Monday, August 24, 2015

OT: Europe Trip--Day 13--London-Duxford-Stevenage

We got up early and took showers this morning as we had a great deal planned to do for today. Checking out of the hotel, we walked four blocks to the subway (tube) station. A couple security guards were standing there and one came over to help us, he could tell we were new to town. He helped us buy our tickets out to Heathrow, where we had a rental car reserved. The plan was to then drive north to Duxford to see the Museums there and then to Stevenage to have dinner with our good friend, Mike Shreeve, whom I'd met years before photographing airshows.

We hopped on the tube and began the long ride out to Heathrow. I was expecting an hour ride and it was an hour-ten. We got out at the Terminal and then caught the shuttle bus over to Hertz. We waited about 10 minutes in line in the modern building, then it was our turn to talk to a customer service rental rep.

After our difficulties driving in Belguim, we had decided we needed a car with GPS. We asked if they had any cars with GPS available and she went to check. Coming back, she said they had two, but they were both premium rentals. We asked, "How much?" and she said she'd talk to the supervisor to get us a rate. After she'd left, I told Sky we couldn't afford the premium car, even if it was a Nissan 380z or a Bentley.

She came back, quoted us a rate and I told her no. She then called to see if they'd had any recent returns with a GPS. They hadn't, but they had something like a GPS and I said fine. She printed out the form, hand me sign, handed us a map and we walked out to find the car.

We and another gentlemen pulled up to the same car at the same time and looked at each other. We compared license plate numbers and key fobs. You guessed it--they'd rented the same car to two different people at the same time!

We both went inside to see the supervisor. Boy were they apologetic! I let him take the car as he had to pick up his daughter who was waiting at the Terminal and they found another car for us. The agent gave us a free upgrade and we went out to find our car: a white Honda Civic. We laughed...just like home! Except for driving on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car and shifting gears with the wrong hand, it was no big deal! (Sarcasm intended.)

We stowed our bags, hopped into the car and fired it up. Air conditioning to low, blowers to speed and Sky starts to set up the pseudo-gps, which actually worked very well for us. Leaving the lot, I only hit the curb, on the left-hand side of the car, twice. He only yelped three times. We were off to a good start!

The gps found our way to the Interstate/Motorway and we were on our way to Duxford. Sky yelped about four more times that I was about to take us off the road and I corrected. I had been worried that I'd want to drive in the right-hand lane. That wasn't the problem, I wanted to go off the road to the left. Traffic was light and in an hour and a half, we saw the Aerodrome on our left and pulled off the Motorway into the parking lot.

Duxford is a former Battle of Britain base which now houses the Imperial War Museum, the American Museum and Stephen Grey's collection of airplanes.

We walked in, paid our admission and walked out to the airfield. We walked down to Mr Grey's collection first as many of them were out of the hangar. This was Spitfire/Hurricane heaven!

A Spitfire basks in the English sun.

 A Hurricane rests among it's contemporary Spitfires.

Looking across Duxford.

 Hawk 75, an American-built Curtiss P-36.

 War Trophy--A captured ME-109 on a beach scene.

Don with a Hurricane and Duxford.

A Bristol Blenheim Mk IV cockpit.

B-29 in the American Museum.

We walked on down past the American Museum to the Armored Vehicle Exhibit. The American Museum was closed for remodeling. They only had two airplanes in it: a B-29 and the B-52. I managed to get a couple B-29 shots thru the fence and then walked down to see the vehicles with Sky.

Vehicles displayed outside the Museum. The Tank is a Russian T-34.

Sky with a German Tank inside the Museum.

We walked down and toured the Military Vehicles building. They had a few older tanks, but mostly the more modern variety. Then we walked back and had a proper English Lunch at the Canteen. I had a coffee and it was a little stronger than I was used to. 

A flyable Bristol Blenheim outside the hangar.

After lunch, we toured the Battle of Britain Hall and then walked down to see the Hangar on the other side of the entrance/gift shop. They had a Mosquito hanging from the ceiling as well as a Typhoon. The biggest attractions for me were the Lancaster bomber and a Concorde. The Concorde was open for tours daily, but we arrived to late.

By now, my knees were shot. I was tired. We went back to the gift shop and browsed around til about 10 minutes before closing. Then I went and sat in the car while Sky wandered over to see the Hurricane (fiberglass replica) mounted on a pole.

We just had to wait about five minutes before my photographer friend Mike Shreeve showed up. We decided to go have dinner at a local pub he knew down the road. It was thoroughly enjoyable, Sky having a burger, me trying out their lasagna.

We said our good-byes. Sky and I drove for about 45 minutes to the village of Stevenage, about 1/2 way to London where we spent the night.

No comments: