Stingy

27 08 2014

(The blog is back at least temporarily.  We are limping along…)

Wednesday August 27, 2014
607 Miles

After a quick goodbye to Betsy we were on our way to Biloxi. This is our longest travel day yet so we settle in and let the miles tick by. Since we had such a long way to go we decided to skip breakfast, nibble on protein bars and hold out for lunch.

When we were getting hungry Rich was in the mood for Chicken Fried Rice. Rich and I have a history of Chinese food “tragedies” (Actually, Rich almost always orders CFR and is generally happy with it.  I, however have had some severe misses with my orders.  I am not really keen to go Chinese, but figure I will try again). I made it my task to look for a place on our way. Reviews weren’t looking so good in nearby Natchitoches.  I expanded by search to the town of some size – Alexandria a little west of Baton Rouge.  Bingo!  Yelp directed us to Chopstick – a new restaurant that had nothing but very positive reviews.

Looks decent enough

Looks decent enough

Chopstick looks nice enough, sleek modern interior with sushi bar, pleasant Asian servers, and a soothing soundtrack.  Rich ordered his usual chicken fried rice, while I opted for a pork BBQ dish.  Unfortunately, as soon as the food came out, we knew another tradegy was unfolding, and this time Rich was along for the ride.  My pork was supposed to be something like char-siu.  The pork slivers, however, were completely dried out and tough.  The char-siu seasoning was red, but we decided it tasted something like a reduction of cherry popsicles, or maybe Vick’s children’s cough syrup.  Unpalatable.  So bad I could not stand to waste any appetite and left it untouched.

And Rich’s chicken fried rice?  He likes this dish because it is hard for the kitchen to mess it up. The dish came out hot, but with only a sprinkling of vegetables and pieces of cooked egg whites.  Where was the chicken?  Then we figured it out.  This restaurenat does not even use real chicken.  Instead they use little chopped pieces of a chicken-like product loaf.  Then, instead of frying it, they just throw it in with the rice to steam.  The result is jelly-like tasteless white pieces that looks like egg white.

Rich ate about 1/4 of his rice, then placed his chopsticks in a big “X” over the dish (a signal to the kitchen).  I did the same.

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We’re actually doing this restaurant a big favor with this review.  Anything to hasten bankruptcy.

Needless to say, lunch did nothing to revive and refresh us for the remainder of our journey.  We consoled ourselves with plotting how to post a scathing review of Chopstick on Yelp and looking forward to a nice meal tonight in Biloxi. When the water of the Gulf finally comes into view we know we are close to our destination.

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The next couple of nights will be spent at the Palace Hotel in Biloxi.  The Palace is located on the coast along the “Casino Row” which sprung up in Biloxi since we left school in Mississippi. We stayed there during our last Florida road trip and really enjoyed the Smoke Free casino and hotel. The plan is to chill here and play golf tomorrow.

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Last year we had a fantastic dinner at the bar of Mignon’s – their fancy pants steakhouse restaurant. Even though it goes way against our MO (never go back to the same place), we decide to give it a try and it works out great. The bartender – Gina – is the same as last year. She is amazing and reminds me of what I like about Mississippi. She tells us she remembers our faces from last year.

While we are studying the menu, the couple beside us tells us that we should order the burger special. They are both chowing down on huge, delicious-looking burgers.  They tell us we should split.  Gina explains that chef has created a special burger with carmelized onions, gruyere cheese, bacon, garlic aoili, etc. It is paired with a glass of special Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet.  (The couple tells us that the wine is fantastic and that we won’t want to share it). We place the order for a split burger and supplement with a shared Caesar Salad.

Gina comes outwith a beautiful tray of freshly baked and sliced bread accompanied by both garlic/salt butter and pecan butter. OMG. The memory of this bread comes racing back to both of us.  How could we have forgetten the bread?  I could make my meal of this bread and our salad. However, when the burger arrives it looks fantastic. Gina sets the glass of Cabernet in front of me. It is the largest pour I have seen anywhere and it is wonderful.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and chatting with the other patrons and Gina.

