Our priority today was to make it to our accommodation in London in preparation for the clan gathering tomorrow morning. Until we heard it on the news last week we had no idea that today was a Bank Holiday. That probably worked for us in negotiating the traffic into London and left us with some time to spare.
We opted for the earliest available breakfast at the White Swan, 8:00 am. There was a full breakfast available but we stuck to crunchy cereal with yoghurt and coffee, followed by scrambled egg on toast for Majella and an omelette with ham and cheese for me. We were done, packed, and on the road by 8:50 am with a 3 to 4 hour drive ahead of us.
The sun was shining as we headed out and continued to shine throughout the day with just a bit of occasional cloud cover. We drove on motorways for all but the first few kilometres and saw only what glimpses of the countryside that allowed. Early in the day we saw a couple of coal fired power stations, one large enough to justify a dozen cooling towers. Later we saw squads of wind turbines and even a large photovoltaic solar farm, evidence that alternative energy sources are making an impact here. Travelling on the motorway is a quick way of getting from A to B but does not offer any real experience of the country through which you travel, unlike the single lane roads we had travelled in Scotland.
We stopped just once at about 11:00 am for Costa coffee at a motorway service point. The coffee was good and served in proper cups but the whole experience at those service points is a bit clinical, removed from reality, and inclined to be overpriced.
Our final 30 km or so into inner London required some manouvering by Majella as I watched the navigation app and called instructions to supplement the turn by turn directions. We were probably considerably helped by the holiday though there was still a solid stream of traffic. Arriving at our destination around 1:00 pm, we were lucky to find a parking spot that had just been vacated and even luckier that parking was free on the holiday. That saved the cost of hotel parking and we will be able to feed the pay machine at 8:30 am tomorrow for the maximum 4 hours to accommodate the late breakfast/brunch event at 10:00 am. We will need to save our coins tonight in order to the find the £3.50 per hour for 4 hours.
With shared bathrooms, the Manor Hotel in Earls Court, is just a step up from the kombi near Inverness. At least it is inside with a real bed. I selected it because it offered parking and was reasonably close to the venue for tomorrow morning. It is also reasonably close to small shops and places where we can eat.
By 2:00 pm we were out and about for a walk to check out how we would get to the venue tomorrow morning. Some streets around Kensington Palace were closed for security reasons associated with the Notting Hill Carnival that was on today. We eventually found a way through the gardens and are confident we can get there in the morning.
From there we walked on up to Notting Hill to see what the Carnival might offer. It offered crowds of young people, many carrying open bottles of wine or other beverages, and a large number blowing on whistles. We never managed to see if the carnival was about anything other than crowds of people drinking lots of alcohol, but sat for a while in a pub with loud music while I drank a beer and Majella had a few sips of that and some water.
Refreshed, we walked against the crowd looking for Notting Hill Underground station. We didn’t find it but did find later that it was ‘exit only’ for the carnival at the time. We walked through some of the more upmarket streets on our way back. At High Street Kensington station we thought about taking the tube for one station along to Earls Court but that would have left us with a still substantial walk and we judged it not worth the fare for the effort it might save. We walked on and picked up some fruit at a shop up the street from our hotel before going back to our room for a rest. We had both hit our step goals for the day sometime earlier.
Shortly after 6:00 pm we walked back out and wandered up and down nearby Earls Court Road looking for dinner. There were plenty of options beyond the fastfood chains – Japanese, Italian, pizza, burger joints, Indian, 3 pubs, and more. Majella was tempted by the pubs and the lure of a pie but eventually opted for Masala Zone, an Indian restaurant that advertised itself as having been listed as on of the 6 best Indian restaurants in London. We shared a large Thali with two curries, prawn and chicken, accompanied by dhal, eggfruit and tomato, potato, raita, salad, chutney, rice, and more. Majella had mango juice and I had a beer. Neither of us could face dessert so we strolled back around the corner to our hotel to rest in preparation for tomorrow. Judith and Bob were due to arrive this afternoon, Virginia, Jane and Margot have had their first full day in London, and Angela has been out celebrating with friends. We look forward to seeing them all in the morning.