London – Day 2
So my second day in London began with a roaring start by tripping over a freaking cobblestone while walking to the tube station. I was looking at Google maps on my phone and wasn’t looking where I was walking and next thing I knew I was on the ground. I was more embarrassed than anything, but I did bruise my ribs, so it was kind of a nuisance to deal with for the rest of my trip. I was able to function without any problems, but sleeping was a bit difficult.
One of the best things about visiting London is their transit system. I used the tube the whole time I was there and it was so convenient…and cheap! I bought a week pass for about $50 USD and it lasted me the whole time I was there…and I used it a lot. I’m a pretty assertive driver, but I would never rent a car in London…the traffic is crazy, the streets are narrow, and the parking is impossible. I lived in Washington, D.C., for four years when I worked at The Washington Post, so I had the advantage of having used the subway system there. It’s very similar to the tube in that it uses color-coded lines, so it didn’t take me long to figure things out in London. Like Washington, D.C., everyone is very much in a hurry, it’s jam-packed during the rush hour, and no one talks to each other. Pets are allowed on the tube. And they were sweet and very well-behaved.
I had scheduled a tour of the London underground that morning, but I was five minutes late when I exited the Baker Street tube station and no one was around, so I guess I missed it. So I checked Google maps and saw that the Sherlock Holmes museum was just around the corner so that’s where I headed. Here’s what you see when you exit the Baker Street tube station. (I’m glad I made it to Baker Street considering Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” was one of my favorite songs when I was in college in the late 70’s.)
The museum is a tiny little place…
…which had a line outside, so it must be pretty popular. It cost about $20 USD to get in, and it’s interesting but a little on the weird side.
These wax figures are very lifelike and it’s just kind of an eerie and macabre feeling. The rooms are super tiny, but I guess that’s the way it was back then.
This was just down the street, but I didn’t go in.
Interesting building in the area…
I then headed to the National Gallery. This is a HUGE museum and it was packed with people. There are so many different areas it’s almost impossible to see everything in one afternoon…especially when you have bruised ribs and you’re not feeling 100%. It was built in 1824, and the architecture is just incredible.
Here are a few of my favorites.
A view outside the museum…
As you can see, the sky is blue, but there are some clouds up there. Fifteen minutes later, this happened…
…the temperature dipped by about 15 degrees and everyone scrambled for cover. I crossed over the bridge…
…and sought warmth in an Asian restaurant where I could dry off. (By the way, I’m saving all my food posts until the end in case you’re wondering.) Next up…day three!
London?? That’s not in Mexico!
What a year 2020 is turning out to be, isn’t it? Certainly not in a good way, that’s for sure. Frankly, I don’t even know what the United States is anymore. It’s certainly not something I’m proud of right now, and I’ve never been more ashamed and embarrassed to admit I’m a citizen. This past weekend has been a horrifying experience with the death of George Floyd, and I can’t believe we’ve come to this. Between the pandemic, racism, alienation of all our foreign allies (except for Russia!), and the crash of the economy and loss of jobs, I simply cannot believe what this country has become. And I am very afraid for its future if things don’t change in November.
I will have to say that I’m very fortunate to still have my job and to be able to work remotely until the university goes back to teaching face-to-face. That’s supposed to be in July, but who knows what can happen before then. But it’s almost as if the Coronavirus isn’t even an issue anymore and we’re all supposed to act like normal again. The administration doesn’t even address it anymore. I see fewer and fewer masks when I go out, but I still wear mine…I figure better safe than sorry. Who knows when we’ll be able to travel safely again without worrying about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if no other countries want to let Americans in considering the number of cases we have.
With that being said, I was going to go to Portugal for spring break, but that didn’t happen. I was supposed to leave on Friday, March 13th, and I waited until the previous Monday before I finally decided to cancel. I was literally on the phone with Expedia for 2-1/2 hours to get this done. Fortunately, I had purchased full cancellation insurance for $100, and I’m glad I did because I received a full refund within three days, which was a great relief. I know people who cancelled later had much more difficulty doing so.
