Verdant fields & Galleon skies

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Verdant fields & Galleon skies

Verdant fields & Galleon skies


Tuesday 13 May 2014
Thinking that our first day in Wales would get increasingly scenic, I regret now that we did not stay longer at Port Eynon, as I think that this was my favorite retreat during the entire week. Nor would the Gower Peninsula easily release its magnetic attraction to us.

A blaze of formidable hedges

A blaze of formidable hedges

Celery Spider

Celery Spider


Retracing our route through the Gower Peninsula proved a mite challenging, and we ended up at a dead end on the far northwest point, enjoying the pastoral scene and pausing to view fertile fields over tall hedgerows. After this experience, we pulled out the compass to reorient whenever we were uncertain of our direction.

Welsh walls, old and new

Welsh walls, old and new

Returning to the ample motorways for some distance west to St Clears, we bypassed Llanelli (Thlanethli) and continued cruising through scenic Pembrokeshire, then turned off onto narrow coastal roads to reach Tenby, from which some of Susan’s ancestors hailed.

Floral walls

Floral walls

Before we realized we had missed the turn into the Tenby City Center, we were already bound up the narrow coastal road bound by rock walls and hedgerows.

Manorbier Castle

Manorbier Castle

Celtic battlements & steeds

Celtic battlements & steeds

Pausing at Manorbier Castle guarding an inlet to the sea, a careful rider approached on a huge horse with long hairy footlocks, an ancient steed out of some Arthurian legend.

Pembrokeshire Coast

Pembrokeshire Coast

Continuing on towards Pembroke, the roads eventually widened and sped up over mighty headlands that drew us ever onward towards impressive bays and harbors that boasted sandy shorelines. Sand schooners were plying the windy shore at one beachhead and small oil tankers anchored offshore in the distance.

Stranded on the Pembroke sand

Stranded on the Pembroke sand

Multiple photo stops at other hamlets and ports, some well inland, featured a flotilla of sailing vessels stranded on the sand at low tide.

Haverfordwest towers, gates & gables

Haverfordwest towers, gates & gables

Rejoining ample two-lane highways past Haverfordwest’s prominent clock tower, the Welsh towns and countryside were becoming commonplace, stone houses lining narrow streets.

Fuzzy cattle & wolly lambs

Fuzzy cattle & wolly lambs

Beyond each town, views opened to broad green fields spotted with sheep and newborn lambs tugging at and cuddling up to their ewes, often obscured behind dense hedgerows until a rise or a hill afforded a view over the top.

Celtic scenes

Celtic scenes

Our stop in St David’s was spent briefly exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park visitor center and sitting down to a lunch of soup and sandwich and meat pies.

Porthgain Harbor

Porthgain Harbor

As the roads generally stayed a few miles inland, we took only one more detour down to the shoreline along another narrow lane to Porthgain, pausing briefly to take pictures of this unique old slate-shipping port that was full of tourists like most other places we paused.

Sheltered Fishguard Port

Sheltered Fishguard Port

Cruising through the verdant countryside, we marveled at headlands plunging past pastoral views down to the Irish Sea and the sweeping rise of highlands rising to the east across the width of Wales. Frequent footpaths marked right-of-way trails passing from one field into another past Fishguard, Cardigan, Aberaeron, and into Aberyswyth.

Land & Sea Scapes

Land & Sea Scapes

Turning inland towards Machynlleth (Mackinthleth), we pressed on into the rising crest of Snowdonia National Park through scenic Dolgellau, then down to Porthmadog, where we stopped for gas and shopping at Tesco to purchase the makings of dinner and breakfast. Our final passage bypassed Caernarfon (Care-nare-von) and dropped us into the narrow vale of Llanberis, where it took a little exploring at dusk to find the hostel sign, but we managed to settle in by 8:00pm and enjoyed our microwave meals and crusty bread while attacking a load of laundry that had to dry in a hot radiator filled drying room.

Verdant fields & Galleon skies

Verdant fields & Galleon skies

This was a long 230 mile drive today, but rewarding, traversing the entire western coast of Wales from south to north and crossing through the lower elevations of Snowdonia where a mixed forest contrasted with the fields and hedges of the coastal plain.

