Today's final chapter in my tales of our trip to the UK in September may be more photos than talk, and I hope you don't mind.
After avoiding London each time we'd previously been to the UK, we took a direct flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor to London Heathrow. This certainly meant that I wasn't avoiding London this time around! We spent an entire day wandering the center of one of the world's most famous cities on a red doubledecker tour bus, taking in as many of the sights as we could, and getting on and off as we pleased.
One of the stops was for some retail therapy. Not that I really needed any. For the most part, I'm quite happy with bringing back very little other than the photographs that I take. But after years of reading about Harrods, I wasn't about to pass up the chance to explore at least a bit of that storied department store. I even had a shopping list, short though it was.
===Tuesday, 29 September===
I don't remember how far away we were when I first caught sight of those dark green awnings that told me we were about to reach our destination. The bus stopped right across the street with a traffic light a few yards away to help us get across. The second I stepped off the bus, my aversion to crowds started to kick in a little bit. The road and the sidewalks were absolutely heaving with people.
Entering from Brompton Road as we did took us right into the Luxury Accessories departments. Now neither Denis nor I are the Jimmy Choo and Alexander McQueen sort of folks, so we knew we had to get out of there tout de suite (or PDQ as we said where I grew up). Everywhere I looked was BLING, and the interior design was stunning, but I couldn't pay much attention to the marble and such because the Luxury Accessories were-- like Brompton Road-- jammed with people who seemed to be intent on spending money quickly.
|Harrods Ground Floor|
Fortunately I'd grabbed a free store guide on my way in, and I'll include floor plans as we go so you can get an idea of the place. I haven't told you yet, but once again I felt like a country bumpkin. Stepping foot inside this store was like stepping into an entirely different world. Oh-- I know you're going to want to take a look at these floor plans, so just left click on any one of them (or any photo) and they'll open automatically in a new window so you can see them in their original sizes.
On the ground floor, taking photos was extremely difficult, so we concentrated on making our way to one of the escalators, which was done in an Egyptian motif. It's not easy taking a photo on a moving escalator either!
|A very few of those Luxury Accessories|
|Egyptian design in the escalator area|
|Harrods First Floor|
We completely bypassed the first floor (second floor in the US) because it was filled with women's designer clothing.
I'd seen the map, and I wanted to wander the second floor, which had-- among many other things-- the book department and Christmas World!
|Harrods Second Floor|
But before we could get to the books and Christmas goodies, we had to go through a few of the Luxury Home departments....
|A few luxuries for your home....|
|No home is complete without one of these....|
Then I was in my little corner of Harrods Heaven-- the Book Department!
|One view of the Fiction Department|
I spent quite a bit of time browsing, and Harrods does have an excellent book department. If I'd had the dosh, I would've gone wild choosing everything I wanted to read and just had them ship everything home to Phoenix. But alas, I cannot afford a UPS truck full of books. Breaks your heart, doesn't it?
Then it was on to Christmas World where I was on the lookout for a realistic-looking European Robin ornament for my bird tree.
|Entering Christmas World|
|One view of Harrods Christmas World|
Although I searched everywhere and Denis tracked down an employee to ask, it seems that Harrods does not stock European Robin Christmas ornaments. Bummer. I had to settle for a Harrods delivery van instead.
|The Christmas ornament I purchased from Harrods|
I'd also decided to buy a couple of Harrods tote bags because the two I'd been using non-stop for about three years were getting rather shabby. I needed one all-purpose one and one that was water-proof so I could stow books, my camera, and other goodies that I take out to the pool in the summer. Here are the two I chose:
|The water-proof one I won't lose anywhere!|
|The all-purpose one|
|More detail of embroidery, buttons, etc.|
As I was standing in line to pay for my merchandise, I found an irresistible decorative tin. It's sitting on my desk filled with bits and bobs that I use everyday. That's really why I bought it, although I have to admit that the toffee was tasty!
|Harrods decorative tin|
I handed the clerk my credit card, and as he ran it, it automatically told him that I wasn't from that neck of the woods, so he told me, "Harrods has its own bank. Would you like to pay for this in UK pounds or US dollars?" Thankfully my jaw didn't hit the counter when he told me about a department store having its own bank. Knowing how US banks love to charge all sorts of fees for foreign transactions, I paid for my goodies in US dollars.
And then Denis and I went in search of food and drink. Lunch was way overdue!
