July 1 Wednesday
Exploring Buda and wonderful food
The scene at breakfast spoke highly of how eager we were to again met Peter and begin our walking tour of Buda.
Because of the distance we would be traveling, we first took a tram. Linda was beyond that, already thinking about the word castle and the word hill, which were derivatives of word, up, climb and steps.
While the buildings along the way were interesting, the street signs were even more so.
The bridges of the Danube are many and varied. None are older then WW II when they were all destroyed, though the original plans were used to rebuild them. These are what the links look like on the first and most famous of the bridges, the chain bridge,
While the level of the Danube was receding, it was still causing major problems in the city. The streets near our hotel were a massive traffic jam because the roads that ran along the river were flooded, forcing all the traffic into the city.
Since a castle is normally built on top of a hill, and the one we were visiting today was no exception. With the heat and humidity,we were glad, Linda especially, to ride the funicular. It, like so much of the town was built in the 1890's, but destroyed in the war, then rebuilt. It is now more of a tourist site than a necessary means of transportation, so Linda was happy to be a tourist today.
Hungary has this thing with birds, and there are bird statues scattered all over. This one in front of the castle is a strange bird indeed. Peter joked that the Hungarians seem to have a knack for picking the wrong thing, especially in wars. So many of their monuments celebrate the heroic actions of a lost battle, war, or cause. As for the bird, Peter laughing said it looks like it's probably part eagle, part vulture, which fits right into Hungarian history.
The weather was downright miserable. The sun was as bright as could be, the temperature was hovering around 90, and the humidity was even higher, and many of our shirts were soaked, Linda came up with her own way of coping with the situation, which was rather ingenious.
With the castle seeming surrounded by statues, we didn't go inside since it is only a castle on the outside, and even then it looks more like a palace since there are no walls Hungary lost so many wars over the years, they probably decided to depense with the walls, which made rebuilding easier after the invader desstroyed it. These dogs appeared in Hungary over a 1000 years ago with the first conquerors. Today they are the nation dog, beloved for their loyalty, fearlessness, yet they are wonderful with children, making them the perfect family pet.
The Hungarians have so many interesting symbols that this was more a statue day than anything else. The raven with the gold ring in its mouth was a symbol of the power of the Kings.With all the battles and wars they lost over the years, it was probably fitting.
Later, several of us decided to go to the top rated coffee house in Budapest. Due to the weather we opted for something other than coffee. It had been a wonder day.And much later we had our final meal, where I had goose for the first time in my life, yes I've been pretty sheltered. Again it was a time of something new, a time to enjoy Life.
July 2 Thursday
Bye Budapest,hello Croatia, border check, Plitvice Lakes National Park
The traffic jam near the hotel was mimiced by the jam of tour members waiting at the curb.
Traffic was heavy even when we were out side the city, but with 2,000,000 people living in Budapest it should be heavy. The after making some progress it ground to a dead halt.
It wasn't long before the reason became apparent, there was helicopter on the road. The strange thing was there wasn't any sign of an accident, only emergency personnel. Another of the mysteries of Hungary.
Just before leaving Hungary, we stopped for both a restroom break and a chance to spend any extra forints we had. The cost of the toilet was 80 forints, and the package of almonds and a chocolate bar bought at the supermarket beside reduced our currency total to just over 200 forints. With 200 forints to the dollar, it was about as good as it gets in terms of money management.
At the Hungarian Croatian border, Honza said it wasn't a good idea to take photos, so immediately everyone's camera came out and the clicking of the shutters could probably be heard two kilometers away. A border guard came on the bus and collected all our passports, which were returned some time later stamped by both Hungary and Croatia.
Croatia had also been hit with heavy rains and flooding, as the water across the road in front of the bus attests.
After our lunch stop Linda was telling some of the women that she could drive the bus since she drives our coach, so the next thing I know she is sitting in the drivers seat. No, she didn't drive, but from the smile on her face it looks like she was really enjoying herself.
The war that had raged in the this area throughout the early 90's had left its mark in many ways. The most visible were the partially destroyed buildings we occasionally saw along the road. Between the damage to the economy and the exodus of the people due to the ethnic cleansing that had taken place, Croatia has a long way to go before its economy recovers. It is also why they work so hard to promote tourism, as it brings in much needed spending from other countries..
