Closing the circle with our final destination, London, required our longest flight of the trip. Flying from San Francisco to London took about 9½ hours with a good tail wind. Question: Why does United/Continental charge for drinks on international flights when every other airline offers them for free?
|One of the best reasons to visit London|
Oh well, we would have plenty of opportunity for drinks in London, since one of the nicest parts about visiting that city is access to the wonderful English pubs and their tasty cask ales, which we’ve both developed a fondness for. Lucky us—we found a really good Indian restaurant and a particularly nice Fuller’s pub just a couple blocks from our hotel (the Royal Park Hotel on the edge of Hyde Park). The Victoria is delightful, especially in winter: warm fires burning in the fireplaces, beautiful wood panels lined with pictures of Queen Victoria, a mixed local clientele both young and old, delicious pub food, and a full range of excellent beers (ESB, London Pride, seasonal bitter). We popped into a few other pubs during our 2½ days in the city (the Swan, Monkey Pod, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese), but the Victoria was definitely the best.
Our time in the city was made special by the presence of good friends Alan and Cherry, who had allowed us to spend the month in their villa in Kas, Turkey, back in October (same trip, but seems so long ago!). They came up to London by train from their home in East Sussex and spent a couple of nights with us. For culture we took in the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, which we had also visited on past trips. We rode the buses (bought an oyster card for the first time) and took a bracing walk across the Millennium Bridge over the Thames to get to the Tate Modern. One night we bought discount day-of-the-show tickets (39 pounds each) for a performance of the Queen musical, We Will Rock You. That turned out to be surprisingly fun, especially for a Queen fan. The story was simple and a bit silly, but it effectively wove the Queen songbook into the show.
|St Paul's, the Millennium Bridge, and a watercolor sky|
|Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern|
The London weather was actually surprisingly nice (high in the 40s, with some weak sunshine), so we lucked out on that front. But it was quite shocking after months in the 80s! And of course we weren’t really properly dressed since we didn’t want to drag heavy winter clothes around with us for 134 days just so we could have them for 3 days at the end of the trip. So we shivered a bit, especially when the sun went down at 4 in the afternoon as we strolled through Hyde Park. Good excuse to head to the pub for another pint. Which we did.
|So long, London|
So our trip around the world is now complete—32,000 miles, 137 days, 29 flights, 8 countries, countless wonderful adventures. We flew back from London to New York, rented a car, and drove home to Pennington, New Jersey. Hard to come home in the middle of winter! My allergies to New Jersey immediately set in. Darn! But it was great to catch up with Owen and Roque and the grand-dogs again—it’s been too long since we saw them!
And what were my favorite places? One of the nicest features of the trip was that every place we visited was different and had something special to offer. We never got bored, which is pretty amazing. Four and a half months was not too long—we could have kept going, for sure (though I did miss our family and friends). And despite flying around the world, the only time we got jet lag was during our three days in London—I guess flying 9 hours through several time zones was the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Or maybe all the hours we spent in the pub had something to do with it?)
I'll end with a little list of just some of the highlights:
Favorite places—Panarea, Salina, Cappadoccia, Kas, Hanoi, Siem Reap, Kampot, Palau
Favorite accommodations—Casa di 100 Scaleri (Panarea), Casa Babilonia (Salina), Villa Maisie (Kas), Esbelli Evi (Urgup, Cappadoccia), stilt house (Mai Chau, Vietnam), Golden Temple Hotel (Siem Reap), La Java Bleue (Kampot, Cambodia), Dolphin Bay Resort (Peleliu, Palau), The Village (Pohnpei)
Favorite activities—boat trips/swimming in the Aeolian Islands; kayaking/swimming in Kekova, Turkey; ballooning in Cappadoccia; seeing the rice culture in Vietnam; visiting the temples by tuk-tuk in Siem Reap, Cambodia; kayaking and snorkeling in Palau with Planet Blue/Sam’s Tours
Best shopping—Turkey (pashminas, rugs), Cambodia (silk scarves)
Best food—Cambodia and Vietnam
Next up: ????