London Again!

Hello!  I hope everyone is well and enjoying the “June-in-October” weather we’ve been having. I just spent more than two weeks in Cape May, house and cat sitting.  At least four days out of the last week there were sunny and in the ‘70s.  Unexpected but enjoyable.  I actually sat on the beach several times.

I am writing today, for the last time probably (unless someone asks a question or something else comes up), about the trip we took to London this past summer.  I wanted to do an entry that hopefully will include some basic helpful information for anyone who might be considering such a trip.  Alternatively, for anyone simply interested in the mechanics of European travel.  While this post is dedicated to London, where we spent five days, I’ll shortly be doing a similar post about the eight days in Paris that followed. read more

A Toil of Two Cities

I studied this pile and more for months leading up to our trip!

There is some old wisdom, probably dating back to before The Working Stiff was born, and that goes something like this:

“Go to Paris in August. All the Parisians are out of town on vacation.  You’ll have the place to yourself!”

Yeah, right.

After our recent trip to Europe – 5 nights in London followed by 8 in Paris – I now know that is some old wisdom that needs to be shoved deep into the circular file!

It was really crowded in both cities, at least in and around most of the bigger tourist attractions.  I can’t say that I noticed the “locals on vacation” thing in London, but there was plenty of evidence of that in Paris.  We did see many shops and restaurants closed.  Many of them would have a sign on the door indicating that they were closed for their annual holiday.  July this to August that.  So it is absolutely true that many thousands of Parisians would have been out of town on holiday.
However…… you still have the two million visitors from Germany, Spain, Italy, China, India, etc., etc.  Oh – and the US of course, though my perception was that we were in the minority. read more

Drinking in The Scenery

News Flash! Club Soda illegal in Europe!!

After those long trips from Philadelphia to London and then from London to Paris, we were thirsty!

We Learned that drinking habits are different in both of those places, as compared to the US.  Of course, we think of London as everyone drinking pints of beer (particularly Guinness), and we think of the French as so many million wine drinkers.  Yes, that is all true, but there is more to it.

It is true that the Brits appear to be very beer-centric, and we found the pubs to have quite a good selection.  There appeared to be a substantial brew-pub culture going on there not unlike what has taken off in the US over the past ten years or more.  We stuck mostly with wine though, and had no trouble finding good wines by the glass, carafe, or bottle.  Regarding wines by the glass, one thing we saw almost everywhere we went in both cities, was that you would ask for a glass of wine and they would ask you what size you wanted.  Menus listed sizes also.  A small might be listed as 175 ml and a large might be listed as 250 ml.  (That’s about 6 oz. and about 8.5 oz.) We found those sizes to vary slightly and sometimes to be listed in centiliters instead.  We got used to that, soon learning to ask for the larger glass. read more

Up in The Air (and home)

The iconic Tower Bridge, which spans the Thames next to The Tower of London.

(I actually wrote the below and processed the photos on the plane in the middle of our flight, but then opted not to try to figure out how to get the WIFI connection.  We got home safely at almost 5:00 Saturday afternoon after an approximately 9-hour flight!  More soon on trip details, ups and downs, other stuff.)

This is a test.  This is only a test.  Can we do a blog entry from an airplane?  Why not?

It is about 6:00 PM Paris time / high noon Philadelphia time and we are 5 or 6 miles above the Atlantic Ocean hurtling through space inside an aluminum tube at 500 miles per hour.  I understand the physics of it, but it still doesn’t make much sense! read more

Sunny Afternoon in Paris

The Cathedral of Notre Dame (“our lady”). Two blocks from our rented apartment.

Nous sommes à Paris!

(We are in Paris!)

It is a gorgeous afternoon in Paris and, after a busy first several days, we are having a lazy few hours at the temporary headquarters of The Working Stiff.  The Mrs. is relaxing inside while I am sitting out on our little terrace above the busy Boulevard St. Germain.  It is a narrow terrace but has enough room for a little bistro table and two chairs.

Like London, Paris is a city that is divided by a major river running through it with an east-west orientation.  The river in London is The Thames (pronounced “tems” – don’t try to complicate it by saying the “H”, or people might think you’re from Rhode Island.  Just say “tems”), which flows from west to east.  In Paris, The Seine flows in the opposite direction – east to west.  That is the reason that the part of the city (imagine you are in a boat going downstream), to the south of the river is called “The Left Bank”.  The Right Bank is to the north of The Seine. read more

Sunny Morning in London

View looking east along the Thames. We are staying near the Shard skyscraper on the right.

Greetings again from London!  We have been zipping around the city for several days doing some touristy things and some not-so-touristy things.  I think at this point we are mostly adjusted to the time change but it is still a bit hard to get up early in the morning.  Mrs. Working Stiff has been very pleased at the very fall-like weather here.   One note to myself for future visits would be that it would be good to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt even in July or August.  Also, the need to bring that umbrella is no joke! Fortunately, we packed (and used) two of them. read more

Hello from Swinging London!

Border Control at 7:00 AM!

Well hello from SWINGING LONDON!

It is just after 8:00 AM (3:00 AM in Philadelphia) here on what will clearly be a beautiful day.  We got into the city yesterday by about this time after an on-time flight followed by a long wait in an enormous passport control room with a thousand or two other people.  Giant signs all around announcing that this was the “UK Border” and that if we had any intention of seeking asylum- this was the time and place to do it.

We briefly pondered that option, figuring that the British authorities would likely grant us asylum based simply on the results of last November’s election in the US, but ended up just telling the border agent we were on vacation. read more

A Tale of Two Cities

We are finally almost there! All the gods permitting we should be on a plane to London in less than 24 hours.  I have mentioned before in these pages that Mrs. Working Stiff calls me The Planner, and I suppose I come by that moniker naturally.  I do like to research and plan.  As a wise person should say sometime, one need not be a boy scout to appreciate being prepared.  Hhmmmm, maybe I’ll say that myself.

I have been planning and researching, and re-planning and re-researching for so long that I’m sure I deserve an advanced degree in something or other. (Mixology?) read more

All Hands on Deck

I’ve been working on the rail-road!

Well not really, but I don’t know any songs about working on the deck! Plus, now you get to have the rail road song in your head all day!

Mrs. Working Stiff and I have been slaving away on a project to refinish our back deck. It has been almost exactly five years since the last time so I guess we can’t complain too much.  The phase of scraping off all the loose junk is complete.  Let me tell you, if you can avoid doing that – avoid it!  It is knuckle-scraping, back-aching, sweat-breaking, sun-baking work.  Not to mention time-taking.  Hopefully though, the result of all this hard work will be breath-taking. read more

James Bond in London

Blog revised pics 022

I have mentioned in at least one earlier blog entry that I used to travel quite frequently for work. When I did that, I learned to join all the rewards clubs, such as Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, etc.  One of the best of all of the programs is Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest.) That is the mother company that owns the hotel chains Four Points, Sheraton, W, Aloft, Westin, and a small collection of really fancy properties that they call The Luxury Collection. Note that airline mileage programs are similar, though in my experience it can be easy to earn airline miles but tricky to actually “spend” them due to a labyrinth of special rules and restrictions. Starwood points in contrast, are very easy to use. read more