Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The World Kept Turning


After the vote came in and the majority of people wanted to leave the EU, crystal balls were in short supply as no one could predict what would happen next. In London political leaders escaped to the country and confusion was the order of the day as we wound-up our two-week stay in Peckham Rye.

One day after the Brexit vote a few of the ladies that lived on our lovely lane set off for a protest of their own to rail against the decrease in pensions for elderly women or something like that.

Our Peckham Rye neighbors ready to take on the next cause
London is a city we know well having lived there for five years when the kids were young - mind you, that was 30 years ago, but some things about London just don't change. But of course some things do, and on this visit we were able to witness London's Pride Parade. We joined hundreds of thousands of other spectators and marchers on June 25th and spend three inspiring and entertaining hours pressed against the metal fencing at Picadilly Circus. It was a warm day - and the drag queens, were, well dragging, but most everyone was happy and joyful.

You look fabulous Darling!
Music blared from big red double decker buses, bands played, niche groups like Granny Lesbians and a bunch of men dressed as puppies punctuated employee groups from dozens of major companies in the UK.  Representatives from every religious group on earth including: “Catholic and Gay” to “Muslim and Gay” came rolling one after another. The whole experience was a kaleidoscope of color and cultures from across the UK and around the world. Great entertainment and fun on the one hand - yet sobering to see all the signs of support for those killed or injured just days before in the Orlando nightclub shooting. A reminder, as if we needed one, that the joy and love of life never can escape tragedy and hate.


Which raises a question that we hear often from friends….

Aren’t you afraid traveling in Europe with all the terrorist attacks and suicide bombers? At this point, senseless violence seems to knowing no borders, it makes as much sense for us to be here as anywhere. If one were looking for a safe refuge from danger, I’m really not sure where a person would go today. Of course we are staying away from the obvious places - so don't look for blogs from Tunisia, Egypt or sadly, one of our favorite countries, Turkey. We will be traveling soon to the western parts of Ukraine; Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, but we feel those are safe.

In stark contrast to these kinds of discussions, we really enjoyed watching the Euro Cup football matches with teams competing from all corners of Europe. Sports has a way of bringing unity in a way nothing else does. One night in London we were able to enjoy a wonderful evening concert at the esteemed St. Martin-in-the-Fields church just off Trafalgar Square. The all-Mozart program was the perfect antidote to today’s challenges listening to music that Amadeus Mozart composed 250 years ago, some when he was not yet a teenager. Glad he chose music over a football career. 

Afterward we rushed to a nearby pub to catch the last few minutes of a quarter-final match between Wales (where Debbie received 1/3 of her DNA) and powerhouse Belgium. The match was a classic case of the underdog vs the sure thing. Wales fans were crammed into the tiny pub all fixed on a single TV above the bar. Amazingly enough, Wales came out on top and apparently as tradition would have it, the crowd and both bar tenders began dancing and singing along to the famous Welshman Tom Jone's hit “It’s not Unusual”. I suspect that the song had been cued in the CD player just in case! Here's a look back at Mr. Jones singing the original - and the dance that everyone in the pub seemed to know, but us!


Another highlight was dinner at a local pub in our Peckham-Rye neighborhood to watch Iceland vs England in another Euro Cup thriller. It was the biggest match for England in the tournament and I visited three pubs in the afternoon looking for just the right place to watch the match: good food, lots of TVs, and a nice atmosphere. I settled on The Rye, just a few blocks from our house and made a reservation. See below how they “reserve” tables. This was another David and Goliath match with little Iceland (total population 330,000) vs England (53 million). The match was in the “knock-out stage” of the tournament where the winner goes on and the looser goes home.

The perfect table for two - Backgammon went untouched as the match was a nail-biter.
The match came just four days after the Brexit vote so everyone in the pub was feeling more than a little anxious about life in general. When the whistle blew and Iceland knocked England out of the Euro Cup with a 2-1 win you could hear a pin drop in the pub as English fans realized that not only was the country going to exit the European Union sometime in the next two years, in the space of 90 minutes, they actually did exit the 2016 Euro Cup. It was a Senior Nomad moment to be there! Son Chris was happy since we had placed a bet on his behalf for Iceland to go all the way - and he was getting closer to a big payday. 

