April 21-25, 2017

The other half of our trip: Fantastic Iceland

While we waited in the customs line FOR OVER AN HOUR, I noticed this sign. Zombie Knives? A) when does a hunting knife turn into a zombie knife and 2) who the heck brings a big friggin' knife on an airplane?

There really are some interesting aspects to this: London is often depicted as Ground Zero for the Zombie Apocalypse (28 Days, Sean of the Dead, and others I am sure.) but isn't a knife like, the WORST way to fight a zombie? The virus is passed by fluids, a knife REQUIRES both contact AND fluids. I mean, this is just silly. Use a baseball bat - or, be culturally aware and use a cricket bat.

Side note 2: 85% of the customs agents were "people of color" - many of them wearing turbans and two in hijabs. Here in America, we scream in fright at the thought of a Muslim entering our country and in England, they provide security. Go figure.

Part of Keely's Marathon Tour package was staying at the Conrad London St James, right in the heart of London. It was a very nice hotel.

It is RIGHT across the street from the he St. James tube station - an excellent location. If you look very closely in the lower left corner, you can see something shiny. It's a balloon, held by a hobo in a sleeping bag sitting in a doorway. Know what they don't have in Iceland? Hobos.

It's right across the street from Westminister and the House of Parliament, too.

Look to the left and there's the Eye.

Short stroll to Westminister Bridge and there's a statue of Queen Boudicea on her knife-wheeled chariot. I was so impressed with her story I named a dog Boadicea. That dog had a lot of spunk, too. I miss her every day.

There's my girl - with Big Ben in the background.

As we crossed over a bridge, I looked down and saw broken and discarded skateboards. Some right of passage?

Street performers doing tap - these girls were working HARD for their money. I didn't give them any.

Leaders of the free world, we are.

Admiral Nelson at the top of Trafalgar Square. Man, they like Nelson.

Buckingham Palace. When I was there 20 years ago, I saw one of these guys scratch his butt. This guy had more discipline.

We were walking in a big loop - crossed the Thames at Westminister Bridge, then back again over the Golden Jubilee bridges, through Trafalgar Square, and down to Harrods. We wanted to do some gift shopping and find a place to eat. We asked the cashier where she recommended (No pubs, Chinese, Italian, or Mexican - we can get that at home.) We ended up at the Al Arez 2 a Lebanese place, and it was MAGNIFICENT.

After dinner, we waddled over to the Victoria and Albert museum, (free and open late.) We were greeted with this massive installation by Dale Chihuly, a Pacific Northwest glass artist.

That thing is impressive. I wonder how they'll take it down?

Come on Baccus and friends. No means No.

(I've always wanted to create a Spanish for Supervisors language learning program. I would call it "No means No")

I call this one "Jesus learns to master the Force" (actually the cherubs are supposed to have wings, but I like my interpretation better)

Becoming a saint was rough. This shows the martyrdom of Simon the Zealot. You really gotta piss people off to make them so mad they saw you in half.

And that's just . . . weird. You'd let their baby drive a Tron light cycle - without a helmet?

Far enough away and so late we needed a taxi to get home. Chatty guy, bit of a racist.

Day before the marathon - time to go to the Eye. Did I mention our hotel was RIGHT next to Westminister?

Back to zombies. Know why London is host to most zombie outbreaks? Because Recycled Medical Supply runs DUMPTRUCKS full of material right through downtown - all day, every day.

There's the London Eye. It is very impressive. Buy your tickets on-line and go as early as possible - that place is PACKED.

Security everywhere and yet . . . I actually feel less secure.

It really is a neat experience. Expensive, but so is everything else. Can't say "I flew all the way to London, stayed in a hotel, ate out every day, but I didn't go up the Eye because it was expensive."

Very pleasant experience. There were at least three different languages being spoken in our pod.

Part of your ticket is the London 4D experience - 3D video and puffs of wind and such. Lots of fun.

After the Eye, we met a friend, Annette. Annette and I used to work for the same company. Keely and I first went to England on a company trip where we met Annette and have been friends ever since. When Annette was sent to America for training, she stayed with us and we showed her the sights. It's been 20 years since we saw her last.

First stop - the British Museum, where (in case you've been wondering what happened to it) they have the American Dream.

The first few times we visited the British Museum, the Egyptian Exhibit was closed for renovation. Man, they have a LOT of mummies.

