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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 9
Europe 2007
London, Tuscany, Paris


09.26.07 - 09.27.07
Wednesday / Thursday
Days 1 and 2
The Journey Begins
Cab to Tucson International Airport

The Traveling Lehrmans are on the road again. Kissed Cody and Merlin and hopped in a cab for the half hour ride through 90° Tucson to the airport. The Continental Express jet got us to Houston 25 minutes early, but we still had to hustle to get to gate E7 in time to board the huge Boeing 777-200. Once again, we are using our frequent flyer miles for first class. We had no sooner deposited our tushes into the large, soft, plush reclining seats, than a stewardess came by to take our drink and dinner orders. As usual, the Continental menu had exquisite offerings. Carol ordered the herb-crusted halibut and I had the pasta bowl with caramelized onion and truffle butter. We toasted each other to a much-needed vacation and settled in to relax and enjoy the nine-hour, 5000 mile voyage to London.

What's for din-din?

We had forgotten how delicious the Continental first-class food is - definitely first class. The movies were "Pirates of the Caribbean - At Worlds End" and "Fantastic Four - The Silver Surfer." We both slept a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed the Continental service. On these trips it is always strange to see the sun rise at 11:30 p.m. - a beautiful sunrise over a cloud-shrouded Atlantic.

Sunrise over the Atlantic

We had arrived at Gatwick on time but had to wait about half an hour for the driver, who Carol had arranged to meet us and drive us to the Morgan Hotel in Bloomsbury . The 1 1/2 hour drive was what Carol later described as "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." I thought we were going to die at least 20 times. The elderly Pakistani gentleman who was our driver seemed to actually try to run over helpless pedestrians in crosswalks.


Somehow we arrived intact at the familiar Morgan Hotel on Bloomsbury Street. We had stayed here during our 2001 trip and enjoyed it very much. Our room, typically small, was clean and neat and was on the ground floor. The Morgan has no elevator, so I was glad I did not have to carry our two suitcases up three flights of stairs, like I did in 2001.


Our room at the Morgan

First thing I did at the Morgan was to check my e-mail. There was a message from my friend Lydia, who told me not to check my e-mail and just to have fun, which is exactly what we intend to do.


We freshened up after ensconcing ourselves at the Morgan, then bundled up in sweaters, jackets, scarves and hats. The temperature at 1 p.m. in London today is 48°. We walked out onto Bloomsbury Road and headed south, window-shopping, hand-in-hand - we call it "boulevardieing." We found an inviting restaurant called The Farmhouse Table near Seven Dials, "ground zero" during the Great Plague. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and then headed west to Trafalgar Square to the National Gallery.


We spent a spiritual hour and a half roaming the National Gallery, my favorite museum. I don't think we'll ever come to London without spending time exploring her grand rooms. In an afternoon you can see priceless works by artists throughout history and from various geographical regions - Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Reubens, Titian, Seurat, Van Gogh, Hogarth and my favorite, Turner. I could have sat and stared at his "The Fighting Temperance" all afternoon. No matter how many times we have seen these incredible works of art, somehow it always feels like we are seeing them for the first time.


Out of the National Gallery and into the cool London air. We boulevardied up to Leicester Square, then east to Covent Garden. Stopped at many trendoid shops lining the streets. We found ourselves at familiar Russell Square and settled in at our favorite pub, The Swan. Our bartender friend we met in 2005 was long gone, but we enjoyed cooling our heels while we enjoyed a draught Guinness. I believe The Swan will never change, although the bartenders constantly do.


Enjoying the local brew

After our short re-visit to The Swan we walked half a block to Southhampton Row, where Denise's French Restaurant caught our eye. We had noticed this restaurant on previous trips, but never got around to trying it. Don't bother; it was very expensive, the service was lacking, as was the food. You can't win them all.


After our disappointing dinner, we walked around the corner until we came to the British Museum. Unlike the National Gallery, we have a love/hate relationship with the British Museum. Unlike the National Gallery, where the paintings have either been purchased or donated, many of the artifacts in the British Museum have simply been taken from nations around the globe and should be returned or purchased. But it is amazing to see things like the Rosetta Stone close up.


The British Museum

Having been up for nearly 36 hours, we left the British Museum at around 8:30 p.m. and slowly made our way another block back to the Morgan Hotel, were we both crashed into bed and fell into a coma-like sleep.


Next Day

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