A Travellerspoint blog

Day 20

London

semi-overcast 9 °C

This was to be my day in London. I was up early to get to Heathrow Airport lost property office to recover my lap top which I had inadvertently left at the security check when I was on my way to Scotland. However I was able to locate it and retrieve it. After the challenging flights from St Petersburg to Glasgow where I had to do the 'Boots, belts and belongings' gig three times I must have been a little distracted and so discovered when I got to Scotland that I no longer had it with me. However I refused to get upset over it and even if I had lost it with all my pictures on it; I would just move on and besides this 'Bucket List trip' was not about the pictures but about the memories. However; Heathrow are used to people like me and they have a fantastic process for dealing with found articles. There is a website where you can actually check to see what they have found and I did find it so Day 20 started with a trip to the lost property office to retrieve it.
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I bought my Oyster Ticket and joined the 'underground crowd' commuter traffic and rally enjoyed the trip into town. There was not only the joy of people watching where so many people read something to remain in their own little world but I was struck on the number of people who had their phones plugged in and were either texting or checking their online lives. I felt positively alone in that Mine was not in my ear. We passed some familiar stations and made it to London in good time. When I got to London; I of course had a little celebration on my success but it was a quiet one where I went and had a coffee and an all day Breakfast Panini in Starbucks.
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I did a bit of Oxford Street and marveled at the number of people in this amazing place and of course I had my camera and pretended that I was a tourist. I met a former colleague for a coffee who I worked with in Birmingham, in Burrough and it was a great time catching up on our lives. We have kept in touch over email and the internet but there is simply nothing like sitting across the table with a coffee and you guessed it; across the road in a Starbucks.
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I did some more of London and found again how easy it was to get around London with a map of the underground and an Oyster Card. I went and bought my ticket to Brum for tomorrow and then just went to a few places because I could. No matter where you are in London there is always something interesting to see, and today was no exception. When I got back to the West End I saw these two guys all dressed up and I just had to go and ask what they were doing. They were members of the 'Welcoming London Team' and I had quite a long chat with them. The guy had a little UK Flag on his badge but the woman had about 6 different flags and when asked about them she indicated that she spoke all those languages. They were very good ambassadors for London and the Welcoming London organisation should be very proud. They asked me about my trip and there were no raised eyebrows but the woman was very keen for me to visit one of the places represented by one of her flags, Cosovo; but I indicated that possibly in another life, but not in this one. I was again struck by amazing world we live in and affirmed my desire for a 'One World Passport', if it is ever created
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There is always something interesting to see in London and I sat for a while in this little garden area where there were these statues in the park and an old Gardeners Cottage and again spent some time watching the passing parade of people. In the evening I met up with Graeme 'Thunderchest' Randal a former SAO who I had never met in real life but we recognized each other immediately outside a Starbucks in Soho. We went and had a vegetarian meal at the Hare Krishna and caught up on our lives and our shared history and spent a couple of good hours together sharing our mutual background and our hopes for the future. It is an amazing experience to be able to connect with people for support and encouragement. Graeme told me that if we had been here during the day we could have had a free meal upstairs with the Krishna's, all we had to do was list to their Philosophy for a while. We recognized this from our shared back ground and it could have been an interesting interchange given our theological backgrounds and philosophies. We went to a 'normal' very classy coffee shop around the corner and had a great coffee and a rich cake that I believe reflected our fellowship together.
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Then it was the Tube to Heathrow and the 'Hotel Hoppa' to my digs for the night. It was a great day in London with so many memories of our time in the UK which was now a few years ago but the memories are still as precious.

Posted by Fletch1 20:43 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 19

Restful day in Larbert

semi-overcast 7 °C

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It was great to have an easy day and I appreciated just being with Helen in her place. Later in the morning we went out with Helen's Daughter and granddaughter to Torwood Garden Centre. It seems that Garden centers here have taken over as 'care a relaxation' places for some of the more mature members of the community, they not only have a massive array of garden stuff but clothes for the garden more than gloves and I was tempted to buy a pair of slip on snow shoes for wearing when next it is snowing in Riverton but decided against it.
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We had a lovely lunch and then we did some more shopping in the local ALDI in Lambert and I was introduced to the local 'Highland Coos' which were designed by school children and placed at the 'Heart' of the village.
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I also got a run down on the fact that since ALDI has been here it has torn out the heart of the few shops which were the village before the massive redevelopment was commenced a few years ago. I also had a run down on the way Scotland is pushing for independence from the UK and it almost sounded like a copy of what WA have tried to do in Australia over so many years.

In the evening We had a lovely family meal with Chris and Vic and the Girls and it was take out Chinese and very good it was as well.

