I left off in the last blog with Su’s broken Samsonite which we loaded onto Kenny’s Jaguar XF for the trip to London. We had a dinner date with Lincoln and his wife Doris in Central London. We never did visit Nottingham town centre which according to Kenny would be at least 30 minutes’ drive from Eastwood, nor the Nottingham forest, better known as Sherwood Forest, which is a royal forest in Nottinghamshire having its name derived from its historic association with the legend of Robin Hood. Mei-Mei had arranged with Su to view the property which she helped to buy for her sister who had just arrived Eastwood. They said goodbye and Su returned to prepare for the trip to London. Kenny started the car at 1342h for Leicester where we had planned to have lunch. We arrived Leicester hassle free at 1421h, but it took 20 minutes to locate parking, so that by the time we sipped our Pu’er tea at the restaurant, it was close to 3pm. Imperial Restaurant served genuine Cantonese food, with qualities that could easily surpass many Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. We resumed our journey to London around 4pm. The GPS indicated that it would take 2.5 hours under the traffic conditions. Indeed, traffic congestion developed after 40 minutes. We were almost ground to a halt at times. We arrived London past 6pm, when speed limits were reduced to 20 mph, with numerous traffic lights and road diversions which further slowed us down, and we finally reached the street where the restaurant was around 6:45pm looking for parking. Kenny managed to find one about 7 minutes walking from Pizarro where we arrived at 7pm. We had thought it was Italian and were expecting pizza, but Pizarro was actually a Spanish restaurant, so no pizza. Food and wine were very good, but not cheap. We caught up with Lincoln and Doris and had a great time, leaving at 9:30pm. Kenny offered to take our hosts home. They lived on Queensbury Street, which was on the way to our hotel, but the traffic conditions and diversions meant that it took a lot longer than 30 minutes as advised by the GPS. We finally arrived Indigo Hotel at 10:45pm and didn’t get into the room until after 11pm. Kenny came up for a little rest and left after we thanked him profusely. He got back home in 30 minutes. It was a very long day indeed, for all of us; and by the time Kenny got home, he would have clocked up more than 700 miles more on his Jaguar since he met us at Heathrow.
The following morning, we had breakfast at 9am after which we decided to explore the area. Indigo Hotel was next to Earls Court station with excellent connections to Piccadilly, District and other lines. Su had arranged to have a dim sum lunch with an ex-colleague while I firmed up a dinner appointment with Gregory and Iris in a Thai restaurant on Earl Court Road. It was a very pleasant meeting and Iris and Su had a great catch-up. They came to our hotel for coffee and more catching-up afterwards. The next day was the whys and wherefor we had embarked on the trip. Su was not giving me any chance to make mistakes and walked me to Mark Masons Hall (MMH) from Green Park. We met Derek Lo from Singapore, some friends from Malaysia and of course brethren from Hong Kong. I finally joined the 86 St James’ club after so many years. Su had a leisurely walkabout taking pictures and rather importantly, bought a new suitcase at about £200 which she took back to the hotel before setting off for Covent Garden for her Cinderella ballet. It was an excellent decision. The new suitcase turned out to be so useful throughout the rest of the trip. Meanwhile, I was too tired and went for the bed. Su returned before 11pm, thoroughly happy, which was important. The following day was another MMH day for me, when I met up with Ko Ying and visited him for a drink in his rather posh Dukes Hotel. Su did some more tourist stuffs, visiting Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park, taking pictures all the way, and had an entire Peking Duck for herself in a Chinese restaurant at Bayswater Station we had used before. She brought me back the leftover for my supper.
It was warmer than usual on the day we left UK. We got up early for breakfast at 8am so that we would be ready to check out at 9:30am to catch a limousine we had asked the hotel to book us for 9:50am. But there was no sign of a pick-up after 10am. We asked the front desk to double check and eventually a limo turned up at 10:15am. The driver asked whether we were going to Heathrow, at which point I smelt a rat. The driver then relayed to us what happened. He had turned up the day before because the Indigo Reception had misread Su’s order. He left, but the tour company had failed to register the new order and he was only made aware of the new order last minute when Indigo Reception chased for the order at our request, which was why he didn’t know we were going to Paddington to catch a train to the Stansted Airport. Indeed, the company charged the same flat rate of £38 for every trip, Heathrow or Paddington. Surface traffic was very bad and it took ages to get to Paddington, from where we lugged the bags for the Elizabeth line, which seemed to take forever. My leg was still aching. We finally got to Liverpool Street where we faced more lugging and uncertainties, bought train tickets, got to the platform just in time to miss the 1110h train to Stansted, because we had gone to platform 14 instead of platform 4 – we could have boarded the train if we had gone to the right platform. In the end, we boarded the 1140h train from platform 2, by showing the tickets to the train manager for admission, without having to buy new tickets which cost £24 each. While on the train, Su booked fast track facilities for going through security at £8 each for all three of us. The train arrived Stansted at 1227h. The Airport was larger than we thought; and the fast track facilities proved to be great help. We met up with Mei-Mei and cleared everything just before 1pm. We even managed to buy two bottles of whiskey duty free and at good prices, having met a very helpful shop staff who gave us more discounts we had expected. The plane, a Boeing 737-8200 of Ryan Air, was parked on the tarmac. As we walked to the plane, thick dark clouds hung over suggesting that it could rain anytime, which it did, just before the plane took off. We thanked God and our lucky star; and we took off on time, at 2pm. France was one hour ahead, and ETA was 1640h. In the end, the plane arrived 20 minutes early, albeit with a bumpy landing. We found the limousine Su had booked for and we left La Rochelle Airport at 5pm for our first air bnb abode.
Talk to you again soon.