Oct. 6: After breakfast the next morning we had some time to kill so we took the free hotel shuttle to the subway and went to Times Square. Walked around for about an hour, had a pizza, and then took the subway and hotel shuttle back to the hotel. We picked up our luggage and went to LaGuardia where we caught the inter airport shuttle to JFK. We met Ron and Bernita at the terminal and around 9pm we boarded a Delta flight to London. Didn't sleep much on the plane but watched 'The Great Gatsby'.
Oct. 7: In London we went thru customs, caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and walked to our hotel ( The Reem Hotel). The lobby in our hotel is being renovated so the staff (Umar and Sam) were in tight quarters. But they were very accommodating. Our first room was very hot so the second two nights they moved us to a nicer room on the first floor (we were on the third floor). The breakfast was very good with cereals, yogurt, fruit, rolls and toast, juice, coffee or tea, hard boiled eggs, cheese. The hotel had an elevator (which is rare in Europe) and was fairly quiet and in a nice location, close to Hyde park and Kensington gardens. We walked to Hyde park, Kensington gardens, Kensington Palace, Diana's memorial playground and then had beers and fish and chips at a pub. Tired from the flight, we went to our rooms early.
October 8: After re-packing and changing rooms we bought the Hop on Hop off bus pass and rode for 3 hours around the sights. We got off at the Marble Arch and had lunch at a nice sandwich shop. Then we got back on the bus and rode back to the Tower Bridge and took the free Thames river cruise. The day was warm and sunny in the morning and clouding up in the afternoon. This bus ride takes the whole day - the traffic here is frightful!! We tried to catch another bus but decided to walk home which took us an hour and a half but we passed Buckingham Palace, lots of arches, walked the length of Hyde park and saw Diana's Memorial fountain (which is not much). We got home and went to another pub on Queensborough Blvd.; had a drink and chicken and mushroom pies then went back to the hotel very tired!
Oct. 9: Ron, Bernita, and I took the first bus bound for Buckingham palace to watch the changing of the guards. Dean decided to stay at the hotel and meet us later. We got to the palace early and talked to a real 'Bobby' who told us there was no changing of the guards but a ceremony of starting the baton for the Commonwealth Games and the Queen was coming outside to send off the baton which will go thru the countries. So we got a look at the Queen and the Duke thru lots and lots of tourists. If I enclose a picture realize that I had to zoom in a lot. After the ceremony we took the cruise boat to The Tower of London which in my opinion is really a old castle with very large walls around it. We took the docents tour, very informative, looked at the Crown Jewels (one word - WOW), wandered thru the other buildings and walked the walls. We had time to take the Hop on Hop off bus, finishing the route we didn't see on Tuesday, back to the hotel. We didn't see Dean until we were back at the hotel but he said that he had been at the Tower about the same time. This night we ate at a Thai place after a drink at our favorite pub.
Oct. 10: We all slept in today, packed, and walked along Queensborough Blvd. Around 2pm we went back to the hotel, picked up our luggage, said goodbye to Omar and Sam, and walked to Paddington station which today only took us 20 minutes. The first day it took us over an hour because we didn't know where we were going. We took the Heathrow express again, went to terminal 4 and checked in. We flew to Paris and had a couple of hours layover before flying to Johannesburg. This flight I watched 'Lone Ranger' and slept fairly well (Bernita gave me 2 Bonine).
Oct. 11: After arriving in Joberg we again had a 2-3 hour layover and flew to Nelspirit. We picked up our large rental van and headed for Madalane which was 60 k away. This was Ron's first time driving on the 'wrong side'. I am the other driver but, hopefully, will not drive until we get into Kruger. The drive was suppose to take about an hour but took us 3 hours because of road construction. Then we got lost trying to find the hotel and finally arrived around 8:30. We are staying ay a wonderful B&B which I will write about in the next blog.
Pictures: Dean on Times Square; Dean, Ron and Bernita in front of Kensington palace; our favorite pub on Bayswater St., the bus tour, Trafalgar Square, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Parliament and Big Ben, our Bobby, Buckingham Palace, and a really blown-up shot of the Queen and the Duke.