Tag Archives: British airways

Morning in Devon, long drive to London via (Dorset) West Bay, Netherbury and Beaminster/Dorset — goodbye (for now) England 

1devonairbnb

Devon Airbnb

(a week ago…although it seems much longer…)

We hung around at the Devon farm Airbnb longer than usual, in part, because I needed wifi in order to checkin to my British Air flight 24 hours in advance and change my seat assignment, which as I suspected was a middle seat. (One of the annoying things I discovered about BA is that you can’t pick your own seat without paying $38, more than 24 hours before departing — a bit obnoxious for a round trip flight that cost over $1000…or in my case lots of credit card miles.) But I was happy to kick back, enjoy the lovely breakfast hamper that our host Sarah delivered to our cottage door with fresh homemade granary bread, multi-colored eggs from her chickens, raspberries and strawberries from the garden.

The Airbnb was deep in the countryside, north of Launceton, after a right turn at the pub in St. Giles on the Heath and a drive to the hamlet of Virginstow along another high-hedged, essentially one-lane, winding road that at times made me feel slightly claustrophobic. I generally love country lanes but the ones en this neck of the woods — literally the really wooded ones that form a tunnel, as opposed to the ones through open fields that you generally can’t see due to the hedges — were sometimes spooky, especially at night. (Maybe it’s a good thing I put off reading Daphne De Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn”, a spooky book set near where we stayed in Cornwall, although now I am more interested in finishing it.)

Dirck and I wandered around the farm, past the sheep and “rescue chickens,” the fruit, veg and flowers in the garden, the wood fence and beyond, a bucolic valley of fields stretching far into the distance.

In the church cemetery across the road from our Airbnb, we found a 19th century headstone for a “Betsy,” which was surprising since I rarely see my name anywhere, let alone in England. I also had a nice chat with our 34-year-old host who recently quit city life and a city job i to buy the old farm, fix it up and start the Airbnb (which despite its remote location gets guests from Europe, South America and us Yanks).

The three Airbnbs we’ve stayed at in England were excellent! Part of it may be that I am getting pretty good at picking and I don’t go for the dirt cheap ones (if they even exist) but beyond that, the English hosts seem to be particularly good at hosting and providing a good approximation of the English country life admired by anglophiles like me.

Our drive home was longer than expected, in part because we got waylaid for an hour (argh) in and around Exeter when the nice big A motorway we were on suddenly became a town center traffic jam. We ended up getting out of it by taking another smaller A road in the wrong direction and then having to take a series of tiny no-letter/no-number/high-hedged lanes that often seemed to lead nowhere useful but eventually did. We were amazed at the variety of  roads we traveled on during a short drive and how close they were to each other, from a multi-lane motorway, to a two-lane  (barely) road to a high-hedged lane.

In Dorset, we drove in and out of West Bay, where the TV show Broadchurch is filmed, long enough to see the back of the big sandy beach cliff where some dramatic scenes were shot. Way too many tourists. Fortunately my friend Marion had mentioned a lovely little Dorset village  nearby where she stays, Netherbury, so we sought refuge there. If only it had a pub. By the time we got to the larger town of Beaminster nearby, the pubs weren’t serving lunch any more so we ended up a a little bakery cafe for a few savory tarts.

To get back to our friends’ house in Mortlake, we pulled out the “Sat Nav” which was a big help. (Most of the time I relied on an AZ book of road maps Francine kindly lent us.) Driving in residential southwest London is not easy. The windy streets are narrow and confusing but with the help of “Tracy” (our friends’ name for the Sat Nav voice) we made it to the Mortlake house and even found  a parking spot (several actually) in time to have dinner one last dinner with Una.

This morning, without Tracy’s help, we gave ourselves extra time to drive the rental car to Heathrow  and even though I’d made several screenshots of the google map to Heathrow, we still made a few wrong turns. Fortunately a woman walking her dog at 7:45 a.m on a Sunday morning helped us and we were soon out of the tangle of neighborhood streets and onto the M4, heading to sprawling Heathrow, where we eventually found rental car return signs (near terminal 4 and 5 for future reference) and gladly returned our car.

