FRIDAY (June 2): Our last full day in Cornwall. Today we headed out to St. Ives. We drove to the Liskeard train station and purchased our cheap day returns (£11.60.) We caught the 10:37 train, changing at St. Erth for St. Ives. St. Ives was magnificent. Totally something you wouldn't expect in England. Looked more like the Caribbean. Beautiful clear, cerulean blue water, beaches, boats. And we had an absolutely perfect day - bright and sunny and warm. Lots of Brits were enjoying a day at the beach. We walked down to the beach and I walked out to the water and dangled my tootsies in the Atlantic Ocean - the first time I've done that from this side of the pond. The water was like liquid ice! I didn't spend too much time with my feet in the water or they would have turned blue. There were a few brave people (mostly kids) splashing around in the water - but not many.
We walked along the wharf and took lots of pictures. Stopped at a restaurant with a view over the beaches. We both had fish and chips - very good (this is my last fish and chips of the trip - just about fish and chipped out!! I never eat it at home because it's just not as good as in the UK). After lunch, we walked out to the pier - so many photo ops!! We window shopped in the galleries, went into a few shops, sat by the beach - thoroughly enjoyed the day and the weather. Finished off our time in St. Ives at the CAMRA Beer Festival at the Guildhall. The choices were overwhelming. We sampled a couple different bitter and ales and met a nice couple from Gloucester. We enjoyed chatting with them. Mom, the lager drinker, posed a challenge to the CAMRA people. They were determined to find a real ale she would like. She still likes Kroenenburg best.
We caught the 5:27 train back to St. Erth, then changed for the Plymouth train and got back to Liskeard about 7PM. Got home in time to catch Coronation Street, fixed grilled cheese sandwiches with salt and vinegar crisps for dinner - then watched a great Coronation Street special - the Battersby Family Album. Then spent the rest of the evening getting packed up for out trek back to London tomorrow.
SATURDAY (June 3): Today we traveled, and traveled, and traveled! We got up, got packed up, said our good-byes to John and Jill and paid for our electricity (£11). We left the cottage at 9:40AM. Heavy traffic and construction plagued us the entire trip - again. It took us three hours to get to Taunton, 4 hours to get to Bristol and a total of 6 hours to get back the Hertz rental office at Heathrow. I was trying to get back into London in time to get to Fortnum & Mason to buy my yearly supply of tea (they closed at 6PM - I thought I'd have plenty of time, but by the time we got to Heathrow, it was looking doubtful.)
Took the shuttle bus to Terminal 4 for Mom to drop off her large suitcase at the Left Luggage place, then we took the bus shuttle to Hatton Cross to catch the tube. This is where it all went haywire. Once we were aboard the tube, they made an announcement that the Piccadilly and District lines terminated at Acton Town for weekend track work. There was replacement bus service to East Acton where we could catch the Central line into central London. We took the bus and it was a really long ride (but nice neighborhood, though!) It was during this ride that all hope of getting to F&M had evaporated. We finally arrived at the East Acton station (more stairs) and took the Central line to Notting Hill Gate to transfer to the Circle line for St. James's Park (more stairs!) I was hauling around all my luggage - so this was NOT fun. What should have been a simple across-the-platform transfer at Baron's Court turned into a major bus/tube nightmare. I was exhausted by the time we finally got to the hotel.
We finally arrived at the Jolly St. Ermin around 6:30 - a full nine hours after leaving Cornwall!! So much for our extra afternoon in London. We checked into the hotel and found our room and collapsed for a few minutes and cracked open the can of Pimms Mom had. We both really needed a drink!!! The hotel lobby is beautiful - a lovely old Victorian hotel. Our room is comfortable and decent sized - twin, non-smoking room. Comfortable beds, well appointed - probably 3 star by US standards. Room was clean, but needed refurbishing (scuffed and patched wallpaper, dark tile grout in shower.)
The original plan for our last day in London was to stroll through St. James's Park looking at the flowerbeds on the way to Fortnum & Mason. But since our massive travel delays changed that, we decided to take the #11 bus down to the City and have dinner at the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub. We had dinner in the Chop Room restaurant and actually got the sit in the Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens seats. A very cool pub - this is the first time we'd eaten in this room of the pub.
I had the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and Mom had the pork with apple and cranberry stuffing. Both were excellent. We each had the tomato and mozzarella salad for a starter and split a sticky toffee pudding for dessert. All was very good - one of our best meals of the trip. (Reasonably priced, too.)
After dinner we walked around the area a bit and saw Dr. Johnson's house on Gough Square. We'll have to come back someday and take the tour. We thought we'd take the bus back toward the hotel, but looked down a nearby road and saw the OXO Tower through the buildings and thought we'd just walk along the Thames for a while. We strolled all the way to Westminster - enjoying the sights and sounds of London one last time before leaving. The weather was perfect and is was a great walk. By the time we got to Westminster Bridge, it was just before 10 PM - so we had to hang around a few minutes longer to hear the bells toll - and to take our obligatory photos.
We weren't that far from the hotel at this point, but decided to hop on the tube since we weren't sure exactly how to get back to the hotel from there. So we went the one stop to St. James's Park, got back to the hotel and called it a night.
SUNDAY (June 4): Slept well, but room was a little stuffy. Got up showered, repacked and checked out of the hotel about 9:45AM. Took a taxi to Victoria station - very nice way to travel (fare was £6.20 plus £1 tip) - worth it not to have to mess with stairs.
Caught the 10:15 GEX to Gatwick, and walked to the South Terminal. Used the NWA check-in kiosk then got in line for the baggage check-in. They only had two agents working and the line was moving very slowly. One agent was only checking in people for the earlier flight to Minneapolis. Then the other agent left on her break - lovely. So there was basically no one checking bags for our line. Just gotta love NWA. They were severely cutting into my duty-free shopping time!!
Finally got my bags check and through security - time to shop!! First stop was the World Duty Free shop to look for tea. SCORE!! They had my Fortnum & Mason loose tea. It was in tins rather than the easy-to-carry paper bags - but beggars can't be choosers at this point. Bought six tins. Also bought a little BA jet for my nephew, Kenny, and a Union Jack purse with a puppy in it for my niece, Anneliese. Got some coffee for Cheryl in a cute Harrods tin. Stopped at Dixon's and bought some headphones since I had packed mine for my mp3 player (wanted to use on the plane.)
Picked up a brie, tomato and cucumber baguette at Upper Crust (very yummy) and scarfed it down before dashing to my gate. Plane was just starting to board by the time I got there - so got on board (aisle seat) and scored again - empty seat next to me!! Good thing, too because as soon as we took off the woman in front of me reclined her seat and it came really far back - I couldn't even see my seatback monitor. So I moved over to the empty window seat. The daughter reclined, too but the seat didn't go as far back.
The flight landed a little early and I got through immigration and customs quickly (although I did get to be one of the lucky random checks and they x-rayed my luggage.) Met Mom and Dad in the arrivals area and we headed home.
We had a really great trip! We took things at a pretty relaxed pace and just enjoyed ourselves. Cornwall is just magnificent! Just stunning beauty everywhere you look. And London is, well, London - my favorite city in the world. I miss it already - I was actually missing it on the Gatwick Express.