The casino floor is calling.  I have to take most of my wine with me – I can’t finish it and definitely don’t want to waste it. I end up carrying it around with me all evening and sipping judiciously. Rich and I find our favorite machine of last year – the “blinged out” Crystal/Gold machine.  However, it is not giving us an inch.  We move on and try several others.  No dice.  We are not even winning enough to make it fun.

Rich heads up to our room to look at the route for golf tomorrow and see if he wants to ride his bike there.  I remain in the casino for a bit longer hoping to cash in like I did at the Tropicana in Laughlin in July. (Read about it here). Not gonna happen.  I finally give it up and turn in.  It is late (at least for  fogies like us) and I already have it in my mind that I want to get up early and hit up the workout room in the morning before golf.

Can’t wait to try our hand at our first round of Southern golf tomorrow.  I haven’t golfed in almost a week and am going through withdrawal…

 





Temporary Hiatus

26 08 2014

It finally happened. After four years of loyalty my beloved Netbook died on me. It already weathered a large crack in the screen and kept chugging along. I think when I dropped my bag the other day it was the last straw…

Hang in there dear readers. The blog will go on. It just may take a few more days to get it all figured out.

RIP Netbbook my old friend





Family Time is Great Time

26 08 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

162 Miles

Today is a short driving day so we take advantage and sleep in.  A quick cardio “Fitness Blender” workout is fit in before breakfast at the Springhill Suites.  The breakfast here is actually not bad for a “trough” set up.  Since we are kind of late (9:00am) we are the only folks here.

Breakfast at the "trough"

Breakfast at the “trough”

A bit of blogging is done and then we are ready to be on our way.  But first, there is a job that must be done. We remember last year when we came home from Florida and went to ge the car washed that there were many spots on the front end and hood where insect residue had actuaslly eaten through the clearcoat and into the paint.  We ended up having to make an insurance claim to get the entire front end re-painted.  We want to be careful this time to keep wiping off the bugs. (We actually believe that the culprits are the “love bugs” that are all over Flordia, but we are not taking any chances.)

I am on bug patrol today,

I am on bug patrol today,

The Oklahoma road we are taking soon turns into a toll road and Rich is balking.  He directs us on another route (a “cool” route according to him).  Our new road turns out to be great. We enjoy smooth sailing directly parallel to to toll road.  We get to drive 65 and have no other traffic – cool indeed! The goal today is Keller, TX (close to Dallas/Ft. Worth) to visit with Rich’s sister, Betsy. We arrive in the early afternoon and settle in for a nice long visit.

So good to see you!

So good to see you!

Betsy had originally informed us that the kids (our only niece and nephew) would not be available today, but she has gone out of her way to make sure they come home to see us.  Great!  David and Abby have grown into wonderful young adults and it is great to connect with them.

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Scooter is humiliated...

Scooter is humiliated…but still tries to be cool

Later on the three adults go out to dinner at a local restaurant – TruFire.  It is a great spot.  We all enjoyed both the food and the company. There was a lot of much needed catching  to do.

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Delicious Crab Dip

Delicious Crab Dip

My avocado salad with seared ahi tuna

My avocado salad with seared ahi tuna

It was great to get to spend the afternoon with David and Abby and then to spend the evening with Betsy.  We are lucky to be able to visit even if for only one night.

Love you, Bets!

Love you, Bets!

Tomorrow will be a long day.  We will be driving about 9 hours to Biloxi, MS.  An early start is in the cards so we call it a night when we return from dinner.  This was a great stop in Keller – thanks, Bets!

 

 





How Far Would You Drive for a Burger?

25 08 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Miles: 514

Long, boring drive today through Texas and Oklahoma.  After a spirited workout and “trough” breakfast at the Holiday Inn, we hit the road around 9:00am with a destination restaurant (if you can call it that) waiting for us at the end of the line.  But, more about that later.

Most of the scenery through Texas

Most of the scenery through Texas

Fortunately, once we hit Oklahoma, the scenery changed:

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Most of our route was interstate until we finally made a turn southeast to get to the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma.  Our destination? Meers, OK.  Why? Meers Store and Restaurant.  Rich and Alan(my brother) had visited Meers Restaurant in May of 2009 during a trip across the US.  Alan “discovered” Meers from watching a Food TV show about the Best Burgers in America.  Meers is high on the list. (They also visited Bobcat Bite for burgers in New Mexico during that trip). They loved the experience and when we were planning this trip, Rich suggested we put Meers on the itinerary. Done.