Heathrow was packed thanks to the start of the school holidays so I was glad to have 2.5 hours of time. BA flight attendants were on strike, which affected our service  (no second meal although the first one included a surprisingly edible Chicken Tikka, scant ice for the drinks, a non-functioning computer map and iffy movie reception).  A few nice touches — free newspapers available before stepping onto the plane so I loaded up on the Times and the Mail (The Observer wasn’t offered but fortunately I’d already bought one.) Goodbye England. I’ll be back.

Leave a comment

Filed under Airlines, b&b, England and U.K., LODGING

Prague Castle and thereabouts

133.JPGAnother day of perfect weather Sunday and we joined hordes of tourists — no joke, I’m talking Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade size crowds, Iowa State Fair Size crowds, Obama’s (first) inauguration size crowds – crossing the fabled Charles Bridge to head up the hill to the Prague Castle complex, a series of grand buildings centered around the massive St.Vitus Church, where we watched the rather amusing changing of the guards, who wore shades and powder blue uniforms designed by Hollywood director Milos Foreman’s costume designer Theodor Pistek (at the then-new president Vaclav Havel’s request, no less!). (see bottom photo) Church construction began in 1344 and ended in 1921. yes, you read that right. Although the glorious Alfons Mucha art nouveau stained lass window came later, in 1931. (This trip has made me a mucho Mucha fan.)

Much of the complex required an admission ticket, alas, which we didn’t feel like paying. We did pay to wind down from the palace through some lovely terraced formal Royal gardens (
Zahrady gardens) and landed at Besada, a surprisingly good restaurant in Malostranska Square for lunch that we just chanced upon, that served surprisingly good hearty Czech food- snitzel, pork medallions, potatoes, potato and sauerkraut pancakes.

Next stop, we walked up and up and up steps of a nearby park to the funicular, which we used to sail down the north bank. Then we walked along the river, admiring the boats and the Sunday strollers until we reached the Charles Bridge again, this time dominated by a French food fair and a boisterous French brass band that the locals and tourists seemed to love.

Back at our pension, the lovely Green Garland Pension (Pension U Zeleneho Vence) on Retezov Street, we had one last coffee (tea for some) at Montmarte, an atmospheric cafe across the street and excellent gelato at a good place near the hotel, Creameries Milano ( 12 Husova) before bidding a sad goodbye to our London friends who flew home to London. We had adequate Italian food near our hotel at Olive Nera, enjoying eating at the outdoor cafe overlooking a pretty square and people watching. (Our evening was marred only briefly by a garbage truck that parked right in front of our table to pick up, slowly, the trash. On a Sunday night no less.)

On Monday morning we took one last wander around the area behind the big church in the Od Town square, finding even more gorgeous art nouveau and art deco buildings. And then off to Prague’s airport where I flew to London (on a decent British Airways flight) and then to Chicago (on a worn-out American Airlines plane)  after going through three security checkpoints for that flight alone. (Another in Prague.)

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Czech Republic

Paying to reserve a seat on an international British Airways flight. Really???

So now I understand why my return flight from Prague to London on British Airways doesn’t include a seat assignment. Apparently I can only get a “free” seat assignment (for a very costly flight, I might add) 24 hours in advance. If I want one before that, I have to pay – and the fee isn’t listed up front.  (I finally found it after searching for too long.  It costs about $12, talk about nickle and dime-ing. For details see: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/paid-seating-terms/public/en_us-  OR http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ba6.jsp/paid-seatingprime/public/en_us

That is really irritating!! I booked this flight via American Airlines – which I’m flying outbound from Chicago to London and on the return leg from London to Chicago (after I sit in a lousy seat I was assigned “for free” 24 hours in advance) apparently.  American kindly granted me reserved seats – who knew this is now a perk???

Leave a comment

Filed under airfare, airline fees, Chicago, London