Sunday, January 29, 2006


It wasn’t too awfully long ago, though longer than I wish, that Robbie and I stumbled upon some information about a castle for sale in Ireland. Having been brought up on (and never weaned) of stories of folks who do crazy things like buying and rehabbing castles in Spain, chateaux in France and islands in the Caribbean, we were especially attracted to this Internet offering. I came across it mainly by accident while searching out and planning a possible vacation to the UK. As my background includes doing some rehabs on seemingly impossible to improve structures in the US and the Caribbean I earmarked the site.

I found it impossible to put thoughts of it out of my mind. The picture was captivating and the price looked like a misprint. The description indicated that one of the features of this castle was that it appeared much larger from afar, that as you approached closer it really proved to be an optical illusion. This fascinating feature of this incredible shrinking illusion was reported to be the work of no less an illuminary than the renowned John Nash, a well known and highly respected English architect who had designed many castles and governmental buildings in his day. It was said that Nash had intentionally designed this structure to appear larger than it actually was. It was actually erected in the late 1800s as a sort of “gate house.” It’s purpose was to accommodate the “household cavalry” that protected the main castle and extensive grounds The main castle was sacked, burned and destroyed during the subsequent Irish Revolution, but somehow this small replica gatehouse dwelling was spared. It stood and indeed stands today adjacent to a lovely area in County Roscommon known as Deer Park Lough Key (an Irish National Park) and commands a hilltop pinnacle overlooking the Shannon River. Surprisingly, it was privately owned and being hung out “on-offer,” a term oftentimes used in Ireland to describe a property for sale. The price quoted is commonly regarded as a reference price and a suggested ball park figure from which to negotiate, both up and/or down, depending on the interest it generates. The property was on offer with three options regarding the amount of land to be conveyed; 8, 17 or 57 acres, and the reference price for the entire package was quoted in Irish Punts. It translated in 1997 to about $550,000; certainly not chump change but compared to your average castle, well…about as cheap as they come.

It wasn’t too difficult to gaze across the years and imagine riders and horse drawn coaches approaching the gates while the mounted cavalry stood watch, sentinel-like and ready to admit or deny entry to the approaching riders depending on their credentials. The turrets and ramparts appeared regal and threatening occupying as they did the high ground and well able to conceal defenders and their weapons behind their thick stone abutments. I pretty well convinced myself that this type of small castle was vastly superior to the average monstrosities of those days because it retained practical features that would translate into a sensible sized dwelling if it could be rehabilitated properly.

After corresponding with the owner by mail and telephone, we decided it was a must-see on our forthcoming trip to the UK. In typical fashion we studied offerings for lodgings and planned most of our itinerary before leaving home. Our plan was to see as much of the countryside as possible including England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, traveling by rental car and overnighting in B&B’s so plentiful in the area. The catalyst of the trip now had become seeing “The Castle” and it held a burning grip on our plans. We would see as much of the country as possible but reserve a couple of days enroute to view and mull over this vision which now had moved into our minds and evicted all but the most immediate and necessary thoughts. Could we actually acquire this jewel and make it livable? Was it even feasible to modernize the interior? Could we negotiate a price that included only the minimum of land? Could we actually live in it and enjoy the Irish summers? And what of the winters? Could we leave it unattended without worry or would we need a caretaker? What about ownership laws for foreigners? Would we be isolated or would we have neighbors? What about transportation, tools, available sub-contractors, supplies. We knew so little and so dreams displaced facts and we dined out on our imagination pending our arrival on the scene.

By now, Robbie was way ahead of me. While I was imagining shopping for 220-volt tools and boring holes through 18-inch granite walls to bring in plumbing and electrical service, she was mentally decorating and landscaping the grounds. Hardly a day went by that I wasn’t shown a picture of something she thought would be just right for the castle. We were both in a dream world. Someone once said, “to discover new lands you must lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” We were well on our way or so it seemed.