I haven't bothered to count how many restaurants Harrods has. The one we chose was the Godiva Chocolate Café. Why? Two reasons. One, in honor of a dear friend who is passionate about Godiva chocolate, and two, it was the closest, and my knees were very close to going on strike. It turned out to be the perfect little haven of quiet with wonderful food and drink, and excellent service.
|A page of the Godiva Chocolate Café menu|
Denis and I shared a tomato and mozzarella panini-- YUM!-- while I had Black Velvet Cake and Denis had a Crèpe with Bananas and Hazelnut Praline Cream. I looked over the rest of the store guide to see if there were any departments that I just had to see.
|Harrods Third Floor|
|Harrods Fourth Floor|
|Harrods Fifth and Sixth Floors|
|Harrods Lower Ground Floor|
We both decided that the store was just a bit too crowded for exploration, so we headed for an elevator in order to leave Harrods and get back on the bus. Little did we know that we were about to have yet another Experience.
We stepped into the most gorgeous elevator that I've ever seen. It's a good thing we were the only passengers because we couldn't hide being gobsmacked. Leather walls banded in copper!
A beautiful wood parquet floor! The pièce de résistance was the drop-dead gorgeous crystal chandelier, but we didn't have time to get a photo of it before there were other people crowding their way in. Wow. Just. Wow. As much as I loathe crowds, I wouldn't mind going back to Harrods to do more exploring!
===Wednesday, 30 September===
Wednesday morning our driver picked us up at our hotel to take us to Heathrow. He was so friendly and nice, and without knowing it, he drove us right past the one thing we couldn't see from the bus: Buckingham Palace. Don't ask me why, but doubledecker buses aren't allowed to drive past the palace.
Three things stood out during our quest to check in and survive getting checked through security at Heathrow. As I people watched, it really came home to me once again that I was in a truly international city. All the different faces, all the different languages. As Hercule Poirot would say, my little grey cells were humming and happy.
Okay, that was the first thing. The second thing was-- wonder of wonders-- for the first time in years I wasn't "randomly" chosen to be manhandled...er... patted down. You know, if it happens every single solitary time, I don't think you can call it random. I was in shock. And there wasn't that box you had to enter, put your feet on the painted footprints on the floor and make like Vitruvian Man. But we paid for not being frisked and body scanned when our carry-on luggage went through the scanners.
Mine went through without a hitch. Going internet-free has its perks, I suppose. But Denis (AKA Mr. Electronic Gizmo) had his carry-on rerouted for further inspection. Lots of people did.
And the woman who was doing the inspecting took her break and didn't tell anyone. When her co-workers finally had her desertion forcefully brought to their attention, they took it out on all of us. Each one of Denis's gizmos was pulled out and inspected carefully. Each one of his charging cords got the same treatment. And everyone was in such a hurry because they'd been kept waiting so long that Denis had to grab and stuff things into his bag as quickly as possible.
This led to some frantic bag searching when we made it onto the concourse where all the shops were. Fortunately the $400 piece of equipment he thought was missing was located and put into its proper place. As for me, I was looking for liquid refreshment and at the range of shops Heathrow had-- the most interesting range of retail I've seen in an airport. After finding the loo, I wandered into a WHSmith for a soda and a couple of magazines.
|Magazine purchase #1|
|Magazine purchase #2|
Being unacquainted with Heathrow, we waited for our assigned gate to be announced, then joined the stampede to the terminal, down three flights of escalators, a short, vehement tram ride, and back up three flights of escalators. Whew! The flight back to Phoenix was positively anti-climactic.
Sky Harbor is testing some new equipment that involves opening your passport to the required page, inserting it into the machine, waiting for your passport photo to appear in the box, then positioning your head so it appears in the adjacent empty box, and pressing OK. The machine compares you with your passport photo. Pretty neat! I would've loved to take a photo of it, but thought it unwise with the heavy security presence and sniffer dogs in the room.
We were late getting our baggage, and there wasn't cell phone reception in the part of the airport we were in, so Denis loaded our luggage on one of those carts, and I pushed it while he galloped ahead, trying to call the company that was supposed to be picking us up and taking us home. We didn't have to wait, and we got home without a hitch. All I had to do was unpack.
|Everything made it home!|
All the skeins of yarn I'd purchased in Inverness that tried to escape in the Edinburgh train station had been captured and made it home with me. So did all the knitting I completed while in the UK.
|Now in a landfill!|
...those Swiss Gear rolling duffle bags that had given us so much grief throughout our trip? Once I'd emptied them and removed the orange luggage tags, they were immediately binned and now reside in a Phoenix landfill. They will never try to poison another of our journeys! Denis and I really wanted to take them outside where they'd be the guests of honor at a bonfire, but we didn't want to cause the neighbors any concern.
Denis and I are already beginning to plan our next trip. It will be much closer to home. There's so much of the United States that he hasn't seen. I'd like to show him some of my favorite places. First up: a trip through Death Valley on the way to Yosemite National Park, Bodie State Historic Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Lake Tahoe. What do you think? Should I get new batteries for my camera?
I hope you've enjoyed traveling along on our wee trip to the UK. I look forward to sharing more travels with you!