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2018 - UK & Italy (Part 1 - UK)

A trip to the UK to meet family and a few days in Italy.

View 2018 UK & Italian Lakes on nzhamsta's travel map.

Tuesday 14 + Wednesday 15 August
Two days of drama, delayed flights, missed connections, lost bags and unnecessary stress.

The original plan was on Tuesday morning to have a leisurely breakfast, and catch the shuttle for my 1325 flight from Auckland to Hong Kong, meet Hung at the gate for our flight to Munich, a decent transit time and then a short flight to Birmingham.

The only bit that worked was the leisurely breakfast. Whilst nibbling on toast and tea, I thought I had better check my email. It is always heart stopping when you receive an email with "Your flight CXxxx has been rescheduled". The outward flight from Hong Kong to Auckland had been delayed so my 1325 flight was delayed by three hours. It also meant that I would miss the connection in Hong Kong. Given that Hung was on a separate booking, her flight to Munich was not affected and that she would have to fly without me.

First job was to reschedule the airport shuttle. Easy.

Next job was to head down to the travel agent and find out what was going on. I do not normally use a travel agent but given this was an untidy pair of bookings I did so this time. She spoke to Cathay Pacific and they had rebooked me on new flights. I would arrive in Hong Kong about an hour after Hung had left for Munich. I was then booked on their flight to Zurich (CX do not fly to Munich) and then a little hop across the Alps to Munich, and then connecting to the original Lufthansa flight to Birmingham. Connections were tight, very tight, but must have been within their minimums otherwise they would not have booked it.

Next job was the informing Hung of all this. Given her English reading skills are not the best, all the messages had to be translated via a third party. Cue concern and stress as to whether or not we would meet up in Munich. She does not like transiting through airports and given that Munich is a huge airport she was stressed. It didn't help that LH changed the gate for the Birmingham flight from what was printed on her boarding pass and that she had to schlep across the airport to the new gate once she realised she was sitting in the wrong place.

The actual flights were fine. AKL to HKG on a nice new A350, a short connection and then an old B777 for the HKG - ZRH flight. A quick run through Zurich airport, through immigration and the to the gate to be welcomed by "Ah, Mr Hammond, we are waiting for you." Onto the bus, a short drive to the plane and onto a brand new Bombardier CS300 (now known as an Airbus A220). Probably no more than 10 passengers on board.

On arrival, I was able to text Hung that I had arrived and that I would get there as soon as possible. I was expecting a run through one of Europe's largest airports. What I was not expecting was a man standing at the end of the airbridge with a sign with "Birmingham" written on it. "Follow me" he said after checking my boarding pass and we dived into the parts of the airport passengers do not often get to. Unlocking doors, down stairs, into his van, through immigration, back into the van, a long drive to the gate, unlocking more doors, up the lift and into the gate from the back door. Everyone else had boarded except Hung. A quick thank you to the guide, scan the boarding card, rearrange the seating on board so that we could sit together and we were off.

The flight to Birmingham was uneventful. Given the UK had a long hot summer, the normal lush green fields of England were replaced by something that looked like Australia, with dry, barren, brown fields (albeit somewhat smaller and fewer kangaroos).

This is now Wednesday morning and the next drama unfolded. Being the only person standing at a baggage belt watching the obligatory stray box going around is never much fun. However, given the tight connections, it is understandable. I gave my details to the baggage people and the address of the hotel, well, village pub we were staying at and left.

Train to Shrewsbury. Collected the car, a nice new Ford Fiesta, and then parked up near the town centre for lunch, coffee and some shopping (I only had what I was standing up in). A quick trip to Marks & Spencers solved that issue. We got to the pub in Whittington late afternoon. I managed to stay up for a nice dinner downstairs and an average pint. Crashed about 8:00pm after being awake for the best part of 36 hours.

Thursday 16 August
Woke at stupid o'clock which was not surprising. After a good brekkie downstairs, we drove to Chester. This is a beautiful old city, founded in Roman times. We walked around the city and most of the walls that still surround the inner city.

Eastgate Street in Chester.

The Eastgate Clock in Chester.

We got back to the pub by 5:00pm and lo and behold, my bag had turned up. The landlord said that a man in a van arrived about an hour earlier with it. Great to see that part of the system worked well.

We went back into Oswestry to meet my cousins for dinner. I hadn't seen them for seven years so it was good to catch up.

Friday 17 August
A later start and another good brekkie.