Meers is seriously in the middle of nowhere.  The road to get there goes through a wildlife preserve and was the prettiest scenery we had seen all day – we even spotted a buffalo.  Rich had tried to warn me that Meers Restaurant is a shack of a place with tons o character and fabulous burgers.  He is right.

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The town of Meers sprung up during the Gold Rush days in Oklahoma.  You should read about its interesting history HERE. Nowdays the population of Meers has dwindled from 500 to the present residents: one family of six people, eight cats and a dog.. You have to want to come here – you don’t get to the restaurant by simply “passing by.”  Most of the time this place is packed with people waiting.  We hit it up around 5:30 on a Monday and didn’t have to wait at all.

All of the reviews (and some lore) I read told about the surly service and how the cooks would come storming out of the kitchen if you tried to order their Meersburger in any special way.  Their burgers are made with 100% Grassfed Longhorns that is super lean.  It is served with lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato and mustard.  Period.  Suposedly, this exact mix is designed to get the ultimate flavor out of the beef. No salt. No pepper.  If you ask for mayo instead you will be labeled a “sissy.” I think Alan tried this and I looked for his picture with a big red X on the wall!  I was almost afraid to go in just because I was his sister.  However, our server was very sweet and didn’t bat an eyelash when I asked for mine with no mustard.

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The server talked Rich into one of the new microbrews made by Meers – “Meers Gold.”  It was actually very good. They bottle it in large bottles because they say that is the amount it takes to get through one of their burgers!

Dinner is served on pie tins

Dinner is served on pie tins

The flavor of the beef is indeed fantastic.  Taste “beefy” and you can tell it is super lean.  I am not going to say this is the absolute best burger I have ever had, but it definitely ranks right up there.

We read in all the reviews that you MUST have the peach cobbler with home made ice cream.  Even though we didn’t need it, we ordered it.  OMG

Yes, it is as good as it looks!

Yes, it is as good as it looks!

The warm cobbler coupled with the yummy home made vanilla ice cream is sinful.  The portion was enough to feed a family of 6.  We tried, but couldn’t make our way through it. I am glad we tried it, but wish they would offer smaller portions!

We left this much!  Couldn't even made a dent.

We left this much! Couldn’t even made a dent.

Meers was a great stop and gave us something to look forward to all day. After dinner we drove 20 miles to the nearest larger town – Lawton, OK to check in at the Springhill Suites.  It’s pretty nice and it is another free night with points (what’s not to like?).

Another nice, large room

Another nice, large room

Tomorrow we have a very short day (3 hours) to get to Keller, TX where we will see and stay with Rich’s sister – Betsy.  Should be a great drive and a great visit.

 





And They’re Off!

24 08 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014
399 Miles

Here we go again.  The turnaround time between our Europe trip and this road trip was a short 9 days.  We felt a little bit rushed trying to tie up all our loose ends (laundry) and packing while still trying to get in some golf with our buddies.  But in the end, we were ready to go this morning and left home around 9:00.  We weren’t worried about getting an early start since we had a relatively short day in front of us.  Our goal for tonight is Albuquerque.

First stop is Payson for breakfast.  We have tried several decent breakfast places on our various trips through here and today I have used Yelp to discover a new gem – Crosswinds Cafe.  The Crosswinds is located at the small airstrip in Payson and has a tremendous view over the rim.  It is a bustling place at 10:30 on Sunday morning and we have to wait about 10 minutes for a table.

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Our table is shared with another really nice couple of regulars from Payson.  They told us that folks fly in here just for breakfast!  The place is super friendly and the breakfast is good.  I have the hamburger patty with eggs and Rich has French Toast with eggs.  We enjoy chatting with the couple and also watching the small planes come and go.  Crosswinds will definitely be on our short list for next time.

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There are several ways to get from Payson to Albuquerque and I think we have taken all of them. Today we choose I-40. Driving on the freeway is almost a rarity for us – we usually prefer backroads.  I am impressed with the beautiful scenery heading east on I-40.  I think I may even like it better than some of the backroads (sorry, Pietown). If you want to read about our previous adventures in Pietown click HERE and  HERE .

