As most of you know, Suzanne, Sophie and I have been in Dublin and London for the past week. Suzanne and Sophie are now off to Paris and Porceau to visit friends, while I am going to the Ukraine to visit Balta, where my Grandfather Bernard Mishuris was born in 1908.
I will write about the Ukraine itinerary and why I am doing this in the next email; for the moment, I'd like to recount our Ireland and England adventures.
Originally we chose the airbnb because it was a good price and offered handicap access -- Suzanne's dad Ralph and his partner Eliane would be staying with us; with Ralph's post-polio and Eliane's bad knees, stairs are difficult. The pictures online looked decent, and we thought Ralph knew the neighborhood; similarly, Ralph thought we knew the neighborhood.
When we got out of the Camden Town tube station, we were confronted with a huge crowd of partying drunk young people and blaring death-metal music! Somehow we missed the message that this was the Camden Rocks! music festival weekend.
We couldn't pick up the keys at the apartment building, so Sophie and I sheltered in a really good falafel joint (The Woody Grill), while Suzanne went off to get the keys. Once we managed to get into the apartment, we realized it was barely functional -- shabby hard beds, no hand towels or dish towels, and a disabled fire alarm.
In talking to the owner on the phone we learned that he was not in the country and relied on vendors to maintain his airbnb apartments. There were very few reviews for the apartment, so it was hard to yet an idea of the quality.
Out of the park, we walked half-an-hour through London to Hyde park, where we listened to people spout their ideas at Speakers Corner. It was fun until a heckler and a guy with emotional issues nearly got into a fight.
We took the tube back to the apartment, tried to avoid the raging party, and waited for Ralph and Eliane to arrive (they had gone on a Greek island cruise and were coming from Malta). Once we said our hellos, we had some misadventures finding a taxi, and settled on a so-so Italian restaurant. Day 3 of minimal vegetables.
Afterwards, we returned to the apartment to freshen up and changed clothes for a fine dining experience at Ottolenghi, a restaurant in Islington, London. We managed to find a taxi this time (it was a lot easier now that all the drunk people were gone), had a wonderful meal, and some extremely tasty deserts. Suzanne even got some vegetables!
The Harry Potter tour was fun, Sophie got to make a simulated movie of riding a broomstick (though for £20, we decided not to buy it). We spent 3.5 hours there, and could have spent 7.
We were hesitant to go in, since we did not have the owner's permission, but Suzanne was adamant that we at least look around: "I didn't come all this way to stand outside a gate!" So she marched up to the door. An older woman (housekeeper?) tried to shoo her away, but the gardener (her son?) came by, had read Anne Savage's book and understood why we were there. He said it would be ok to walk around the grounds.
From the manor house, we went in search of the Silent Pool that Ralph and his friends would walk to, and then to the Withies Inn, Compton (a very old pub made from the remains of a ship) to meet Ralph's childhood friend Phillip, and his friend Laura. There were many stories about childhood in Guildford and how different families came to England during the war. Laura, a mostly retired headmistress of a girl's school, got on well with Sophie, and had many interesting things to say.
Next we took a quick stop in Guildford, full of young people now that the local University is expanding. Then we went on to 26 Lincoln Road, the house that Ralph's mother Ella owned.
We had tea with the Bowles, who had bought the house from Ella (known in England as Ellen) in 1966 and still live there. Ralph said that he and his mother shared the largest bed room, a dividing sheet between them, and rented the other rooms, often to students studying for the bar.
John Bowles showed us the original 1946 deed which Ella had signed, and I got some pictures of it. We learned that it was originally a 99 year lease from the local church, what Ella sold to the Bowles was a lease, later the Bowles bought it out-right.
Suzanne and Sophie met Ralph and Eliane for High Tea at "The Wolseley" on Piccadilly and ate many sweets. I went back to the British Museum and got lost in the bookstore; I'm proud to say that I only bought one book.
So now I'm sitting in the Warsaw airport, waiting for my flight to Lviv; Sophie and Suzanne are on the Chunnel train to Paris.
Sorry again for the long email, the next one will be shorter.