Thursday, February 22, 1996
Slept most of the way from Sacramento to Dallas/Ft. Worth. Arrived in Dallas, and much to my dismay discover that I arrived in at gate 41 and that Mom arrives at 3pm from Phoenix at gate 29A, and our flight to London leaves around 5ish at Gate 15. So looks like we will be doing an Michael Johnson-esque sprint through the airport. Decide to kill time thinking of excuses as to why I didn’t purchase a garment bag. Eventually meet up with Mom, and with little fanfare we embark on our plane trip to London-Gatwick Airport.
Friday February 23, 1996
9am London time we pull into Gatwick airport. Not a real comfortable night sleep, but OK. Passed through customs with a wink and a smile and meet up with our traveling partners Gary and Wesley. After much wandering and ambling about, we end up on a platform (kinda chilly) and get on the Gatwick Express bound for Victoria Station. After a nice train ride of about 30 minutes, we pull into Victoria Station. A little disorientated by all the new stuff to take in, but Wesley manages to pick up the ball and we end up with our Tube passes for the next 10 days. From there, its a wild Mr. Toad-esque taxi ride to the Hotel (Note: Does anyone remember the name of this place? I do not have it written down). Our hotel is really more of a rental apartment. It looks and feels positively British, but comes with a mini kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. After unpacking I realize that I left my travel alarm back in Davis (Doh!). After some much needed downtime, we head out into London. Took the tube over to Oxford Street and looked at the shops. took the tube again to Knightsbridge and say Harvey Nichols (of AbFab Fame) and proceeded to wander about looking for the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. Finally found it and had the usual Hard Rock lunch. Not a very big Hard Rock, and always a line. After lunch, we headed off to Harrod’s. Mom, Gary and Wesley went off to the basement to plan out our itinerary and I went in Search of a Loo. Without Leonard Nimoy’s help, it was quite difficult, but did manage to find one. Met up with the gang back in the Basement of Harrods. After much hullabaloo, we went back to the hotel to rest. About 6:45p we set out to find the Disney Store on Oxford Circus to buy our tickets to Disneyland Paris. Mission accomplished with no mishaps. Ventured over to Tower Records and managed to score a Jarre Video! Afterwards, we strolled around Piccadilly Circus and SoHo to Oxford Street. Back to the Hotel via tube for a well deserved sleep.
Before going off to sleep we get a good idea of what our schedule is…
Saturday February 24, 1996
Today the group got up bright and early to catch the shuttle bus to the Frames-Rickards tour headquarters. From there we departed for Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury. Our tour leader was named Lynn and the driver has a styling not unlike Emerson Fitapaldi. The trip from London to Bath was pretty non-eventful. We did stop at a fast food/cafeteria/gas station/gift shop in one combo along the highway. As we made our way to Bath Lynn also pointed out a few of the sites as we screamed down the highway (Among them were Windsor Castle and some pretty green landscape). When we arrived in Bath, we were shown around to some of the sights including the Great Crescent (an subdivision that was appropriately enough, crescent shaped). From there it was over to the Bath Cathedral and Roman baths where we were free to explore on our own. The museum itself was cheesy compared to the actual Baths and Ruins, but I managed to get some groovy Gorn shots as well as some poses by the Baths. After touring the baths of Bath, we went exploring around the town and were surprised to find modern shops such as the Gap and the Disney Store nestled among the local shops. They did tastefully bled into the existing architecture so it wasn’t garish. After that it was back onto the bus for the trip out to Stonehenge.
On the way to Stonehenge, Lynn filled us in on the current theories behind its construction. My favorite Lynn quote was: “I don’t buy the space alien theory. I mean, if a culture was advanced enough for space travel, they would have done a better job.” When we arrived, we discovered that they were reseeding the grass around Stonehenge so we had to pose for pictures from quite a distance off. It was kind of eerie standing there, and if weren’t for the cars whizzing by on the expressway or the tourists chattering about, I could see myself getting spooked. I bought a nice coffee mug (which incidentally did not make the plane ride home in one piece, but most of it has been reassembled with a couple thick rubber bands).