Our journey took place during the time that the flamboyant Freddy Laker’s airline was still plying the Atlantic and we had always wanted to try it out. This required that we depart from Ft. Lauderdale, a drive of some distance but worth the effort for being able to enjoy the large leather seats with lumbar control, personal TV’s, dining with real china and silverware, unlimited beverages and at half the price of Delta’s economy fare. It was a great bargain for us, but the road to ruin for Mr. Freddy. The airline folded soon after.

We arrived at Gatwick Airport south of London around nine in the morning refreshed and ready for all the excitement of our first day in England. Hold it right there, Pilgrim. Did you forget that these cockamamie folks drive on the left-hand side of the road? We had a fine set of wheels but the steering wheel was on the right hand side of the car. Whoa, Nelly! Is this crazy or what? I had opted for the stick shift in order to get the full thrill of driving on the curves and hills, not thinking that I’d have to shift with my left hand.
My other little driving habit has always been keeping one eye on the rear view mirror as I’ve been rear-ended one time too many to ever forget. Yup, you guessed it. Natural instinct being what it is you look up and to the right to see through that little mirror. Correct? Wrong again, you look up and to your left.

Did I mention that coming out of Gatwick’s car rental lots you are shunted almost immediately into a 5 lane super highway? I can only say this was white-knuckle time for old Dobby. Seems as though everyone was trying to see how fast their little buggies would go and Dobby is still trying to find the rear view mirror and the gear positions in this little Vauxhall Astra. Anyway, Lady Luck was over on the left seat and telling me about all the things to look at until I finally roared, “Be Quiet, I need to concentrate.” I wanted desperately to find a turn-off and try a secondary road but by the time I had regained a bit of composure we were approaching the south coast of England at Brighton. I was still struggling in vain to find a place to turn off for a rest and gain a bit of familiarity with this little four wheeled beast. However we could now see the ocean and Brighton was dead ahead so I picked a likely turn-off thinking I’d get to the ocean and park some where and sort this all out. Did I mention that finding a parking place is a national pass time and half the folks on the road are engaged in the sport at any one moment? Robbie seemed to enjoy seeing Brighton from the car windows as she was constantly chirping about the buildings and the scenery and I was concentrating on not getting distracted by her, or the crazy left handed roundabouts, common at intersections, where no one stops but there is a definite pecking order as to right of way.

Did I mention that it was mid-summer and folks in these climes especially enjoy taking to the seacoast? Today was blessed by totally clear skies and warm temperatures. Everywhere could be seen the very white skin of winter wearied folk in their recently donned bathing suits interspersed by those who had spent much too long in the sun and had turned as pink as fresh salmon. Some looked so burned they surely were candidates for emergency care. By the time I had finally found a parking spot we had left Brighton behind and were in the adjoining town of Worthing. I was not about to give up this spot and we decided to make this our first destination. Worthing turned out to be a very nice seaside town containing lots of seaside pavilions, small shops and the site of our first Pub experience. We booked one night at the Woodlands guesthouse; a family run B&B. We had a very well furnished and fairly large bedroom with a view out onto the main street. It was interesting to just sit and watch the passersby and reflect on our good fortune so far in navigating our way. So after a short rest we hit the streets for a more thorough investigation of the area sights and shops. Shopping decidedly creates thirst so it wasn’t too long before the thought of checking out a Pub came to mind. The thought was fostered by our passing by a very attractive and picturesque establishment named The Royal Oak. We opted to give it a try to inaugurate a fitting finale to our first day of travel. I wish I could remember the name of the dark draft beer. I have always had an aversion to Guinness Stout so I know it was not the Flagship of English Brew that we opted for. Usually Pubs feature a standard plus local favorites as well. At any rate the beer was excellent. We learned that you order at the bar and pay when you order. Then you bring your own drinks to your table. Food orders are brought to your table by the kitchen staff. This proved to be pretty standard all over. We learned that dining in Pubs is a worthwhile way to have good, usually well prepared and seasoned meals. During our three weeks enroute, we usually opted for Pub grub as we named it. Robbie tried the lamb chops, something we would repeat again and again because they were invariably so very good. As we were at seaside, I opted for the salmon, also a treat. Maybe it was new visitor dumb luck but if ever you are in the area, we both recommend you look up this place, The Royal Oak. Hopefully it is still there.

