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I left you last week mid story about our London trip, this week I will finish it.   We were only in England for four nights, but we did so much it felt like a week.  London is such a great walking city that we must have logged 5 miles a day.  What makes London such a great walking city besides the obvious is that the English are very friendly and helpful. You can ask anyone in the streets, especially the officials working in public places like the Tube, and they will make sure to point you in the right direction.  

We had a nice long walk around Notting Hill.  Have you seen the movie Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts?  Well, it takes place in Notting Hill (duh!).  Notting Hill is a section of London and is very accessible by the Tube.  We went there on Saturday for the outdoor market .  It's packed with antiques, crafts, food stands, and people!   The place was a mob scene.  It was so crowded we could barely move or shop around.   That didn't stop Amber Airplane or Dennis from buying up the town.  After the shopping spree, Amber Airplane wanted to go see the "Blue Door" that was in the movie.  You know the door to the apartment Hugh Grant lived in.  Well, it's now a tourist attraction.  We couldn't find the door so went to the Travel bookstore that they used for the movie to ask for directions.  The book store was awesome. .  I could've spent hours in there, but we were pressed for going to find the door.  The chap who worked behind the counter told us where the "blue door" was and he also explained why we couldn't find it.   It was because it's not blue anymore; it's black . It turns out they sold the original blue one for big bucks, but if you want to see the "Black Door" at 280 Westbourne Park Road.

From Notting Hill we took the Tube to Tower Hill.  There we were at the Tower Bridge debating what we should do next.  I wanted to go up the Tower and take pictures, but Amber Airplane and Dennis Shopaholic wanted to go shopping on Bond Street, or Covenant Garden , or even worse the Burberry Outlet.   To make a long story short, I got out-voted and we were off on an hour adventure to Hackney.  Hackney?  That's right because that's where Amber Airplane heard the Burberry Outlet was and that they had clothes for 50% off.  Great.  Just what we needed to do: spend some more money on clothes.  Obviously, I really did not want to go, but what the heck, I wasn't going to separate and I thought it would be good to take some pictures for you, plus allow them to get their fix.  Who knows, maybe it would be a great find.  Well, it was a major pain to get there via public transportation.  We took the tube, the bus, and a train.  It was also in a not so pleasant neighborhood and no one there knew exactly where the outlet was located.  So, we walked around in the dark, cold, rainy depressing streets.  Willem was complaining he was hungry; I needed to use the toilet.  BTW:  Finding a public toiled in England is like finding Burberry Outlet in Hackney.  They don't have many, except a few pay ones on the street, which are often out of service.  It was the first time this trip that I felt unsafe, walking the streets of Hackney.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as I am making it out to be, but I didn't stick around long enough to change my opinion.  Well, after the whole crazy adventure, we finally get to Burberry's and they were   CLOSED ! We missed it by 10 minutes.  I was not happy with the shopaholics and I over ruled them on any more shopping excursions.   However, if your up for the adventure or are willing to pay for a taxi the address is 29-53, Chatham Place , London, Greater London E9 6LP, England.
Ok, let's talk about something a bit more pleasing.  You all know how much I like going to see plays.  I have been fortunate enough to see plays all around the world and especially on Broadway.   Broadway is great, but going to theatre in London doesn't compete. Sorry mayor Bloomberg, but to me personally it doesn't get any better than London.  First of all, it's cheaper than NYC.  Yes. If you play it right (no pun intended).  Don't even think about paying full price with advance ticket sales.  Just go down to Leicester Square and pop into one of the discount theatre brokers . You will pay a lot less and you can even go at the very last minute.  I remember when my Mom and I were in London a few years ago and we bought tickets to an Andrew Lloyd Webber play for 5-pounds apiece.  That's right, 5 pounds; it was 5 minutes before curtain but who cared? 

Now it's supposed to be slow season in November but I don't believe it.  The theatre was packed especially on Saturday night.  We were still able to get tickets for two great plays on the day of the performance.  Friday night we went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , which will definitely have you singing "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "Chitty Chitty Bang BangĒ for days (it's still in my head).  That cost us 26 pounds apiece, not bad for one of the top plays that normally cost 45 pounds.  Saturday night, we waited a bit too long (Ďtil 6 PM), because many of the shows were sold out by then.  We couldn't get our first choices, but we took a chance and took the advice of the theatre broker and bought the 17-pound tickets for "Blood Brothers".   What a great play Blood Brothers was.  Amber gave it a 9 (out of 10), I give it an 8 (only because it doesn't leave you feeling good, like "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," see I can't get the song out of my head.   We had the very last row for Blood Brothers and the seats were still great.  You have to love those old small, and quaint theatres.  I mean take a  look at the theatre where Les Mis plays.  Isn't it just magical?

Speaking of magical, can you find cooler telephone booth to make a phone call from than this one?  Donít you just love London!

