I eased into the day, postponing breakfast until I got this diary up to date. Then I treated myself to a tall mug of milk coffee with toast, cheese, and jam. By the time I got done with administration and domestic chores, it was noon, and I headed out in clear, cold weather.
I walked a path along the River Wensum, crossing from side to side over various old and new bridges. The willows were budding leaves, some bulbs were flowering, the swans were begging for food, and lots of people were out walking. The sun even came out for a while. I stopped off to look at a tower ruin from the city's defenses back when guns and cannon were being introduced. At the train station, I turned around and walked back on the other side of the river and then off to the cathedral.
To say that Norwich Cathedral, its grounds, and extensive set of buildings is very impressive, would be an understatement! I walked inside and then through the cloisters before coming across the Refectory Cafe. This modern glass, wood, and stainless-steel cafeteria is where the refectory used to be, and was filled with light, conversation, and great food. I chatted at length with a retired couple, he a theoretical Physics researcher, she a psychotherapist (originally from Galway, Ireland). Then I had a bowl of spicy carrot and sweet potato soup with a large slab of bread smothered in creamy butter. It was delicious, and better than anything Grandma used to make! I sat in the sun streaming in the skylights, and read a newspaper and worked on a sudoku puzzle.
I walked back to the city center to find Greggs bakery open, so I stopped to rescue a couple of pasties, one of which I ate on the walk home. I came across a building with a large atrium inside, which had a knitting/sewing/crafts exhibit. I was quite impressed by the many things made to emulate real life, as in full-size people, tea settings, and such, all knitted or crocheted. Back home, the sun was streaming in my lounge window, so I sat there with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea and some English biscuits (US: cookies). I worked on some travel planning and email until the sun went down.
I had another quiet night at home consuming unnecessary snacks and drinks before reading a gripping spy novel in bed. Lights out at 9 o'clock. Asleep at 9:02!
A Day Trip to Great Yarmouth
[Next day] I was wide awake at 7 o'clock, feeling quite rested. I had a light breakfast (that included marmalade-on-toast) and handled the email that had arrived overnight. It was a pleasant but cool day out and I arrived at the train station by 9:15. I rode a train 35 minutes to Great Yarmouth, a seaside resort town. Along the way, I sat and talked with a couple from El Salvador, and I unexpectedly got a bit of a Spanish workout. As we were all heading to the tourist office quite some distance from the station, we walked together.
From all I'd read, there wasn't much likely to interest me there. At one time, it was the herring capital of the world, and one of the wealthiest cities in England, but overfishing caused that industry to almost disappear. Now, it's sort of a gaudy tourist beach town. Fortunately, the season had not yet arrived, so there weren't many visitors around. However, I liked riding trains, it was a nice day to be out, and I was just filling in time before I died!
After a long walk along the promenade (with a 150-yard-deep sandy beach that ran along the coast for miles), I headed for the one place I thought might be interesting. It was museum with a café. I went in to check out the menu and decided to have an early lunch. I had a bowl of piping-hot, red lentil soup with bread smothered in garlic butter. It was "to die for," I kid you not! I sat in the sunshine reading a newspaper and working on a sudoku puzzle.
Afterwards, I paid my £5.70 admission to the Time and Tide Museum of Yarmouth Life. What a surprise! It was housed in an old herring processing factory, and was very well organized. Apart from the fishing-related exhibits, there was a section on the Roman occupation, bronze-age artifacts, the town's role in WWI and WWII (being a submarine base, it was a target), and more modern times. It was definitely worth the visit. In the courtyard, a large group of small children was watching a Punch and Judy show.
I then strolled along the riverfront and then back into the pedestrian zone of the town. I found a Poundland store at which many things cost £1 or £2, and found exactly the thing I was looking for, large boxes of Maynard's wine gums. I rescued two! I tried to pay with a handful of coins, but the cashier rejected one. Apparently, all £1 coins issued prior to a year or so ago were no longer legal tender, and had been replaced by a new one, which has many edges. So, I went next door to a bank to change it.
After four hours, I was ready to go home, so I power-walked to the station, jumped on the waiting train, and we departed five minutes later. My timing was impeccable! I sat on the sunny side looking out the window at the very wooly sheep with their newborn lambs. Many fields had drainage canals around and across them, and there were pools of water on the ground. I saw the remains of numerous windmills (all now without blades), which presumably used to pump the water around in the canals.
