England and Paris, August 1999
Page Two

We left New Jersey on Friday night, July 30th. We were supposed to fly out at 7:30 but -- get this -- the pilot was flying in as a passenger on a flight from Chicago and HE was late. So we didn't get off the ground until close to 11 p.m. That made it a little easier on the London end, though, since by the time we got in, we were able to check in to the hotel.

We stayed in a B&B at Norfolk Square near Paddington Station called The Cardiff Hotel. It's literally walking distance -- about two short blocks --from Paddington underground station, so it can't be beat for convenience. It's clean, it's relatively inexpensive, the breakfast was very good, each room has a TV and a telephone, and for folks who don't intend to stay in the rooms much (the rooms are, as B&B rooms usually are, quite small), it's just dandy. No hesitations in recommending it.

I made a valiant effort to keep Ian awake until after dinner (the real secret to me to getting onto European time quickly) by taking a series of connecting tour buses around the city, but he fell asleep on one of the buses and missed seeing about a third of London. Oh, well...

Sunday and Monday we did a bunch of things around London:

Kensington Gardens A long walk around Kensington Gardens [photo left], which both of us thoroughly enjoyed. The changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace [photo right]. Ian was interested, but didn't like waiting around as long as you need to if you want to get a good viewing location. Changing of the guard
The Tower of London. One of my all-time favorites and Ian loved it... and after griping for 20 minutes turned out to be very glad I made him wait for a Beefeater guard to do the tour. The yeomen warders, for those who haven't been there, are the chaps in the odd-looking uniforms you've seen in photographs like this one. They are all tough as nails, ex-military types who compete strongly to have the "chance" to be trained to a fair-thee-well in doing these tours. At Tower of London They're absolutely terrific and anyone who DOESN'T take a tour with them is missing a real treat. They know the history of the Tower inside and out and they tell the most interesting (i.e. the most chillingly hair-raising) stories from its past. If you've been to the Tower before but not recently, you should know that the Jewel House has been revamped and it's now MUCH easier to get a VERY close look at these marvels. Nicely done.
Les Miserables in a West End theater. A truly magnificent performance and all the more remarkable for the fact that London was hot as all get out while we were there and nothing -- NOTHING -- is air conditioned the way we are used to here in the United States. The actors' makeup was literally running, and you could see the sweat pouring from them, and they didn't miss a beat. A wonderful show. The West End is a nice place to walk around after the theater -- lots of nice little restaurants and cabarets. Watch your pockets though.

One of the "Jack the Ripper" walks in the East End. Interesting, but the guide who did our group let herself lose a bit too much of her composure when an upstart guide from an upstart rival company got a bit close for comfort, and she never seemed to regain the command she had at the outset. Still, much fun and the guided walks are generally well worth the time and small cost.

Big Ben
Big Ben and the houses of Parliament [photo right] and the Tower Bridge [photo left] and Hyde Park and St. James Park -- the usual tourist stuff walking around on our own.
Tower Bridge

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