From there it was on to Salisbury. Quaint little town, but really only had time to run up to and take a peek inside the Church. Lynn graciously informs us that it is the largest spire in England. She also submits and poses with the Gorn “As long as I never have to see it”. Form Salisbury it was back to London. Most of the tour group managed to sleep on the way back. After tipping Lynn and getting a ride back to our hotel, we paused for a quick rest. I ventured out to the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street and managed to pick up my second Jarre Video “Europe in Concert”. I changed into some classier clothes and then we all headed out to Sea-Shells restaurant where we indulged in a fine meal of Fish and Chips. After some gum, we all set out to find a club that I wanted to go to. After wandering around SoHo for 30 minutes we finally found it. Mom, Gary and Wesley went off, and I went inside. It was very cool inside, and I spent most of the night talking to a 23-yo Londoner named John. It was a mutually beneficial conversation. I had never met a real Londoner, and he had never met a real American. He had some very strong opinions on many topics, but was also very polite and nice. He introduced me to some of his friends in the club, and a great night was had by all. By the time the taxi dropped me off at the hotel it was 4am. Man was I pooped.
Sunday February 25, 1996
Due to the fact that I was out until 4am and that we weren’t in any big hurry (at least not yet), we didn’t get out of the Royal Court Hotel until around noon. Around 1pm we started making our way towards Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian. The trip took longer than expected because an IRA bomb tweaked part of the track of the Docklands area tube. We were bussed into the end station, and from there we had to walk under the Thames River in this tunnel chock full of people. In the village of Greenwich, we finally decided to eat at this one restaurant (Any guesses on the name? I have no clue.). Mom didn’t feel like hiking all the way to the Royal Observatory because she had been there before, so Gary, Wesley and I hustled double-time. We arrived at the top of the observatory out of breath. We shelled out 4 pounds to see the painted line on the ground where the meridian was. Good photo ops. Due to our ever-tightening time table, we didn’t get to spend much time in the museums before it was off to meet up with Mom and catch the bus to take us to the tube.
The reason for our hustle was that we were due to catch the evening Eurostar to Paris so we could go to Disneyland Paris the next day. We made it back to the hotel, packed a few things then were off to Waterloo Station. Upon arrival at the station, we had plenty of time to relax. Most of the passengers waiting for the train were speaking French already. The trip on the Eurostar was OK, but not as glamorous as I thought. It was much more like Amtrak on steroids than anything else. The really cool parts were going through the Chunnel and seeing the English countryside. I wish they would have turned the lights or at least dimmed them inside of the train so we could see what was outside after dark. At 9:20pm France time we were almost all the way through the Chunnel. The only thing interesting on the train other than the cheesy luncheonette car was the French couple across from us who were demonstrating local kissing customs for the whole cabin.
We finally pulled into Paris Gare Du Nord, and began our search for the New Candide Hotel. After dining at the McDonald’s across the street from the train station, we wander around for a bit before giving up and venturing over to the taxi stand. Only one problem. The taxi drivers insist that the street that the Hotel is on in our reservation form does not exist. Hrmm… finally one of the cab drivers recognizes that it is a typo and away we go. Well sort of you see because they insist that there can only be 2 people in a cab at a time. Uh huh suuuure. Not wanting to wait much longer, we reluctantly agree and away we go to the hotel. The New Candide is a nice quaint hotel, but I hardly see any of it because I am so focused on Tomorrow’s itinerary. Namely visiting someplace that I have wanted to go since it opened April of 1992: Disneyland Paris!
Monday February 26, 1996
Woke up at a fairly early hour (around 6am) this morning to begin our big day. The day was gloomy and cold, but we pressed on to the Champs Du Mars and the Eiffel Tower. We took the Metro out there to get some pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Gary and Wesley decided to come with us to Disneyland Paris instead of touring Paris. After several pictures, it was back to the Metro. The route to Disneyland Paris on the RER is a simple one, but from where we were it involved a couple of transfers until we were on the actual RER line. The wait was almost unbearable, but finally we pulled into the Disneyland Paris station right before the gates were opened.