Our stop for the night was at Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is a series of 16 terraced lakes, multitudinous waterfalls and colorful water due to the high mineral content.
All this is connected with miles and miles of wooden walkways, making for a spectacular place. Our walk tonight was just to introduce us to what was here, as were staying in the park overnight, them using the tram, boat and trails to explore more tomorrow morning. We think of the National Parks in our country as being the best in the world,but after spending a few hours here, there are obviously many other places in the world that rival our parks, which is what travel is all about.
July 3 Friday
Exploring the park, a stop in a war torn town, off to the island of Rab
There wasn't a significant difference between the breakfast this morning in Croatia, and yesterday's in Hungary. In both cases, meats and cheeses predominated.
Our hotel was one of three built in the park during the communist years. Though it looked a little dated, it was kept spotless by a very efficient staff.
The walkways throughout the park were mostly of wood. Slightly uneven, made from split wood, they went perfectly with the rest of the park. Also unlike in the States where there are handrails everywhere, here there were very few. If you fall, its your responsibility, not the park's. Who knows, maybe they did the right thing in the war and did in all the lawyers first as the old adage goes.
The vivid colors and contrasts made for a most pleasurable time.As you might guess the walk also produced dozens and dozens of photos, nearly all of which where only a pale imitation of what our eyes had seen..
It's also a case of seeing so many waterfalls, that after a while you just want to get to the end of the trail. This is a place not to be rushed through in few hours, which is also the case at so many other places on a tour, it is place to spend time, contemplate your surroundings and relax. That is not to blame the tour, because much of what it is about is to expose you to as many things as possible so that on one of your future trips you can come back and enjoy something that otherwise you wouldn't have known about.
Having made the long, steep, hot and tiring climb up out of the canyon, here was what everyone was looking forward to seeing. Not simply the bus, the air conditioned bus.
Lunch was at a cafeteria where only one person behind the counter spoke English, and then only a few words. Once we learned that we knew why the line was moving so slowly. We ended up with roast pork, mashed potatoes plus a salad and dessert that we split. It was what I wanted, Linda just getting the same thing, then telling me she should have gotten something else. I noticed that didn't prevent her from eating what she got,so maybe it wasn't so bad after all.
Maybe it was a case of grin and bear it.
In the afternoon we made a rest stop in a small town that had been the scene of a Serbian attack. The damage to some of the buildings around the town square was still quite evident.
Our destination for the day was the island of Rab, just off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic where the only way to get there is by ferry.
Dinner was a fish feast eaten overlooking the harbor, the perfect end to a day that took us to places we'd never dreamed of.
July 4 Saturday
A hot day in Rab, 4th of July picnic
Health food it wasn't, but the crispy, thin, fried potatoes with breakfast sure tasted good this morning. Plus, we keep saying that part of the fun of travel is eating the local foods, though our waistlines, mine particularly are definitely beginning to protest.
Today was a free day for us to do whatever we wanted. Armed with maps and a single sheet of paper that described what was available, the planning began.
Rab was a place which was much better suited for someone who wanted to lay on the beach than those who wanted to explore. The town was very small and the weather was, to put it kindly, oppressive, with temperatures in the 90's and the humidity just as high, which meant we were seeking out the shade where ever it might be.
Every once in a while we would turn a corner and find a surprise..
Linda was not appreciating the heat and humidity, but after a stop at an ice cream stand, her spirits perked up.
Statue in a nearby park commemorating something that happened during WW II and also in the early 1950's. We found the Croation language to be pretty much undecipherable.
Lunch was eaten sitting on a park bench, and consisted of a few items Linda bought at a nearby grocery store. It was so hot we just didn't feel like eating much, and the shady park bench was a pleasant place. This is the label on the cheese which turned out to be very good, though the fact it was so warm probably had as much to do with it as its actual taste.
Deciding that others might enjoy being out in the hot, sticky, miserable weather, but we didn't, we headed back to the hotel. Linda wanted to walk to the nearby beach, but one look at the hill she needed to walk down and back up killed that idea in a flash.
At the hotel where we tried to upload the website, but just like the weather, the connection speed was miserable, and cost the equivalent of four dollars for 30 minutes. Slow wasn't the word for it, and we couldn't even download all our email, thanks to some of those massive forwarded emails we get, let alone upload anything. To say we weren't too happy was about right.