It was time to say Cheerio to England and head back to the airport.  We were lucky to be upgraded to First Class on the way to London, but let's see how we did for the 10.5-hour flight back to California.  I know you are going to think that I sound like a spoiled brat, but ever since my fear of flying, and particularly flying overseas, I have always upgraded to take my mind off of the long trip.  I have always said I would rather not go internationally if I had to fly in coach.  Well, when we got the news at the gate that we couldn't get upgraded, my heart dropped.  I thought for sure I would be able to finagle my way into at least Business Class, but no, the English wanted nothing to do with me.   The good news is at least I had an aisle seat towards the front of the cabin; otherwise they would've had to drag me onto the plane.  

We were on a 777 flying to San Francisco.  United Airlines is supposed to have Economy Plus seating on all of their planes (5 inches of extra leg room in the first few rows of coach), but I guess they forgot to redo this plane.  There was no economy plus.  But it's still wasn't that bad. The flight actually went by quicker than the way there.  I think maybe because the mapping system was broken and I didn't have my watch on, so I didn't know the time or where we were.  We also had great flight attendants and that always makes a difference.  The FAís started off the first service by giving everyone hot wet paper towels.  Then they served us a great lunch of pasta primavera, fruit, cheese, crackers, and salad.  Then five hours later our "snack" was not a sandwich, but they came down the aisle with a boatload of mini Toblerone, Milky Way bars, pretzels and crackers.  Then an hour before we landed we had a turkey sandwich with potato chips, and a big Cadbury bar.  TIP:  They ran out of bottled water after the first service, so make sure you bring your own. 

You might think I'm crazy but it feels great to finally get this monkey off of my back.  After all, anyone can fly First Class or Business class (or can they), but it actually takes a stronger person to fly economy overseas. 

For more on London check out this week's good to know section (Scroll down to the bottom).  
There I was waiting to get on my flight in SFO to fly down to LAX.  I thought I spotted one of my favorite baseball players, but I wasn't sure if it was him.  I had a pretty good idea it was him when he sat down in First Class (I figured since he just signed $120,000,000.00 contract, he wouldn't be a coach roach).  I still wasn't 100% sure so I stood next to him at baggage claim and took quick peek at his nametag, and sure enough it was Jason Giambi!  I said "Jason, Iím a huge Yankee fan and congratulations on having such a great year".  He stuck out his big paw (The dude is a monster) and said, "Thanks, I appreciate that".  Then he started up a conversation and we chatted for about 10 minutes while waiting for our bags.  He was telling me about his trip to Tokyo for the U.S. All-Stars vs. the Japanese, and I was telling him about London.  Anyway the guy couldn't have been any cooler, but what did you expect?  He's a Yankee!

I wrote last week how to combat jet lag. Well, I might have to rewrite it for economy class, because sitting in coach took must have taken a toll on me.  We landed at 3:30 PM and I went right to 5 o'clock mass after dropping Amber Airplane off.  She was too tired to go.  Well, as usual at my parish we hold hands during the "Our Father" prayer.  I guess I am a bit used to holding Amberís hand because in the middle of the prayer this older man jerked his hand away.  I obviously was jet lagged and wasnít paying attention.  When I realized I was caressing the mans hand with my thumb, I just wanted to run out of there.  Let's just say I don't think that guy will be holding hands anytime soon with the same sex at church.  

After a goodnights sleep I was right back on schedule.  The next night we went to Dinner in Hollywood with the crew from and some travel writers; Michael Shapiro , Tim Winship , and Cheap Charlie .  We had a great time and the food at GianCarlo was excellent.  

Now I'm on the other side of the country in Connecticut getting ready for another trip with my family to celebrate the Holidays.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And try to avoid the airports tomorrow (Wednesday) and Sunday, otherwise be patient.
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This checklist for those of you traveling this Holiday season: (From The Alaska Travel Gram)
a. CHECK IN EARLY. I'll repeat for emphasis: Check in early. Although two hours is more than enough time in Anchorage, when you leave early for the airport, you have enough time to take care of last-minute emergencies. With a full crowd at the airport, you can count on things moving a little slower over the Thanksgiving weekend.
b. CHECK YOUR BAGS. I know it's a hassle. But the flights will be full--and it's more comfortable for everyone when you check the big bags. But your checked baggage is also the right place for your Leatherman, your pocket knife, your firearms and all those other "prohibited" items.
c. CHECK HOW YOU PACK. In today's sensitive air travel environment, it pays to think before you pack. Of course, all your medication and your film should be in your carry-on bag. The new baggage screening devices at the airport (Anchorage has a new one!) can damage both exposed and unexposed film. Your car keys go in your carry-on bag. Your cash, checkbook and credit cards go with you in your carry-on. Don't forget your ID! I just got one of those handy slim-packs that goes around your neck with a clear plastic window for my drivers license. It's a handy item when I've got both hands full carrying my Café Americano and my laptop. Your pocket knife goes in your check bag.
d. CHECK YOUR ITINERARY. This is especially important if you've got a red-eye flight. Make sure you know what evening you're checking in and what e-a-r-l-y morning flight you're leaving on. Check with your agent to make sure you've got your assigned seat, plus your mileage number. Many flights have "airport-only " check-in. It's another reason to leave a little early and check right away at the ticket counter.
e. CHECK OUT A MOVIE. I'm a junkie for the new "In Motion" DVD rentals at the airport. They've moved down to the end of the "B" concourse, but you
can rent a movie and a DVD player for a little more than $10. It's a great deal, especially if you're traveling with the kids! You can even rent two pairs of headphones for the same player. It's great for those long flights.
f. HAVE SOMEONE DROP YOU AT THE AIRPORT. This doesn't work all the time, but you can save yourself the aggravation of a full parking lot. Sometimes  it's worth it to take a cab, too. HAVE A SAFE TRIP!





