From Conwy, we traveled back to Coventry for the New Year, which was spent with old friends. We also made time for a (muddy) walk along a canal.
I love how the water reflects the bridge (below)!
We passed a narrow boat, and I peeked inside to see a woman working in the kitchen, snug and comfy.
On 2 January, we drove south to Swansea (Wales), taking the scenic route through the Brecon Beacons, and stopping for a hike. Uphill … again — they are a mountain range, after all!
Stopping for a breather, I noticed this tree (below).
This is another one where I couldn’t decide which angle I liked best. A photographer friend of mine says the first (above), but I think it depends on whether you want to focus on the tree or the view. I took the pictures because of the tree, so I lean toward the second (below). What do you think?
I’m quite slow going uphill — plodding my way to the top, gasping the whole way, and having to stop to catch my breath even when I remember to use my inhaler before starting. I get there eventually, and when the reward is a view like this, well, it’s worth it, wouldn’t you say?
We went to south Wales to have lunch with The Engineer’s cousin and elderly aunt. She is nearly the age of my mom, and when we parted, she clasped my hand and said, “I probably won’t see you again, but you’ll remember me, won’t you?”
It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? I feel we are in that process with Mom, and Aunt’s words made me sad because they reminded me of what we are going through. I wish I could help Mom be easy in her mind, rather than having her feel lost (like she has since her hip fracture and resulting surgery). As adults, I think we become accustomed to dealing with problems by changing the situation to make things better. It’s difficult when we can’t, especially when it affects someone we love.
But I digress. Back in Wales, we spent a wet night in Cardiff, venturing out only to find dinner. On the way, we saw this creature hanging out near a waterway.
The picture isn’t much, taken as it was at night in the rain, but it was unusual to get so close without the bird squawking off.
With the end of our travels near, it was time to drive back to the “Big Smoke,” and even this went smoothly. We checked in our hotel, dropped off our bags, returned the car, and convinced the shuttle driver to drop us at the hotel rather than the airport.
Our plans included two nights in London to allow a day to explore some of the sights we hadn’t seen on previous trips.
First, we decided it would be prudent to first do a dry run of the morning of departure when our flight would leave at 8:55 am. Allowing for the three hours the airline asks for for check-in and security meant we’d need to be there by 6:00 am.
To do so would require getting from our hotel (attached via tunnel to Terminal 4) to Terminal 3 from which our flight would leave.
“No problem,” we thought. All airports have transport between terminals, right?
At Heathrow, the answer to that question is “Sort of. It depends on when you need to be there.”
After following the signs for the train to Terminal 3, we asked the airport employee what time the next one left.
“In a half hour.”
It was at this point the traveler in front of us began to panic.
“A half hour?!!!” he asked incredulously. “Is there a faster way?”
“Taxi. Or Uber,” the employee responded, looking for all the world like he didn’t care how many people missed their connections due to the limited train service. And to be fair, he’s not in charge of the schedule and probably gets asked that question hundreds of times a week.
We were very glad we’d decided to explore our route ahead of time.
And I was even more glad I thought to ask the next question.
“Do the trains run 24 hours?”
“No,” he answered, “they start at 7:30.”
“What if you have an early flight?”
“You have to get a taxi. Or Uber,” he said, adding as an afterthought, “Or you can take the hotel shuttle.”
In the end, we took the shuttle. It came on time, got us there on time where we breezed through check-in and security, and had two hours to wait for our flight.
Moral of the story: When traveling, always verify every detail, especially when there is a time constraint.
Having sorted our plans for departure day, we retired to the hotel where we enjoyed a meal at the restaurant and planned our day in London.
A few months ago, we watched a documentary on the Elizabeth Line, the first new tube line in decades. Part of it focused on the Canary Wharf stop, with its Crossrail Place Roof Garden. When we learned about the Museum of London Docklands nearby, we decided that would be our destination for the day.
The garden was a small oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city. We ate our packed lunch there.
Below is the tunnel to other lines and the Docklands Light Railway, which I thought very pretty in a 70s kind of way.
The ducks are very large in the Docklands!
And you can rent a hot tub or barbecue boat. Unusual combination, I thought, but when we walked back this way, there were two men getting ready to get into the tub. No idea whether they planned to enjoy barbecue as well.
We took a Thames Clipper back toward town. This is a great way to get a riverside view of many London sights, but it’s not a tour, so if you’ve not been there before, you might want to brush up on what you’ll be seeing.
I absorbed the view from the inside, so the pictures that follow are The Engineer’s.
We went under the Tower Bridge.
The Engineer caught the iconic sight below … a double-decker bus on The Tower Bridge.
Passing the London Eye.
We watch a lot of BBC crime shows, so seeing the New Scotland Yard was a bit of a thrill.
Here are the Houses of Parliament, where much drama unfolds!
We arrived at Battersea Power Station, now a posh new mall decked out for the holidays.
You can still explore one of the control rooms.
It’s in a bar.
We got a lot of funny looks from the cocktail-enjoying customers as we wandered through, me trailing behind The Engineer as he explored the dials and gauges.
After a last pub dinner, we took the tube back to the hotel, watched the telly, and took a brief nap before getting up at 4:30 am to catch the 5:20 shuttle to the airport. By looking upon it as a nap, I discovered I slept much better for those few hours than I normally do the night before a long flight.
As mentioned above, our departure was smooth, and our incredible luck continued with us arriving safely home without any major delays or problems.
I can’t say I was ready to go home; I never am, except from Oshkosh when I start to long for my own bed and a bath, but I’m certainly ready to start planning our next adventure.
As we re-oriented to normal life, I checked my datebook and remembered I had arranged to go to “Van Gogh in America” at the Detroit Institute of Art with a friend of mine that week. Still a bit tired from the trip, I briefly questioned my decision to arrange to drive two and a half hours each way to see some paintings.
Friends, I am so glad I went! It was brilliant! My friend drove, we arrived in time to lunch before our scheduled viewing, and the exhibit was breathtaking.
I’m lucky enough to have seen many Van Gogh paintings. The wonderful Cleveland Museum of Art owns several and has had several Van Gogh exhibits which I’ve attended, and about six years ago, The Engineer and I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I even went to the Van Gogh “Immersive Experience,” even though I’ve long held the belief that attractions with “experience” in the name are usually a rip-off.
For the record, I could see why some people believed that to be true of the Van Gogh one, but I liked it.
The Detroit exhibit was in a completely different league. There were several paintings I’d never seen and several I believed I’d seen, but hadn’t except perhaps in a book. I know this is true because they looked completely different than I remembered, while the ones I had actually seen felt like old friends.
And although I took a lot of photos, I’ll leave you with this one, so breathtaking I can only wish you the chance to someday see it too.