Back at Norwich station, I was hoping for a sedan chair and some bearers, but good help is so hard to find these days! I dragged my weary legs up the incline to the city where I stopped to hear a young man play banjo. Then I rescued a pint of ice-cold whole milk. Back home, I handled email and brought this diary up to date. James arrived back from London.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the day was lunch. In fact, it was one of the highlights of my whole trip thus far!
Two Easy Days Around Norwich
[Next day] Once again, I had a good, long sleep. After days of rain being forecast, but not happening, it finally caught up with me. After a breakfast that included honey-on-toast, I worked on administration and went online to see the news and sporting event results from the weekend. I saw that it was also raining at my house back in the US, and was likely to do so for several days.
Around 10 o'clock, I rugged up, put on my rain gear, and stepped out in a dreary day. Although it had rained quite a bit, it was not raining then. My main goal for the day was to visit Norwich Castle. Known locally as "The Box on the Hill," it literally is a cube on top of a tall, man-made hill. I started with the keep where I read about a variety of exhibits. The Normans built the stone castle around 1120. However, many additions and changes were made during the Victorian era, and the outside walls are fewer than 100 years old. Nonetheless, it was an impressive complex that once covered 23 acres (9.3 hectares). The number of small, but interesting museums and galleries housed there included the following: Roman and Anglo-Saxon times, an Egyptian section, a natural-history museum, and a large collection of landscapes and portraits by artists from the Norwich School of Painters. I walked around the gardens where I discovered an entrance to an underground shopping mall.
I walked down some new streets and lanes, and stopped in at a Dr. Martens store to look at some interesting boots. Then it was on to Norwich Market, where I strolled the aisles between the several hundred stalls. Along the way, I had a short concert from a young woman playing guitar in light drizzle. I made it back home without getting too wet, and was happy to rest up for the remainder of the afternoon.
In the evening, I had a sudden craze for some salt-and-vinegar potato chips (which the British cleverly disguise as "crisps"), of which I'd sampled a few days earlier. I'd been meaning to buy some on my way home each of the last couple of days. I was lamenting my predicament to James, my host, and he reached into his kitchen cabinet and pulled out a large bag of Tesco's finest "sea salt and cider vinegar, hand-cooked potato crisps!" As a result, I told him that such hospitality was sure to get him a higher rating when I sent in my report to AirBnB.
I went to bed early and finished my gipping spy novel. I then had "sweet dreams" of covert operations and assassins! (It must have been the salt-and-vinegar chips!)
[Next day] After more than 10 hours of restful sleep, I got up to spend my last day in Norwich. For breakfast I had a savory pastry with a touch of ketchup and a dusting of ground black pepper, don't you know! I washed that down with a nice cup of coffee.
After processing my overnight email, I headed out around 10:30 in light drizzle. My plan was to walk the back streets and alleys, looking for photo opportunities, especially interesting signage. I turned left into Cow Hill and then crossed over to Ten Bell Lane, and on to St. Swithens Alley. The names were all so terribly English! I came to Elm Hill, a cobble-stoned street for veddy upscale shops, some of which one had to make an appointment to visit; I say!
Eventually, I was back at the textile exhibition I'd seen the day before. Adjacent, was the Norwich Library, and I went in to have a look around. In one far corner there was a memorial library to groups from the United States Army Air Force. (It didn't become a separate military service until 1949.) It was dedicated to the Americans who were based in the area from 1942–1945, during WWII. At any one time, there were 50,000 American servicemen there. As well as having materials about that time and place, the library has a fine collection of American-related books on a wide range of topics. It was a surprise to find such a thing even existed. (While there, I learned that the only US War Graves Cemetery in the UK is in Cambridge.)
As I walked home, I remembered to swing by Tescos to buy a replacement bag of crisps for James. When I saw that the price for a large bag was only £1, I bought an extra one, just for me. Now back home, I still had some left over from the previous night, but the thought crossed my mind that I might not be able to make it all the way home to eat them. At that very moment, a man pressed a gun to my head and forced me to open one of the bags and to start eating! Well, what could I do but obey? Now, several hours later, it occurred to me that I might just have been hallucinating, from a deficiency of salt-and-vinegar! Back home, I was glad to be inside where it was warm and dry.
I packed most of my gear and had a quiet evening working on various editing projects along with some unnecessary eating and drinking. I went to bed early and read a Jack Reacher novel for several hours.