After dinner Chris drove me to the Airport to get the last plane to Heathrow for my day in London.

Posted by Fletch1 15:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 18

Glasgow

sunny 13 °C

After yesterday it was good to have a very easy day and so Helen and I went shopping in the great city of Glasgow. It was such a contrast to a couple of days ago and I just wore a shirt and the sun glasses even got an outing, as it was sunny and 13'C (that is +13'C just in case you misread it) and it was just a beautiful day. Even a number of Glaswegians were in their summer gear as it was more like a summer day than many summer days that they might have.
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We got our seniors tickets on the train and it was a bit of history repeating itself for me, as all the shops that we were familiar with when we lived in the UK were still here and in all their glory, so after we had a coffee, Starbucks of course, we patrolled Primark, BHS, John Lewis, and even a nostalgic visit into ARGOS. If these names are unfamiliar to you then you need to live in the UK for a bit and absorb the culture of shopping in these stores. It was wonderful.
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We had another coffee and sat alongside three young guys who were very animated and I did not understand a word they were saying so I assumed they were Glaswegians which is a dialect all on it's own and for a sassanach to understand is difficult in the extreme, but after a while I realized they were speaking Dutch which to me was equally difficult to understand.

We went back to Larbert and did a bit of shopping at ASDA where again I struggled to understand the cashier who was so bright and cheery but I just couldn't understand a word she said. The Scots and English don't have a great deal in common but they really are a people who are 'separated by a common language'.
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We finally returned home and had a relaxing evening in front of the TV and had huge Scottish Fish Supper which included; of course fish, chips, potato scallops, breaded mushrooms and mushy peas while we watched a repeat of Midsommer Murders.

Posted by Fletch1 23:09 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 17

Just another day?

overcast 4 °C

Today started just like any other day; the sun was due to come up in about 4 hours in St Petersburg. It was a balmy -17'C and the 4.30 am Taxi sped me to the airport to get the first flight out of St Petersburg to Frankfurt, then on to Copenhagen to get a connecting flight to Glasgow. It is not a large airport and they were just turning on the lights when we arrived but in due cours all the formalities were completed and in a very small area we all had to do the boots, belt and belongings on to the conveyer belt for security check. It was quite humerous to see all the stuff piling up at the end of the conveyer belt as people were taking a lot longer to get their gear on after the security check but finally we were seated on the plane and the Captain welcomed us and we backed out on the the tarmac where the de-icing of the wings took place.
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Then it all went wrong. The Captain did keep us informed but it appeared that there was no oil pressure registering in enging number 1, and for the next three hours we sat on the tarmac. At first he indicated that it could be a computer problem so he apologised fr the fact that he had to put the cabin in darkness while he rebooted the computers, (Good technical solution from microsoft) and when that did not work they chnged the oil filter and e then took off with no more incidents for the flight.
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However when I arrived at Frankfurt, they had rescheduled me to Copenhagen but no onwad flight to Glasgow; aso after nearly an hour at the transit desk with a trainee support staff person and her supervisor who seemed to think that the best way to learn was to let her make mistakes, I was re routed through London Heathrow to get to Glasgow. The plane to Heathrow was going from the terminal where I arrived and so I hared off with the assurance that my luggage would follow me and be on the same flight. I arrived puffing and panting and had to do the boots, belt and belongings security check again, but I was off to the UK. It was a flight with nothing to recommend it but I did meet a 'Colonel Klink' clone from the old 'Ryan's Heroes' TV sit-com of the 70's 80's; same voice, same haircut and glasses, and almost the same manner. I was expecting 'Sargent Schulz' to appear as one of the flight attendants disguised as a guard
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At Heathrow I landed at Terminal 3 and had to get to Terminal 5; on the bus and again with only minutes to spare did the boots, belt and belongings number before I fell onto the plane that was to deliver me to Glasgow about 4 hours after my ariginal scheduled arrival, and there was my luggage on the conveyer belt.
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I caught the Airport bus to Glasgow Queen street and then a local train to Larbert where cousin Helen was waiting. By this time the sun had well and truly set and it had proved to be a long and interesting day.

The sun went down and Helen was waiting at the station for me.