Port Eynon

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St Cattwg's

St Cattwg’s


Washed ashore

Washed ashore


I awoke early in Port Eynon and enjoyed a morning jog and walk along the sandy shoreline of this calm bay, but didn’t bother to wade into the cool water whose tide-scoured rocky bottom had lain exposed the previous night.
Shoreline paths

Shoreline paths


Serendipity

Serendipity


Climbing up onto the dunes afforded a broader view of this colorful setting, green with damp grasses and prickly with blackberry vines, punctuated by nodding blue Penstemons, glades of pink Carnations, and many other vivid wildflowers.
Idyllic Port Eynon village

Idyllic Port Eynon village


In the village, holiday homes and larger estates with fenced gardens were all quiet in this off season.
Shells & pebbles

Shells & pebbles


Along the shore, simple pleasures of wet pebbles and the gleanings between Welsh tides caught my lens.
Between Welsh Tides

Between Welsh Tides


A lazy brook drained past the large lifeboat house onto the sand, and the adjoining village was just coming to life with other morning walkers.
Port Eynon boat houses

Port Eynon boat houses


Returning to the hostel, the ample communal kitchen enabled our preparation of an eggy breakfast, and we were soon on our way out, with a gift for Rachel of a small Welsh pendant of red dragon on green and white field, proclaiming ancient heritage.
Fast fox & feathery fence

Fast fox & feathery fence


While crossing the camping field, I spied a large red fox, the size of a medium dog, loping over the beach hedgerow across the field and then diving back under a row out of sight. I also had to run back to the hostel to return the key.
Harvesting the tide

Harvesting the tide


Returning over the beach and the dunes, I observed a fisherman preparing to haul in his fish nets with a tractor, but didn’t have time to stay and observe.
Memorial to Lifeboatmen

Memorial to Lifeboatmen


Glory of God

Glory of God


Passing St Cattwg’s Church, we paused to view the cemetery and impressive memorial to lifeboatmen who drowned during a rescue. The epitaph reflects the deep faith of these seafaring folk.

Impressions of Wales

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Impressions of Wales

Impressions of Wales

Farewell Achoo airbags & welcome to gleeful Gleeo

Farewell Achoo airbags & welcome to gleeful Gleeo

Although we got up at 4:30am and were packed and on the way to Wales by 5:15am, we got waylaid. First stop was McDonalds to satisfy Rachel’s craving for a bite of porridge (oatmeal) that was really a bit of all right. Then we got turned around a few times trying to find the A26 junction and ended up back on Lewes Street in Newhaven when I grazed a curb and set off the passenger side air bags. I just couldn’t keep this car from crowding the left curb when driving on the left on narrow lanes and roundabouts. And thus ended the quick getaway. The car sustained no other damage, but I was a bit shaken up.

Brighton breezes

Brighton breezes

By the time I got AA to tow the Peugeot 208 to Brighton and returned with a VW Polo, revised our extensive travel plans to eliminate the distance to Scotland and restrict our range to southern England and Wales, we had lost our touring advantage and departed at noon.

Cholderton Farm Shop's feathered feet welcoming committee

Cholderton Farm Shop’s feathered feet welcoming committee

Along the way, it rained and poured, sprinkled and shone sunny, over and over and over as we passed big port cities on the fast motorways, often cruising along at 70-80mph. Hungry by 3pm, we stopped for a late lunch at Cholderton’s Farm Store where colorful hens and cocks with tufted feet paraded about, and we enjoyed wonderful food and a much needed break.

Impressions of Wales

Impressions of Wales

Crossing into Wales on a wide motorway over a huge toll bridge over the Bristol River, we found industrial Wales more modern than the rural shirelands and downs of England. We filled up a service area west of Swansea and topped off our tanks at a Burger King to save time, then headed off to the Gower peninsula winding past picturesque tidelands and small towns on the edge of the moors, past pregnant wild ponies with long forelocks and bushy manes, fields of brown or white sheep with the iconic lone black, and a dryer landscape less lush and more visible and familiar. I really like the look of Wales.

Ruins at Port Eynon

Ruins at Port Eynon

Reaching the shoreline at Port Eynon, we towed our baggage through a field to the Youth Hostel and settled in, but not before Rachel and I ran down to see the ruins at the mouth of the bay. The moon is nearly full and the tide is way out, and we’ll greet the dawn with the tide fully in.