[Next day] I was wide awake before my alarm clock, but felt rested. James was already up and eating breakfast. I made a meal out of my remaining groceries while we talked. He headed off to work around 8:30. I got my final email fix for the morning, packed my computer bag, and headed out the door. As I walked down the street, a town clock chimed 9 am. It was cool out, but sunny, and as I was in no hurry, I took my time getting to the train station.
Back to London and More Theater
Trains departed for London's Liverpool Street station every half hour, and I'd planned to catch the one at 10 o'clock. However, I arrived at 9:15, so I boarded the 9:30, which was already waiting at Platform 3. It was a long train, and I went way down to the end in the hope of finding an unreserved forward-facing seat at a table. I was successful! I chatted with a young Englishman going home to his Welsh wife in Wales. At 9:29, a conductor blew his whistle, at 9:30 we pulled out of the station, and I said, "Goodbye" to Norwich. Then I set up my laptop and worked on this diary. And while I got things done, the constant swaying of the carriage made for some interesting typing and editing mistakes as my mouse cursor danced around and about as I clicked.
We arrived at Liverpool Street on-time, and I rode the Circle Line to South Kensington where I changed to the District Line. I got off at Ravenscourt Park, and walked the short distance to my Airbnb home-for-a-night. Let's just say that it was spartan, but adequate, although the outside looked like a hideaway for someone in the Witness-Protection Program!
I rode the Tube back to Leicester Square where I sat and looked at the day's theater offerings. I finally chose a serious play matinee, and a musical for the evening. As I had time to kill, but it was raining lightly, I found a "traditional" English establishment, Burger King, where I had some chicken nuggets and onion rings. From there, I walked to Trafalgar Square where I watched many tourists trying to climb onto the backs of the large lions. (I've done it, but it's challenging!) I then walked down towards Downing Street, but as the rain got heavier, I took a shortcut to the theater.
At 2:45, I was seated upstairs in the Dress Circle (wearing my hiking boots and pants, with my toy caterpillar sticking out my shirt front) at the Playhouse theater. At 3 pm, the curtain went up on a Gore Vidal play, The Best Man, set in 1960 and covering the days before and during a fictitious US-Presidential Primary convention. The main actor was Martin Shaw. Honeysuckle Weeks (of Foyle's War fame) played a slightly naïve, southern-accented wife of a sleazy candidate. I was not at all familiar with any of Gore Vidal's work, but was pleasantly surprised at some of the humorous dialog. Despite numerous references to American culture and people, the audience seemed to have no trouble following along. After 2:40 hours, I was back out in light rain, with an improved "kulcha quotient!"
I was in the mood for a small snack, and as I came up a side street next to Charring Cross station, I spied an interesting sign and stopped to take a photo. Then I saw an ever better one in the shop window, and then noticed it was an eating place, called "Herman ze German," which seemed a little politically incorrect, another attraction for me! The kicker was that their slogan was "Our wurst is ze Best!," and a photo of that would definitely make it in one of my future blog postings! The menu was written in Germlish, some staff spoke German, and a German family with two young kids sat next to me. Then a young couple from Berlin came and sat with me and declared the food "authentisch!" We chatted at length while I ate my bratwurst-with-dried-onion-pieces-and-ketchup-on-a-bread-roll, which I washed down with a bottle of Fritz-kola (I kid you not). [The joke here is that many words in German are v-e-r-y long, and are made up of what would be a phrase in English, with the words joined together without any intervening spaces.] The next diner to join me was a young Ghanaian called Daniel. His parents left Africa and moved to Germany, where he was born, but now they all lived in the UK.
I stepped out into a pleasant evening, with the drizzle stopped. As I had time to spare, I walked up to Covent Garden and through its halls, thinking perhaps I might run into Eliza Doolittle or Professor 'enry 'iggins.
At 7 o'clock, I was seated in a prime spot in the Stalls seven rows from the stage of the Drury Lane, Theater Royal. My seatmates were an extended American family who had flown in from Los Angeles the day before. At 7:30 sharp, the conductor got the orchestra going (in a pit down front), and except for a 15-minute intermission, it was 2:30 hours of non-stop music, singing, and tap dancing. The show was 42nd Street, set in 1933 Philadelphia and New York City. It certainly was spectacular, and the large sets were impressive. There was a cast of 58, and at times, almost all were on stage.
