• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Off to France, Switzerland and the UK with Granddaughter, July 2022

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Continued from Switzerland Trip Reports:

London, Oxford - Thursday, July 21-23, 2022​

Thursday, July 21

Caught a taxi to the Geneva airport for our flight to London. We phoned in our request and he arrived on the dot right outside our door. So much easier than trying to pull suitcases on and off the bus.

As an economizing measure we took the train from the airport to the train station and had to visit platform 9¾, of Harry Potter fame. Souvenir pictures, of course, pushing the luggage trolley through the wall.


Then souvenirs from the Potter Store. Then a nice lunch in the station. And then we were on our way to Park City Grand Plaza Kensington to get rested up for the Proms tomorrow. Sara’s great uncle John, who lives in England made arrangements for us. And what amazing plans they were. He arranged for our room in Kensington, a booth at the proms, some light refreshments during the concert (champagne and snacks) and a late supper afterwards. Oh yeah, and a high tea at the Victoria and Albert Music Hall before the concert. How marvelous! Went to sleep with visions of tea and scones with clotted cream dancing in our heads.

Friday, July 22

Energized by the thought that today was basically the only day she had to see all of London Sara was beside herself to see everything. And that meant walking everywhere. Since we were already in Kensington we got up at 5:30 am and walked north to Kensington Gardens. We had it to ourselves except for the few joggers, dog walkers and homeless people sleeping in out of the way places. Lovely flowers everywhere. The intense heat the trees experienced a few days ago has obviously scorched some of leaves. Because we are on a mission (more about that later) we don’t really have time to explore the park. We just walked the length of Kensington, then headed toward the Thames through Hyde Park and then to Green Park and Buckingham Palace. The Queen was busy and couldn’t come out to see us, but we completely understood. All of the parks were lovely. Beautiful manicured flower beds and well-maintained gravel walkways. Even the weather behaved itself. Not too hot, not too cold. Real Goldilocks weather. Desperate for a restroom I insisted we stop at the St James Park Café where we drank some coffee and sat on the deck watching the ducks and swans beg for scraps in the lake. We passed 10 Downing Street but Boris was too busy to visit with us too. He sent his regrets. Sat on the wall outside Westminster Cathedral and took pictures of each other with Big Ben in the background. Then crossing the Thames we stood on the Westminster Bridge and admired the view of the Houses of Parliament.

On the South side of the Thames we turned left towards the London Eye, Jubilee Garden and the Globe Theater. A friend from school told Sara that she absolutely had to visit Borough Market near Southwark Cathedral where there was a doughnut-stand that sold the absolutely best filled-doughnuts in the whole world! This was our mission for the day. It was a loooong walk but pleasant and right along the edge of the Thames. In the Cathedral we took a picture of the reclining Shakespeare. In the Market we made a bee-line for the Doughnut Stand and it did not disappoint. Lemon-curd filled donut and coffee. Sara also found a fruit stand with fresh strawberries and I found the Bread-Ahead Bakery where I indulged myself with a chicken and thyme meat pie.


We walked all around looking at all the booths and the shoppers and fingering all the lovely things to touch. Loved listening to all the accents of the shoppers and sellers. Bought more souvenirs. You can’t have too many souvenirs.

Sara had expressed interest in becoming a veterinarian so wanted to see what the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons looked like. It was only about a mile and a half from where we were at the Market—so off we went again back over the Thames. It was located on a peaceful tree-lined street. A pleasant lady was manning the information desk and gave us all the literature she had about the school.

I was pretty much knackered so pleaded for taking the tube back to Earl’s Court near our hotel. We arrived at 2:30. Not much of a rest before getting ready for our high-tea, compliments of Justin’s Uncle John at 3:00. The public transportation in London is a terrific. I think Sara could visualize herself living here, studying veterinary medicine at the college—and visiting her Uncle John on weekends. And she was thrilled at her step-count today: 37,685, and we still had more walking to and from the Royal Albert Hall this evening. Whew!

At the tea we each got out own requested pot loose of tea. Then there were two trays of little sandwiches. The cucumber and cream-cheese was my favorite but the raw salmon was a close second. Then there were the scones with clotted cream and jelly. I asked the waiter which should be put on first: the cream or the jelly. He said “try it both ways and you’ll see immediately which way is best!” Then they sent us away with slices of cake in take-away boxes.


