After spending the night in Reims, I took my stuff down to the train station and read on the Nexus Kindle app, and people-watched, for about an hour and a half until the train to Paris East arrived. Waited in line far too long for a Metro ticket, and got lost trying to find the line to the Paris North station. No real problem as far as time goes, but real problem as far as so many stairs and no lifts or escalators. :-(
Paris North way early, had enough time to buy a Starbucks mug for my collection. Totally forgot to look for one in Brussels. Or maybe it was that I didn't see a Starbucks there. I didn't really look. Google maps tells me there was one in the station.
Plenty of time, waited maybe two hours for the Eurostar to London. Security and passport control were easy.
The directions to the train were wrong, they said for my car use gate B, and as a result I ended up in a 2nd class car, and was all settled in when a family said it was their seat. The number on the outside of the car was 7, but as it turns out the real numbers are permanently painted on the floor of the station. So a not so short sprint to my car, and my single seat.
It was packed, service was non-existent. Totally the opposite of the London-Brussels trip. Not much of a view, and again the chunnel was darkness, this time for 30 minutes, since we were stopped 1/3 of the way because a train ahead of us was late.
After going through the maze (customs was only for business items) cousin Brian found me, and we took London underground/overhead trains to his wife Viv's ancestral home, #153. I had been her pen pal all through school, and while I knew the address by heart, I had never been there. Her mother and younger sister Hazel had made it into a B&B, her mother passed away about a year ago, so Hazel was our hostess. Viv was there to meet us too.
They fed me well, and we chatted till 2 am or more.
Breakfast was set for 9:15, I was early somehow.
Viv gave me a tour of the house, including the basement. There is about 100 years of knickknacks and souvenirs and drawings. Almost every inch of shelf and wall space is decorated.
Now it's August 23, Brian drove Viv & me to Brighton to their daughter Shana's flat. She was having a good day, was dressed elegantly, and I always want to spend days photographing her when I see her. She is stunning in person, and takes a great photo.
I gave her a TARDIS pendant which has one of my blue star sapphires for the light on top, made for me special by dinogrl. She loved it.
And I finally got to meet her pesky Himalayan, Oddjob
We spent the day at Shana's, I took some time to photograph her beautiful garden. She had set some things out for lunch, Viv brought them into the dining room. Later we went to the seashore, looking for coffee, but the one place nearby was not accessible and the wind was too fierce to sit at the outdoor tables. Just by luck we found a place Shana could get her scooter into, the lawn bowling club had opened a tea shop. We had a pleasant tea there, then went back to the flat.
It was Dr Who first episode night, and we all wanted to see it, but there was a little logistics to work out because it would be late driving back to Bourne End, and getting Shana to a sit-down restaurant would be a PIA. They were nice enough to accommodate me, and got Tandoori take-away, and we watched the new episode in Shana's "lounge" over Indian food. How very English. :-)
And we all pretty much agreed it was not the best writing or acting, but it could have been worse.
Hugs and selfies all around, and then it was back to Bourne End with Brian & Viv.
So, Sunday the 24th.
After breakfast, we were joined by B&V's son Mike and his wife Sally. And their dog Winnie The Pooch. A white boxer with faint spots. Dumb as a rock. Scared to death of B&V's cats, HUGE tortoiseshells, Hermoine and Mildred.
Mildred guarding Brian
Family photo (I found the remote for my Nikon)
After lunch M&S&W left, and we managed to keep chatting. Brian is now a magistrate, he showed me an app on his iPad which has a matrix of sentencing guidelines. Fascinating stuff. They have it figured out well, it seems.
We finished the day with a LONG walk along the river, and across the bridge to The Bounty, the local pub/cafe. And then the LONG walk back.
Another late night of chatting, then to bed.
Woke up around 8, took my time getting ready. Had some stuff to do on the laptop to get my phone topped up. The SIM service erroneously reported that my AMEX card had been declined, so I tried VISA via Paypal, and ended up being double billed. My SIM has far more credit on it than I can ever use. And I wanted to change my flight to SFO instead of LAX-->SJC. Got that done on the landline.
Monday we had time for a leisurely breakfast, and left for LHR at 11. It was pouring down buckets of rain, which slowed traffic less than I thought it would. Got to the airport with lots of time to spare, which was fortunate, because the guy on the phone had lied about only needing to have the new ticket printed. The AMEX card had not been processed, so I had to have the whole thing done over again with the VISA card. It took about 20 minutes. And then security theater was a PIA - the tray with my electronics was shunted to the full-check line, and I was stuck standing for 15 minutes while the inspector totally unpacked and residue-swabbed every inch of the luggage of the two Pakistanis ahead of me. He was about to do a third one when he saw my tray, and just had to make sure that metal thing in the Nexus case was a stand.
But it was still early enough to get some reading done before boarding.
We were 20 minutes late boarding because the crew got stuck in traffic.
The plane was ready to go, though, only 5 minutes late. We backed away from the gate, and then stopped. One of the emergency doors failed to arm itself. The stewards and then the captain all tried to make it work, and wasted an hour scratching their heads before they got on the speaker and told us what the problem was. They finally called a tech, who was there in 15 minutes and fixed it in 5.
So, 90 minutes late taking off.
And I had a child in the seat in front of me recline his seat all the way, and fall asleep, so forget about using my tray. The seats in a Boeing 747 British Airways plane are way too close together.
There had been an Icelandic volcano scare the night before, but it was all alarmist media crap. We passed right over it, according to the map. We were over the wing, so even if the child at the window seat had not pulled down the shade, I wouldn't have been able to see anything. :-(
Landed at SFO 45 minutes late, but still 4 hours earlier than I would have made it to SJC on the LAX flight. Took BART to CalTrain, but got on the wrong one which didn't stop at Sabta Clara where the SJC shuttle is, so I got off at Sunnyvale and took a cab to SJC. The park-n-ride sent a shuttle right away.
I was home by 8:30 or 9.
And now we are caught up.