Skip to content

Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.

Archive

Category: Family Travels

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Following up on my last posting, I would like to talk about kids on trains… Maybe it is my romantic view of train travel, that of traversing broad expansive panoramas of untamed riches being pulled by hefty locomotives and sitting in the lap of relative luxury… I remember traveling by streetcar with my grandmother every Christmas to downtown Los Angeles to do my shopping… I remember the sight of the train at Knott’s Berry Farm and the great, classic interiors… I remember the trains passing along the back side of our house on Phlox Street pulling their strings of boxcars and flatcars… I remember the trains of over 100 cars that would pass us as we traveled to Fresno to visit family… I dream of train travel being one way of crossing new lands to reach exotic destinations…

ENTER REALITY… We had decided to take a day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, while in England on this trip. We booked the train before leaving home and we opted for ‘second’ class rather than traveling ‘first’ class as we would do in Germany; what a mistake! The reason? Families traveling with KIDS on holiday… It was a miserable experience.

While the trip north was not uncomfortable in the newer coach that we were on, the trip back was quite uncomfortable. In the former case, there was a place to store my walker while in the latter case I had to leave it in the ‘Entry/Exit’ area… The comfort of the seats were also different, with the new coach having ‘fold away’ armrests while the older coach did not… But it was the KIDS that made ‘second’ class travel so miserable…

On the way north, we had a family sitting around a table next to us… This included a ‘Dudley Dursley’ type of character who was ‘squirrelly’ and just plain obnoxious. He was listening to his MP3 player, but when he wanted something, he would shout instead of talk because he couldn’t hear how loud he was… Plus, he was constantly changing seats, hitting his brother, etc. This went on for four hours! The parents didn’t discipline him; if they told him to stop doing something, he went right on doing it…

On the way back south, there were numerous families sitting around us with kids. Some of them were borderline ‘bad’, but one mother and her son and daughter were just terrible. The kids hit, kicked, bit, and otherwise abused the mother and she did nothing to stop it or to discipline them for such misbehavior… In addition to rather constant screaming, she let them run and play in the aisles without restraint!

Finally, I had enough of this and the uncomfortable seat so I went into the entry/exit area, where my walker was positioned, and sat there for the rest of the trip… It was cold, drafty, lonely, and generally uncomfortable. When I asked to porter about getting changed to the handicapped area, I was told that that was not possible unless I had requested that before starting! I ended up with a miserable headache and subsequent head and chest cold for the remainder of our holiday. I’m writing to the train company with a complaint…

On to more happy tails in the next installment…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Sunday morning began well enough… We did go to the restaurant for our complimentary buffet breakfast early and thus avoided most of the kids. This may have been aided by the fact that if the kids behaved too badly, the parents may not have taken them to LegoLand! Also, the kids would have been rested and, therefore, exhibited reasonable behavior…

The typical English breakfast must have survived from the more barbaric days in Briton… Much of the food was highly salted and full of fat! And who in their right minds eats baked beans or blood pudding for breakfast? Fortunately, I could each the scrambled eggs (which seemed to have been made from powdered eggs), fresh fruit, yogurt and wheat toast. Overall, it was an adequate starter meal within my dietary plan.

After breakfast, we traveled to Heathrow to catch the ‘tube’ to London’s Paddington Station. Unlike the day before, we did not go by taxi; we road the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ shuttle bus that can by the hotel every half hour. This cost only £3 each, considerably less than the previous cab ride. It did take a little longer, but the driver was extremely courteous and helped get my walker aboard. We got to Heathrow and then the adventure began…

On the weekend that we were there, the Paddington line was closed for repairs and we got to take the faster ‘Heathrow Express’ train to the station for the same price of £6 each (round trip). The challenge, however, was to get to both the tube station and then to the Heathrow Express station. We walked down long corridors to each and the total trip took about one half hour.

Once on the train, the fifteen minute trip was quite pleasant and we were at the Paddington Station rather quickly. When we explored the station, we found no elevators or escalators by which we could reach street level. Our only options were to use the stairs or go up a long sloping street (about a quarter of a mile in length), which we did. Upon reaching the street level, we needed to then find the tour bus stop. After about five minutes of checking, we saw one of the buses (that has ‘get on/get off’ service around the city) pull away from the stop. We then made our way to that place, bought our tickets, and waited for the next bus…

The ‘tour’ bus runs on three lines: the Blue, the Red and the Green lines. We were at the stop on the Blue line… Immediately, this area looked familiar; we had stayed at a small bed and breakfast hotel a couple of blocks away (NOTE: a dreadful experience that we did not want to repeat), so we had a ‘handle’ on what we needed to do… We would take this Blue bus to the Marble Arches and transfer to a Red bus that would take us about the city center.

[By the way, the Blue route goes around the west side of the city, including Buckingham Palace and Herrods while the Red bus goes around the middle of the city, including the Themes, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, and other points of interest. The Green bus goes into the northern portion of the city, including the British Museum.]