It is difficult to describe how I felt about the whole day, because it was so weird actually being somewhere that I had dreamed of being so often. The park did not disappoint either. After Walt Disney World and Disneyland, DLP is definitely the cleanest and friendliest park of them all. because the weather was cold and drizzling by this time, the crowds were non-existent. I think the longest we had to wait was about 20 minutes for Space Mountain and the Indiana Jones roller coaster. Space Mountain is by far the best at Disneyland Paris than the other parks. It has loops and a corkscrew and a bitchin’ soundtrack similar to the one by Dirk Dale that was later added to SM at Disneyland in Anaheim. Big Thunder Mountain was also tons of fun. It is placed in the location of Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island, and for the coaster to get to the ride from the station, you travel under the Rivers of America. Phantom Manor was pretty blase. I enjoyed the staging of the ride, but the French sounded awkward, and I just tried to remember the regular Haunted Mansion spiel while I was on the ride. Pirates of the Caribbean was also nothing big, primarily the same as the one in WDW, just with all the different sections scrambled and no big drop. The Indiana Jones Roller coaster was pretty cool, but not worth the wait. An interesting side note, some German kid decided that the bathroom was too far away and decided to go behind Indy’s jeep and take a whizz. Another interesting notion is that some tourists didn’t comprehend the whole “wait-your-turn-in-line” philosophy and proceeded to push their way through the entire line to the front. Another highlight of the park was Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. It is basically a hedge maze, but I think we all cracked up and had the most fun goofing off in the maze. After leaving the park, we walked around Festival Disney (as it was called then) and looked in some of the stores and had some grub.
As darkness set in, we trooped back onto the RER train and headed back to Paris to catch our Eurostar back to London. By the time we managed to get back to the Hotel, we were exhausted. Right before I went to bed, I discovered that my flannel pj bottoms were left at the New Candide Hotel in Paris along with my Levi’s 501 T-Shirt. For a time I thought I lost my Snoqualime Pen, but I was relieved to find it later.
Tuesday February 27, 1996
Has it really been 5 days???
We arose around 9am and decided to check out the continental breakfast offered by the hotel. Personally, I didn’t it was worth the 4 pounds that they charged for it. I think the 4 pounds to stand on the Prime Meridian was a better deal. From there it was off to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards. It was crowded, and really not very exciting. I think watching the crowds was more entertaining. we did see Elton John being whisked away from the Palace after being awarded the Royal Order of the Empire. On an entertaining side note, I earned 5 pounds from Wesley for asking a mounted police officer if she would be willing to pose for a picture with the Gorn. She gratefully, though a bit hesitantly agreed. I found my Snoqualmie Pen tucked away in my backpack. From Buckingham we traveled over to Covenant Gardens to shop at the Doc Marten store and other places…. I bought Jonathan a pair of Docs, after returning to the hotel later I found out I got the wrong size so I will have to exchange them. After buying the Docs, I headed out on my own to find a tie shop. I dragged my nice suit all the way from California, but forgot the tie. I found a tie at “The Tie Rack” where two friendly guys helped me out. I then headed out to Knightsbridge to do some shopping ala AbFab at Harvey Nichols and Harrods. I decided that it was too upscale for me when I went into Harvey Nichols and discovered that they wanted the equivalent of $75 for a T-shirt from Italy! So I left and went down to the Swatch store about 4 shops down.
I found at the Swatch store the rare Jean Michel Jarre Europe in Concert Swatch for 95 pounds. I explained to the lady that I was a big fan of Jarre’s and how we never get this stuff in the US. The woman said that she and her husband actually knew Jarre, and were quite friendly with him. They even went to the Wembly Concert in 1993. She also said her husband has the largest collection of Swatches in the UK, and the 4th largest in the world. So after seeing the autographed Jarre photo on the wall, I bought the watch and she gave me 4 copies of the Europe in Concert poster. Needless to say I was very excited and happy. I decided I didn’t need to buy anything else, so I went back to the hotel and phoned Matt back in the US. It was 9am there and he wasn’t home. So I relaxed until the others got back.
