And so they were off again. Where to this time, you’d ask? To the U.K
This all came about when their friend Erika talked about going to see the last of the Music of the Night. She was wondering who would go with her.
The idea was working in her mind and she consulted Coen about it. He was not overly enthusiastic but agreed that it would be a good idea. And they started planning, finding flights, places to stay, places to visit, application for visas, etc, etc.
The idea was to go for a few weeks. Erika was busy finding tickets for us all for the Music of the Night show. The date of the show was to determine when they leave and up to when they stay in the U.K.
Finally, they got sorted. They were to leave on the 29th of June and return on the 26th of July. They got tickets to attend the very last show on the 20th of July.
There they planned first of all to visit with Amr and Tori, friends from their Uganda times. He was finishing his tour of duty in the U.K as Consul General. Then they would, of course see their British cousins, uncle and aunts. That would take them to Scotland. Then came the idea of finding out more about Coen’s McHardy ancestors who were from around Braemar in Scotland. And why not throw a tour of the Highlands and do some Whiskey tasting while they were at it. San, the leftist intellectual uncle who lives in Edinburgh was keen on this whole idea and had also started making plans.
The other idea that sprang up was to go into Robin Hood country – that is Nottingham and alentours. The cousins were keen on this and they were also finding dates when they would be free to go together. These basic ideas set, they set off from the cold winter of Pretoria into the not-yet-summer of the U.K.
They consulted the weather reports for England and Scotland packed accordingly. The cousins had also promised to furnish them with any additional items of clothing or even shoes that they might need in case of really bad
Johannesburg from the air
weather. They were to leave by Luftansa in the evening of the 29th of June. That morning they received an sms from the airline saying that the plane was late, as in very late, that they would leave at midnight but to get to the airport at the usual check-in times.
That implied that they would miss their connection for London. Their ticket was taking them to Gatwick which meant that they would have to take a train to Chiswick where Amr and Tori live. It was a bit of a drag but it could not be helped.
They got dropped off at the airport at around 18h00 and went to check-in directly. There, the flight attendant went off to find them a connecting flight for London. The one that they got would make them stay about 5 hours at Frankfurt airport. They swallowed and bore with it. Check-in completed they went to get a bottle of sparkling for Amr and Tori and proceeded with dinner vouchers to the indicated restaurant and then proceeded to the lounge of their boarding gates.
There, they settled for the night since they still had quite a few hours of waiting to do. Coen managed a nap while she read her magazines. Finally the place docked at the apron. It was one of these huge A380’s. Looking at it from the lounge it was impressive, made you wonder how the thing stays in the air.
At last, they called for boarding. The families went in first and then the passengers trickled in. The craft seemed to be fully booked and it was a squeeze. They were served another dinner while they were playing with their screens to find out what movies to watch. There was an array of films that she wanted to see but soon after dinner Coen opted to have a snooze. She also managed a bit of shut-eye and woke up rather stiff.
Early, after breakfast, they did a bit of cleaning up and refreshing and were ready to face the day. They landed at Frankfurt, it was quite sunny. They decided they would try to get an earlier connection. And lo and behold, the personnel were very helpful, the help desk said that if they wanted to go toe Heathrow, they could leave earlier and were assured that their luggage would follow.
Happy about this change, the moved on to their boarding gates while looking for internet connection to let Amr know that they would arrive at Heathrow – they live next to Heathrow. It was a well organised affair, this internet connection, but did not come cheap. They had to go through another set of security to get to their boarding gate and there the bottle of sparkling got confiscated with the excuse that no liquids from South Africa was allowed to cross into Germany or some such *&^%$ explanation – guess who would be having a party on our backs that evening???
Immigration was pretty painless and the luggage did not take ages to get to the carrousel. Outside she went to get them some SIM cards to call Amr. But he was there already with Ewen, another friend from the Uganda times whom they also met in Mauritius 2 years ago. It was a jolly reunion. Amr’s children had grown, as children tend to do.
There was some sun when they landed. When they got to Chiswick, it soon started to drizzle. There was a lot of catching up to do and everyone was moaning about the fact that the bottle of sparkling was confiscated etc etc…. it was great to be with them and to connect again after all these years.
Amr and family
The next day they all went to Westfield mall, a gigantic mall in the East End of London. It was the choice of restaurant of Faris, whose birthday it was, that determined the visit to the mall. They were to have lunch, take a stroll around the mall while Tori and the kids went to the movies. On their stroll they were on the lookout for shoes for Coen and for computers etc… There were all sorts strolling about the place, it was the beginning of the Sales.
In the few days that followed, Amr and Tori took them to
Under the lion of Trafalgar Square
city centre where they walked/visited St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar square, 10 Downing street, the Thames, Westminster Abbey and environs. Amr sent them a car to go to V & A museum where they had a good time going through the various exhibits and eating at their very nice cafeteria and very ornate restaurant. Then the men did their thing and the women did some shopping, did things with the kids and chatted, cooked and watched movies with the kids. It was a very relaxing time. The weather was very English, drizzly and not warm even though it was already July.
Inside the V & A musem
Even though the weather was not yet summer in London, the place was very well decorated with flowers: around lamp posts, on window sills, along the pavements, on islands. It was very nice to see colours in that grim city.
And came the time to move on. Ebrahim, her cousin came to fetch them. They bid farewell to the Henawi family, and were staying overnight at Ebrahim’s, with dinner at Aisha’s. The next day, Ebrahim dropped them at the car rental at Luton airport and then drove off in the direction of Scotland. Her other cousin was in Edinburgh, at his parents’ place waiting for them.
Around Downing street
It was quite easy to drive on the English roads. Traffic was constant but not hectic and there were no toll roads on their itinerary. The weather was good that day. They met with a 5 minute downpour and then the sun was out again. However, Scotland was another matter…..
Of the buildings on the ro
Eating area of the V & A
Crossing the border
Flowers by the road side