Eastbourne, Hastings & Beachy Head

Eastbourne Chapel

Eastbourne Chapel

Our Sabbath Day was relaxed. Jacky joined us as we departed by 9:00am for Eastbourne where we arrived at church early and enjoyed many friendly greetings. We introduced doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to her along the way, and enjoyed the familiarity of a Sacrament worship service. It wasn’t surprising that sleep apnea and weariness took over so I slept through most of the speakers like I usually do. But that familiar peaceful spirit prevailed.

Heart shell for my sweetheart

Heart shell for my sweetheart

Polished cockles on cobbles

Polished cockles on cobbles

After church, we took a long way round past the Edwardian Eastbourne waterfront and pier to reach Hastings (i.e., we got lost) and ate our picnic lunch in the car watching the windy shoreline. It must have surprised Jacky that we drove so far just to stay in the car and not engage in any activities. But just driving about and getting a look at the lay of the land, the towns, and chatting about our impressions was sufficient activity for the Sabbath Day.

Beachy Head

Beachy Head


These seaside towns all look similar, some more prosperous than others, but I still like the eclectic center of Newhaven’s working man’s port best. Returning with a detour around the graceful green downs of Beachy Head, I enjoyed a long nap at Jacky’s before launching into an evening of photo editing and blog submissions while Rachel stayed up late to watch Britain’s Got Talent with Jacky.

We enjoyed a great home cooked meal of roasted chicken and vegetables amidst much ongoing chatter about lives and cultural contrasts.

As with other days when I was focused on driving about, pictures will be few. But after the howling winds and frequent activities of the days preceding, this was indeed a welcome day of rest, with little concern, and the burdens of callings, clients, and children far from present cares.

The tide is out

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The tide is out

The tide is out

Eclectic Newhaven, East Sussex, Saturday 10 May 2014

We never got to Brighton today. Perhaps tomorrow. But we have enjoyed our activities and visits just hanging out in Newhaven town with Jacky, up close and personal. This is a long post. Enjoy the many collages of photos from this wonderful photo op day!

Pete's greenhouse

Pete’s greenhouse

Headless Knight

Headless Knight

After a rainy morning, I took a walk with Jacky to explore her garden and deliver laundry to her friend Pete who offered to dry it for us. Pictures of his colorful garden included a sundial, birdbath, and headless knight. Rock walls and flowery yards were everywhere.

Eye Candy

Eye Candy

Newhaven's colors

Newhaven’s colors

Harbor scenes

Harbor scenes

Along the Quay

Along the Quay

Walking about Newhaven Town Center, my favorite was, of course, the harbor at low tide.

Eclectic treasures

Eclectic treasures

Comfy cozy

Comfy cozy

While waiting for Rachel to get off the laptop, I took pictures of all the eclectic collections that fill Jacky’s impressionable home.

Shades of many colors

Shades of many colors

Glass impressions

Glass impressions

Dolls

Dolls

Fairytale

Fairytale

Fresh colors

Fresh colors

Portraits & textures

Portraits & textures

Jacky’s house is full of bright colors and reflected light; dolls, plants, crafts, her impressive water colors, and all manner of collections.

Garden glory

Garden glory

Nemesia smells like vanilla

Nemesia smells like vanilla

She’s also a remarkable gardener, skilled at plant lore and culture. Our favorite was the Nemesia which smells like vanilla!

Marsh trails & recycling plant

Marsh trails & recycling plant

Stranded by the tide

Stranded by the tide

Of boat works & harbors

Of boat works & harbors

Mermaid

Mermaid

Marlin

Marlin

Shipyard

Shipyard

Then I took a run down to the marsh and onto the levee that overlooks the commercial harbor, marveling at all the boats floundering on the mud at low tide, a most curious sight. This is a working harbor, filled with old derelicts, working class boats, and boat yards, not at all like the modern small craft marina near the quay.

Backyards

Backyards

Back alley

Back alley

Color row

Color row

Council homes on Elphick Road

Council homes on Elphick Road

Boot scraper

Boot scraper

Elphick imprints

Elphick imprints

Returning via the back alleys yielded additional textures and pastel colors of this working class neighborhood. The neighbor’s grey manx cat succumbed contentedly to fur scritching, but its purr was on holiday.