  Business Travel Today




Some other interesting facts or links for London:  From Frommer's & Fodor's Guide Books and me!

Don't try to get a handle on all of London. People live here for years and still need street maps to figure out where they're going. Most visitors, however, can limit their study to the pocket-size chunk north of the River Thames that might be considered Prime Tourist Territory. This London begins at Chelsea, on the north bank of the river, and stretches for roughly 5 miles north to Hampstead. Its western periphery runs through Kensington, whereas the eastern boundary lies 5 miles away at Tower Bridge. Within these 25 square miles, you'll find all the hotels and restaurants and nearly all the sights that are of primary interest to visitors.

Same latitude as Newfoundland in Canada.  Winters are mild (Average temp 43), but it gets dark early.    

Tipping--In restaurants, service charges in the 15% to 20% range are usually added to the bill. Sometimes this is clearly marked; at other times, it isn't. When in doubt, ask. If service isn't included, it's customary to add 15% to the bill. Sommeliers get about £1 ($1.50) per bottle of wine served. There's no tipping in pubs. In cocktail bars, the server usually gets about 75p ($1.15) per round of drinks.  Hotels, like restaurants, often add a service charge of 10% to 15% to most bills. In smaller B&Bs, the tip isn't likely to be included. Therefore, tip for special service, such as for the person who served you breakfast. If several persons have served you in a B&B, many guests ask that 10% or 15% be added to the bill and divided among the staff. Tip chambermaids $1 per day for cleaning up (more if you've made their job extra difficult).  It's standard to tip taxi drivers 10% to 15% of the fare, although a tip for a taxi driver should never be less than 30p (45¢), even for a short run. Barbers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Tour guides expect £2 ($3), although it's not mandatory. Theater ushers don't expect tips.

Electricity --British current is 240 volts, AC, so you'll need a converter or transformer for U.S.-made electrical appliances, as well as an adapter that allows the plug to match British outlets. Some (but not all) hotels supply them for guests. If you've forgotten one, you can buy a transformer/adapter at most branches of Boots the Chemist.

Taxes--There is a 17.5% national value-added tax (VAT ) added to all hotel and restaurant bills and included in the price of many items you purchase. It can be refunded if you shop at stores that participate in the Retail Export Scheme (signs are posted in the window).

Phonecards are available in four values--£2 ($3), £5 ($7.50), £10 ($15), and £20 ($30)--and are reusable until the total value has expired. Cards can be purchased from newsstands and post offices. You can also use credit cards--Access (MasterCard), Visa, American Express, and Diners Club--at credit-call pay phones, commonly found at airports and large railway stations.

Here's my internet connection story:
I was told there was high speed internet access in the brochure, when I got to my room, i saw I was duped.  So, I went looking for the business center.  One of the employee's said he didn't know they had a business center.  When I walked into it, I realized why.  They didn't have high speed, and out of the 5 people who were just hanging out in the room connected to it not one of them had any idea on how to connect to a laptop.  They just had two very slow computers that required you to swipe your credit card. They supposedly charged 3 pounds for 15 minutes.  I wasn't going to get suckered by them and deal with a hefty credit card bill.  I finally said forget this and I asked the front desk how much was it to download emails from the room.  They weren't sure but I took the chance and downloaded my emails anyway.  It was something I had to do and I only spent 5 minutes online the first time (no more than 20 at anytime).    After my first phone call I called the front desk to find out how much it cost me; 2 pounds.  I did that twice a day and I averaged about 6 pounds a day.  Not too good but what can you do.  My other alternative was to pay 16 pounds to sign up for a UK AOL account that would enable me to get a free 800 number, but that wasn't worth the time or hassle, since I was only there for 4 nights.   When I really needed to spend sometime and surf the internet I would go down to the easy internet cafe near Trafalgar square where it only cost 2 pounds for 24 hours.  It was my oasis...high speed with plenty of computers (about 700).  It's the way to go.

Some Useful Website to check out: 
The String Of Pearls
London Transport


Route Planner

Tour Buses


and........ According to the London Tourist Board:

London's Top 5 Royal Residences

Top 5 shopping Areas

Top 5 Museums

London's Top Dining Streets

Top 5 Views

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