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david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 10


Woke around 6:00 A.M., finished packing and left the hotel in the early morning quiet. Strange to see these usually busy streets so empty and still now. We were sad we did not get a chance to say ciao to our sweet friend Eleni, but we did leave her a thank you note and a tape of our favorite Andrea Bocelli songs. [After we returned to the States, we received several email messages from her, and we will keep in touch.]
We walked, somewhat depressed, to the train station, across from the majestic Church of Santa Maria Novella. Firenze was fairly deserted at this time, and the air was cool. Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to one of our favorite European cities. The bells began ringing from the various churches around the city as we walked, much as they did one Sunday in Paris, as if to wish us farewell…
After a short wait at the ferrovia, we boarded our train for Pisa, which made several stops along the way. The Tuscan countryside glistened in the early morning sun as the train wound its way amidst miles of vineyards and small towns where everyone seemed to have a perfect garden in their yards.
We arrived at the Pisa International Airport for our plane to London, and had no time to explore Pisa, the Leaning Tower, the Piazza dei Cavalieri where "A Night in Tuscany" was filmed, to look for Andrea Bocelli's home in nearby Forti di Marmi, or to search for his father's vineyard. Perhaps next trip…
We had a bite to eat at the airport under a large poster of Luciano Pavarotti and Carol bought some last minute trinkets in order to dispose of our last few lire.
Soon our Ryan Air flight was announced, and the course from Pisa to London took us over some lovely coastal towns along the Mediterranean Sea northwest of Pisa, right where Forti di Marmi should be, and I would not be surprised if we flew right over AB's house. It looked marvelous down there, and there were some large and elegant villas along the emerald-green Mediterranean. This must be where AB lives with Enrica and their two sons.
Further on we crossed over the snow-encrusted Alps, which were spectacular from the air. The pilot indicated we were flying over Zurich, where Jim and I ate herrings by the lake on a mid-summer's day in 1971.
A short while later we descended through thick clouds and landed at London-Stansted airport, a large, clean, very impressive facility where an automated tram whisks you from your gate to the baggage claim. It was cold, so we happily donned our brand new black leather jackets and looked chic as could be on the 40-minute train ride from Stansted into London's Liverpool station.
Arrived in misty London about 1:00 in the afternoon. We purchased 2-day Tube tickets and immediately took the Tube to the Bloomsbury area of London and walked under a gray sky a few blocks to the Bloomsbury Park Hotel.
Our room was small, but nice, and had a very soft and comfortable bed. Much too short, but definitely soft and comfortable. We looked out the windows, and below us was a pub, the Swan, ever so English and inviting. Down the block were restaurants and more pubs. We were in heaven, again.
We unpacked a few things and walked around the corner in our black leather jackets to the Swan, a perfectly typical English pub built in the 1700's. Strolled up to the old polished wooden bar and ordered pints of a very hearty dark ale (delicious) and I had a beef and ale pie (delicious) and Carol had a chicken and ham pie (delicious.) A young, sweet South African girl, Darshana Patel, was the barmaid, and she was very helpful with tips on tipping and life in London in general.

Pub hopping
After this wonderful English lunch, we walked through the cool and damp streets to Covent Gardens and went shop-hopping. Then we wandered over to bustling Picadilly Circus and Leicester Square - crowds of people, lots of activity, people juggling, playing strange instruments, an African dance group, and many discount ticket vendors for the various shows in the nearby theatre district.
We kept walking towards Soho, and it began to drizzle, so we got out the bumbershoot. Typical English evening, and we loved it. However, we were beginning to get hungry again after all this walking, and we found that it was difficult to find a restaurant that wasn't French or Italian (been there, done that) or crowded. After much walking, seemingly in circles, we found an interesting place called Soho Soho (11-13 Frith Street), another of Carol's internet "discoveries," where I ordered a Kronenberg (OK, two,) unbelievable calamari with incredibly delicious garlic mayonaisse, and an out-of-this world omelette with gruyere cheese and onions, and french fries. Escuizzito! Oops, wrong country. Jolly good. Carol ordered a very delicious pot roast chicken on a bed of tasty mashed potatoes, with a glass of wine (OK, two.) About $50 U.S. including tip.
Sated to our hearts' content, we took the Tube to Russell Square, which was closer to the hotel than the Bloomsbury stop. We must say that in our opinion, London's Tube system is by far the most efficient mass transportation system we have ever seen. It is clean, fast, easy to understand and navigate, and there are Tube stops close to everything. Kudos to London. The Tube stations can become a zoo, however, especially at night, after folks have been drinking and become rowdy, as we saw this evening as we got off the Tube and went to board the "lift" up to the street with a group of young rambunctious revelers.
We made it back to the hotel around midnight, as usual on this Magnificent Journey of ours, and fell sound asleep in our soft, short, cozy bed over the Swan.

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com