Newhaven Marina

Newhaven Marina

Sheltered by the Quay

Sheltered by the Quay

Closed sandy beach

Closed sandy beach

Rough seas on cobblestone shores

Rough seas on cobblestone shores

We loaded up on groceries for the next two days on our way home from our afternoon outing when we walked past the small craft marina out to the end of the quay in a half-gale force wind out to the lighthouse. I ran hard pushing in futility against the stiff breeze to cross the car park to the rocky shore to feel the cool foamy water, then practically floated back with the wind at my back. The only sandy beach for a hundred miles has been deposited inside the sheltered arms of the jetty, but the narrow stairs in disrepair have been sealed off, causing no small controversy amongst the locals.

Chalk cliffs

Chalk cliffs

Exploring Newhaven

Exploring Newhaven

Amenities

Amenities

Rachel in motion

Rachel in motion

An excellent excercise circuit by the football field attracted our our full participation, and I caught Rachel in motion having gangs of fun. The public restrooms had no sinks, but came equipped with a single machine that has soap, wash, and dry settings. Ingenious!

Newhaven Fort & Coastwatch

Newhaven Fort & Coastwatch

Furious Channel winds and waves

Furious Channel winds and waves

Fairy Trails

Fairy Trails

Bluebells & Daisies

Bluebells & Daisies

We also drove up to the top of the bluffs to see the Newhaven Fort and the National Coastwatch tower overlooking the white-capped coast. The sweeping views from the edge of the chalky bluffs were rewarding, but I lost sight of the girls, going back twice to the fort and the cliffs and still not finding them. They had traversed lower trails to avoid the wind, discovering a “fairy trail” through the verdure, as an enchanted Rachel called them.

Ouse River harbor afloat

Ouse River harbor afloat

Farewell to Newhaven

Farewell to Newhaven

Just before dark, I made one more foray to brave the breeze before the mast and picture the harbor with the water restored, boats afloat, the muddy bottom submerged again by the incoming tide. The symphony of clanging rigging was truly harmonious, and I was renewed. All in all, Newhaven is just my kind of unpretentious working class town, filled with interesting row houses, old boats, and diverse textures of rock walls and fences, not yet renewed or polished, and filled with genuine charm.

Rachel and Susan have been lively and poor Jacky seldom gets a break from our constant questions, language comparisons, and storytelling, but she gives what she gets and is a great hostess. We consumed a sumptuous meal of lemon butter and herb sautéed haddock, with steamed new potatoes, asparagus, and string beans. How rewarding!

And now it’s time to sort out hundreds of more pictures. Goodnight, midnight.

Sussex: Over, Under, Around, and Through

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Sussex: Over, Under, Around, and Through

Sussex: Over, Under, Around, and Through

Picking up where I left off the narrative from JFK, we boarded a Virgin Atlantic jetliner, a British airline with lilting accents that caused Rachel to ponder longer than was comfortable for the stewardesses while she struggled to process the strange accents and distinct phraseology to sort out what was being asked in relation to what she heard. Rachel was asking if there was a written list of beverage choices, and they were responding with an unfamiliar British brand name of soda products, akin to saying, “we have Pepsi products”, assuming that that would cover it, while Rachel was wanting to think carefully through what flavor. Thinking that she might not understand English, they tried speaking to her in French, which only exasperated her more.
She finally took my cue and ordered our favorite, a tonic water, delivered in a tiny little 12 ounce can that was almost worth collecting.

12 ounce Tonic Water

12 ounce Tonic Water

We settled into the back of the plane about four rows from the back and launched into a demanding choice from over 50 movies and other media choices, all going their independent ways and zoning off into headphones. As we sat on the tarmac for seemingly 30 minutes of taxiing and jockeying for our turn to dispatch, I was already into Sandra Bullock and Gravity long before we took off. A lot of the effect of spatial disorientation – being tossed end-to-end in open space – was lost on the tiny screen in front of me, but the movie was brilliant and a great diversion, so comforting to get to snuggle in and just focus on a single medium after two days of spatial and auditory bombardment. Despite the roar of the plane, it was so quiet in comparison to the squeal and roar of New York City streets.