It is just STUNNING.

Keely and Annette closely examine the Warren Cup - a silver cup from 100 A.D. depicting male on male sex acts.

The Elgin Marbles. Sometimes you think "Evil British! Stealing a country's relics!" and sometimes you think "You know what? These are probably better off here than where they were. It looks like they weren't being cared for." The reliefs on the walls show a drunken brawl between humans and centaurs. The centaurs were invited to a party, got rowdy, and tried to make off with some human women. I think that leaves me with more questions than answers, though. For example, which part of the centaur has the penis?

The Rosetta Stone - this is pretty cool. The experience was slightly diluted by the gift shop where you could buy everything from Rosetta Stone refrigerator magnets to Rosetta Stone mousepads. Seriously over commercialized. We did score a cool magnet and mousepad, though.

After the British Museum, the girls saw a treat shop called Brigit's. Annette said "I've always wanted to go in there." Those are words we love to hear.

Back at the room for to savor the pastries before we head out for the evening's entertainment Romeo and Juilette at the Globe Theater - seeing a Shakespeare play where Shakespeare played. We'd been there for it's opening weekend 20 years ago, so this is cool.

Oh, my. That's a bit of a unique retelling. Still - a fantastic experience and I would do it again.

After the play, we walked over the Millennium Bridge to get back to our side of the Thames. St. Paul's is magnificent.

Man, that was a heck of a day.

Keely and I split up for Marathon Day. She was off to meet some friends, go shopping, and have High Tea. I was meeting some friends and heading to Portsmouth. As I left the hotel, I saw the city prepping for the marathon.

Streets were closed - the perfect time for wedding pictures.Congratulations!

I waited at the train station and watched the crowds of marathoners head to the starting line. Captain America was getting ready to run.

I was Larry's roommate in college 35 years ago. I helped him fail his first year, delaying his education by years. We've been friends ever since. Larry was my college roommate 35 years ago. He and Pam live in London, so this was a great time to get together.

This is what I expect are the cheap moorages at Portsmouth. It's nice to see small boats on the water.

Coots are Coots the world over - standing around a boat on the hard, jawing away.

We were headed to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Larry knew my love of boats and history and had planned the whole day.

Our first stop was the HMS Warrior, a HUGE sailing steamship built in 1860.

The main gun deck was HUGE - full standing headroom, too.

I wonder what the pistols were for - to repel boarders or to enforce order during a battle?

She was a steamer right at the end of the age of sail. She had a complicated method for pulling the propeller up and out of the water to reduce drag while under sail. During her 40 years in service, she went under full sail (rudder up) only four times. The docent told me stevedores earned a penny a day more than an able bodied seaman. Better pay for tough work.

The Portsmouth Boathouse 4 is one happening spot. No work being done on a Saturday, but lots of boats in progress.

Let's see: Freedom for . . . women and people of color or just women? and . . .Medusa heads for all?

Nelson's ship - the HMS Victory That's impressive.

Popping open the gun ports would have been a terrifying sight for those on the receiving end.

Hee hee hee. They said "poop"

The view out over Portsmouth Harbor from the deck of the HMS Victory. Next time I visit, I'm going to go over there and see how their boats are different from ours.

Carronade - aka: Smasher. Short range devastation - that's my kind of cannon.

Middle gun deck - it's starting to get a little crowded down here.

Crew sleeping quarters. Boy, that must have been fun.

Larry and I with a bust of Admiral Nelson. I'm on his blind side - and the side where he lost his arm. If he'd have lived through the battle at Trafalgar, he might have kept losing body parts until he was just a head.

Next was the Mary Rose exhibit - and this was REALLY cool. She turned turtle (of course it did - look at all that superstructure and weight aloft) in 1545, was found again in 1836, and raised in 1982. They built the museum around her and it is GREAT.

This was an excellent tour - the ship is in great shape and they have a really good gift shop.

Just reading about her is fascinating enough, but when you actually get to look at her, loaded to the gills with everything from bronze cannons to stone-ball firing bombards, you can see how a tragedy like this could happen.

At least it wasn't as pathetic as the Vasa

This really in an incredible experience. The science, engineering, organization, and fundraising, for something like this boggles my mind.

Little electric boats out in the pond. That's something I would have liked to have done at the Toledo Community Boathouse.

