Flying into London Tuesday evening, we hopped on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. From Paddington, we caught a taxi to our hotel on Shoreditch High St. on the east side. Due to a lovely coincidence, our daughter, Nicole, was in the city for work. Literally working 18 hours a day, we got to see her only briefly each morning and evening until our last night.
Exploring London in 2 days is impossible, but we gave it a shot. Starting the first day late, due to jet lag, we made it across town on a city bus to the British Museum. Following lunch at a nearby pub, we entered the museum, where we spent the remainder of the day. (This museum requires no admission.) With extensive exhibits from around the world, we focused primarily on the Egyptian mummy gallery. Providing a fascinating background on the religion, custom and science behind the process, we were enthralled. Departing a few minutes before closing, we exited the museum to beat the crowd to local transportation, and headed back to "our" neighborhood. With countless restaurants to choose from, we finally settled on Persian street food. Chicken from a spit and a tangy parsley salad made for a tasty dinner.
Using the advise of travel guru, Rick Steves, we booked Big Bus Tours for the following day. (FYI-by booking online you save 25%). Traveling across town via the Liverpool Station Underground, we arrived at Victoria Station in time for the first bus departing at 8:30 AM. With our knowledgeable guide, Gareth, we spent the next couple of hours being regaled with stories about London. Wanting to experience the changing of the guards at 11:00, we hopped off the bus, and headed to Buckingham Palace, along with thousands of other people. While happy we got to see the event, I would liken it to watching paint dry. Guess that type of pomp and ceremony is not in our blood.
Walking on to the Britain Tate Museum (also free), we checked out English artists from 1700's through the 20th century. Primarily, we viewed the extensive collections of Henry Moore's sculpture and JMW Turner's watercolors and oil paintings.
Our bus tour ticket included a boat trip on the Thames, so tickets in hand, we walked to the dock and boarded the City Circuit Boat. With the first mate providing a narration, we got a short but pleasant glimpse of the city from the river.
With Nicole finishing work by 8 PM on our last evening, we were able to enjoy dinner with her at the nearby Clove Club. Smashing the stories about bad English food, we savored unusual and delightful menu items, from flash grilled mackerel tartare, crispy (and gluten free) fried chicken bits with pine salt, sole with white asparagus and dill sauce, skate with an avocado sauce and zucchini and a loquat custard for dessert. Wonderful!
Departing London Friday morning, we ventured once again to the underground at Liverpool Street, on to Paddington Station, and then by train to Exeter where we rented a car. Hilly, curvy roads through the countryside seemed barely wide enough for our small Kia. Driving the next hour or so, we arrived at Bude, a surfing and fishing community at the northern edge of Cornwall. Over the next 6 days, we'll be traveling along the Cornish coast, and stopping by with a note and some pictures from time to time.