The one bright spot in the day was our 4th of July picnic. As you can see, everything that takes place on a tour gets photographed.
After the picnic, we enjoyed pizza with several other couples at a nearby restaurant. The real fun comes when it is time to pay the bill. The concept of separate checks doesn't exist in many of these countries, but it just makes it more fun, and besides, it always comes out right in the end.
As we left the restaurant to walk back to the hotel, the skies began to release some that high humidity, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, at it started to cool off. We decided today was one of those days that reminds you that in order to have days you call awesome, you have to have a day that is mediocre at best, to compare against. Like the song goes, to everything there is a purpose, a time to....
July 5 Sunday
Back to the mainland, traveling to Slovenia, exploring Ljubljana
As we waited for the ferry this morning, which would take us back to the mainland, we posed for our group photo.
Far more interesting than the group was what Honza looked like all loaded down with cameras.
As you can see there was no formal uniform for the captain of the ferry boat. In fact we didn't see much formality anywhere in Croatia.
The water was so intensely colored that it demanded a photo be taken.
When we had come over to the island, the ferry had been completely loaded. This morning it was a different story..
In mid-morning we stopped at a small town along the Adriatic coast for a rest break. The weather was perfect, and the water was the most intense blue color.
At the border between Croatia and Slovenia we once again had to get out our passports. The Croatian border guard came on board the bus and looked at our passports as we held them up. Then the bus pulled up forward to the Slovenian border station and everyone had to get off the bus.
The problem was that there was not enough room for everyone to get off, and as Terry, Greg, and I stood waiting to get off, the bus began to pull forward. When we finally got our drivers attention, his first words were, "This is not good." As you might guess the first thought through our minds were of us languishing in a Slovenian prison for illegally entering the country.
Our driver should know what he is talking about because earlier in his life he had been one of Tito's personal bodyguards. Fortunately when he opened the door the three of us made a mad dash back to the line, which no one seemed to notice. That little episode more than made up for the dreary day we had yesterday.
Our noon meal today was a picnic, all of which had to be carried up to the where we would be eating.
This was the reason it was carried "up" to where we were eating. Linda hadn't minded the climb at all once she caught sight of the castle.
One other interesting side trip was a tour focusing on the architecture of the city of Ljubljana. As you can see the decoration on some of the bridges in town was quite interesting. It had been a most interesting day, and a sharp contrast from the day before. This is also the kind of post I have to do when I'm several days behind in my writing and struggling to get caught up, knowing that in a few days we will be in London where every moment is going to precious.
July 6 Monday
Boat ride and a last supper
Everyday during a Rick Steves Tour, a schedule of what's happening that day is posted in the hotel lobby. Another hallmark of RS tours is the amount of free time you have, which amounts to nearly half of hours available during the day.
The hotel had an internet terminal with two terminals and also, in room wired connections. While our computer may be small, we don't have the problem with the keyboard the tour members who used the hotel terminals had.
With a boat trip to the island in the middle of Lake Bled the morning's activity, we all followed Honza down to the shoreline where we boarded our boats.
One of the reasons why the water of Lake Bled is so clear is the prohibition on motors on the boats. A few boats have electric motors, but all the rest a human powered.
During the trip out to the island there seemed to always be a camera taking a photo of something. Even if it was only a photo of someone else taking a photo of someone else taking a photo. Or something like that. If you weren't taking a photo, you were looking at someone who was.
The technique they used to propel the boat was interesting. Standing on a raised rear platform, they pushed the oar handles forward forcing the blades backwards and propelling the boat forward. Then with a flip of their wrists turning the blade so it would slice through the water, they pulled backwards while the oars remained in the water, to get ready for the next power stroke. They also used their legs more than their arms to generate the forward motion of the power stroke.
Our destination was a small island near the far end of the lake which had a church on its highest point.
One of the local legends pertains to any marriage which takes place in the church. There are 98 steps leading up to it from the boat landing. The legend is that for a groom to be worthy of marrying the bride, he must carry her up the steps prior to the ceremony. I know what that would have meant to my prospects of marrying Linda way back when.
Another legend dealt with the church bell, which was if you made a wish and rang the bell three times it came true. I don't know what Linda wished for, but it sure was apparent she was determined to make it come true.
