Thursday, 13 September.
So it has finally arrived, the last full day of our holiday. Because we have a 1200 flight tomorrow, we decided to spend the day in Peterborough and go to London for the evening. I know 1200 is not particularly early, but with distance of the airport from from Peterborough, rush-hour traffic and a three hour check-in, we thought the 5 am departure that would have been necessary to get to the airport on time was far too uncivilised.
The first order of business was to get the packing done. We then collected my sister, Sim, and her friend and headed off for the last family visit of the trip. My Uncle Jack lives in a village well outside of Peterborough and the map helped us get there all right, but once in the village we weren't sure of the correct turn off. Naturally, after enduring a long delay at road works and ending up at the far side of the village, we found we had to go back past the road works again. You would think by this time I would have learnt to ask questions earlier....
All that was quickly forgotten, as we were warmly welcomed into Jack and Annette's place. We had a great time catching up, swapping news, sharing photos and admiring the garden; all of which was topped off by one of Annette's excellent dinners. Sim then got stuck into telling her favourite Irish jokes, which had us all - especially Marie - in stitches. All in all, we had a great time, all round.
With that visit over, we had to make our way to London; but first, we had to drop off Sim and Jane, finish packing and load the car. Then off we went to tackle the terrors of British Motorways at rush hour! Fortunately, of course, most traffic was leaving London and, with Angela driving like a demon (what have I done, letting her do all the driving around Europe?) we made great time.
We had decided to kill two (well, three) birds with one stone. Since we were going to London for the night, we arranged to meet a couple of old friends in London and go out for dinner. The plan was to arrive at our Gisela's place at 6:30 and we were looking really good until 7 kms away with more than 30 minutes up our collective sleeve - then we hit the London traffic - 45 minutes later we arrived! Just as well we didn't get lost!
It was great to see Gisela again after several years. Then Rosemary arrived soon after, having driven up from Kent, following her day's work. We saw Rosemary last year when she visited Australia, but it is always good to catch up with her, too. We had several minutes of vigorous discussion, before deciding on a Turkish restaurant for dinner. What a great evening! We sampled some new cuisine and wine (for us) and had a damn good gossip. There was plenty of 'getting to know you' as well, as Marie and Gisela didn't know Rosemary and Marie hasn't seen Gisela since she visited us in Australia LOTS of years ago!
As with the entire English segment of this trip, the family and friends reunions were excellent, but too brief. Still, that was the trade-off - we either saw a very few people for a long time, or as many as we could in the short time available. We chose the latter course and, despite the rush, really enjoyed it all. Thank you all, family and friends, for making this a really enjoyable couple of days.
After taking our leave of Gisela and Rosemary, we still had to get from the East End of London to the outer West (at least, Chiswick), where our hotel was waiting. We didn't have a London street directory, only a very old map and a printout of a suggested route from Mapquest, on the internet. We allowed 80 minutes for the journey that Mapquest claimed would take 40 minutes.
Well, that plan didn't last long! Within five minutes, we were off track and, without a street directory, little chance of getting back on to it. At 11 pm, with a poor map, dreadful signposts, impossible-to-find street names, a crazy (for outsiders) one-way system and traffic that was impatient with us (couldn't blame them, really), it was all down to instinct, guessing and vague memories from 30+ years ago. Somehow, we jagged it. We ended up going right through the centre of the City of London and past several famous landmarks, which Marie kept imploring Angela and me to look at (sorry, Marie, we're a bit busy). And, incredibly, we ended up on the A4 and found our hotel at 11:58pm, just before we all turned into the pumpkins we felt like! Despite the various stresses, it was all good fun, in the end - although that may not have been our attitude, had we not had a bed for the night.....
Speaking of beds, the hotel jammed four into a room built for one double bed! I was surprised they didn't put bunks in as well! Still, we only wanted it for one night, we had off-street parking for the car, breakfast was included and it was cheap. Most importantly, we didn't have to get up at 4 am to drive to the airport. Now, as long as the beds are comfy.....
Well, that is the penultimate entry. I'll be back with one more report so, until then, toodle pip, old things! Marie, Angela and Ray.