Drove through Llangollen out to Betws-y-Coed. This is a popular walking spot in the Welsh countryside and so we had a good walk along the two rivers that surround the golf course.

We carried onto Conwy Castle near the coast. This is your archetypal castle with moat, ramparts, towers, dungeons and 800 years of history.

Me at Conwy Castle.

Hung at Conwy Castle.

The weather closed in after this and we drove along the coast to Caernarvon for lunch and then back via the very scenic but wet Llanberis Pass.

Had dinner in the pub with another cousin who was not able to make it the previous evening.

Saturday 18 August
A simple brekkie, drove the car back to Shrewsbury and headed to the train station.
The train was on time from Shrewsbury to Birmingham New Street, a short walk to Moor Street Station and then another train to London Marylebone Station. A no. 27 bus to Hammersmith and our small hotel.

The whole reason for this trip was to meet Hung's brother and his family. They live in San Francisco (or somewhere nearby) and had never been to the UK before. There was six of them (her brother, his wife, their daughter, her husband and their two kids) and we met them at Hammersmith tube station late afternoon. We had a short walk along the river and then a bus to their place in Fulham. We ordered in dinner via the new delivery app that is popular in London.

Sunday 29 August
After brekkie at the tube station we caught the 211 bus to Fulham. After collecting everyone from their apartment, the 14 bus took us to Hyde Park Corner. We walked down Constitution Hill towards Buckingham Palace and we caught the end of the changing of the guard.

Buckingham Palace.

Guardsmen at Buckingham Palace.

Further walking took us past the Houses of Parliament and along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square for a lunch stop.

The Palace of Westminster.

The Life Guards on duty on Whitehall in London.

Trafalgar Square.

After lunch we walked along Piccadilly and then Regent Street. The kids and their parents went into Hamley's Toy Shop whilst the four adults went to a nearby pub for much needed rehydration.

They caught a taxi home. We walked along Oxford Street for a while and then a 10 bus home.

Monday 20 August
Same as yesterday morning. From South Kensington we caught the tube to St Paul's Cathedral. Long queues so did not bother going in.

St Paul's.

Walked along Cannon Street to London Bridge and then onto the Tower of London.

A famous bridge.

The Tower of London.

After a sandwich outside, we toured the place quite comprehensively, including the walls, the Armouries, and the Crown Jewels.

Family photo by a famous bridge.

We crossed over Tower Bridge, turned right and walked through Southwark to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Home and dinner at Breton Crepe cafe in Hammersmith. I thought it was okay, but Hung did not agree.

Tuesday 21 August
Same same for the first part of the day.
Caught tube to Richmond and then the train to Windsor.
Lunch in a very touristy Chinese restaurant on the high street heading up from the station.
The others went through Windsor Castle (I have been in a few time so did not bother).

Windsor Castle.

After dropping them at home, we caught a bus into Covent Garden. Very busy as could be expected. We eventually found a small Japanese noodle restaurant just of Shaftesbury Avenue for dinner. Very nice but very expensive.

Wednesday 22 August
Not same same.
We caught a train from Marylebone to Bicester Village near Oxford. This is a fashion outlet village (with its own train station!) that sells all the end of line, last season's stock etc from high end fashion brands. Surprisingly nothing was purchased.

The family did more touring around including Buckingham Palace.

Thursday 23 August
Back to same same.
Bus to South Kensington and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Very interesting collection.
To the British Museum which was also very interesting.

The British Museum.

Yet another palace, Kensington Palace. I have been there before so saved the £25 entry fee.

Kensington Palace.

Dinner was more takeaways at their apartment as it is their last night in London.

Friday 24 August
After our standard brekkie in Hammersmith tube station, we caught two buses (10 + 30) to Hackney Central and the Burberry outlet store. This was the same as the Bicester shop but was larger and had more stock.

Hung bought a full length overcoat and a handbag for £700, this being half price!! There were some beautiful men's full length overcoats but I could not justify spending £1500 on a coat that I just do not need (it does not get very cold in an Auckland winter, just wet).

We checked out and caught the train from Victoria to Gatwick. I decided to stay the night in one of the airport hotels as the flight to Milan was an early one and I did not want to have a rush in the morning. The Bloc hotel was fine, clean, comfy bed, and no window.

In all, a nice trip to London. Everything was where I remembered it and just as expensive.

Posted by nzhamsta 11:00 Archived in United Kingdom

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