After a sound nights sleep at The Woodlands I awoke feeling much better about driving. Maybe the jet lag was detrimental that first day, but the brew, vittles and the good rest had erased all that. This morning I went out and thoroughly familiarized myself with the little Vauxhall. I was now convinced that I was master of this little four-wheeled marvel. It could certainly keep up with anything on the road and it only sipped petrol like a sated midget, a blessing when paying triple the amount for the equivalent in the USA

We departed reasonably early, but not before consuming a full English breakfast that came included with the night’s lodging. Breakfast in England we learned was a pretty standard affair. It included eggs cooked to order, Canadian style bacon, rolls, bread or toast with butter and jam, and invariably a hot boiled and peeled whole tomato. Cereal and yogurt and juice usually found their way to the breakfast table as well, sometimes as options. And always coffee and tea was available. It took a while but by the end of our trip we were really loving and looking forward to those hot tomatoes at breakfast.

As we drove through the small towns on the secondary roads we began to slow down and enjoy the sights, sounds and scenery. There is history at every turn in England. We especially like Tudor style buildings and there were so many to enjoy as we passed through small towns. The secondary roads are fairly narrow and the narrowness is amplified by the lack of what are called verges or as we say shoulders. Oftentimes the verges are overgrown with hedges that are trimmed flush with the sides of the road. This leaves no option of pulling off the road for emergency or other reasons. Meeting a tour bus on a curve with absolutely zero clearance to spare is enough to make one contemplate the nearness of eternal rest. How quickly one could be dispatched to the hereafter by failing to concentrate on their driving was brought to mind more than a few times those first few days in the UK.

Midday brought us to Stonehenge; a not to be missed ancient wonder in Southwest England. The site attracts a large number of visitors. Parked busses and cars stretch for miles. The crowds are somewhat distracting but underscore the importance of this amazing and not fully understood formation. You can hear languages from around the globe and the tourists provide an interesting backdrop. One stands in total astonishment as to how it was possible to stack those gigantic slabs of stone on top of the high upright pillars many centuries ago with no trace left as to how it was accomplished. From where the stones originated, how they were transported and lifted all beg for answers. This is a sight worth seeing. We rented small earphones and walked all around the area listening to the descriptions as if we each had a personal guide. You could select your native language for the transmissions. A very unique way of handling such large groups of tourists coming from all around the world to view this curious marvel of early mankind.

After a couple of hours strolling around the area and viewing the structures from all angles, we moved on and overnighted in the little town of Horndean. I had booked an overnight here via the Internet so it was imperative that we get there on schedule. The Rosedean B&B seemed attractive and as it turned out, accurate in description as well as amenities. The owners, a retired couple, were exemplary hosts. It soon became apparent that they enjoyed their present endeavor very much. The facility was unique in that it featured only one double guestroom, a very comfortable and well-outfitted one. The other unique characteristic and the reason I booked early was due to the indoor pool, quite unique and interesting to see how they had added this feature to their lovely home. We felt like family with Mr. & Mrs. Batten. We enjoyed the evening conversing and exchanging information about our home areas and experiences. (For a description and view of the facility see and select Horndean from the pull down menu.) Fortified with a wonderfully prepared and presented breakfast, laid out on white lace table linen, they sent us on our way the next morning, waiving from their doorstep until we were out of sight. We felt like we were leaving Mom & Dad instead of two lovely people who were thoroughly enjoying opening their unique home to travelers.

