Approaching the Arctic Circle – England

August 2018

A summary of our 2018 Visit to England, Iceland and Greenland

Two of the places that we’ve never been are Iceland and Greenland.  Anyone that we’ve talked with whose been to Iceland has had nothing but very nice memories of soaring landscapes, sea mammals and northern lights. We figured that if we were going to Iceland, that we might as well check out Greenland, and also use the occasion to visit good friends in England.

Visit to England

Our trip started with a flight from Washington Dulles Airport to London Heathrow via British Airways.  We were met at the airport by our friend, Guy, whom we had met and spent a good deal of time with when we lived in Nigeria.  After a brutal commute from London Heathrow to South Essex to the southeast of London, we finally arrived at Guy and Sue’s home – an old Oast nestled into the rolling fields of the countryside.  Their Oast consists of twin 3-story cylinders that were historically used to dry hops to make beer.  The hops were grown locally, dried in the Oasts, and then bundled and baled in the attached “barn”, (which now serves as a 2-story attachment.)  The collection has been renovated to include ~5 bedrooms, 3-baths, a kitchen, living room, den and laundry room. When we arrived, they were just seeing off previous guests and family who had attended a weekend birthday gathering.  Here we also met Guy and Sue’s first grandson, (only 3-months old), and his parents.  It was exciting to see our friends’ daughters all grown up and starting families of their own, as we had known them when they were children. For lunch we went to a little restaurant called “The Vineyard” where all the ingredients are sourced locally.  Here we ate pork terrine, a Pimm’s cup, and fish wraps.  That afternoon, we sat in the garden drinking wine and chatting about what’s happened in the 3 years since we were last together.

The Oast

Tuesday morning, Rocky and Julie got an early start on the 1-hour train ride from the town of Stonegate to London where we walked across London Bridge to The Tower of London.  At the Tower, we took the tour with a Beefeater guide learning about the 900 years of history of The Tower complex.  We skipped the Crown Jewels tour because of long lines, but we visited the museum looking at centuries of armor and weapons.   After visiting The Tower, we walked to Katherine’s Wharf to meet Guy and Sue for drinks and lunch at “The Dicken’s Inn”, after which we made a long walk along the river past The Tower, through the Cheap Side, through the Financial District and past the Bank of England to St. Paul’s Cathedral where Diane and Charles were married.  From there, we walked over the Millennial Bridge (the wiggly-wobbly bridge, as it is locally known), to the other side of the Thames, where we stopped for tea and coffee before heading past Shakespeare’s Globe to Borough’s Market – a series of shops selling cheese, fish, spices, teas, oil, vinegar, etc.  Here, we stopped for drinks and dinner at Q-Fish – a restaurant near where “Bridget Jones” movies were filmed, after which we walked back to London Bridge Station to take the train back to Stonegate, where their daughter picked us up and brought us home to the Oast.

Tower Bridge


Inside the Tower of London


Our Beefeater Guide

The next morning, we awoke to a country breakfast, and spent the morning helping pack away the kitchen in readiness for an upcoming kitchen remodel.  After lunch, we went for a walk along the area’s country lanes to a pub called “The Bull”, a favorite of ours from last time we visited. Here we enjoyed the beautiful afternoon before heading back to the Oast for dinner and a quiet evening.

The next morning was Julie’s birthday, and after seeing deer in the garden, we enjoyed breakfast before Julie and Sue set off to visit Sue’s elderly relatives, and to run errands.  Meanwhile, Rocky and Guy nearly finished packing the kitchen, before it was time for a late lunch, followed by an afternoon of birthday bubbly.  For dinner, we dressed up and went out to eat at “Thackerays”.  This restaurant was located in a lovely old building build in 1640 and was renown for its world-class chef and tasting menu.  For her birthday, Julie had duck with foie gras, cod with ratatouille cannelloni, and white chocolate souffle with raspberry sorbet. Rocky had a crab tartlet, halibut and cheesecake.  All finished with chocolate birthday cake!  A fantastic meal polished off at home with a nightcap and a good night’s rest.

Thackeray’s for Dinner

The next day, we drove to Bexley to visit Guy’s mother who had recently bought a new house.  After tea and pleasantries, we drove to the O2 where we boarded the Thames Clipper, (a boat bus), for a trip into London by boat past Greenwich, Masthouse, the Canary Wharf, and the Tower of London to The Embankment, where we disembarked and found a local pub, “The Coal Hole” for sandwiches. After lunch, we walked to St. James Palace and took a 45-minute tour of Clarence House – the official London residence of Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla.  The grounds boasted a beautiful front garden, a portico and a portico that was being renovated.  After the tour, we walked through St. James Park, stopping to visit “The Kingsman” clothing store (yes – the one in the movie).  From there, we went to “Berry Brothers and Rudd” (Britain’s oldest wine & spirits store) operating for over 3 centuries!  Their cellars stretch over 2-acres underground where they house the world’s best selection of “investment” wines. From there, we walked to Horseguard Square where the mounted Cavalry is housed, and then to Westminster Pier where we boarded a Clipper ship back to the O2. We spent the evening with nibbles watching “The Blues Brothers” movie before calling the day’s end.

The O2 Concert Stadium


The Millenium Bridge & The Shard


Berry Brothers & Rudd Cellars


The Eye

On Saturday, we drove to the town of Windsor to see the town and tour the castle while Guy and Sue visited their daughter, son-in-law and grandson.  Since we had pre-bought tickets, we avoided the long lines and walked in just in time to be the last to tour St. George’s Chapel, followed by wandering the terraces and grounds, and touring the State Apartments, (including the Drawing Room, the Waterloo Room, the King’s Chamber, and the Queen’s Chamber.  We then walked part of “The Long Walk” – a 2 miles straight path leading to the Castle’s Gates, before meeting Guy and Sue for drinks, and then having dinner at “The Giggling Squid” restaurant.  We then met up with their kids and grandkids picnicking locally.  That was our occasion to say our goodbyes, before being dropped off at the Heathrow Airport Hilton for our flight to Iceland the next morning.

Windsor Castle


The Cavalry Stables & Parade Ground


Windsor’s Long Walk