An hour is lost along the way due to the time change, but we get in around 5:00.  Great – we have time to chill before going out for dinner.  The greeting we get at the Holiday Inn Express Old Town is exceptional.  We are Priority Club Platinum members and tonight is a free night with points.  They have upgraded us to a King “suite” and the receptionist is super friendly. Good choice.

Nice big room

Nice big room

Sort of a mountain view

Sort of a mountain view

Yelp has been our friend once again and leads us to the High Noon Restaurant in Old Town.  They are not busy at all and our server treats us great. She tells us that the High Noon started as a steak place and that is what they do best.  They have added some New Mexico dishes to the menu to satisfy more tourists. Since we checked in on Yelp, we are given a complimentary order of Truffle Fries as an appetizer.  They are great, but we try to only eat a few.

High Noon

High Noon

I promise we only ate a few...

I promise we only ate a few…

We both order steaks: Brown Sugar aged Tenderoin for me and Flat Iron for Rich. The plates look great when they arrive, but the proof is in the tasting. Wow.W It is hard to believe, but our steaks may be the best we have had in a long time (except for the Chuleton in Spain…).  They are juicy, flavorful and super tender.  We lucked out completely with this one.

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We head back to the hotel after dinner and basically crash and burn.  All the stress of getting ready has hit us and we are beat.  I am already anticipating a workout in the morning before we get on the road again and need to set my alarm for 6 (yikes!).

Today has been a great start to this trip. This is not our first rodeo – we have got it pretty much down pat by now and are relaxed travelers on the road.  We try to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. (Hey – could that be a metaphor for how to live your life?)





Homeward Bound – The Endless Journey

15 08 2014

Friday,  August 15, 2014

The alarm goes off at 6:00 – how rude.  Room service arrives with our breakfast at 6:30 and that softens the blow.

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The front desk convinces us that the easiest way to Heathrow is via taxi and that it is only a bit more expensive than taking the tube and then the Heathrow Express train.  We go for it.  The driver drops us right at the proper door and we are eased into our check-in.

Dedicated First Class check-in lounge.  Now this is the way it should always be!

Dedicated First Class check-in lounge. Now this is the way it should always be!

Security is a FastTrack breeze and we are sitting in the Concorde Room in no time ready to have coffee and a little nibble.

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The flight to JFK is uneventful.  Rich and I are seated next to one another with a screen in between.  We enjoy our pre-flight champagne and then a very nice lunch before catching some zz’s. Rich has set his stopwatch feature on his tablet to countdown the 6+ hour flight. Great.

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Catching up with all the latest "Tattler" news

Catching up with all the latest “Tattler” news

Lobster salad lunch

Lobster salad lunch

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Fortunately we both got some pretty good sleep on this flight because it is going to be a long day.  We have a 5 hour layover in JFK and then have to connect again in Chicago.  Not looking forward to all that.

We land early and stand in the galley chatting with the flight attendants before the cabin doors open.  Just as we are getting ready to leave a loud beeping noise comes from the galley.  The flight attendants are all scurrying around opening cabinets anirsd whatnot to try and figure out where the alarm is coming from.  Rich joins in and wanders around.  He claims that it is hard to tell the direction the sound is coming from – everywhere he looks it sounds the same.  No one can figure it out until one of the attendants looks at Rich and says “I think it is coming from YOU.”  Rich says “no way” and continues to search.  Finally it hits me.  It is Rich’s stopwatch from his tablet!!!  He opens his tablet, grins and exclaims loudly “We’ve landed!”  Everyone cracks up.

We have 5 hours to kill in JFK so we go to the American Airlines First Class Lounge.  After the Concorde Room it is a severe disappointment.  We settle in anyway and wait for our next flight.

This place feels like a dump

This place feels like a dump

We finally board our flight and soon realize that our crew is less than well-trained (that is putting it mildly).  They are uncaring and unprofessional.  Nothing horrible, just not pleasant.  By now all we want to do is get home.  We take off late and land in Chicago with minutes to spare before our final flight takes off.  This is the hardest leg.  Three hours to go and they feel like thirty.

