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Updated: Dec 1, 2023


Dearest Readers: Where to begin? We had SUCH a fabulous six days staying in the Belgravia section of London during Thanksgiving week, I want to tell you everything! However, that would take 10 pages, and you don't have that kind of time! So I will highlight four interesting gentlemen who played a role in our very enjoyable London holiday. (And next time, I will endeavor to focus on interesting London women!)


So the Charles of which I speak is not the King, but Charles Dickens! The author's house on Doughty Street is now a museum, and we enjoyed the glimpse into his life, both personal and literary. Dickens was, after all, a campaigner for social justice through his writing, and I enjoyed learning more about him.



On Thanksgiving itself, we indulged in a "traditional American Thanksgiving dinner" at a London pub - it was fine, but fell a bit short of our hopes. Before dinner we had a busy day of sight-seeing, including a visit to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery (both featured in the twilight photo below). As you recall, I'm not a big museum fan, but I do love those Impressionists! The National Gallery has England's best collection from that school, including some nice ones by Claude Monet.



As for Henry, that's the infamous King Henry VIII, noted for his six marriages, separating from Catholicism, and founding the Church of England. I'd heard good things about the musical featuring his wives, "Six" so we went to see it in London. It is not in the same class as musicals like "Phantom" or "Les Miserables," but I thought it was an entertaining 80 minutes.


A few additional highlights of our London stay included a walk down the street where Robin grew up, Nella Road. I had never seen his original family home. From there we went to a wonderful urban wildlife preserve, the London Wetland Center. To complete the day we played bridge at one of the London clubs, Young Chelsea. We had several delicious meals during the week (yes that food-centered blog IS coming!). Meanwhile, our most memorable meal was the tasting menu at Trishna, where even the pappadam and chutneys were stellar, and ranked with the best Indian food we've ever had.


Did I mention cocktails? Oh yes there were a few 😁. A couple places we tried were very loud and over-hyped. One evening we ended up at Mr. Fogg's Gin Parlour (now our 3rd of 12 Mr. Fogg's) and once again had delicious drinks in fun surroundings. We also had drinks at the top of the Shard building, which were OK but we were mostly paying for the view.



On our final day in London, we did a little more sight-seeing, including breakfast high up in the "Sky Garden" for more views, a walk to the "City," London's financial center, and eavesdropping on a really good choral rehearsal in a small church. But now it was rainy after several days of decent weather. Damp and hungry, we were riding the Tube back to our flat when it occurred to me that the well-dressed passenger sitting across from us bore a striking resemblance to Hugh Grant. I'm a bit slow - or maybe these things dawn on you gradually - BUT YES WE WERE RIDING THE SUBWAY WITH HUGH GRANT! (Above is a stock image.) But check "major celebrity sighting" off the bucket list! He left his seat soon thereafter, and we went our separate ways. Robin was unimpressed, but I thought it was a fabulous conclusion to our 10/10 London holiday.



💂‍♀️ 🇬🇧 🫖

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Several of you, dear correspondents, have prescribed for us an upscale Afternoon Tea in London - a treat to experience at least once during our England sabbatical. So we set out to book at the renowned Fortnum and Mason department store. According to their website: "Since 1707, Fortnum & Mason has been home to extraordinary hampers, delicious food, joy-giving gifts and unforgettable experiences."


This was hard to resist! But ultimately we found ourselves too faint-hearted to pay the per-person price tag (£80 = $98) for this albeit posh afternoon refreshment. Instead, we contented ourselves with a somewhat lower-priced Tea at the nearby Fleming's Mayfair. And we're so glad we did! The food, coffee, and tea were all excellent, the service wonderful, and the setting was intimate, serene, and very charming with its murals depicting scenes of India. It was a truly wonderful respite from another rainy day of London sightseeing.



Thus fortified, onward to Fortnum's we went - and OH MY I had no idea! I'm not an enthusiastic shopper, but I'd love to look in every corner of this amazing store. Since the day was getting late, we only had time to browse the impressive selections in the gourmet food hall on the ground floor. I wanted to buy sooooooo many items! We restrained ourselves, but I can tell you that our little sample box of chocolates are most delicious 😋.