Thank goodness I had taken the walker instead of the wheelchair since it was much better adapted to getting on and off the bus. It allowed me to walk more and gave me good exercise. In most cases, I didn’t need to stop and rest while off the bus in London. It also fit into buses and taxis much better than my wheelchair would have permitted. Also, it provided an adequate seat in many restaurants and pubs.

Upon coming to the Tower of London, we were past lunch time and asked the driver for suggestions for a place to eat. He identified a little pub across from the Tower of London so we got off and walked over to it. This was a great little spot to eat and we had a delightful lunch there and Grace got to sample some of the local brews.

After lunch, we caught the bus again and continued to follow along the Themes. We later transferred to the Blue line again. We thought of getting off to see Herrod’s goods, but were too tired to do so. We continued on to the stop by the Paddington Station were we had started the day. We got back to the trains and caught the train back to Heathrow. Once there we caught the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ again to return to the Marriott.

After resting a bit, we went down to the pub for a great dinner and a time of relaxing. The only thing that spoiled the day was that I wanted to swim after dinner since I had been sitting on the bus all day and anticipating the long train ride the next day…
The problem was, again, KIDS… Some kid has become sick while in the pool and had either thrown up or had some other type of accident in the pool; it was closed until further notice. The kids had struck again…
Oh, Well… Our next day was spent going to Edinburgh and that has been posted previously.

Next Installment: Flying to my homeland (Heimat)…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Eating with kids is much like eating on the beach. You tolerate it, but it becomes a survival thing instead of an experience. That’s what we experienced at the Marriott…

Our first night in London, we were adapting to the travel and time change as well as the lose of a day… We had a great latte at the airport before going to the hotel. Once settled in, we had a satisfying lunch in the ‘pub’ at the hotel; they were able to prepare a meal within my dietary limits (no salt or fat)… The atmosphere was great, with a variety of quotes on the wall and a comfortable ambiance… It seemed the same as we had experienced four years ago.

After getting settled into our room and taking a welcomed nap (fully reclined, not sitting up), we were ready for dinner. Since it was after 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, we figured that the big dinner rush at the restaurant would have been past… Little did we know! We apparently hit the restaurant about the same time many families were returning from LegoLand with tired, hungry kids… What should have been a pleasant experience turned into a madhouse.

Kids everywhere! Tired kids… Hungary kids… Restless kids… And to top that off, the hotel only make reservations for groups of four or more (and there were plenty of the ‘more’ groups). Therefore, they tried to find us a table that was accessible with my walker. Initially, they placed us at a table that was right next to a group of 8 (six of them kids)… We asked for a different table and they finally found one that was up a short flight of stairs, which we took and I negotiated well with my walker…

Now the three closest tables had families of adults and kids… We thought that we were a safe distance from them, but we were wrong… Two of the families attended pretty well to the kids, helping them make their choices from the buffet, but the third was reminiscent of the Dursley family from the Harry Potter movie… There was an indulged, spoiled brat between the two boys and he was climbing over everything, hitting his brother, complaining about this and that… He was the epitome of Dudley Dursley!

The parents totally ignored the misbehavior of the bratty child and only disciplined the older child when he dared to respond to the taunts and hits from the other child… These parents simply didn’t care is children were there; they must have been tired from their day of trekking about the amusement park…

NOTE: While the British parents seemed to accept the misbehavior of the children, German parents paid attention to their kids at the table, playing with them, interacting with them… The German children also knew that when the parents said to stop doing something, they did so… What a refreshing change that was…

Back to the Marriott… We had been seated for about 15-20 minutes before anyone came by to take our order, even for drinks… The servers were apparently used to the occupants gorging themselves on the not-so-inexpensive buffet that they had ceased to be servers! When we finally got someone’s attention, they took our order and did not quite understand the special dietary needs that I had; we explained it again and again… Finally, we got our order in, but didn’t know if the chefs would know how to follow it! In the end, I got a fish dinner with broccoli and tomatoes that did not seem to have been salted… But it was an ordeal, at best…

After that experience, we vowed to not eat dinner or lunch in that restaurant again… Any remaining dinners were taken in the pub, seated in the smoking section to ward off too many kids… (It was amazing how many parents still brought their kids into that section, however.) The servers there were pleasant and used to attending to the needs of the clientele and the cooks did a great job preparing our meals… What a pleasant change.

A final word about the kids at the hotel in the next installment…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Monday, August 15, 2005)

When we were in England in 2001 for the ‘Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education’ conference in Canterbury, we stayed at the University of Kent campus there… The accommodations were ‘rustic’, to be nice… Finally, we escaped to the Marriott Hotel at the Slough/Windsor area outside of London, near Heathrow airport for a night or two of comfort…

Our remembrances of this stay were quite positive, with soft, comfortable beds and a nice swimming pool… We were there at the end of June and there were a few families there visiting the nearby LegoLand theme park… But it was a very nice hotel and we reveled in its comforts…

Therefore, when we decided to schedule a few days in the London area before going to Kassel for the wedding madness, we immediately thought of the Marriott Hotel at the Slough/Windsor… What a mistake!
First of all, the taxi fare to get from Heathrow to the hotel was 50 pounds (about $100), but we were just tired from our 12 hours of travel across the pond… So we paid it… (The cost was so high since we took the regular “Black Cab” and the hotel was outside the London Metropolitan Area, as defined by the cab monopoly! Highway robbery, if you ask me!)