After the tea, we visited the gift shop to buy some more souvenirs then hurried over the Victoria and Albert Museum for a brief visit, then back to the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms Concert with more food and snacks and champagne in our box! (Thank you, thank you Uncle John!) The music was sublime. They don’t feel a need to be bombastic. It started with God Save the Queen, and some rousing music, but mostly peaceful songs. Some with vocal accompaniment. Nothing heavily amplified. Even a lovely vocal piece with the singers accompanied only with tom-toms. The crowd on the infield stood for the entire concert. We sat and snacked (and shared with the others in our box) and sipped champagne like royalty. We decided we could easily get used to this.



After the concert we headed off to the restaurant Uncle John had arranged for us: Cote Brassierie for mussels, fish stew and chips, and salmon with lentils. Chicken liver pate, of course, with minced cooked apples for a starter. Then we just stumbled back to our hotel to bed with visions of flugelhorns dancing in our heads.

Saturday, July 23

On the train to Oxford with assorted students. It was like sitting on the train with the cast of “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” “Ahh say Muffy, in’t that Buffy’s staaap?” “Ahh don’ know Chaaalss, ahh’ve nevah visited her little digs. Maybe Laaard Montcas’le will see fit to ring us one day with a’ invite.”

At Oxford we pulled our suitcases along the crowded sidewalks all the way to Magdalen College (pronounced “Maudlin) and presented ourselves at the lodge to get our room keys. We were staying in the same rooms we had in 2017. And the rooms hadn’t changes a whit. Not even new paint! Still that 1970s industrial green. I guess if you got it right the first time why would you change it?

To be continued
Last edited by a moderator:

London, Oxford - Saturday, July 23 (continued) - 25, 2022​

Saturday, July 23 (continued)

Uncle John had arranged for us to be given a guided tour around Oxford from an old friend and guide of his, Alastair. After unpacking we went out to meet him. The only things Sara was really interested in seeing were the places that appeared in the various Harry Potter movies and they were all closed. He gave us an abbreviated Oxford history and showed us the interiors of open places but the tour was pretty much a bust. He did tell us an interesting story about John Henry, Cardinal Newman though who, when he crossed over the Tiber to become a Catholic was banned from preaching at Oxford, so he just offered to hold “talks” in the afternoons. They were extremely popular with the students to the chagrin of the Oxford dons.

Sara was underwhelmed with the Magdalene College dormitory accommodations. She’d already seen her dorms in Kentucky—very luxurious. And these suffered badly in comparison. To make matters worse—completely unacceptable in her view—the bathrooms and showers are located in the hallways and are unisex. She evidently was surprised to find one of those pesky members of the opposite sex in her facilities! Oh the horror! No shower tonight!

Sunday, July 24

Today we go punting on the headwaters of the Thames! And that “punting” doesn’t mean kicking a football! Before such an adventure we needed to fortify ourselves at the Art Café, a three story restaurant just off campus with lots of erotic art lining the walls. Though I suppose they could argue that it wasn’t “erotic;” it was “figure studies.” Though what those figures were doing to each other looked pretty erotic to me!

Grandma had a full English breakfast, of beans and toast, sausage, eggs, fried tomato, mushrooms, potatoes and delicious coffee.


Sara and I were a bit more sedate with just various scones and clotted cream, and muffins. Then we three walked down to the river and looked for our boat.

They are flat-bottomed two-seaters, about 12’ long and 2.5 feet wide with a platform at the back where someone (the punter) is supposed to stand and punt (push) the boat along the shallow waterway. The punt, or pole, is also about 12 feet long and fairly heavy. The idea is to hold on tightly while pushing against the bottom, and thus propel the boat gracefully along, allowing the passenger(s) to lay back in their seat(s) and trail their hand idly in the water. The punter steers by trailing the pole in the water, swung left or right rather like a rudder. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Again, it was Uncle John who had arranged this excursion for us. So we showed up at the dock and found our boat, and the punt, but (no) life-jackets (the water was only about 4’ deep), and no punter. Georgia asked the attendant when he (or she) was supposed to arrive. Got that same look you would get if you asked what time Harry Potter was supposed to arrive at the Harry Potter Store. When Georgia learned that they were expecting her to get into a flat-bottomed boat without any life jacket, and be propelled by a 12-foot pole her husband was supposed to wield she let it be known that it wasn’t that cold in Hell yet—and furthermore she did not want Sara to go either. “The boat is going to flip over and they’ll both be killed!”

Sara and I were game, of course. I asked for a quick lesson. The attendant was terribly helpful. He said “You stand at the back and use the pole to push the boat along.” At least he didn’t say “Merrily, merrily, merrily.”

