Back from Notting Hill

Hello Again:

It is now 8:30 PM on Saturday September 13th, and I know you are dying to know if we caught up with Julia Roberts today.

Before I tell you that, how bout I bring you up to speed on our trip so far.

As you know, this trip was planned as a celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, and what started out primarily as a visit to London, England, turned into a Scotland, England, Paris adventure by the time we finished plotting everything out.  We spent about a month putting together all the details and with a week to go, we were thrown a bit of a  “curve”.  We had booked our flights on Zoom airlines and as most of you know, on Thursday August 28th, they went out of business.

Fortunately, within 3 hours of the news breaking, we were re-booked on British Airways and our holiday plans were still a go for a Saturday September 6th departure.  In switching to BA, I happened to mention to the agent that we could leave a day earlier than planned if that helped us get the flights I wanted.  Somehow in the process of the conversation, I missed the fact that he had in fact booked us out of Vancouver a day early. Imagine my surprise on Thursday night (September 4th), when I happened to check my emails and saw a message from British Airways saying “congratulations, you are now just 24 hours away from your planned departure”.

We didn’t panic at the news and with the help of our friends, we got ourselves ready to go a day early, and we were on our way by 5 PM Friday afternoon (thanks to Dustin, Jamie, Megan M and Shawn).

Upon arrival in Glasgow, some 16 hours after we pulled out of our driveway, we hopped on an express bus from Prestwick airport to the Buchanan Bus Depot in downtown Glasgow.  The bus depot was a short 5 minute walk from our hotel, and as it turned out we had booked ourselves into some Victorian era lodgings right in the heart of the main shopping street of Glasgow.

We wanted to at least stay up until around 9 PM so that after a good night’s sleep, our bodies would make the adjustment to the 8 hour time difference and we’d be good to go.  Our room at the old Buchanan Hotel was pretty small, with one window way up high on the 10 foot wall beside the bed.  Small but comfortable, and when you’re as tired as we were, as long as the bed is comfortable and the room is clean, you’ll sleep.  And sleep we did.

We were up and ready to go by about 8 AM on Sunday the 7th, and we planned to take a 75-minute bus tour of the city to get our bearings – again something we had pre-booked before we left Langley.  We arrived at the tour bus stop for 9:30, to find out that the Glasgow Marathon was being held.  Most of the route the tour bus took was in fact the marathon route and no tours would be going till later in the day.  Undaunted we did what we do best , and we began to walk.  We had a good map, and Mary in particular had a done a fair amount of pre-reading about Glasgow so we had a rough idea of what we wanted to see.  If nothing else we wanted to make sure we saw the Glasgow Cathedral which is one of the oldest structures in the city.

But first we had to get ourselves a coffee, and since there wasn’t a Tim Horton’s on every corner, this turned out to be more of a challenge than you might think.  We walked around downtown Glasgow for about an hour before finding a pub that was open, one that served all-day breakfast.  By the way, you have to order your food and drink at the bar, tell them your table number, and they bring it to you when it is ready.

I’m looking at the menu and chalkboard for coffee and I can’t see it. I asked the less than helpful barmaid for a coffee, and she says “black or white?”.  I said “excuse me”, and she repeated it again “black or white?”.  I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about, we don’t order coffee that way in Canada, and I’ve just flown all night and desperately need a coffee”.  At that point she took pity on me and explained that a black coffee was an espresso, and a white coffee was a latte.  Still no hint of a regular cup of coffee.  So I ordered one of each, and got two very small cups of “coffee” which I brought back to Mary rather sheepishly.  After explaining to her what had happened, she laughed and said I think you have to order “Americano” to come close to something resembling the coffee you are used to , and even then it will still be very strong.  I sent her up for the next one, and sure enough she was right.

Breakfast was good, although I was not brave enough to try the black pudding.  It looked like something I used to fire at the garage door with my Sherwood Hockey stick, so no go on that.

Fortified and somewhat caffeinated, we headed out the door again, planning to pick up the tour bus at Noon – after the Marathon was over.  We wound our way back over to George Square which is at the centre of Glasgow’s downtown.  It is surrounded by fabulous looking buildings from the 1800’s and the picture below shows one of the them – the City Chambers that were completed in 1888.

The bus was not there and after a 20 minute wait, one of the other tourists called the bus company and was told that the tours would not start until at least 1:30.

We just said the heck with it, and started out on foot to find Glasgow Cathedral.  It took about 30 minutes of walking and climbing uphill, but we did get to the cathedral, and it was as advertised – a magnificent building just reeking of history.  We saw a number of other historic buildings of significance and toured a couple of them in detail.

Oh, and as for the bus, we finally caught up with it around 3 PM and got that tour we had paid for.  The tour bus was a vintage (roofless) double-decker and we immediately headed upstairs where we toughed out the 14 degree (celsius) weather and finally got the highlights of the city.

After the tour, we (what else) walked some more and proceeded to log 15.9 kms on Mary’s pedometer.  Not bad for a couple of jet-lagged “silver spenders”.  We finished the day with dinner in a really terrific Italian restaurant, and headed back to the Buchanan Hotel for another night’s sleep and hopefully some more adjusting to the time difference.

Monday September 8th

We did get the afore-mentioned good night’s sleep we were hoping for, and we headed out the door bright and early on Monday morning to catch a 50 minute ride to Edinburgh on British Rail.

When you first come out of the train station, this is what you see – Edinburgh Castle – perched high on a rocky hill overlooking the city.  As you suck in your breath and say “holy sh*!, you look around you, and the entire city is just teeming with spectacular structures.  It is absolutely stunning, and it is as different from Glasgow, as Vancouver is from Toronto.

We arrived in Edinburgh at 9:30 in the morning and it was too early to check-in but we did drop our bags off at the hotel (which was a short 10 minute walk from the train station), and set off up the hill to check out the magnificent castle that just dominated the landscape.

Now, there’s more to tell about Edinburgh, and I know you’ll want to know about the rest of our first week in London too.  But I’ve done enough typing for one night, and it is time for me to pack it in.

The only thing left for me to do is to tell you about our trip to Notting Hill today.

We hopped on the DLR at Limehouse and headed to Notting Hill Station.  The Portobello Market is always jam-packed on a Sunday and today was no different than usual.  The market was absolutely teeming with people and it was impossible to get anywhere quickly.  There were stalls jammed with every kind of trinket you could imagine, as well as clothes, antiques, furniture…..and then there were the food stalls – fresh fruit and veggies, and just-caught fish.  There was even one stall where food was being cooked and served in big bowls the size of satelite dishes, and it smelled really great.  The line-ups were pretty lengthy at that one.

I was beginning to wonder if we’d be able to find Julia, but I needn’t have worried.  She was right where she said she’d be, and we got caught up on all the news from Canada.

Night Night from Limehouse in London.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lynn Hoffman says:

    Hi David and Mary, looks like you are having a super vacation so far!!! Yeah! David, loved your picture with Julia, glad the two of you could “hook up” again! Would you mind, if you see her again…could you get an autograph for me. That would be really sweet….hahahahahah

    Take care, and looking forward to seeing more fun picture!

    All the best



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