Painswick: the walking trip begins!

We’re officially on the walking trip as we leave London toward the Cotswolds. We aren’t hiking today but traveling by train to Painswick where we’ll begin our walking journey. 

The closest train station is Stroud just a few miles away and home to an award winning Saturday farmers market. Luckily it’s only a short walk from the station unluckily the station is tiny and doesn’t have luggage storage some had to drag our suitcase.


We picked up a variety of snacks for tomorrow’s lunch on the trail before grabbing a taxi to Painswick. 

Our B&B is located just beyond the village so after a refresh we wandered into the village to see the sights.

Entering a small village pub feels like visiting long lost friends. After a simple dinner of a sautéed mushroom topped potatoes skin (potato jacket to use the terminology) and some fish and chips it was time to call it quits. 

This evening is going to be spent organizing for tomorrow and getting a good night sleep. The Cotswold Way awaits!  

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Huge day!

Day’s not done yet and wow! First stop this morning was a visit to Westminster Abbey. Got there just after opening and joined the queue. We spent over an hour exploring and sucking in the history and dead Royals. Since there are no photos allowed inside here’s a little up close view from outside.  

London is emense and the Underground makes it easy to see the sights especially as so much of our agenda was off the District or Circle line. Within minutes we were zipped from Westminster to Tower Hill where we joined every school group known to man to tour the Tower and see the Crown Jewels.


The jewels alone are worth a visit and thankfully the crowds were minimal at that point. After gawking for a spell we left the Tower and got caught in a sudden downpour. It wasn’t forecasted to rain that early in the day and despite knowing London the umbrellas were left in the room. I mean seriously, look at that blue sky!  Luckily we escaped to lunch in a nearby restaurant. 

After lunch we experienced a freak hail storm while taking photos in front of Tower Bridge. Hail turned to rain as we carefully scurried back to the station to head to St. Pauls.

Unfortunately once there we were caught in the same storm so enjoyed the hail again until we reached the sanctuary of the church. 

And yes, blue skies returned for a leisurely stroll down Fleet Street and the Strand to Somerset House. Here are just a few highlights. 

View back to St Pauls from Fleet Street

One of the many Wren churches along the way. 

And finally the courtyard of Somerset House. Notice the yellow smiley face flag? 

From Somerset House we returned to the hotel  and not to feel left out, we joined the throngs of selfies on the bridge. Can you believe the variety of weather in one day? 

And yes, that’s our hotel behind my left shoulder! I’ve cashed in points for a complimentary room at the London County Hall Marriott. Perfect location and a delightful staff. 

Soon were heading out to Covent Garden for dinner. 

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Shhhhh Linda’s sleeping

So much to do today! This is Linda’s first visit to the great city of London. I’ve coordinated her highlights for a single day into what I think we can manage. And no, it’s impossible to see everything in one day but this will just give a glimpse into the flavor of this fantastic destination. 

But for now . . . I’m typing quietly as Linda’s still sleeping. Well, it is only barely 6 am but I’ve been up for about an hour. Sigh. 

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Arrival day in London

After a minor delay, a 10 hour flight and then a holding pattern we finally landed in London just after 1pm Thursday afternoon. London isn’t a bad place to check luggage as by the time you navigate the airport and clear customs it’s a mere couple minutes for bags to arrive. Soon we were picking Linda up a new Oyster card for the underground and zipping along the Picadilly line into the city. 

We changed lines to the District which dropped us off at Westminster station at the base of the Big Ben tower (i know there’s an official name for it somewhere). Joining the  waves of tourists we dodged our way across Westminster Bridge to the Marriott County Hall hotel majestically situated along the Thames and next to the London Eye. If your curious to timing we arrived at the hotel about 3:20p. 

The staff at the Marriott are extremely gracious and within moments we were shown our room and ready for a quick refresh. Quick because there’s activity calling!

Today’s plan is to simply walk but to also try to squeeze in the National Gallery as Linda discovered they have an impressive 18th century plus collection with amazing impressionists. And wow, do they ever! Between this and d’Orsay in Paris it’s the holy grail of Impressionism. 

So, we crossed the river and headed up Whithall admiring the war statues, soaking up the feel of government, had a quick pub lunch and spilled into Trafalgar Square. 

We caught the last 45 minutes of entry and nearly saw all our goals. Easily could spend a few hours here. 

Next we strolled down the Mall and through St James Park toward Buckingham Palace. While it’s a bit chilly today the grounds are beautiful with tulips and other bulbs in bloom. 


The most impressive tulip gardens surround the palace. 

We returned to our hotel along the other side of St James Park which brings you directly to Parliment Square and Westminster Bridge.

While this is one of my favorite historic areas, it’s often everyone else’s too! We got caught up in several groups of school kids so just decided to move with their imposing mass. I think we may have crossed the street faster! 

Soon we were back at the hotel enjoying a little cheese and wine and preparing for an early night. Big, big BIG day tomorrow!

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Off to London

Linda and I are off to London! 

All settled into our business class seats and enjoying a bit of champagne. I’m trying a minimal makeup look so please be kind! Flight is delayed about an hour but we’re going to it the ground running. So much to see in a short period. 

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Something’s on the horizon

As time goes by it seems I update the blog less and less.  I start a trio report but don’t seem to finish. Lisbon was left hanging and I seemed to disappear somewhere in the Cotswolds. 

Well there’s another trip right around the corner and I’ll try my best to write about this one. This time it’s back to London and a walk down the southern end of the Cotswold way from Painswick to Bath. Linda will be joking me and it’s her first trip to the UK. It’ll be a mad dash through London as the focus of the trip is the week long Cotswold walk. 

More to come. I promise!