Being in quarantine, I really miss traveling, so I decided to change the title of my blog from “Random Mexico Musings” to “Random Travel Musings” so that I can post a trip that I took on spring break 2019 to London. It was a spur of the minute kind of thing that I got at a great price of $1,360 for a week at a nice hotel, so I couldn’t pass it up. Since it’s been over a year since I’ve been there, I had to try to remember everything I did, so I went on Google Maps to refamiliarize myself with the area. It’s so different now, because so many of the sites that I visited now say “Temporarily Closed” on the map. What a lifestyle change this virus has presented for the world. But posting the trip helps me relive it a bit, and it’s nice to have something to look back on.
This is the first trip I’ve taken “over the pond” so I was pretty excited…although I wasn’t too excited about the long flight since it’s impossible for me to sleep on planes. I was really hoping that having a few glasses (or bottles) of wine would do the trick, but alas, no. I arrived at Heathrow around 10:00 a.m. and took the train to London. Heathrow is a huge airport…this is my only shot of it which doesn’t show much.
But it’s easy to get around and the transportation to London is easy. I went right to my hotel which sits between Paddington and The Lancasters. It’s the Westbourne Hyde Park Hotel…here’s a picture of the outside and the lobby. There was no restaurant at the hotel, which was fine with me because I’d rather try restaurants in town anyway.
Here are a couple shots of the surrounding area. It was a great neighborhood and there were shops and restaurants within a block or two. There were also two Tube stations within a couple blocks, as well, one of which is the main train station (Paddington) that goes to locations outside of London, including the airport.
Of course I couldn’t check into the hotel that early in the morning, so I left my luggage there and went for a walk. The hotel was located within a block of Hyde Park, so that’s where I headed. It’s a huge park so it took awhile to walk all the way through it. Since I was there in March, it was still chilly (in the 50s), so the spring flowers hadn’t come out yet and it was a little dreary. I can imagine that it’s very pretty when all the plants and trees are in bloom. But I’ll have to say it was really nice to visit during this time because you don’t have to worry about getting too hot with all the walking that you do.
This is Diana’s Memorial Fountain which I thought was kind of odd. It’s a big circular fountain/stream that recirculates. It was pretty and peaceful, though.
I saw quite a few people riding horses in the area, as well, although I didn’t get pictures.
At the opposite side of the park is the neighborhood of Knightsbridge which is where Harrods is. You have to go to Harrods if you’re in London. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it’s definitely impressive…and expensive!! They were refurbishing the outside while I was there, but it’s a beautiful old building.
By this time, my jet lag was starting to catch up with me, so I grabbed a quick bite at Pret a Manger, which is a very popular place in London…they have them everywhere. It reminds me a little of Panera with soups and salads, but it’s more quick-serve, in that they have sandwiches already made up that you can buy.
Apparently Harrods also has a real estate business, so if you’re interesting in renting or buying in London, here are some real deals. The $20,000 pound rental is equivalent to $24,863 USD, and the $28,000,000 pound sale is equivalent to $34,809,000 USD.
My feet were killing me after all the walking, and I didn’t have the energy to go back through the park, so I took the subway back to the hotel. It was about 3:00 by this time, so I was so thankful my room was ready, and it was such a pleasant surprise. When I made plans for the trip, I checked a ton of hotels and so many of them were miniscule little rooms with barely enough room for a twin bed. I think the Westbourne Hyde Park hotel must have been new at the time and was offering reasonable prices because I’ve checked back since then and prices are MUCH higher. Here’s the room…I would highly recommend it for its comfort and good location. It had a fridge, cooktop, microwave, coffee maker, and the bed linens were very luxurious.
Here is the view from my window. I half expected to see Dick Van Dyke jumping from roof to roof right out of Mary Poppins.
Here’s the view at night. I was always surprised how everyone kept their curtains and blinds open at night. It seems like everyone in Texas keeps all their windows covered 24/7 year round. I seem to be one of the few here who likes sunshine and a nice breeze blowing through when it’s not 105 degrees.
I had scheduled a “Ghosts and Famous Murderers” tour for that evening around Covent Garden, but didn’t think I’d make it considering the way I was feeling when I checked in. But after a nap, I woke up just in time, so I went anyway. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy the whole time, so I only lasted for about half the tour because I didn’t want to catch a cold. It wasn’t conducive to picture-taking, but I got a couple shots of the area.
And a final shot of the day of the Lamb & Flag…one of the oldest pubs in England. Here’s what the website says about it:
Great London pubs don’t get much more historic than this. The very first mention of a pub on this site is in 1772, when it was known as The Coopers Arms (the name changed to The Lamb & Flag in 1833).