My first attempt was pretty much a disaster. I couldn’t even get the boat backed away from the dock. Then out in the open water I couldn’t get it heading in the right direction. In my defense, however, there was a fair amount of breeze (wind?) blowing us in the wrong direction and somehow or other I kept going sideways and the (gale-force) winds kept trying to spin us around. Georgia, walking along the bank predicting disaster didn’t help either. Sara smirking wasn’t really helpful either. I finally made a little headway when I took to my knees so that I wasn’t in imminent danger toppling out into the water. But that was so embarrassing. All the other punters were snickering! Within a 100 yards of the dock I suggested that Ms Smartypants Sara see if she could do any better!

She did. And she did!



She was a natural—even able to steer the boat with the old trailing punt trick. I’d say I was humiliated, but I wasn’t. I felt like King Henry VIII, lazing in my seat watching her punt. I even managed to trail my fingers in the water. It was a blast. And the waterways were lovely. I took tons of pictures that could someday be beautiful paintings. Who knew that the mighty Thames could ever be so shallow? The two hour trip passed quickly and we arrived back at the dock. It was much easier traveling in the same direction as the hurricane. Georgia was sure that having survived the excursion she now needed to warn us loudly not to trip and fall trying to get out of the boat—somehow we made it unscathed. (note to self: “Is there a ‘scathed?’”)

Then we went walking and shopping around Oxford. We needed more souvenirs, of course. The Oxford Covered Market was perfect, and we had a nice lunch at Brown’s Café. I had a cheeseburger and fries. Grandma had spaghetti. Sara didn’t want anything. She just nibbled on a bit of our meals.


We tried, but couldn’t get in to see the Harry Potter dining hall at Christ Church but we did manage to get to Evensong. The entrance and exit of the choir was lovely and their voices blended like angels in those acoustics. After the singing, Grandma was impressed with the organ postlude. I thought it too modern and a “boom and crash” style. Afterwards we had a nice walk back to the dorm through the Christ Church Meadow to get ready for supper.

Uncle John had recommended the restaurant: Quod. We had made reservations earlier and I’m glad we did. It was spectacular and very busy, though the staff never made us feel rushed. We shared Seared Duck and a Cassoulet three ways. Our waiter was wonderful and never even lifted an eyebrow at our economizing. Then we had a strawberry milkshake with three straws for dessert. The English definitely have more liquid milkshakes than we do. But full of real strawberries and milk.

Then we walked home in a light drizzle.

Monday, July 25

We’re meeting John at 10 a.m today for our trip to his farm.

After a brief kerfluffle as John went to a different entrance while we waited on the sidewalk by the Porter’s Lodge we hopped in his car and off we went. Sara sat up front so they could get to know each other a little better. He has been sending her Christmas and birthday presents and they’ve corresponded by notes and emails but never had a chance to talk with each other. His wife is in failing health and he said his brother had recently died. That’s made him much more sensitive to the importance of family. He spent a lifetime in the upper echelons of retail sales and the money has let him buy pretty much anything they wanted, but you can tell he longs for family.

His household consists of a farm manager/housekeeper, a companion for his wife, several ‘rescued’ dogs and a big sweet white horse.



I think he has about 90-100 acres, most of which is given over to grazing sheep. He may also rent out some of the pasture land to his neighbors for them to plant and harvest. He’s a real gentleman farmer. He loved driving his little 4-wheeler around the farm and showing us everything. You can tell that they have done lots of work refurbishing and updating the house and grounds. Made of lovely warm local stone with slate roofs it really is beautiful. Sara was enthralled—especially with the dogs and the horse. I could see her imagining herself going to college in London and spending weekends here on the farm. It’s good to have dreams.

He took us to a nearby village for a delicious gourmet lunch complete with champagne and a dessert soufflé.


Sara kept poking her soufflé with a spoon to deflate it to make it look like she’d eaten some. Later I told her that her aunt Amy used to try the same sort of trick—scattering her peas around the plate and mashing them to make it look like they’d been eaten too. But she agreed that the lunch was delicious, and John had been incredibly generous to us. Squeezing the trip into plans Georgia had already made was difficult but it has certainly been worth it—especially for Sara and John—letting them get to know each other. And the Proms, the punting, the high tea, and expensive restaurants haven’t been too shabby either. England has been the high point of the trip for Sara—that’s for sure.

For me, I’d have to say that the high point has been the opportunity to show her part of Europe and why we love to travel there so much. The kindness of strangers is always so special. The transit policeman who charged us for not knowing how to put our pictures on our metro-pass was really aggravating but the apologetic look we got from her underlings told me that there are “bureauc-Rats” in all countries—people who love to use their petty power to puff themselves up. Oh well. She was easily offset by all the people we came across who went out of their way to help us. Traveling alone never seems to leave us lonely. The best part of any country is always the people who live there. I hope Sara sees that as a takeaway from her first European trip.

The End (for now)
Last edited by a moderator:

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page