Afterwards, to avoid changing trains on the way home, I walked down to the Thames River to the Temple tube station where I got talking to a young man on the platform. Well, don't you know, he was one of the main characters in the musical I'd just seen, so I asked him a lot of questions. He was quite new to the cast, and just two weeks into a 1-year contract. The main characters each had two understudies who also had regular roles, so there was plenty of backup coverage. And as people got four-weeks holiday per year, but the show didn't stop for that, while they were away, their understudy stepped in. The cast performed a 2:30-hour show six nights a week, and two matinees, with Sundays off. Given the very physical nature of the show, he said they really didn't get much rest.
At my home station, I walked away from my room to a street that looked like having some places open. At a deli, I bought a pint of cold, whole milk and a sandwich, which I ate as I checked out the neighborhood. Back home, I collapsed into bed at 11:30 pm.
[Next day] Although my bed was comfortable, I took a good while to get to sleep, and I didn't get my full complement! However, after a long, hot shower, I felt much better. At 9 o'clock, I ventured out into a very sunny, but cool, day. I'd asked a fellow guest for breakfast-place recommendations, and he gave me one. I walked to the main shopping street and to a pub that was part of the Wetherspoons chain. Although I wasn't planning on a large breakfast, they had a large- or medium-sized English breakfast on offer, both for under £5, with all the hot drinks one could manage. I ordered at the bar. (One could order from the table if one had the appropriate app downloaded on one's phone!) As I waited for my food, I perused the rather-thick quarterly magazine the pub published. A few patrons were sitting in a quite darkened section, and one had two large glasses of beer in front of him, and it was only 9:15 am! His big decision of the day seemed to be, "Now, which one of these will I drink first? Maybe I'll be daring and alternate!" A young waitress served me a fried egg, bacon, sausage, hash-brown potatoes, baked beans, fried tomato, and toast with butter. An older man entered the pub, and took up a table near me. From the bar, he got a bottle of beer and an empty glass, and a glass of water. He proceeded to use the water to wash down a series of tablets, and then he attacked the beer. It looked like it might have been his daily morning ritual!
From there, I walked up and down the high street taking photos of some interesting signage.
Back in my room, I got my final email fix, packed my gear, and walked the 200 yards to the tube station. I had a 7-minute wait for the next District Line train going to my destination. Now the Piccadilly Line to the Heathrow Airport ran through my station, and two of its trains went by as a I waited, but they didn't stop at my station. Don't you just hate that when that happens! The platform was deserted, and as it was rather cold out I took refuge in the heated, "safe" glass-walled room. Soon after, an elderly lady arrived at the platform, but when she saw the bearded foreigner with a caterpillar in his shirt front standing in the room, she apparently thought it would be safer for her if she stood outside in the cold! I rode the train to Acton Town where I waited another eight minutes for a Piccadilly Line train to Heathrow Terminal 2. On the ride to the airport, I stood next to an Aussie couple who were flying back to Melbourne via Perth on the new Qantas non-stop B787 service. We spoke at length about the good old days of Aussie football.
After a very long walk to the check-in area, I was happy to find there was no line at the priority counter. I asked about catching an earlier flight, but they had just closed out the one prior to mine, so I had a long wait. In the priority security line, I was the only passenger, and all the staff were enamored with my stuffed caterpillar. One woman asked me, "Why are you wearing a caterpillar?," to which I replied, "Because my giraffe was sick today!" After she decided that neither I nor my caterpillar were security risks, she just smiled!
After another long walk, I made it to the United Airlines Business Lounge near my departure gate, and I settled in at a workbench where I had some juice, worked on this diary, and processed 2-days-worth of photos. After all that demanding effort, I took a look at the food offerings. [I'd much rather eat a meal served on real crockery and with real cutlery, on a large and stable table, than try to eat in Economy Class with all courses served at once.] There was a decent selection, and I settled on a bed of rice and a portion of steamed vegetables, all smothered in beef stroganoff with lots of gravy. It was just like Grandma wished that she could make! I helped that down with a can of England's finest Coke. For afters, I had a fine serving of mango and passionfruit cheesecake.
United Flight 928 boarded on time, but was at least 30 minutes late departing. I declined the meal, but looked forward to the ice cream coming later. Unfortunately, it was their vanilla with ginger pieces, which I definitely don't like! I chatted at length with the young schoolteacher sitting next to me, who taught high school social studies. I tried sleeping, but only managed to rest my eyes. I did eat the snack that was served just prior to arrival.
At IAD, I was through passport control, got my luggage, and in a cab in double-quick time. It was pleasant out. I picked up my car and headed home, stopping to buy a few groceries. At home, I dumped my gear and got into bed. My body's London clock time was 3:15 am! After four weeks away, my bed sure felt good!