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Report 1715: Autumn in the Cotswolds and East Sussex

By Sharonov from USA, Spring 2007

Trip Description: During the last two weeks of September, 2009, my husband and I visited London, the Cotswolds and East Sussex.

Destinations: Countries - United Kingdom; Regions/Cities - Cotswolds, London, Southeast

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; 2 People

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Page 1 of 11: London Again

photo by Bob Novickas

Jan, Barry and I (I in my new raincoat)

We've been to London many times, so in a way every visit is a mini homecoming. In the middle 60's I taught school in an "Eastender" school near the Elephant & Castle, and formed a bond with one of my pupils. We are both grandmothers now and have maintained that bond over time and space. She and her husband insisted on picking us up at Heathrow when our plane landed, even though we wouldn't get through the immigration process before 11:00pm. We kept saying that we could easily take the train in, but they would have none of that. On the way to our hotel (their place in the Council Homes is too small) Jan presented us with two topped-off Oyster Cards, a cell phone programmed with her number as main contact and two matching rain jackets she bought at a "boot sale" for one pound each.

Her husband, Barry, is a character. One of the last true Cockneys, he occasionally uses rhyme to make a point and could be the vocal model for Alfred P. Doolittle. He's let his hair and beard grow long and makes a striking figure. He's a top community organizer and is friends with the mayor of the town where they live, as well as their MP. The former scruffy teen that I remember from 40 years ago is now a formidable political figure. Jan is the rock that keeps him tied to earth.

We visited the club that he runs near their "estate" (that's what they call the groups of buildings that are council houses)and met several of his friends.

He arranged through his MP friend for us to have a tour of Parliament. In all the times we've been to London we've never done that. I was amazed at how small the houses of Lords and Commons are. He said that during the sessions everyone is crowded inside and and outside the chamber, and during the voting times it's a madhouse. We especially loved the large entrance hall dating back seven centuries or so.

They took us on a tour of the old docks, showing us how so many of the areas in southeast London that were previously just low income areas are now being gentrified, and we walked along the Thames for hours. Their town is Rotherhithe, from which the Mayflower sailed. "Hithe" means harbor in old English.

We had told them that we wanted to take a London Walks tour, specifically the Jack the Ripper tour. That would not do, of course. Barry has a friend who's a Jack the Ripper expert, and he drove us around to show us where the bodies were found and told us some stories. However, I think it would have been more effective walking. Actually though, the locales were pretty far apart, so I don't know how they do it on foot. I had always thought that the women were murdered within a small radius but he seemed to know what he was talking about.

It rained one day (only one day!) and so we went to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery.

We stayed near Paddington since our train to the Cotswolds leaves from there. This is the fourth time we've stayed in this area, every time in a different hotel, and I can hardly remember the differences. All the budget hotels look pretty much alike around the main hotel street of Sussex Gardens; our room at the Queensway was typical though a bit bigger than some we've stayed in. It was on the inside, which meant darker but more quiet. We always opt for quiet, since we don't spend much time in the room except for sleeping.

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