Before getting very far we were approaching the grounds of Arundel Castle. This is a complete and well-maintained castle. We decided on the spot that it would be important for us to see what such regal digs should look like in their restored and properly maintained condition. So we visited and took the tour. Definitely impressive. See for yourself if you wish at The property was still inhabited by Royalty, the 17th Earl of Norfolk, name of Howard. We spent as much time as we thought we could and still make Wales by evening. Unfortunately, there is so much to see and do in the many small towns and hamlets, it is almost sinful to have to skip so much of importance. But we were on a rather detailed and tight schedule to cover the ground we had staked out for our three-week tour. So we moved on, driving North and West through the Cotswolds, a destination in and of itself for those interested in a week or so of walking between charming villages and hamlets and staying the nights in the various B&Bs situated along the way. Services abound that will transfer your luggage from Inn to Inn. You only need walking gear and a small daypack for snacks and necessities. The Cotswolds would be worth a trip to England if you saw nothing else. Another time perhaps.

By early evening we had passed into Wales and into the Brecon Beacons National Park to the town of Brecon. We didn’t have an advanced reservation and the first several interesting spots were already filled for the weekend. This seems to be an area frequented by hikers and it appeared that it was likewise a popular destination for those wishing to get away from the cities for a country weekend. We were fortunate to find a small garret room at an inn on the outskirts of town. It was cool due to the elevation and cold drizzle had begun in the afternoon. The blanket and quilt combination felt good and the rain on the tin roof just above our heads lulled us to sleep quite early after dinner downstairs at the dining room. The Inn was called the Tai’r Bull, popular with the locals and filled that evening with a hiking club from London. We had dined on lamb stew with peas and jacket potatoes; jacket meaning the skins left on, or what we refer to as baked. While sharing a table with a local couple, we inquired about the possibility of finding accommodations for the next night at our next planned destination near the car ferry to Ireland. They indicated we would be wise to keep our room for a second night (Saturday) as the weekends are very popular with travelers in these parts and we might not have good luck in the area of the Steena Ferry. They told us that many Irish come to Wales on the ferry for the weekend and load up on goods to take back. Evidently there is a price or tax difference that pays for the ferry ride and the weekend in Wales. Since our Ferry reservation was for Sunday we decided to stay an extra day in our little room under the tin roof.

The next morning was clear and cool and we tried what everyone else seemed to be doing. We put on our jeans and hiking shoes and headed up into the mountains on a little trail. Our destination was unclear but we thought we would just hike to the top of the low mountain and perhaps take a picture of the town in the valley below. Needless to say we never made it to the top. It seemed so near at the start but after a couple of hours we still seemed as far from it as when we started, so like the Englishman who marched up the hill and down again, we turned and retraced our steps, arriving back at the Tai’r Bull in time for a good lunch, a nap and another little tour around town. I couldn’t resist a visit to the Military Museum in Brecon. It housed the history and memorabilia of the Welch Borderers, and their participation in the Zulu War as well as WW’s 1 & 2. How anyone could survive under one of those large wool hats that extended a foot above one’s head is a wonderment.

You don’t have to wander far to find something of interest. We especially enjoyed watching the lambs at the stockyard being sorted out by the men dressed in tweed suits and smart looking hats. They were the epitome of what I would imagine a gentleman farmer would wear to church but apparently it was their normal workday garb. They would herd the lambs off of trucks, down ramps and into one pen or another with a small prod, evidently grading or sorting them out for a pending fate we didn’t wish to contemplate.

We departed the Tai’r Bull early Sunday morning in order to make our rendevoux with the Ferry to Ireland. We arrived at the terminal head in Fishguard with a bit of time to spare, so we had an early lunch and our first experience with fish & chips from a small restaurant a few blocks from the landing. No wonder they are popular. It seems vinegar is a choice condiment when dining on this local delicacy and we made as if we knew what we were doing and doused our fish liberally. I think I prefer the mayonnaise or ketchup however.