The bright spot is that Johnny is waiting for us at the airport.  It is great to see him (even though we are brain dead). He drives us home and we crash and burn.

This has been a wonderful trip and I wouldn’t change a thing.  We know we are very lucky to be able to visit Janel and we are truly thankful.  We are also thankful to our family and friends who follow us on this blog and submit great comments along our way.  You are absolutely appreciated!

If you are not tired of following along, you can join us on our next trip.  We will be leaving on Sunday, August 24 for our annual golfing road trip to Florida.  We will be golfing our heads off and then Rich and Jack will hop on their bikes in Baton Rouge and I will meet them in Evansville, Indiana.  Should prove to be an interesting journey…

 

 





Last Full Day in London – We Pack it All in

14 08 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

After another great night’s sleep at the Chesterfield Mayfair, we wake and go downstairs for breakfast around 9:30 (hey – we are on vacation here).  The  buffet is stunning, but we only pluck out the yummy fresh yogurt and the delicious “seed bread” to go along with our poached eggs.

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Got to love the English sensibilities with the horses/dogs/foxes paintings:

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After a leisurely repast, we flip the bedside switch in our room to “service” and wander out to greet the day.

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Our snappy doorman awaits

Our snappy doorman awaits

Rich has been looking around on his tablet for possible destinations for todays explorations.  He suggests we take the “Tube” (the London subway system) a bit further away in order to save my feet from walking.  We can visit the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and London Bridge.  If we have more time this afternoon we  can zip back to our part of town and mess around in Hyde Park.  Oh, oh, oh.  I just remembered something that I want to visit in London – Harrods Department Store!  I have seen it on several television programs and it looks amazing.  Rich says that he read about it as well on a planned walking tour.  The walk takes about an hour total, but with the stop at Harrod’s it takes 4 hours! He agrees that we should go.  We will take the tube over there (it is close to our hotel) when we finish our Tower of London explore. Sounds like a plan.

The London tube system is easy to navigate.  We have dealt with subways in New York, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid and are no longer intimidated by them.  Rich knows where we are going so I don’t even bother with trying to navigate (yay!). When we pop up out of the tube we see this building.  We don’t know what it is, but it looks cool.

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Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress – aka the Tower of London is right around the corner and it is an imposing structure.

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There is currently a huge art installation being worked on around the building.  We find out it is an installation of what will eventually be 888,246 red ceramic poppies to commemorate British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in World War I on the 100th anniversary of the start.

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We make our way all around the castle, but don’t go in. In asking at the Visitor’s Center, we are informed that a visit takes from 3-4 hours and we don’t want to be tied up that long.

The tall building in the background is "The Shard."

The tall building in the background is “The Shard.”

As we move around the building and head towards the Thames River, the iconic symbol of  London – the  Tower Bridge  – appears before our eyes.  It is awesome and deserves several photos.

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Oh yes we did:

For you, Dario

For you, Dario

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Did you notice that the sky was getting dark in those pictures? We walked across the bridge and made it to the other side just as the sky opened up.  The first place to duck into was a fitness center!  Lucky for us, they had a little coffee shop with windows out to the sidewalk so that we could watch all the people running about both with and without umbrellas (we don’t have one).

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Safe and dry

Safe and dry

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Would it be London if it wasn’t rainy? The rain finally lets up and we want to make it over to the London Bridge.  We get only partway and it starts to downpour.  We seek a tiny bit of shelter backed up against a building, partly covered by an overhang. Not great, but we don’t get completely soaked while waiting it out.

waiting...

waiting…

Consulting the tablet for the map of how to get to London Bridge

Consulting the tablet for the map of how to get to London Bridge

We manage to dodge between the raindrops in order to see London Bridge.  Definitely not worth it.  It is just a bridge and not a very pretty one at that…!

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Enough of this drizzle.  Time to hit up the tube and zoom our way to Harrod’s.  We have purposefully not eaten lunch because we heard the food court in Harrods is amazing.  (We came all the way to London to eat in a food court..?)

Yess!

Yess!

Harrods Department Store occupies a 5 acre site and has over 1 million square feet of selling space.  It is a shopper’s dream come true – if that shopper has a LOT of money. If not, one can be very content just to look around.