Remember the low-rent moorage I saw at the start of this trip to Portsmouth? Looks like you get what you pay for.

Portsmouth is well worth the trip.

Back in London, I waived good-bye and "thanks" to Larry and Pam and headed back to the hotel. As I crossed Westminister Bridge, I saw the wedding party again - this was like 10 hours later!

15 years ago, Keely and I were on a trip to New Mexico and we ran across a pair of young Danes who were driving through all 49 states in the continental US. It was one of the very few times I had ever carried business cards, and I gave them one, telling them to "look us up when you get to Oregon." A few months later, we get a call and played host to Christain (left) and Kenneth (right.)

Kenneth is a runner and the London Marathon was that last of the races he needed to do to complete the World Majors, and Christian flew in for the day to make a reunion of it.

We were at the Harwood Arms in Fullham. As we were walking to the pub, we noticed all the cars parked on the streets were BMWs and Mercedes Benz. Oh well. "When in Rome and all that." So what'll it be - haunch or jowl?

Haunch it is! Served with Yorkshire Pudding.

Good times were had by all.

And it went on long enough we had to take a taxi back - again.

What a great day.

We had one more day in London and decided to do a walking tour. We were early enough to catch the cops getting set up. Bobbies have the funny hats and don't carry guns. The flat-hatted guys carry full-autos.

We were at the Monument - which nicely contrasts with the Shard.

We were walking around, waiting for the tour to start and Keely wanted a picture of me in this street. As she snapped it, this guy passed in front of her - saw her taking a picture and said "Whoops! Sorry." I said "Don't worry, we'll use it for our Christmas card this year." He said "Well, let's do it proper then!."

Back at the start for the tour, we found this little King Charles Spaniel (fitting) named Beau. Keely doesn't like this picture, but it is the perfect representation of someone hugging a puppy and saying "Who's a good little girl? Who's a sweetie?"

We were meeting Annette again.

London Walks does an absolutely fantastic job on these tours. The guides are usually professional actors and understand their subject matter thoroughly.

Our particular guide was Shaughan Seymore, and he was fantastic. He sang, he told jokes, and he was very informative.

Life is good.

I like St. Paul's Cathedral. It is an impressive structure with a great history. We did the heck out of it on a previous trip, so we didn't go in this time.


Next, we did the Tower Bridge Exhibition. 20 years ago, it was just a bridge - now it has an exhibition.

The glass floor is pretty cool. More places should have glass floors.

It has a mirrored ceiling, too. I don't know what was wrong with that kid.

The view was pretty darn good too. What I thought was amazing was the number of construction cranes in operation - 360° panorama of skyscrapers and construction cranes. This place is happening.

The London Tower Exhibition has two parts - the tower and the engine room. I got distracted on the way to the engine room by these steps down to the Thames. Done it - touched the Thames. Pics or it didn't happen? I got pics.

The engine room is pretty impressive. I hope some of my steamhead friends might see it someday - big fly wheels and pistons and little oil bottles, requiring 30 men per shift to work it - it is a heck of a thing.

There's Keely and the Tower Bridge. They didn't have this river walk the last time we were here - it was all industrial warehouses and such.

I hate to be negative when I write about my trips because there is so many great places and things out there in the wide wide world, but this place sucked,. Crappy service, average (at best) food - all while maintaining a high cost. And there was no attention to detail. There's lots of brass and dark wood, but in every corner, every crack, where's a gob of dried brass polish. Nobody loves this place - it's just a job.

Sorry for the blur. We met Larry and Pam again that evening for dinner near their place - right next to the Arab part of town, one of those No Go areas you've heard about on Fox News. See the 'Halal Restaurant' and squiggly writing? Scary!

Actually no, it was excellent. Nobody tried to kill us or anything - they just served us delicious food. I like this picture of Larry.

The last photo of Big Ben as we rolled our overstuffed bodies back to the hotel. Our London adventure was coming to an end.

I took this picture as we waited in line for Customs at the airport again. I was seen photographing so they wanted me to show them the pictures I had and delete any that could endanger their security operation. They let me keep this, though.

As a side note: Who brings acid or poison on an airplane? Sweet baby Jesus, people.

And that's it. Iceland Air back home with a stopover in Reykjavik and we were done. It was good to get home.