Go Heathrow and Europcar wait

Go Heathrow and Europcar wait

Needing to drive in the morning, I quit viewing about 10:00pm my time and got about 3 hours of decent sleep before breakfast. Approaching Heathrow near London, I continued to doze instead of turning back to media, and was certainly not alert enough to read or write or ponder.

Entering the terminal, I began snapping shots of interesting signs. I think we’ll never stop marveling at how differently things are said in England than in America. Instead of Baggage Claim, its Baggage Reclaim. An Emergency Exit is pictured with a running man, sure to cause a panic in the US.

But the funniest thing of all was the fly painted onto the ceramic of the urinal. Even when I realized it was fake, I couldn’t resist trying to pee it down the drain, a clever trick to encourage aim while rushing through the essential.

Immigration was slow and long-queued, but reclaim was fast. Our bags were already offloaded and waiting! Customs was a snap decision. With nothing to declare, we just walked right out with barely a backwards glance to see if anyone was going to question us!

We were directed to a shuttle, which wound a long way to car-rental row where we occupied three despicable hours in dull frustration as we sat in a queue starting at #60 while our ticket was #104, far too many early morning arrivals for the 15 queues that they scheduled. Having reserved with Economy Car as an agent for Europcar, we didn’t have the preferred service as if we had reserved directly with Europcar. Their quality and service was atrocious, adding one charge after another, and I don’t want to revisit that nightmare, as I blocked it all out so that I could enjoy my vacation despite the terrible service and unprofessional business ethics. Besides the rental agency, I was trying to figure out why my cell phone couldn’t find a network, very frustrating after having invested $50 in an international SIM card and unlocking my phone for international travel to no avail.

Our blue diesel Peugeot was an upgrade from a mini to an Economy, to allow for a decent little boot (trunk) that barely fits our four bags under the soft flap of the hatch. It took some time to sort out the car, note all the existing dings and damages, get familiar with the controls, argue about the lack of a manual, and it wasn’t until we were well underway that we realized that it doesn’t have a CD player, only a radio. How cheap can you get!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Lower Windsor town

Lower Windsor town

Getting on the motorway to Windsor wasn’t too difficult. The maps and signs were good to a certain point and we could actually see the castle across the fields, but coming out of a turnabout, we were headed in the opposite direction, and stopped to ask for directions from a young man who had windsurfing boards strapped to the roof of his car. Plenty of wind on this blustery sunny day!

We walked around Windsor’s lower village, pausing to browse and nibble and snap photos of the outside of the castle, but by now it was 2:00pm, much too late to actually tour, besides which, Rachel was finally getting drowsy and wasn’t at all in the mood for a boring castle tour, no matter how keen we might have been. Stopping at a cell phone shop, they tested my international SIM card and concluded that it was OK, so it must be my phone that never got successfully unlocked in the US, so the card won’t work.

And then began the 4 hour ramble, up and over, around and through. We took the M4 motorway east towards London, then bent south easterly on the M25 loop that circumscribes greater London. A traffic accident slowed it down, but it gave me time to get used to the car. The distances were further than predicted. Signs announcing upcoming exists and distances to destinations are few, as every exit goes somewhere with roundabouts to multiple destinations, sometimes 3 points, sometimes 4, 5, or 6!

Blondie Roundabout

Blondie Roundabout

Getting tired of impersonal wide roads with 3-4 lanes of traffic at high speed, I got off on the A24 and headed south on smaller two-lane roads past Dorking towards Horsham. Such interesting place names. So English! Somehow, we ended up north of Horley and Gatwick airport. As the roads got smaller and deviations (detours) sent us east after Gatwick airport, and we ended up heading back north towards Redhill and Reigate, so we turned towards Burstow and crossed over the M23 but found no access, so now we followed, I think, the A264, an even smaller road with little traffic and nary a straight line.