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Belem and cherry liquor deliciousness

Blue sky and rain. That describes Sunday in Lisbon. We took advantage of some clear weather for a stroll before grabbing a cab to Belem Tower. Taxis in Lisbon are plentiful (taxi stand at the top of Rossio square) and just under 10 euro to reach the Tower. 

  
The long entry line for the tower didn’t move in over ten minutes so despite the beautiful skies the cutting wind drove us toward the church and cloister. 

 
We first visited the church for Monastery of Jeronimos before heading into the cloister.  The church is free and absolutely beautiful. One of the few places that survived the 18th century earthquake that devastated Lisbon (9.0!)  Exiting the church we joined the line and a sudden downpour for admission (10 euro) to the cloister. 

It’s worth every euro. Peaceful and ornate the cloisters are a mashing of gothic and moorish stonework. Plus it’s sheltered from the buffeting wind and rain.    

 Think that sky is blue? You’re wrong. Lisbon rain defies gravity by falling upwards and pouring from what appears to be blue sky. 

Our timing was fantastic as the entry line grew tremendously as we left. Next stop Casa Pasteis de Belem home of the renowned pastel de Belem. A luscious cream tarte that somehow defies description. Hot crispy exterior. Silky creamy custard interior. Wow.  

 We avoided the long takeout line and wove through dining rooms to the table service line that moved quickly and soon we were seated with coffee and custard deliciousness.   
One is too few and two might just be too many. 

We worked off perhaps a bite of the custard visiting the coach museum. Fantastic selection of beautiful old coaches. We really enjoyed both the old museum (small selection of very old coaches) and the new (across the street in a very modern building large selection of coaches through the years). 

   
 
This one in the new museum just screamed precursor to the Hummer.  

We returned to Rossio via taxi where thankfully the skies have cleared and we discovered  Ginja, a sweet liquor made from the sour cherry-like Ginja berry, sugar, cinnamon and brandy. Me like.  

 We of course had to do some comparison tasting. 

Next stop is an afternoon rest then off to dinner.  

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Rainy Lisbon afternoon

There’s rain and then there’s apparently Lisbon rain. It blows at you in a fine mist from every direction rendering umbrellas useless.  I hope at some point we can experience these beautiful squares with blue sky. 

 

Yet we won’t let this horrible weather keep us down.  It’s also a great test of my new fabulously purple rain jacket. 

Lisbon is a city of hills and narrow staircase alleys which in nice weather would be delightful to explore. 

Today’s goal is the Castelo Sao Jorge and neighborhood walk through Alfama.  We enjoyed scrambling through the castle ruins and along the ramparts yet wished for more informative signs. 

  
  The views were still beautiful despite the rain. 

 

Alfama is a great neighborhood. A maze of narrow streets, shops and restaurants. We avoided the Rick Steves’ area recommendation and found a little family run restaurant. 

Keeping with the recommendation of our hostess we started with the ooey-gooey creamy local cheese smeared onto rustic bread.  

Then moved onto fresh seafood. DeAna choose the grilled salmon while I defaulted to the sea bass.  

 Delicious!  I kinda like it when my food can look me in the eye. 

After stuffing ourselves with this seafood feast     and officially at the end of this neighborhood walk we headed toward the Praca Comerico for the Baixa walk.  

The rain however is getting the better of us so we ducked into a cafe for coffee then darted over to the Taste of Portugal wine shop.  

We’ll definitely return to the shop as our tasting card has 6 euro and the wines are only 50 cents each! Normally not a problem but we had a couple glasses at lunch so after only two tastes decided to save our card for later. 

It also seems to be nap time so we essentially skipped the “official” walking tour and made a bee-line to our hotel. 

Time to rest up and dry off before our 8pm dinner reservation. 

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First night in Lisbon

After nearly 20 hours of flights and layovers we arrived in Lisbon. We’re staying at the Hotel Avenida Palace, a quintessential palace hotel with beautiful rooms and a warm welcome. 

Booking directly through the hotel website resulted in an upgrade to a superior twin room, a card for bar discounts and a bowl of strawberries in the room. And the room! We’re calling it the princess room.  

    
Beautiful corner room with views of Restauradores out one side and Rossio the other. 

  

 Since it’s late we essentially unpacked and based on the concierge recommendation braved the rain for dinner.

Unfortunately after three blocks in the rain, we couldn’t get into his restaurant but the owner recommended a place nearby. Initially we were thinking of cheese, sausage and port every day but the seafood here is amazing and I think we’ve switched to fish! Well, we did mange some port for dessert. 

Dinner prices were high due to glasses of wine our waiter selected. Shame on him and us for not asking for a wine list. Definitely taken advantage of in our jet lagged state. Dinner was delicious though. I enjoyed grilled sea bass while DeAna had the grouper.   

Time for a good night sleep and a full day tomorrow. Rain but a full day!

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Finally another adventure!

It seems it’s been so long since my last international adventure. This trip not only is a new destination but also is shared with a new travel friend. Lisbon is on the agenda and my friend DeAna is joining me for this Portuguese discovery. 

We’re departing on American’s big beautiful 777-300 out of LAX to London but this time the departure is from the international terminal while check in is still in the AA terminal next door. Just another reason why I like to arrive early. 

My status with American got us into the plush Quantas first class lounge where chefs whip up amazing fare and the wines are excellent. The salt and pepper squid was awesome.  Here I thought I was spoiled by AA’s first class lounge! This is a different league (LAX Flagship I still love you). 

Now I’m settled into the spacious business class cabin and DeAna has scored a row in coach to herself. We’ll have about 4 hours or so at LHR so time for showers (thank you lounge access) breakfast/lunch and poke around the airport. Heathrow always offers a good time. 

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