The Ferry trip was very interesting. We drove our little car along in line with hundreds of others directly into the mammoth hold of the ship and were directed to a parking spot so close to the next cars’ doors that we could hardly effect an exit. Passengers are not allowed to stay in their cars; the trip is 4 ½ hours across the Irish Sea. We set the emergency brake and went above to find the equivalent of a lush cruise ship, much smaller of course, but still quite a nice layout of activities and lounges, restaurants and the like. We settled in to enjoy the cruise. I made busy studying my road map of Ireland so I’d have an idea of how to get going once we landed at Rosslare Harbor. And a good thing I did. By the time we had disembarked it was late in the day and our destination was pre-booked in Waterford. However, by the time we arrived it was past the time for holding our unsecured reservation and it had been given to others. Unhappily we journeyed on as the sun sank lower and we were beginning to think we might have to sleep in the car. Several other no-vacancy signs had appeared but finally we found a vacancy and we were not in a position to quibble. We got their last available room and it wasn’t very fine compared to our pervious lodging experiences. However the host and hostess were more than gracious and hustled out some tea and scones to help compensate for the disappointed looks on our faces. We further compensated by drowning our sorrows in a local bar in Waterford and were out of there the next morning after a “Full Irish Breakfast.” The eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, and toast tended to leaven the spirits while expanding the waistline.

Before leaving town we toured the renowned Waterford Crystal Factory. Eamon Hartley, a relative of Robbie’s first husband, was a master engraver with the company. We inquired about him but unfortunately he was out of the country at the time. The receptionist was so nice when she learned of the connection that she issued us two free tour tickets. The factory was impressive and we watched the skilled craftsmen making crystal. The painful part was at the area where every object that didn’t turn out perfectly was smashed to bits to be melted down again. Some of the vases looked too good to break up but the policy was that everything that left the factory was to be perfect. No seconds of Waterford Crystal can be found in use anywhere.

Leaving the factory we drove on that day to Kilkenny - a medieval center - where we found a very nice B&B but the owner had little warmth or charm. Unusual in Ireland. We had a very good rest however and found Kilkenny to be a nice town.

Before leaving the next morning, we took a walking tour of Kilkenny with a guide. We visited a castle, church, dungeon, all the usual suspects. Then we headed out for Cahir and to Carrigeen Castle in County Tipperary. We came close to going through the town of Tipperary but we missed it by about 15 miles. It’s indeed a “Long Way to Tipperary,” a song made famous by both the Allied and Axis powers during the world wars. Curiously each side had its own version and words attached to the same tune. At Carrigeen Castle we were hosted by Peg Butler the owner who incidentally was an old family friend of Robbie’s. The Butlers had done a big re-do of the castle and they were enjoying a brisk lodging business. That night we had dinner at the Cahir House Hotel where visitors such as Walt Disney, Mae West, Douglas Fairbanks and Jackie Kennedy had stayed. We felt we were in distinguished company.

Peg fed us well the next morning and after lots of travel advice and hugs all around we made our reluctant departure. Before leaving Cahir we drove out about two miles to visit the Swiss Cottage, a chalet type structure build by John Nash, the renowned architect I referred to earlier. John Nash was well known for building things that “were not what they seemed to be.” Close inspection of the cottage revealed every window was a different shape. Everything inside and outside was unique in some way. The floor resembled a spiderweb, the supports around the outside overhead were made of natural tree branches and limbs in peculiar shapes. A very whimsical cottage for the times and a place the Royalty from olden days went to play.

From Cahir it was on to Ardmore and Dungarven. We selected a working farmhouse B&B. Had dinner and breakfast there. Took a long walk out along an ocean path and around a peninsula. The area looked very similar to my Fort Jeudy home site in Grenada with the waves breaking below on the jagged rocks and sending spray up into the bluffs.

Moving right along, the next day we drove along small coastal roads – really SMALL – lots of scenery but scant time to take eyes off the road. Stopped at Yougall for tea & scones and a bit of shopping. Robbie is never averse to a small shopping excursion. We overnighted at Bantry in County Cork. Great view of the bay from our best room yet and a lovely host couple as well. We sat up with them till late talking about Ireland and how far it has come in their lifetimes.