That night, we got all dressed up and headed for SoHo to go see the London Stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Blvd. It was based on a Billy Wilder film. Great story, acting, stets and production, and the music was typical Webber. We all looked pretty spiffy. So spiffy in fact that the driver of the taxi was convinced we were important travelers from the US (or he knew the right words to say to his passengers for a big tip). After the play we headed over to Covenant Gardens to have dinner. We ate at a place called Marshall’s Restaurant. After that it was back to the hotel to rest up for our early rise tomorrow and our tour of London.
Wednesday February 28, 1996
The day started out bright and early as we set out on a guided tour of London Proper. The tour bus drove us around town, and it was interesting to hear the history behind all the buildings that we had been seeing over the last 6 days. We got out at the Horse Guard Gate to see the changing of the guard there, when things got tense. It turns out a car with Princess Anne just drove out. Apparently the Royals were on their way to St. Paul’s to dedicate a plaque for veterans of the Gulf War. Not long after, Prince Charles came driving through, and then Queen Elizabeth II (the monarch, not the cruise ship). I got a great picture of the back of the queens car, my camera failed to take a picture at the right moment. (BTW Gary, you still owe me a pic of the queen!) From there it was off to Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey itself was fairly spooky. I don’t think I will ever get used to the idea of walking on people’s graves. After that, we got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams, and for an hour we hardly moved. Apparently there was a bomb threat that closed off a major intersection and traffic was gridlocked.
Once we emerged from the traffic, we went off to a Thames River tour, where we were able to catch some of the sights of the town from a different perspective. An interesting fare of food was offered for lunch (then again when is British food NOT something to behold! ). Along the river we also got good looks at the World Famous London Bridge, and the Tower Bridge. After the cruise we sauntered over to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, and some of the interesting stuff the Monarchs have collected over the years. Think of the Tower of London as sort of the Royal Family’s Public Storage. Some of the more interesting sights were prison cells like Sir Walter Raleigh and some very mean looking Ravens. (Ron the youngest Raven was born 3 years ago, and the oldest Raven died at the ripe old age of 44). I decided that a shot of the Gorn with a Raven was too risky. It was a short bus ride from the Tower of London to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We saw the Queen’s new plaque, but nary a fish-stick. I must say I really do like big cathedrals. Despite the fact that many of them look the same, big ones like this one (and for that matter the one at the Vatican) really do impress.
For a night cap, Wesley and I caught a production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It was way cool to see a new production of the play ( I last saw it performed by St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA in 1990), but I do feel a few of the techno dance numbers could have been cut. After a quick train ride and a quick walk through SoHo (being accosted by Strip joint workers on the way) we decided to call it a night. The tube to the play was overcrowded, and a bit scary, and Oxford Circus provided us with a nice view of some genuine London Rats. Mom and Gary gave mixed reviews of their Haley Mills murder/mystery play. Stayed up late chatting for Gary and Wesley leave tomorrow, and Mom and I change rooms.
Thursday February 29, 1996
Today was somewhat depressing as two of or travel team left us, but we still managed to explore quite a bit. Gary and Wesley left early to catch their plane back to Atlanta. After some hanging around, Mom and I set off for Covenant Garden to exchange Jonathan’s Docs. They didn’t have his size, so I got Matt’s there instead. By then we were pretty hungry so we settled on Garfunkles for lunch. Yuuuuuck! Pretty awful fare that left the both of us doubting the wisdom of our choice. We then wandered around SoHo looking into some odd shops here and there. From there we strolled over to the tube and took it all the way out to Wimbledon-Home of the All England Lawn Tennis and Racquet Club, and the Wimbledon Open every June. Arrived at the tube station and took a taxi out to the club. Paid 2.5 pounds to go to the museum. Some neat tennis stuff, and a nice view and Gorn pic of Center Court. From there, it was a leisurely stroll through Wimbledon and Southfields. Stopped into a local grocery in Southfields to purchase stamps and mail postcards. From there it was back to the hotel to dump off some crud we’d been carrying around. With the memory of Garfunkels still in our mind we decided to play it safe and eat at Pizza Hut. No dice. Bad services and nasty pizza made us 0/2 on the day.
