Monday was the day for our trip to Cardiff – our train tickets were for 9:15 and we made it to Paddington Station in due time. Since we had to leave the B&B without breakfast, we managed a small bite to eat at the station while waiting for the train. It was a two hour ride, but quite enjoyable in spite of the rain. When we arrived in Cardiff, it took a few moments to acclimate and find our direction. Once we did, we had a nice stroll through Cardiff. What a wonderful, pedestrian friendly town; the main street led to the entrance of the town’s castle. The Old Keep was many centuries old as were parts of the fortification. On the grounds, a Victorian Gothic mansion replaced the Old Keep as living space – it was gorgeous. This was all fascinating to me, and I was in Wales! Before our return to London, we had a wee lunch at a marvelous pub called the Goat Tavern and enjoyed a local beer. The return train ride was comfortable and relaxing.
On Tuesday, we had an early call, thus no breakfast again. (In retrospect, we should have bought some food to take on the trip with us – we were starving by the time we could get a snack.) We had taken the tube to our meeting place, the Marle Arch, where the tour van picked us up. There were only eight of us on the tour. When everyone had gathered - we headed in a westerly direction toward Bath and the Cotswolds. Stopping in a town called Lacock, we bought a snack at a delicious quaint pastry shop. On the road again, we passed through so many charming towns with homes displaying thatched roofs. While on the highway, we drove past a chalk horse, the Cherrill White Horse, carved out of the hillside in 1780. And then, we were in Bath – our tour took us past some beautiful old town houses built in a half circle called the Royal Crescent – unique in age and design these were constructed between 1767 and 1774. Finally, though, we arrived at the Roman Baths where we spent the majority of our visit. One cannot adequately describe the spectacular experience – stepping way back in time feeling the existence of those long gone. We weren’t able to stop for a sit down meal, so we got a snack and motored on to Stonehenge. We arrived in just enough time to tour. Again, the marvelous sight defeated description. In spite of the wind and chill, the ancient structure was compellingly stupendous. Following this glorious experience, we faced a two hour return trip and were back in London, exhausted and sleepy.
Since we had no specific tours/tickets for Wednesday, we altered the itinerary and decided to visit the British Library near King’s Cross Station. The library is only about a block from the station. The newer building is lovely in its majestic contemporary design. It was busy, but not crowded. People moved in and out regularly and comfortably. We found the King’s Library was in the center of the building in a portion that was specifically built for conserving antique books. It is temperature and light controlled, yet glass enclosed, so visitors can see from the outside in. The only way to utilize the collections was to become a member – so, we applied for cards and were rewarded with Library ID’s. Coin operated lockers located on a lower floor were available to house personal items while patrons used the stacks; only a pencil and paper could be taken into the reading rooms. After visiting one of the reading rooms, we had lunch in the cafeteria on the premises. They served wine and I imbibed! I was sorry to leave the library, but we had decided to go back over to Westminster Abbey. When we had adequately toured the Abbey, we headed over for a ride on the London Eye – the result was a treat too spectacular for words. Following our ride, we returned to Gloucester Road and the Hereford Arms for a nice glass of wine; later, we then enjoyed dinner at a place called Ask in Kensington – excellent food.
Thursday, visiting St. Paul’s was on the agenda. Although we could have, we decided not to go up and out on the rotunda. Many, many steps! Once we had finished our tour having walked past many entombed Brits, we had a snack in the cafeteria, and then made a quick stop at The Globe. From there, we returned to the British Library. One hour, much walking and several train changes later, we made it back so we could get one of the old fashioned card boxes sold at the gift shop. More train changes and we ended up at Harrod’s – huge place! There were just too many people for my comfort, so I stayed on the 1st floor. Unfortunately, I lost contact with my friend for a bit, but we finally reconnected. My splurge from Harrod’s was some of their chocolates. Eventually, we made our way back to Bayswater, freshened up and went for dinner at the Hereford Arms. It was immensely crowded. We bought some drinks, looked for a table, put our name on the waiting list for dinner – a couple offered us space at their large table. We accepted, I chose a seat on an aisle – chatted for a long time, enjoyed our wine. Our name was called and as we got up to go to dinner, I discovered my purse was missing. It had been stolen, right off the back of my chair! Everything in it! (Passport, money, phone, camera, personal items….DL, cards….just everything.) If I ever felt stupid, that was the time; I had been careless. After dinner, which my friend bought, I spent the time canceling cards – the fortunate thing was that I had access to a computer. I could barely sleep.
Friday dawned and we headed for the Embassy so I could get a new passport. Fortunately I had copies of my cards and stolen passport, so when we arrived at the Embassy, I had something to present. We decided to dress for our “tea” since the Embassy appointment was for 11:00 and tea reservations were for early afternoon – it did take us a wee bit of time to find the Embassy. Of course, we had to go through another check point to gain entrance. It was not a difficult experience and a new passport was issued, but they had to take down my card information manually in order for me to pay the fee for the passport. Once all of this was settled, I did relax a bit. Then, we went to our Dorcester Tea – the final scheduled event. It was deliciously lovely, most enjoyable and incredibly relaxing. We then returned to Bayswater, changed, and went to find a police station so that I could officially report the theft. Now, that was an experience! The closest open station was in the heart of the shopping district – tons and tons of people. When we finally arrived at the station, we took a number waiting to be called. The police officer was charming, understanding and sympathetic (a female). There was some misunderstanding when I said what I had stolen was a “purse”, a purse in the UK is a small item, mine, then, was a “handbag.” Finally, we all understood one another. Returning to Bayswater, we had a snack at the Bayswater Arms, then went back to our B&B for our last night in London. We had learned from a friend that we could make limousine reservations online, so we did, and thus our transport back to the airport was handled.
Saturday morning dawned, we were ready to go. We had to be at Heathrow at 9:00. Mzia had packed us some breakfast sandwiches, and we departed. Since I had a temporary passport, the security personnel pulled me aside and questioned me for about 15 minutes – wanted to know if I had done an entrance card, if I had done a police report. Answers: yes and yes. They checked for the entrance card, but it had been eight days, so the record wasn’t available. They did let me through, finally. In spite of my stupidity, and the theft, I absolutely adored England. Now, it was all memory, the return home was eminent.