Back across the lake, it was time to take a walk, but first there was a photo with a castle high up in the background. It is easy to see why this is such a popular vacation spot. Our walk was cut short by a rainstorm, but all it did was give us a chance to to get some much needed rest after several weeks on going pretty hard.
In the evening we had our last supper of the tour, a meal that we rated the very best we have had in Europe. After the meal, Honza gave us a little test which showed how much we had forgotten about what we learned during the tour. We passed with flying colors as we proved that we had forgotten nearly everything. Unfortunately it one of those you had to be there to appreciate it moments.
Honza then gave each of us a memento of the tour, a replica of an old beehive panel. In each case the artwork on the panel pertained to an old folk tale, which usually revolved around a problem husband or wife. It was one of those moments that makes Life seem so special.
July 7 Tuesday
Time to leave, another church, a rainy day, an interesting meal
Since the tour with those big dinners was now over and our waistlines having expanded to the limit, it was time for some drastic changes, at least as far as breakfast was concerned. Out with the meats, the cheeses and the sweets, in with the veggies. Of course it will be interesting to see how long this lasts before temptation takes over once again.
While we were staying in Lake Bled for several more days, almost everyone else was leaving this morning, though not all at the same time. The breakfast room told one tale, as it was virtually barren, and the back of this taxi told another as it was virtually full. As all the literature says, the tour is officially over after breakfast the last morning.
We got a good laugh as the person who was late this morning, was none other than our "former" tour leader, Honza. Not only was he late, but just as they were leaving, he discovered he'd forgotten something, and delayed the departure further. This was no problem as there was plenty of extra time, but it was nice to see that he was just like the rest of us when he wasn't on the job.
We didn't know if this was the view those who would be flying be seeing, but shows what the area looks like
Once everyone was gone, we took off to check out the bus station, and explore the town. No sooner had we started walking than the rain began to fall. It wasn't heavy, but it was enough that we needed to use our umbrellas. We had learned at the hotel that this was the wettest July they had ever seen, mostly because as it normally doesn't rain here in July. Really had to feel sorry for those who were here for their vacation.
We discovered the town had a university, albeit, a very small one, and in front of one of the buildings was this bust.
The inscription below the bust. Obviously he was a mathematician, and just as obviously, it's going to take some research on the internet to find out what he did, and what the formula means. Since where we are as I write this doesn't have an internet connection, it will be sometime in the future before the mystery id solved.
We also climbed up to the small church at the far end of town, something that Linda surprised me by saying she wanted to do. By now she'd taught me that climbing and visiting a church were two things she wasn't into. Much of the interior decoration was of a more modern style, which didn't appeal to me at all, but for some reason she liked. Maybe it was simply because I didn't like it, who knows how a woman thinks.
Not everything in town is in pristine condition, as this roof with a tree growing out of it proves.
Linda was fascinated by this fountain which had started life as a pile of rocks, but was now completely covered with moss. For all we heard about it not raining at Lake Bled in the summer, there sure was a lot of moss to be found around the lake.
With no let up in the rain, we decided that our hotel room was looking more inviting by the second. So while Linda got caught up on recording our expenditures, I discovered the Tour de France was on TV, which gave us both the best of all worlds for a little while.
After our meal of last night, we knew that any other restaurant was likely to be a disappointment. We sure were right, as we had one of the worst meals in long time. It was a case of magnificent lakeside view, cute edible soup bowl and lousy food, but at least there was a beautiful woman at our table.
July 8 Wednesday
A lazy day for he and she
This healthy breakfast thing is becoming a habit. Two days in a row, I can hardly believe it. If I keep this up it won't be long before I have to switch over to weight gain powder, I'll be so thin. Don't I wish. For what is worth, Linda found a little chocolate filled pastry that she claimed I would love, but my strength of purpose overcame the temptation,even if she did smack her lips as she ate it.
With food on our minds, and exercise in our immediate future, we stopped at the restaurant where we had eaten the wonderful meal the night before last. Linda wasn't about to repeat the culinary disaster last nights meal had turned out to be. And besides, the restaurant was next to our hotel and on the way our walk was taking us.
Reading what was written at the bottom of the outdoor menu, we discovered we weren't the only ones who thought the food was wonderful at this restaurant.