Next stop was Carnaby street, where we went into the China Warehouse, a favorite shopping stop of Mom’s in London. This guy who ran the store remembered Mom from 6 years ago. Pretty freaky. Mom then of course HAD to buy 3 David Winter cottages. A quick stop in a local store found Jonathan’s Docs, and then it was off to Oxford Street. We stopped into another grocery to pick up goods for tomorrows breakfast. Made a quick stop into a HMV store to see if there was any Jarre stuff or Kylie stuff for Nathan. No dice, so we headed back to the hotel. After some bad TV, Mom and I made preliminary plans for tomorrow, and then it was off to bed.
Friday March 1, 1996
We are aboard the train to Cambridge. We chose this college because Mom said it was more beautiful than Oxford. It was a late start today as we didn’t get on the road until almost 1pm. I want to make sure that we have enough time when I get back to stop at Holland Park and to check out the Marble Arch area Virgin Megastore for the Jarre stuff. An interesting observation: Since the IRA have resumed bombing, there are no more trashcans in London on streets or in rail stations. Since we’ve been here we have personally encountered 2 big inconveniences due to the IRA: The incident in Docklands where we had to bus around damage to the tube tracks, and on our London tour when we were stuck in traffic for over an hour due to the closing of the Piccadilly Circus area. Plus all the times I needed a trash can (like this morning when I wanted to toss a Burger King cup away).
We took a bus tour of Cambridge, and ended up at the college. We strolled through campus. It wasn’t very impressive. There were some cool buildings and some neat shops, but not really more exciting that say Davis. But it was still cool to see such a revered institute of learning. Making our way into the town, we went into this store where Mom was looking at some sweaters, and for some reason I bought this Scottish Wool Blanket. Oh well. it was warm, and pretty good looking. We couldn’t find a bus back to the train station so we hoofed it, and saw more of Cambridge. Pooped and out of breath, we managed to make it back to the station just in time for the train.
After a much needed rest on the train, we headed out to Marble Arch to see if I could get into any stores, but they were all closed by the time we arrived. We ate some dinner, got some water at a small store and then went back to the hotel. I was going to go out, but decided to crash instead. I wanted to see the Royal Geographic Society tomorrow, but it is closed on Saturdays. Oh well. Not sure what we are going to do tomorrow, but it will be our last full day in London!
Saturday March 2, 1996
Our last day in London was spent tying up loose ends and picking up the last few souvenirs. Mom found Tom’s jellies at Fortnum and Mason, and I found Nathan’s Kylie movie “The Delinquents”. I met a really cute model who was on the cover of one of my guide books, and I probably should have let Mom take our picture, but I was REALLY embarrassed. Mom filled her part of a dare by obtaining some nipple clams (Apparently its a long story), and then we went to Leicester Square to see if Mom could go see a show. She ended up going to see Miss Saigon, and I just hung out and waited to go dancing. Had a great time, though I think the drug use was a little more rampant this time (mainly cause I was on the floor this time and not at the bar). Decided to go back to the hotel and finally stumbled in around 3am.
Sunday March 3, 1996
Aboard the Gatwick Express one last time. I am sad to be leaving, but also am glad to be heading home. This trip altogether cost around 1100 dollars and I really can’t afford to stay much longer. It seems that once Gary and Wesley left, the wind went out of our sails and we just kind of kicked back for the last three days. I am glad that the days were spent in London and not someplace in the US. The last day of the trip provided both of us some time to reflect on our lives and set goals for the future. It was the most we could do on a mind numbing day that would have me travel from London to Davis in one day. The plane from London to Dallas was 45 minutes late which put my connection to Sacramento in jeopardy, but fortunately the pilot was able to make up some of the time and I made it fine. Mom spent a good portion of the flight snoozing in the center section a few rows back. I wish I could have snoozed like that!! I am glad I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and can’t wait until we go again!!