The next day we had planned on driving the Ring of Kerry & Kilarney. I reneged on driving the ring. It was already late in the afternoon when we started and the traffic was terrifying on the small road. I was already hyper about scratching up the rental car. There’s absolutely no shoulder and the trees are trimmed just to the edge of the road and when one of those tour busses comes along it's “Katie bar the door and every man for himself.” I promise to do it next time but I’ll start early or take a tour. It’s 110 miles around the ring. We probably missed some beautiful scenery. Instead we drove on Northward and stayed at an old farmhouse at Knock with a 14th century Norman ruins in the back yard. Very pastoral setting with sheep and cattle grazing in the front meadow. We were getting close to our special attraction and I called Sean Simon, the owner of “The Castle” we were dreaming about to let him know we were on schedule and would see him the next day.

We pulled in to Carrick-on-Shannon early the next day and checked in at Attarory House. Sean met us that afternoon and we toured the castle. It certainly appeared large as we approached it from about a mile distant. It stood large and imposing on the hilltop and true to all reports as we approached the castle shrank in size until when we were there it was not a lot larger than a normal two story house. Go figure. We talked a lot about cutting off a large piece of the land from the 57 acres and just selling the castle with the water frontage on the Shannon. Sean seemed amenable. He permitted us to stay and poke around as long as we wanted and he went on about other business in town. No heating system other than the four small ancient peat fireplaces, the kitchen consisted of a small propane burner and a 4-legged table. There were two other smallish rooms on the main level and a staircase that led upstairs to a large hall off of which were four fairly large bedrooms. Rotting window frames, and a leaky slate roof, the turrets were unusable, filled with debris. Two rooms that could serve as bathrooms, one directly above the other were at the end of the halls, needing only the installation of all the plumbing and necessary fixtures. Excitement was slowly turning to doubt. By the next day and another visit to the site we were becoming less inspired by it all. We decided if we were going to get it at a price where we could afford the renovation, we would have to do some sharp bargaining, something that didn’t interest Mr. Simon in the least. So we sadly but hopefully bade him farewell and departed thinking we would get back to him when he had time to think a bit about our low, but we felt, very good offer. I think Sean was actually reluctant to split off the major part of the land from the structure, the one feature we felt made our lower offer good and valid. Perhaps he felt he could hold his price by including all the land in the deal. We had discovered that if we as foreigners purchased more than ten acres, there were many additional hoops we would have to jump through. (Note: It didn’t work out in the end. We even returned the following year. It was still unsold and although Simon had relented somewhat, we lost interest after seeing how much it had further worsened in condition due to no one tending to it. Simon had also allowed a neighboring farmer to graze his cattle on the grounds and they looked wretched and pockmarked. It was a good way to close out a dream, I suppose, but even today we talk about how great it would have been to have a Castle in Ireland. Just before deciding to write this story I checked with Richard Egan, a local real estate auctioneer in Boyle. He said the property has subsequently changed hands three times but the property is not presently for sale. I could not get a current value figure for it but if we ever return to Ireland, we will be inexorably drawn to this property and hopefully can see a beautiful and restored structure)

We were a little numb with disappointment but it’s hard to stay down when visiting this friendly and welcoming country. We drove on to Mullingar the next day and stayed at a really great farmhouse B&B on Loche Owel. A great family too. We played tennis on their court and occupied the luxury suite with four poster bed fit for royalty. “Not less than we deserve!” a consoling rationalization that tended to nurse us past our disappointment at not getting the castle. I was reminded of my Grandmother Agniel repeatedly saying, “We get what we deserve and if we don’t get it, it wasn’t meant to be,” to which she would add “All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord.” I thought about this and decided Grandma’s wisdom had merit. About the same time I decided a second night in these royal digs in Mullingar were appropriate. So we just chilled out, took walks, played tennis and had several good meals at a neat little Pub called The Covert.

The next day it was off to Dublin and the ferry back to Wales. We made a good, if accidental, connection with the ferry in Dun Laoghaire. We were back in Wales at Holyhead by 1 PM. This ferry was fast, 1-½ hours from shore to shore. We drove hard till 6 PM and were in Lockerbie, Scotland. Checked in to the Rosehill Guest House. Very nice indeed.