Through pleasant countryside into East Grinstead, we wound up and over, around and through from West Sussex to East Sussex, wending our way through many wonderful little pastoral towns and hamlets, sometimes getting a view over the hills and dales, sometimes immersed in a narrow defile through a slot cutting down a crack in the mountain to the bottom. Two hours turned to three, and eventually, we figured out that we were headed east again and not progressing south, so we asked directions and started working our way back west towards Crowborough in search of A26, which took a few wrong turns to find, and was only encountered southwest of town by following signs to Uckfield. Continuing on towards Lewes (Lewis) and passing through the bypass tunnel instead of the town center, we followed the Ouse (Ooze) River valley on down to the sea at Newhaven.

It was a wonderful ramble through scenic countryside, peaceful, with Rachel asleep in the back, and just the right kind of road to get used to driving on the left side. The only disadvantage, other than losing direction, was that on these narrow roads, there were no photo stop opportunities, so we have a whole afternoon of impressions clad in green with no recall. Indeed, capturing the sweeping verdure is a daunting task, as there is little contrast unless a break in the hills coincides with a turnout, which are practically non-existent. Cows and lambs are mostly hidden behind hedgerows, but the whole countryside is ideal just to ramble about in.

Wilmington Long Man

After unpacking at Jacky’s, and enjoying a spot of chamomile tea, we took off for an evening meal at the Sussex Ox in the village of Milton Street after driving by for a look at the Wilmington Long Man, a curious chalk outline of a tall man of ancient date that looks modern in perspective with trekking poles in his hands. This rustic pub, hidden away on a narrow one lane track bordered by tall hedges was adjacent to classic cottages with thatched roofs, and a red phone booth in the middle of nowhere. We shared our meals, a stellar Beef Liver, Steak and Ale Pie, fried Mackerel, and sliced Duck, accompanied by tasty mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, onion rings and thick crusty breads with dipping oil. We enjoyed ourselves immensely amidst lively conversation. Sleepy after the meal, I woke up to drive us home in the dark, grateful for Jacky’s directions.

Rainy Day departure

Trader Joes Upper West Side

Trader Joes Upper West Side

We awoke again at 6:30am and took turns puttering around on the computer, showering and packing while Rachel dozed. Flor left for work early while I worked on emails and journal updates. They were both packed and ready to go when I started to pack. While they went below for Parisian Baguette breakfast treats, I showered and packed. I also spent some time ensuring that Flor’s laptop was able to boot and still run Microsoft Office applications. By the time I was ready, it was almost 11am, too late to meet Flor for an early lunch, so we left our bags in the apartment and went for another stroll in the wet streets with our raincoats on, enjoying a cooler morning after a light rain and the misty views of fog hovering over the skyscrapers.

Trader Joe’s was interesting with two underground levels. Chocolates and dried chile mango went into our stash for the long journey. We also snacked on some macarons right on the spot. Then we proceeded to explore Fairway Market where some unique Russian, onion, and sesame bagels found their way to form to another breakfast along with some wonderful ripe white peaches back at the apartment. The fare in the market was so impressive!

Street Signs

Street Signs

We finally left early and headed for the subway via Line 1 to Columbus Circle, transferring to Line B to Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller Center Concourse wasn’t anything interesting that we could see, and was so warm that we doffed our raingear and headed outside to the fresh air, landing in a park across from the Villa Italia at 46th South between 5th and 6th Avenues where we had arranged a pickup by two luggage services. We passed the time guarding our packs and quietly observing the scene.

Hexagonal Waffle

Hexagonal Waffle

We were ready when our Go Airlink van arrived a little early, and off we went, amazed at how many fun eateries populated this 46th Street neighborhood under the gleaming tower comprised of hexagonal prisms of glass. After one more pickup at the Grand Central Station accompanied by a guided tour by the driver, we rambled off to JFK while I followed the route on my roadmap. There was so much more to see, but we saw plenty, and were grateful for a restful day of easy transition.

We’ve been at the airport for many hours, checking in where they took two of our carry-ons as checked baggage — leaving me a bit insecure should they not arrive — clearing security where they confiscated the blade out of Susan’s razor, and eating at Tigin Irish Pub where Rachel and I each enjoyed a large Irish Breakfast with eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, and bangers, an assortment of sausages and ham.

It was a long day just getting to and waiting at the airport, which is why I prefer a late redeye or 6am flight. But, it was also nice to have a day without rush and a minimum of new impressions to digest. Yesterday was indeed full of impressions!

See you tomorrow! London is calling!