Earlier in the day we had taken the train from Bicester to London; spent an hour at the Covent Garden Apple store fruitlessly trying to bring my MacBook back to life; joined a sparse crowd of tourists to see the Tower of London; and walked across Tower Bridge.

The Tower of London in the center of the city is one of the nation's oldest castles. Lots of bad things happened there in centuries past, while today it houses the crown jewels which we saw up close. (No photography of the crown jewels is allowed - below is a stock image.) I wonder when the Royal Family will replace that cruelly-produced ermine lining on all their crowns?



I want to thank Robin, the photographer for most of these photos. During this London visit, my iPhone (i.e. my camera) stayed at the Apple store getting its battery replaced. I thought I might as well take advantage of our trip to London - there aren't any Apple stores near Oxford!


A day of London sightseeing takes us 11-12 hours with commuting time; but we've enjoyed each of our visits so much! As I've been writing this, Robin and I finally reached a decision on where to spend our Thanksgiving break. We'd discussed various options from Botswana to Greece. But lucky us, we've decided to spend six whole days in...London! Thanks for reading.

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Greetings Dear Readers: I am very grateful to have visited Rome, where Robin and I enjoyed four days last week. But, have you ever read the Boston Globe's blind date feature, "Dinner with Cupid?" It seems the contestants often conclude: "I did not feel any chemistry." I felt the same way about Rome: it was a pleasant visit, but will there be a second date? Probably not.


Rome has the nickname City of Fountains and has over 2,000 within its boundaries. We enjoyed them in our walks around the central city, including the most famous Trevi Fountain both by day and at night. Rome also impressed me with: the many ancient ruins and their modern-day preservation and access; the character of an ancient city with no modern skyscrapers; a superb AirBnB; the ease for an English speaker to enjoy the city; the place with 150 flavors of delicious gelato! (More on this one below.)


I was disappointed in:

-- how difficult it was to walk around the city - the narrow, cobbled streets often lack sidewalks, and the auto/motorcycle traffic is constant and fast!

-- the repetitive, limited and "just OK" restaurant cuisine;

-- getting physically pushed around.


Re: the pushing: this was a repeated occurrence for me. One morning, I was standing at a bakery counter preparing to order breakfast when a man came up behind me, placed both his hands on my shoulders and shoved me aside so he could get in front of me! At least the proprietors refused to help him. But I got pushed with hands or body shoving on the street multiple times. Clearly I move too slowly for the Romans ☹️.


It's no surprise that Rome is very crowded with tourists, but that was an expected part of the visit. On the plus side, most everyone we encountered in the tourist industry spoke English, and helped us out in the friendliest of manners while appreciating Robin's Italian and accepting my lack thereof. We did a lot of walking to see the sights.



You want to hear about food next, right? Sorry to say that after reading and hearing so many rave reviews of Italy's cuisine, this was a letdown. Don't get me wrong - our meals were all fine and I'm not complaining about a lack of decent food. But it didn't live up to the HYPE! Exception: gelato on every corner and several delicious samples - see below.


We had an E-bike adventure on our 4th day, when we booked a tour to see the Via Appia (aka the ancient "Appian Way" from Rome to Capua) and the remains of centuries-old Aqueducts. Our guide was excellent (and so was the one at the Colosseum - we're definitely discovering the joys of a guided tour.) The engineering in ancient Rome was astounding and I loved seeing a surviving aqueduct, which transported water to the City for the people and all those fountains!


Robin and I always enjoy the chance to ride Electric bikes, which afford the opportunity to pedal, but allow us to go further with an electric "boost" as needed. However the Appian Way was mostly uneven cobblestones, Rome has that crazy traffic, I fell after missing a sharp turn, and Robin's bike got a flat tire! We think next time, we'll look for a more bike-friendly place to pursue this mode of sight-seeing.

And now regarding that gelato! As major ice-cream fans we were excited to try several samples in Italy. Some were better than others, but both Robin and I were repeat customers of frutti di bosco - mixed berry. When I stumbled upon the place with 150 flavors, Gelato Della Palma, I had to go in. I really enjoyed my amazing Mora (blackberry) and dark chocolate combo! I leave you with this little video. Ciao and Grazie mille for reading!




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