The building’s brickwork is circa 1958 and conceals what may be an early 18th century frame of a house, replacing the original one built in 1638.
The pub acquired a reputation in the early nineteenth century for staging bare-knuckle prize fights, earning it the nickname ‘The Bucket of Blood,’ and the alleyway beside the pub was the scene of an attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, with whom he had a long-standing conflict.
So that was my first day in London. There is SO much to see and do in London that it’s hard to choose. To be continued…
Zihuatanejo – Chapter 2 (Finally)
Well, I’m a tad behind on my second post about Zihuateanejo from last July. I must confess that I’ve been in a politically stressed-out haze since the tangerine sociopath took over our White House. I’ve been through a lot of presidents in my lifetime, but nothing compared to what we’ve gone through the past three years. They say you shouldn’t include politics in your blogs, but, hey…what the heck. I mostly do this blog for my own benefit so that I can look back on my travels, but with the constant tension of what perversion this president will come up with next, it’s taken some of the joy out of life. Enough about that.
This will mostly be a picture post because I’ll have to say that my trip to Zihau was about the laziest trip I’ve ever taken. There’s not a whole lot to do there other than snorkeling and boating. There are no golf carts, so you have to take a cab wherever you go if it’s not withing walking distance. They have a small ruins just to the south called Xihuacan, but I never made it there. It was pretty hot while I was there, which is conducive to doing very little. Besides that, my hotel room was so nice, I spent a lot of time there.
The views are the best thing about Zihau. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place, I just couldn’t stop taking it in. There’s a very nice walkway that runs along the beach…it took me about 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the downtown area.
This was the restaurant at my hotel which was really nice…definitely the best restaurant that I visited while at Zihua. It was pretty pricey, but well worth it.
This was their salad and surf n’ turf.
Here are some pictures of the downtown area.
Funny beer signs.
More of downtown.
Since I was there, I felt I needed to check out Ixtapa, which is about a 10 minute taxi ride north. I could immediately tell that it was the higher end of the two cities with high-rise hotels and fancy restaurants. It was easy to see that this is where most foreign visitors stay, while most native Mexican vacationers stay in Zihua. I’ll have to agree with them. I found Zihau much more relaxing and traditional. And I preferred the bay views to the open sea views of Ixtapa.
I only stayed there for a few hours, but I did have an interesting lunch. I wasn’t that hungry, so I opted for the fish sticks, which I thought would look something like this:
The waitress brought me this, which I thought was some kind of ceviche or appetizer. I waited and waited for the fish sticks, until I finally realized that this WAS the fish sticks. It’s fish cut up into tiny little “sticks” to be eaten with chips…haha. It was interesting, although I don’t think I’d order them again.
Speaking of food, here are some other dishes I had on the Zihua side…
The tuna shasimi on the bottom right was wonderful.
Cute towel art…
I’ll have to say that the Aura del Mar was a fantastic hotel and I would highly recommend it. Every room has a view and the employees are extremely friendly and helpful. My departing flight didn’t leave until 7:00 at night, but I had to check out of my room at 1:00. They allowed me to use their hospitality suite at no charge until I had to leave for the airport. After staying in my beautiful room for the week, the hospitality suite didn’t quite have the same amenities.
In fact, it kind of conjured up images of a monk’s quarters…haha! But I was totally appreciative of their hospitality and just used it to store my luggage while I had a final margarita (or two) at the beach-side bar.
Adios, Zihuatanejo! Would I go back again? Most definitely. As my taxi was taking me to the airport, he went through an area behind my hotel that I hadn’t explored which looked interesting. I would prefer going when it’s not quite so hot, though. I do love the beautiful blue water of the Caribbean side of Mexico, but every location has its beauty.
With that being said, I have changed the title of my blog to “Random Travel Musings” because I’m branching out to locations other than Mexico. Last spring break, I went to London, but because my blog was titled “Random Mexico Musings,” I didn’t feel I could post about it. London is a hoot and I will eventually do a very late post about that now that I’ve changed my blog title. Like I said, I do these posts because I like to “revisit” my trips, so I want to memorialize London, too. That was definitely not a “relaxing” trip as you try to fit as much as humanly possible into a week of sight-seeing. And even then, you feel like you’ve missed so much.
On a final note, here is my destination for this spring break next month.