With the weather report calling for rain again today, we decided that if we were going to get in some exploring, we'd better do it this morning. We hadn't gone far before the clouds began to form over the mountains behind the town. In a few minutes they had enveloped the mountains to the point where only a few of the peaks were showing.
We had already decided we weren't going to be doing anything today other than walking around the lake and resting. The lake was so peaceful that we ended up resting while we walked ever so slowly toward the upper end of the lake.
Unfortunately about the time we were really beginning to enjoy the walk, the skies opened up and the the rain started coming down in sheets, and thus ended our day.
July 9 Thursday
A perfect day, but we've gotta leave on a jet plane, London town
Another healthy breakfast, mine is the plate on the left with the grilled veggies. Unfortunately Linda got to me this morning, and the result was the addition of one of the chocolate filled pastries she had raved about. So much for that single mindedness of purpose I displayed yesterday.
One thing I have been working on with more success is the way I eat. Europeans use their eating utensils differently than we do in the states. The fork is held backwards when cutting food. Then the knife remains in the right hand rather than being placed on the the plate. This means the food which has just been cut is eaten with the fork in the left hand rather than switching it to the right hand like we do.
Now that it was the day for us to fly to London, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was out in full force. With our flight scheduled not to leave until 5:30, and our taxi picking us up at 3:15, it was a great day to finally be able to walk all the way around the lake.
Lake Bled is a beautiful town, and this flower bed shows one of the ways it dresses itself up.
Speaking of flowers, Linda was all smiles as she.walked along due to the presence of her favorite flower. The color may not have been the deep maroon she prefers, but with purple scabosia growing as a wildflower along the banks of the lake, it was more than good enough for her.
The last couple of days as we walked along the lake we would see signs warning people not to bother the swans. Look as we might, we hadn't seen a swan until today. Since they were all in the water, and the only way anyone was going to bother them was by walking on water, it looked like they were safe.
After seeing the swans, we also had another sighting. This time it was William and Audrey from our tour. They had stayed in town for the wedding of William's sister, which was going to held today. It was a nice way of remembering the fun times, and also saying goodbye to Lake Bled. There are some things you just can't plan.
As William and Audrey hurried off to get ready for the wedding, we rounded a corner and were inundated with swans, including these babies that had Linda getting right up to the to get a photo, the heck with any do not disturb the swans signs.
With the profusion of flowers it wasn't long until Linda was in close-up photography mode. Whatever this one was, it sure was growing in profusion down near the water.
I've really been nice to Linda the last few days, not posting photos of all the rock in the shoe incidences that had been occuring as we walked the gravel paths along the lake. Today it was like she was stopping every couple of minutes to extract something from her shoe. After the third time she had removed her sock today, claiming the rocks were finding their way inside her socks of all things, I just had to post a photo, though I will be nice and post one taken after she had pulled her sock back on.
This is more than just a wall, it was the wall around Tito's lake Bled retreat. Tito was the long time communist dictator of Yugoslavia, who, after all the wars of the early 90's that ravaged the countries that had previously made up Yugoslavia, has become someone who has been looked upon as much better than he actually was.
Before catching the taxi to the airport, Linda had one last thing she wanted to do. Enjoy a piece of the cream cake the area is famous for. As you can see, I wasn't going to let her suffer through eating that huge piece of cream cake all by herself.
One of the problems that will be no more in few hours when the signs will be in English.
It was a good thing we got to the airport two hours early, because when we did, the line to the EasyJet check-in counter stretched half the length of the terminal building. Then when we got up to the counter we looked back and it was just as long as when we had been at the end of it. In the midst of all this Linda had dropped her passport on the floor, but fortunately the person in line behind her noticed it and told her she'd dropped it. That;s what you get when you buy clothes that look nice, rather than ones that have deep pockets.
In case you've ever laid in bed at night, unable to sleep because you didn't know what Slovenia looked like, here is a photo taken shortly after takeoff from the Ljubljana airport.
Our introduction to London was by way of Stansted Airport, one that few people from the states arrive at. After passing through passport control, and then customs, we bought tickets for the National Express bus to Victoria Station, which was the neighborhood where our hotel was located.
The airport is far out in the country, the ride to our stop being some 90 minutes long. Once we were in the city, there was no doubt that it was London. Victorian style buildings, double decker buses, and London taxis where in abundance.
