Saturday Apr. 8th London Oxford Hotel

19C/68F Very sunny and warm, a little hazy


View From Our Window at the Oxford Hotel Got NO sleep on that mattress! Continental breakfast was delivered to our room at 7:45. We ate it while watching TV. No "Big Breakfast" on Saturdays. :( Packed up. The stuff that hadn't gotten quite dry at the launderette in Edinburgh was finally dry now thanks to the radiator. Transported thew luggage down the 43 flights of stairs to the lobby where they gladly stored it for us behind a big chair. Check-in time at the Oxford was 2:00 so we had some time to kill. Went shopping. Took the tube to Harrods. The station was being refurbished in anticipation of the summer crowds, hence the off-season crowds were atrocious. Harrods was fabu as usual. Decided to do a "Harrods Easter Basket" for our basket exchange this year so we bought a bunch of candy etc and a good sized bag to put in. Got Adri a Harrods Bunny and then, what should we see? Millennium Bears! Boy is Matt Staples in trouble. He told us they were sold out! Bought one and then tried to figure out how we were gonna fit all this stuff in our luggage...

Took our loot and then proceeded to explore the immediate neighborhood. Very nice. Got a coke and a coffee then sat in the sun for a bit. Went back to the Pavilion and grabbed our bags. Walked with them the mile or so to our next hotel, the Oxford which was in the Bayswater district, about a block from the Lancaster Gate Tube station. They let us check-in at 1:30 and gave us room 24 on the... wait for it.....TOP FLOOR. :) The room was nice. Average size, small compact airline type bathroom. However it had a fridge and a microwave which was too cool. After settling in we looked over our "London Walks" guide and decided that there really weren't any good tours scheduled. Instead we decided to go down to the Tower and sightsee on our own. It was so warm we both left our jackets in the room... on purpose even!

Ice Cream at the Tower Arrived at the Tower Hill tube stop with thousands of other tourists and for the first time this entire trip actually felt the way you do when mingling among tourists in your hometown. It was really crowded with lots of people eating ice cream, standing in line to get into the Tower, or kicking back on benches by the river. Last time we came here it was November and relatively empty. If it's this crowded in April I hate to imagine how bad it is during the summer. We'd been to the Tower before so we skipped that, opting instead to just walk around taking pictures of the surrounding area. Walked up and across Tower Bridge, and decided that the line and the price didn't warrant going up inside. Did some ticky-tacky shopping in a very crowded souvenir shop then headed back to our hotel area for dinner.

Tower Bridge We ate at the Mitre Pub, a block down form our hotel. It was far less touristy and less crowded than The Swan down the street. Matter of fact, an employee of the Swan came in for pint with his girlfriend as we waited for our grub! Kel had a chicken burger while I had banger and mash. Yum. Oh... and a couple of Guinnesses. After a very satisfying meal we got back on the tube, headed for Hampstead, in north London for the London Walks Tour: Hampstead heath Pub Walk. Emily (who played Kate in the BBC's Nicholas Nickleby and had a role in Empire of the Sun) was our guide. She was GREAT! Hampstead was originally a little village on a hill 4 and half miles from London... London has since grown a bit and swallowed it whole. It was where you went if you could afford to get out of the city for better air and water. Huge mansions all over the place. We say where George Michaels and 2 of the Spice Girls live (not together :)) in a big old TB hospital. Also saw the "Admirals House" which was, according to Emily, used in the Disney film Mary Poppins for the exterior of Admiral Boom's house... I was skeptical as I was pretty certain that movie was filmed entirely on a sound stage. Once home I checked, and I was right. They might have used it to inspire the design of the house but the actual house was never in the film. (so there :) ) Had a Tolly bitter at the first pub stop and chatted with a nice couple from Essex. They take pub walks every few months for fun. The beer was OK but I think they recommend it just because the had too much in stock! I'm afraid I got the husband in a little trouble by enthusiastically talking about how fun I thought house remodeling project were... Saw Constable's house (landscape painter) then saw an actual heath. Dark, but then it was night time... It was NOT well-manicured :)

Strolled down a hill and as we passed a man-made pond (built to cool carriage wheels) Jeremy Irons was mentioned but I forget the context. Probably lived around here. Apparently Keats and Shelley used to race their carriages up to that pond. In the second pub I opted for Guinness as the recommended brew was Caffrey's which I have had on numerous occasions. Sat with a cute couple from France who now live in London. Talked tech with them, explaining why Americans call them cell phones rather than mobile phones. It was a short walk to the last pub which turned out to be incredibly crowded. We skipped it, as the walk was over, and headed back to the tube. We were tired, but decided we (well I) would like to see Piccadilly Circus all lit up at night.

Got off the train into an extremely crowded tube station and the temperature had dropped like 10 degrees! Saw the pretty lights then got back on the train headed for the hotel, We got back to the room around 11:00 and went right to sleep.

[Kel adds] Man, the THRONGS there that night! Must be because the Puff Daddy concert at Wembley had been canceled so they all had to go SOMEWHERE. In typical fashion we found these upright stones bordering the roads in Hampstead...found it the hard way in my case... they were knee-height. So of course an hour later Emily explains what the stones are for - they mark the way to the White Stone Pond to cool the wheels, and she warns: "Be careful they seem to be real shin bangers!" ... sigh. Several of the people from the SF Bay Area were in the group again, including a couple who will also be on our Bath tour She thought she was a laugh-riot with all her cutsie loud comments. Too bad nobody else thought so. It was a big group again, 35-40 at least.

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