Posted by Fletch1 21:59 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Day16

More St Petersburg

sunny -23 °C

You will by now have realized that I am quite impressed with St Petersburg; to was another day when I saw more stuff that made me almost fall in love with this place. Today as I left the Hotel at bout 10 am, the little sign down the street said it was -23'C now that is a bit chilly and I was feeling it but My last day I could not waste it. I was on the way to the Peter and Paul Fortress and as I crossed the River Neva the wind chill factor took hold and I was sure that my ear lobes could be broken off quite easily. It was about a 45 minute walk to the 'Fortress' but due to some road works it took nearly twice that and so when I got to the 'Aurora' Russia's number one Naval Ship I had to succumb to getting some head covering that protected my tender ears.
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Peter and Paul's Fortress is really the start of what is Now St Petersburg and it is on an island that was to protect Northern Russia from the naughty Swedes who were after some more land quite a long time ago, as long as they didn't come in winter because they could just walk across the frozen river. It is an amazing place and no photograph could do it Justice. However having said that I paid the entrance fee and while struggling to keep warm I set off to explore this place. It is a place of contrasts, there is the Boat house right in the middle of the Fortress, which seemed strange until you find that it was a building that was to house Peter the Great's boat, as it was never going in the water again. There was the Neva Gate and the Commandants Wharf, I could have walked around the top of the wall but it was not included in the price so reneged on that on reckoning that it would be very cold on top of the wall. I spent some time in the Trubetskoy Bastion Prison; a horrendous place where a number of political prisoners have resided from both sides of the revolution depending on who was winning at the time. Outside of most of the cells were pictures and biographies (in English) of who resided there and a few times while I have been here I have been fascinated to learn of the Russian Penchant for keeping good records and on so many of the cells it said who stayed there and what for. Catherine Breshko-Breshkovskaya 1844 -1934 was a leader in one of the many revolutionary Parties of her time and she was imprisoned on a number of occasions but between 6 October 1907 - 22 May 1910, she was imprisoned in Cell 68,58, 54, 45,55, 68. Conditions were very bad and I left ruminating about the reason there were so many revolutions going back so many years. I then went into the Peter and Paul Cathedral where there have been many historic burials; Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Emperor's and Prince's and Princesses. and the ornate nature of this place is just mind boggling.
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and it seems that in all public buildings there is a cat. On the Museum Ship Aurora there is a cat that was rescued from an ice flow a few years ago and is now a part of the crew. Here in Saint Peter and Paul's Cathedral they also have a cat and I was wondering what ecclesiastical rank that it has been given. As I was leaving the Cathedral the bells started chiming as they do on the hour and I found myself humming the tune and I recognized it and almost started singing along but did not know what words to use. I went back into the Cathedral and asked one of the attendants what it was but her English was a bit like my Russian and so she went and found one of the guides with English and I asked the question and she looked at me blank "..but that is our national Tune 'St Petersburg':" the penny dropped and I recognized it because I have played it so many times but never actually associated words with it.
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I spent over two hours wandering around this site and I could have spent longer but 'tourism overload' is a recognized treatable condition here in St Petersburg, so I thought that it was time to move on. I had to pass the Artillery Museum and so I thought that it could be interesting, apart from the fact that I needed to thaw out somewhat but found that it was closed on Monday and Tuesday and told to "Come back on Wednesday".
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I also passed the St Petersburg Zoo and decided that most of the animals did not want to see me so I crossed back over the Neva to the City Proper. I passed the Museum where they have the stuffed Mammoth, and I remembered that the guide said that "This is the only Mammoth to suffer the indignity of being stuffed" as I passed by I decided that if it was stuffed and in a warm museum, it was not an indignity but a favor that was bestowed on it. I was on the right side of the River if I wanted to have a look inside The Winter Palace but I did not have the emotional strength to cope with 1000 rooms and 2000 windows etc even though there were many of the masters works there.

The last Museum was opposite the 'Church of our Saviour of Spilt Blood' which in fact was built as a memorial, not a church, on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was murdered in1881, and it was an Automobile Museum based in the old stables of the Winter Palace. It sounded interesting but when I found out that the entrance fee was R200 for 'Foreign Visitors' I was put on my guard. However I thought that it was worth a look. On the ground floor they had a selection of old Russian Cars, that really looked like 'Old Russian Cars', a few motor bikes and scooters with lots of photos and trophies in cabinets. In the Crypt they had some sparse cabinets with a few medieval swords and weapons and a couple of places where one could practice their 'Knife Throwing Skills'. It seemed like the prize exhibit was a car that was once owned by President Medvedev. The Tower of London and the Birdwood motor museum have nothing to fear.
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I called into Chaz Jules Cafe for a coffee and a nice hot bowl of Minestrone Soup, and chuckled about having an Italian style Soup in a French Restaurant in St Petersburg; but it was fantastic and just what I needed after possibly the coldest day of my life but one that will be remembered more for what I saw than the temperature of air.

Now its packing again and off to the next adventure with three trips tomorrow finishing in Glasgow after Lunch.

Posted by Fletch1 04:57 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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