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The Food Halls are incredible.  Anything you want can be found here. We are completely dazzled.  When I see the Rotisserie section I know that we have found our lunch spot.  Since it is after 3:00, there is no queue and we get seated right away.

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Rich has been having a “Chicken Fit” for several days now.  I wasn’t having one until I spotted them turning on the rotisserie.  We decide to share a baby chicken and rice.  I complete my lunch with a glass of Rose and Rich chooses white.  The people watching is some of the best and the chicken is incredible.  Boy did we stumble upon a winner here!

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Now we are reasonably fueled to tackle this monster of a department store.  Simply wandering from floor to floor and seeing the surprises around every corner is great.  We look at everything from the highest haute couture to electronics, wines and pens that had price tags upwards of $20,000 (I am not making this up!) You need serious cash to actually shop here.

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Louis XIII - I think it was 25,000 pounds

Louis XIII

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Rooms and galleries of designer after designer

Rooms and galleries of designer after designer

A lot of time was spent looking at possible home furnishings:

I think a pair of these would be perfect.

I think a pair of these would be perfect.

Should we replace the Fazioli?

Should we replace the Fazioli?

$500,000 chandelier (in London pounds!)

$500,000 chandelier (in London pounds!)

Who is buying this stuff?

Rich's favorite

Rich’s favorite

The electronics area was phenomenal:

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We couldn’t resist taking a picture of the big screen Hi Def where we appeared pulling a Dario:

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BUT – the absolute best thing about Harrods is the entire Fifth Floor.  (wait for it):

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That’s right – Shoe Heaven is a 42,000 square foot shoe mecca.  It was just opened a couple of weeks ago. Unbelievable.  Even Rich enjoyed strolling around here.

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We spent several hours in Harrods – now we understand.  So glad we didn’t miss this opportunity.  It is window shopping at its finest.

This is the treatment you get if you drive up in one of these kinds of cars:

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We have been out all day and my dogs are barking. With Rich’s expert navigation the final part of our journey is through beautiful Hyde Park.

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Last night’s pub dinner was just right and we decide to try and find the same type of place for tonight. Shouldn’t be too hard to do.  We start sniffing out an area pretty close to our hotel and come upon the Kings Arms Pub.  Done.

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The Kings Arms is crowded and buzzing.  That is a good sign.  There is an actual restaurant section upstairs, but we prefer the downstairs pub.  I spy a table way in the back and wind our way around all the people to nab it.  Rich goes up to the bar to order a couple of beers and a plate of fish and chips to share (with mushy peas).  We are happy, happy.

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It is a short walk back to the Chesterfield Mayfair.  We would be happy to call it a night except for one slight dilema.  We have an excess of London money (pounds – I just didn’t want to say that we had an excess of “pounds!”). We only took out a small amount from the ATM when we arrived and have been paying for everything with our credit card.  Today we started using our cash so that it would all be gone except for the amount we have budgeted out to spend on the taxi to the airport tomorrow.  Evidently, we haven’t been spending it fast enough and have some excess.  It won’t do us any good to bring home and if we exchange it the rate is brutal.  Hmmm.  Let’s get ice cream!

The concierge at the Chesterfield tells us she knows where we can get the absolute best gelato.  It is a 15 minute walk.  I tell her my feet are hurting, but she says it will be worth it.

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The walk to Amorino’s takes us through a part of town that we had not previously experienced.  Turns out to be a somewhat gay part of town (not that there’s anything wrong with that…). We pass by a pub where the men are just a little too nicely (and tightly) dressed.  That’s when we figure it all out.

The gelato is indeed amazing.  I choose coconut and deep chocolate.  Rich has vanilla and strawberry.

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We sit out on the street with our treat.  The people watching couldn’t be better.  We decide that we are so happy with how we have “done” London.  No plans, no itinerary – except our hotel, of course.  The hotel is in a perfect location for going anywhere.  We ate simple, comfort food in pubs and loved it. We walked our legs off and didn’t go into a single attraction or museum.  We feel like we got a great taste of London in our short time here.

When we return to the Chesterfield and our hallway I have to “pet” the velveted fabric walls just one more time.  My fingers make streaks all the way to our room.  I am sure I am not the only set of fingertips that have done this.

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