Another highlight was visiting a nearby museum that we had never heard of but was recommended by our host called the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It was just a short bus ride from Peckham Rye and a nice leisurely walk through an large, flower-filled park and the picturesque village of Dulwich to the museum which markets itself as the “oldest purpose-built museum in the world.” It was a lovely afternoon out, but the paintings themselves were not that memorable. Here’s my favorite of the lot:


A lovely portrait called "A Girl at the Window" by Mr. Rembrandt from 1645
We turned the calendar over to July which meant it was time to move on to Amsterdam. As usual, after checking Skyscanner and other apps, the most affordable flight we found was on Easy Jet from Stanstead Airport. When you think of London airports Heathrow and Gatwick come to mind but much smaller Stanstead in the northwest corner of London is another alternative and the hub for most low-cost airlines.

Our travel-day route included: a train from Peckham Rye to London, a bus to Stanstead, the flight to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, a train ride into the Central Station and finally the #4 tram to our new Airbnb. Although the distance is only 200 + miles as the crow flies, it took us ten hours door to door.

We’ve talked about Ryanair and Easy Jet before. The actual ticket prices are alluringly cheap - but if you check bags, and of course we have to, the price goes straight-up. For example, our actual tickets for this trip were something like $50 for the one-hour flight, but checking 20kg of baggage each added another $50 so total cost per person was $100. In the big scheme of things, still reasonable. The challenge with Easy Jet is they only allow one carry-on per person. Since we both have small (and super heavy) day packs and Debbie has a purse, we are already in trouble trying to get everything we have in our suitcases and backpacks, and no matter how hard we try, we do end-up accumulating “stuff” and struggle to get to that 20kg weight - let alone down to one carry-on.

Don't know how we'd manage without our luggage scale. But like any scale we wish it weighted lighter.
With all that said, we headed to the airport that morning knowing we had one carry-on bag too many and too much weight. At check-in, when the rubber hit the road, the agent said that each person was allowed an extra carry-on if it was a Duty Free Bag so if we could get our extra things in one or two of those we'd be fine. New information! We figured it was a push-back from the Duty Free stores on the carry on restrictions - people weren't shopping because they thought they couldn't take the bags on board.

So off we went, through screening and out to the gate. Debbie went to find the smallest things she could purchase from Duty Free and still get two bags. Our plan was then to distribute all our extra stuff in the Duty Free Bags. The good news, Debbie came back with 2 bags as planned. The bad news, she bought more stuff. Of course it all made sense -- a few fun things for the grandchildren who we would see in a couple of weeks, and her usual large bag of Gummy Bears. We were close to being in the same state as we were in at the check-in counter.

So we resorted to our usual fallback of filling the pockets of our coats to the brim, filling the sleeves of the coats from cuff to shoulder and then gracefully folding our coats over our arms in a casual fashion before approaching the gate with: two back-packs, two Duty Free-Bags, a smile on our faces and our passports open the right page with boarding passes at the ready. Somehow, we managed to get through without incident but when we got to our seats, we quickly distributed things into the overheads and squeezed in our seats with zero leg-room.  As always, with me in the middle seat so Debbie could have her window seat.


Birdseye view from our Easy Jet flight.
I’ll close out this post and pick it up again when we arrive at our Airbnb in Amsterdam. You’ll enjoy hearing about the great apartment with the worst host we have ever experienced in 3 years. It was bound to happen and it did on our 110th Airbnb.

Safe travels.

Michael

7 comments :

  1. Wow, this one took awhile to get through! But I made it and I'm glad I did. It was all very interesting. And I do look forward to hearing about that airbnb host. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ryanair also charges an arm and a leg to print your boarding pass if you haven't checked in online or shown up to the counter 2 hours prior. Learned that the hard way on our trip to the UK. :(

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so glad to have found you. We just have started traveling, but no airBnB yet.

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  4. "...our Airbnb in Amsterdam. You’ll enjoy hearing about the great apartment with the worst host we have ever experienced in 3 years"-
    I am checking twice a day to hear what happened with this story! Hurry up and tell us! ;-) Bitsy

    ReplyDelete
  5. "...our Airbnb in Amsterdam. You’ll enjoy hearing about the great apartment with the worst host we have ever experienced in 3 years"-
    I am checking twice a day to hear what happened with this story! Hurry up and tell us! ;-) Bitsy

    ReplyDelete
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