It was about a 10 minute walk from the station to The Morgan House, which would be our home for the next six nights. They must have heard about Linda's aversion to steps, because they put us on the very top floor. There being only a narrow stairway and no elevator. To top it off the floor of our room is not exactly level, so it turned out to be perfect. This is the London we came to visit. Not some new steel and concrete imitation. Today we really did live Life with a capital L.
July 10 Friday
Sightseeing in the City
We weren't sure what to expect for breakfast this morning, which turned out to be different from what we've been eating for the past three months. We chose the scrambled eggs and grilled tomato with brown toast. Linda drank coffee, whilst I had tea with me milk. The scrambled eggs were certainly different, being finely chopped and molded, which made for little bits of egg that occasionally fell into my lap during the fork's trip to my mouth.
The view out our window told the story of today's weather, blue skies and warm weather. That meant this would be our outside day, since we had plenty to do inside on days it was rainy, which the forecast indicted the weekend would be. We learned from our hostess that the large white building had formerly been a police station, which had been torn down, and a large mansion erected by the Bismarks, And no, we don't have a clue who the Bismarks are.
Since we are staying nearby, we decided to check out some of the nicer homes in the neighborhood, and a 15 minute walk brought us to this one. Unfortunately the occupant was out of the city at the moment, so we didn't get to see the Queen. I'm not sure what I thought Buckingham Palace would look like, but Linda quickly found the part she liked best.
I don't know whether it is men in red, or men with hair on their head, but what ever it is, she took enough photos to fill a hard drive. Instead of being out by the fence and gates that surround the Palace, they are back by the building itself.
She wanted to be close, so she crowded right up to the fence. This is as close as she got, though with a little literary license and depending on the perspective, it could be said they were right next to each other.
We got see this carriage arrive and leave, carrying several gentlemen inside the coach who were definitely dressed like gentlemen.
We were starting to get into the swing of things English, what with everything being the Royal this or that, so we ventured into St James Park, a Royal Park. The nicest thing about it as far as Linda was concerned were the immaculate and FREE restrooms. It sure was nice to know that English Royalty understood the basic needs of their subjects when they opened the parks to them many, many years ago.
There were numerous waterfowl around the lake that was in the park, along with interpretive signs to help identify they. I joked with Linda that maybe this was the royal coot. To which she turned and said, "I don't think so. I bet it's an old coot, just like the one I'm talking to." Yikes, that woman's English ancestry is coming out in full force. Needless to say, I bit my tongue rather than making some comment about maybe it being time for the taming of the shrew.
Walking down towards the River Thames, after navigating a few city streets, we got our first glimpse of Big Ben, probably the world's most famous clock. Big Ben is actually the name of the 13 ton bell in the tower, but it's also the name everyone gives to the clock. We did hear it ring, and it doesn't go ding or dong, it goes boom.
Nearby was the church where English monarchs have been crowned for nearly a thousand years, Westminster Abbey.
Since it was getting close to the time for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Place, we headed back that way and stumbled upon the inspection of the band. The inspection was just that, an inspection, The officer stopped at several band members and talked for some time, pointing to various parts of their uniform. It was apparent that there was more than one pair of shoes that were less than perfect.
The inspection of the band, and also the guards ,completed, they began their march to the Castle and the famous changing of the guards ceremony.
We have heard this ceremony described as "the chance to see every tourist in London at the same time". Looking at the mob scene around the castle, the statement may be true.
Once we even got lucky as the guards in the bearskin hats marched right in front of us. Later we went back to where the inspections had taken place and watched the bearskin guards once again. Most of the tourists were still over by the castle, so we had a front row place to stand. By the time all this was over, Linda was more than just happy, she was ecstatic, having seen far more than she thought she would.
There is a walkway alongside the River Thames, and it afforded us a great view of Parliament.
Our explorations took us to many places including Trafalgar Square. When taking this photo of the Nelson monument I noticed what looked like smoke in the background.
In just a few moments there was no doubt as to what it was. Somewhere behind the National Gallery there was a building on fire. What followed was a procession of emergency and fire brigade vehicles heading in that direction.
In the evening, where we were over at Victoria Station, I noticed a late edition of the paper which featured the fire as the front page story. It had been a long and tiring day, but one where childhood dreams were realized. It was becoming readily apparent that London was one of the exceptions to our dislike of large cities, and already we were thinking about returning to it some day.