Secondly, after checking in and getting into our room, which was just as nice as remembered, we were told that the pool could only be used on a reservation basis; we needed to make a reservation for an hour only since so many children were there with their families and that exceeded the safe capacity of the pool area…

THIS SHOULD HAVE SOUNDED THE WARNING BELL! As it turned out, about 65% of the ‘guests’ at the hotel were children…

Thirdly, when we went to dinner that evening, we had a difficult time getting a table, especially one accessible to me with my walker… We finally were seated at a table far enough away from the tables with 5-6 children… But that did not end the disaster; the waiters were so tuned into everyone ordering the buffet that it took about 20 minutes to get the attention of a waiter… And then they seemed almost ignorant of how to take a special order and serve something besides beverages… The food was tolerable, but we ate most of the rest of our meals in the bar after 8 pm to avoid most of the kids…

More on this subject next time…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 14, 2005)

On Monday, 8 August 2005, we traveled to Edinburgh by train… We needed to be at the King’s Cross station at 6:30 in the morning; this meant getting into a taxi at our hotel at 5:15 in the morning for the drive into London…

Getting to the correct train was not a problem and on the way there, we were in a relatively new coach… We were traveling 2nd class, so we had many families in the coach who were on holidays… It was loud, but tolerable… It seems that English families tolerate much more disruptive behavior in their children than American ones…

We got to Edinburgh in about 4 hours and went on a bus tour of the city… The main train station, Waverly Station, was interesting… I am attaching a picture of a large banner on display there for the latest Harry Potter book; I will be bringing back a copy of the English version…

The buildings are phenomenal! Many date back to the 12th and 13th centuries and are incredible sites… The Edinburgh castle was a very imposing view from anywhere in the city… We were there on the second day of the Festival, and Grace encountered many performance groups ‘drumming` up business for their festival productions when she explored the ‘Royal Mile’…

We took lunch in a delightful pub and enjoyed a great meal… The people were very friendly and courteous…

Our train trip back to London was less than spectacular… The train was overbooked, which meant that people were standing in the isles and there was no appropriate storage for mz walker… The coaches were older and the seats wre uncomfortable… AND THE TRAIN WAS FULL OF FAMILIES WITH MISBEHAVING KIDS!

I ended up sitting in the entry way to our coach on my walker (in the cold and isolation) for much of the trip… In addition, the train was about a half an hour late in getting to the station and then was on a track behind a local ‘milk train’ that stopped frequently and traveled slowly… So our ‘Fast Express Train’ was a long, slow and tedious journey… We got into King’s Cross an hour late and didn’t get to our hotel until almost 1 am…

And, then, we had to catch our flight to Frankfurt at 10:40 in the morning… More on that later…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 14, 2005)

Well, just a note about traveling without a computer or laptop… I am making this trip using my IPAQ 4700 instead of taking a traditional computer… So far, things have been working pretty well, but some notable exceptions have been encountered…

In our London hotel, my Fast Ethernet adapter worked well to connect with the Internet… In Kassel, my wireless connection worked in both hotels that we stayed at, but the connection is expensive and tied to a single device! The connections have been very reliable…

Some programs cannot be accessed by my IPAQ´s version of Internet Explorer, but most work very well… Posting to this site DOES NOT work on it, however, so I am accessing it via an Internet workstation at the hotel in Kassel… Windows XP Pro in German has been relatively easy to use, but the keyboard layout is somewhat different! The ´Z´ and the ´Y´ keys are switched, as are several other keys… And the ´@´ character is accessed via a ‘graphic’ character instead of a shift function… So if you see some strange words, please keep this in mind!
I can send and receive email easily, but cannot attach images to my emails…

But you can contact me with my normal email addresses ( jboerner@boerner.net or gerald.boerner@att.net)

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 14, 2005)

Well, we have made the initial part of our journey… We flew Virgin-Atlantic Airlines to London/Heathrow and arrived on Saturday, August 6th…

Minor difficulties included leaving my tri-focal glasses in the rental car that we used to travel to LAX and Grace leaving her carry-on bag in the rental car shuttle… Grace recovered her bag, but I have been surviving Europe with my prescription sunglasses, including the wedding!
We got settled into our hotel and toured London on Sunday and took a day trip to Edinburgh on Monday…

More of the latter in the next post…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, July 17, 2005)

I am starting this blog site to document my travels in Europe, especially the United Kingdom and Germany, during the summer of 2005… I will be leaving at the beginning of August and spending most of the month on the continent; it will be my first visit to my family’s homeland… The focus of the trip will be attending the wedding of my daughter in Kassel, the heart of the ‘Fairy Tale Road’ and home of the Brothers Grimm…

We have been blessed with the opportunity to travel in both this country and abroad. This category will contain both direct discussions of travel issues as well as our experiences on these vacations.