We drove through Glasgow and found it uninspiring and motored on to Edinburgh. Here the traffic was fierce and we were again faced with a severe lack of parking. Unfamiliarity with the traffic pattern and not having advanced reservations we headed out of town to find a B&B but alas we were far south before we found one in Galashiel. By then we were pretty exhausted and disappointed that we hadn’t done better advanced planning on our stay in Edinburgh. We’ll just have to catch it next trip. The B&B was just barely adequate. If I learned anything on this trip it was to book ahead as much as possible; especially near the larger cities.

Time to head South. We learned that in this part of the country B&Bs were not as prevalent as in the south. But we are determined. The countryside is beautiful. The fields are well tended and every little piece of land is put to productive use. One interesting aspect of driving through rural farmland is the different colors of the fields. We passed by unusual fields of bright yellow on frequent occasion and neither of us had a clue as to what was being grown. I finally asked and was told that it is rape seed. It is used in Europe mainly as animal feed although it is also the source of Canola oil.

As evening approached we started the daily ritual of seeking out a place to stay the night. Pulling into this little town, I was attracted to a sign that advertised a Pub called “Dog on the Roof.” I found it easily, parked in front, got out, looked up and to my astonishment, a live dog was barking at me from the flat roof above the second story of the old Pub. Ah, but Grasshopper, there was no room at the Inn. The friendly proprietor directed us to follow the road we were on another mile and a half and we would find a lovely Castle that took overnighters. And lovely it was. Walworth Castle, a fairy tale affair. We both fell in love with it. Super room, great rathskeller, excellent food and décor and a very nice waitress to look after us.

The next day found us heading south on the M-1, a major North-South artery. We are nearing the end of our journey and now looking forward to a final fling in London. This area is devoid of B&Bs and it’s pretty industrialized. We make good time and cover ground. Zoom, zoom, zoom, we roll down this busy highway sandwiched between every conceivable kind of motor vehicle, all hell-bent on beating the others to their destination. Like projectiles shot from a cannon we move onward miraculously smoothly without colliding until we pulled out of the traffic and wove our way through a half-dozen roundabouts and into the town of Copthorne, West Sussex, very close to Gatwick Airport, our departure point for return to Florida

We checked in at Kitsbridge House, a selection I’d fortunately made on the Internet to assure our lodgings in the busy London area. It was an adequate B&B run by a friendly Greek named Nick and his French wife, a lady of such proportions that she could barely pass through the doorways. Nick was a fount of knowledge and provided us with detailed instructions on how to get into London, what to do, see, etc. So armed with all this new found knowledge we drove to the local “park & ride,” an area adjacent the train station and bought tickets to London. Within 45 minutes we arrived at Victoria Station in the heart of London. From there we bought tour bus tickets and hopped a double-decker to tour the city using the earphones provided to hear the spiel from the tour guide. It’s a good way to see a lot of London because you can hop on and off whenever there is something you want to see. The busses run almost constantly so there’s never a long wait for the next one. You can use the one ticket to board and exit as many times as you wish within the period covered by the ticket. We hopped off and boarded a subway (the tube, as it is referred to). We rode past a few stations and transferred. Came out at Piccadilly and picked up another bus and that’s the way the day went. Westminster Abby, The Tower of Big Ben, on and on until we finally returned to Victoria Station and found a convenient Pub where we could relax and have some dinner. Then back to the train for the trip home to Copthorne, a fitting end to a unique and diversified three-week vacation.

The next morning we arrived at Gatwick Airport after a short 20 minute drive, dropped off the car and fell into the capable arms of Freddy Laker’s finest where we were wined, dined and entertained all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale. Our flight was only half full and we both stretched out on banks of seats and the trip seemed more like a dream than reality. Other than a dead battery in the car, the remainder of our journey was uneventful. I am sure glad I kept copious notes; otherwise many of the details of this trip would have been lost. Hope you gained something of interest from vicariously taking this journey with us.

© 2006 David Agniel


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