Tony & Cynthea explore the 'Old Country' travel blog

London sunrise at West Kensington

London, sunset on the Thames at Kew

The Thames at Kew

Squirrel in St James Park

Thursday 18th

Wet again, surprised? Tony has breakfast and after check out hangs around in the hostel common room. He has to charge up the laptop and phone as the power is still not working in the room, although they have finally covered up the broken power outlet from the other day. It is about time some photos got sorted so he spends a couple of hours doing that, still haven’t got any on line yet.

He heads of into the drizzle around 1pm to catch the train. Everything is running to time, so it is only a short wait until the train arrives. He climbs aboard, but there is no luggage storage in this coach. Bit of a pain, he doesn’t want to put it by the door in case someone buggers off with it at the next stop, so he keeps it with him beside the seat. There is no ticket check (done by machine at Paddington when you exit), and no staff tells him to shift it.

The trip only takes about an hour, low cloud and drizzle all the way don’t make for good views out the window. At Paddington Tony finds the tube line he needs is closed, so instead of being a straight forward, direct trip, it is the long way around. He tops up his Oyster card and heads for the station, where it is very hot and muggy. It takes over an hour to reach the station by the hostel in West Kensington, and it is pouring with rain when he arrives. The hotel is easy to find once you get your bearings. Very nice neighbourhood, but the footpath is very slippery with leaves from the gardens, and it is tricky going. He arrived pretty soaked as he couldn’t get a coat out in time, so once wet he bother to try anymore, and the day pack is not much better off either, so that is one project to be sorted by the weekend, get a waterproof cover for the pack!

W14 is four old Victorian houses joined together, lots of stairs and a bit of a rabbit warren, but comfortable enough. Tony is in a room with five others, can’t find a power point, and there is not a lot of room to move the way the bunks have been set up. Not a great deal of room for luggage either.

Tony hasn’t heard from Tracy yet, so he contacts Lyndell and heads out to her place in Kew. At the tube station the bloody line is closed because of flooding from the heavy rain, so he heads back out to the bus stop. Peak time for travel, so it is a bloody slow trip, but the oyster card reader is off, so there is no payment for the trip. Just as well because the service gets stuffed around. It CLEARLY said Richmond on the destination board when Tony got on, and continued to tell passengers it was going to Richmond until it stopped part way there and the driver announced “everyone off”. Tony asks the driver and is told the next bus is going to Richmond. As we all get off we see that the destination has been changed. One passenger is angry and asked when the hell there will be a Richmond bus as the last three haven’t gone that way. Tony is a bit worried that he will be stuck here for ages, but a few minutes later the bus finally arrives. About 80 minutes after getting on the first bus he is getting off at the stop by Lyndell’s. It is great to catch up again, and after a quick tour of the house it is off to the pub – Thursday is curry night and Tony is gonna have some!

It is a very late night for us, and it is near midnight by the time Tony catches his bus (at least they are still regular every 10 minutes or so), and the journey takes just under half an hour. The road from the bus stop (outside the train station) to the hostel is well lit, but Tony is still a bit wary of being out this late.

Friday 19th

Tony has had trouble with the oyster card, it got read twice at one station, so when he put it on the reader at the next station it got all confused, resulted in being overcharged about £9 – he only put £20 on it yesterday and it has nearly all gone. Lyndell suggests going to the ticket office, and the guy there can only refund about £6. Tony will have to call Transport for London’s office to get the rest – but the call is charged per minute, and it is not cheap. Not many people bother for small amounts, another nice little earner for them.

We head back out to Kew Gardens, and at the station call into the supermarket for a couple of bottles of wine. The sun is shining and we sit on a park bench for a while enjoying the lovely weather. We head back to the house and on the way check a restaurant for bookings, they can take us soon, but it is not BYO and their wine list is on the pricey side. Tony jokes that we will sit and drink the wine on the park bench opposite, and we end up doing just that. No references please to us being a couple of winos – we used proper wine glasses thank you!

The meal at the restaurant was lovely, Tony had a lamb mousaka. Lyndell wanted a sticky toffee pudding, so we went back to the pub we were at last night, but Lyndell was disappointed as the pudding was not as good as the night before. It is another late night, and after midnight by the time Tony gets back to the hostel. On the way the bus had to stop suddenly when a car cut in front, and most of us were thrown forward. The dirty smelly drunk behind Tony starts abusing the driver, and the rest of the passengers tell him to shut up. Tony wonders if there is going to be a scrap, and is thankful there is only two more stops to go. The drunk presses the button for the next stop, and keeps holding the button in, so the other passengers have another go at him. He gets off at the same stop as Tony so he waits for him to walk – well stagger – off before heading to the hostel.

Saturday 20th

Breakfast at W14 is simple – a choice of cereals, toast and jams, tea, coffee, oj. It is all included in the price so at least there is something to start the day with. After breakfast Tony takes the bus to Kew – both the tube lines at West Kensington are out all weekend, and there is only a partial service from here, the bus will be quicker. We take the bus back to Chiswick where Tony buys a waterproof cover for his day pack. Lyndell then heads to the mobile phone shop to organise a new internet dongle – hers got nicked on Thursday.

We grab some sandwiches and get a coffee from Starbucks, then head across to a park bench in the church grounds. We sit for ages in the sun watching people and chatting. It is getting late and we decide to head to a Spanish restaurant across the road, neither of us are hungry, but they have a comfy couch to park on. We are too busy talking and it is ages before eventually order a small snack each, not that we are that hungry…

We head back to Kew Green, and take a wander around the streets near where Lyndell lives. She shows Tony the bullet holes in Kew Bridge – a casualty of a WWII dog fight. There is a nice sunset from the bridge. A bit later Lyndell spots Prince William driving his car down her street, she hasn’t seen him in this area before. Back home, we crack open a wine and look at photos from the Turkey trip.

Cynthea sends a message – she is on badger watch again tonight, but the cat is scoffing the badger’s food, so it is a no show for the badger. It is another late night as Tony heads home near midnight. He still isn’t comfortable being out this late, even if this is a “good” area!

Sunday 21st

Tony is up in time for breakfast and near lunch time heads out to Kew again – it is laundry day! He has given up trying to use the washer and dyer at W14, there is only one and the hostel laundry is always in it, even very late at night. It is also coin operated, but no indication of how much, you are supposed to just chuck money at it until you are told to stop.

After hanging up the laundry we head off to the river, but the next boat is not for another hour, and there is about an £8 fee one way. We decide to just take the train in, Tony has bought a week long pass for the trains, buses and underground (£33) so may as well make use of it. Some lines we want to use are out, so we take a bit of a round about way to get anywhere. Tony thinks living here would drive him nuts with the transport issues.

We spend a gloriously sunny afternoon wandering around the streets of Covent Gardens, and Lyndell twists Tony’s arm into buying a pastry from Pauls. They are really nice. We head through town (and throngs of people) to St James Park, by Buckingham Palace. Here we sit on a park bench by the pond and watch the world go by. The squirrels are really tame, and will come and take food from your hand. Time passes quickly, and it is soon after 6pm. With the tube lines that we need out for most of the trip we have take buses, besides at this time of the day the tube will be packed. Buses take “”forever”, and three changes later we are back at Kew Gardens. We picked up KFC on the way and had our tea in the park across the road. A nice end to the day, and despite intentions of leaving early, Tony doesn’t get back to the hotel until around 11pm. Laundry isn’t quite dry, so it is hung up under the top bunk to finish drying overnight.

Cynthea has finished work at her placement, and will arrive in London around lunch time tomorrow. She is on badger watch again, but he is proving elusive.

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