A Long Weekend in London

Dropping Jane at Regent's University London.With our daughter heading to school in London, my wife and I decided we should be there to drop her off at school, just like we have since she started preschool 17 years ago. The only problem? My wife is a preschool teacher and taking too much time away from her classroom at the beginning of the school year is not a recipe for a successful year. But, is a long weekend enough? Yes!

Our weekend started at 2.00am on Friday morning with final preparations before our shuttle driver arrived at 4.00am for the two-plus hour drive to JFK. In planning this trip, we went back and forth with a morning flight versus the typical overnight flight. We opted for the morning flight even though it would make it a long travel day, we’d have some sleep in a bed in London, ready to start the day exploring the city. We landed just before midnight, cleared immigration, and hopped the train into central London. Our ten-minute cab ride from Victoria Station to our hotel turned out to be a history lesson from our driver, Jim. A history lesson on US Presidents! We checked into our hotel, the Thistle Hotel Trafalgar Square, very quickly, as there are no queues, sorry, lines, in the wee hours of the morning.

After a full continental breakfast at the hotel, we were out the door. The top priority was a new SIM card for my daughter’s phone. With some helpful advice from one of her friends who studied in London last year, we purchased the card from Three. We chose Three over Vodafone, because the data plan on Three works throughout Me and Eliz at Big BenEurope, while Vodafone’s only works in the UK. Since my daughter is planning to travel during her time at school, it just made more sense. Within minutes, she was up and running with her new data plan and we were off to Covent Garden. The area was bustling this Saturday morning with shoppers, street performers, and folks enjoying a hot cuppa at the various cafes. One of the street performers that we watched was a man in a space-age suit that appeared to be floating above the ground. He seemed to enjoy poking fun at people who didn’t stop to watch him rather than interacting with those that did. Our next stop was one on my list, Ladurée. The luxury bakery was founded in 19th century Paris and now has scores of shops around the world. They are famous for their macarons. After enjoying a couple of these little treats, we were off for more school necessities. None of which had to do with learning or schoolwork, but was all about beauty and fashion.

Now that all of the important stuff was out of the way, we were free to see the sights. We started at one of my favorite places in London: Trafalgar Square. Since the last time I was here, another monument has been added. It is Really Good. Seriously, that is what it is called. It looks like an 18 foot tall Facebook “Like” button. And I do like it. There is always plenty of things going on in the square, from pavement artists drawing in chalk on the north side, to various musicians playing instruments and singing, to little ones chasing the pigeons, it is a great place to people watch and enjoy the day. We wandered down to the Thames and crossed it to get to the London Eye, and then back across to Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abby. We continued on our walk to the Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. Then, it was back down The Mall to the National Gallery. After a short rest at our hotel, our day concluded with dinner at a popular Soho restaurant. We covered over nine miles on foot and were able to soak up the atmosphere of the city.

Sunday was the day my wife was waiting for, a trip to the Tower of London. She loves the monarchy and the history. It was amazing to walk through the castle grounds just as monarchs and traitors had centuries before, climb the narrow spiral stairs with the stone so worn they haven’t been level for generations, or stand on tall castle walls just as soldiers had in the past. We only spent a couple of hours there, but easily could have spent the day. After a light lunch, it was time to take our daughter to school. We spent a couple of hours touring the campus in Regent’s Park and exploring the area along Marylebone Road past Madame Tussauds to Baker Street. We said our goodbyes and headed back down to Leicester Square for dinner.

Monday was our last day in London, but our flight wasn’t scheduled until 5.05pm, giving us plenty of time in the morning to make a few stops we had put off or to revisit a certain luxury bakery for some treats to bring home with us. All in all, we spent 65 hours on the ground in London and we were busy for most of them. Would we have liked to have another few days, of course, but isn’t that usually the case? I would love to go to the British Museum and Tate Modern, but we’ll do that when we visit our daughter later in the term.

Me at the Victoria MemorialHere are a few recommendations to consider. The morning flight over did make for a long travel day, but we were fresh when we woke up the first morning in London, not groggy from only getting off and on sleep on an overnight flight. There is the added expense of an additional night at the hotel, but we truly believe it is worth it. The later flight home was also nice, too. We flew Norwegian, by the way. Another tip: If you have a disability, ask about discounted admission fees. My daughter made fun of my wife, because she had to pay full admission to Tower of London while she got a student discount and I got a disability discount. When we arrived to pick up our tickets we had purchased online, the customer service rep said she was confused as to why we purchased three tickets. She explained that I was able to bring an aide to assist me (and given the unevenness of the floors and steps, I did need that help.) She then refunded the purchase price of my wife’s ticket, giving her the last laugh on our daughter. I also received a discounted fare for the train to the airport. Lastly, our hotel was outstanding. The Thistle Hotel Trafalgar Square is in a great location and within close walking distance to Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, West End theatres, and, obviously, Trafalgar Square. It also had the greatest shower ever.

 

 

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Five Years

joshua goldstein footstone in ohev shalom cemetery in brookhavenJune has many special dates in it for me. Most are happy dates, like 10 June, our wedding anniversary (27 years, this year,) the kids high school graduations, and several others. There is one sad one, though. On 11 June 2012, my father died. Five years. When I was a kid, I didn’t know how I would get along without my dad. Since I was a around 10 years old, my dad would say, “one day, I’m just going to wind up in Brookhaven.” Every time he would say it, my mom would get mad at him. He and I would laugh.

My dad was use to going to the cemetery there. His mother died when he was four years old and he started visiting her grave with his sisters and brothers before he was seven. As he liked to point out, he was going there so long, Brookhaven Road was just a dirt road. I guess I’ve been going there for a long time, too. I was probably eight or 10 when I would go with my dad sometimes to visit my uncle Herman’s  grave. My dad also showed me where his mother was buried, and his brother Abe. And the twins, Morris and Pauline, who died in infancy a year or two before my dad was born.

goldstein tombstone in ohev shalom cemetery in brookhavenGoing there now is completely different, though. When I was a kid, I didn’t know many of the people buried there and I would come and go with my dad. Now, there are many people there that I knew. The biggest difference is it is now the only place I can go to be with my dad. It does make me smile, though, when I think of all of our conversations about the cemetery.

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Joshua Goldstein, 7 January 1918 – 11 June 2012

My dad died today. He was 94. What an amazing man he was. He was the youngest of eight kids born to Russian immigrants. His mother died when he was just four years old. Before he turned 10 he was selling the Chester Times newspaper. A year or two later, he began working at the Edgmont Beef Company, a supermarket in Chester, PA.

He started working full time after dropping out of school after completing the eighth grade. He also did some boxing around the time he was 15, but was forced to stop by his sister Jane after a hard fought victory left him pretty bloody and bruised. He continued to work at the Edgmont Beef Co. until he was drafted into the service in the early 1940s.

He was trained in aviation ordnance and subsequently trained others. He grew tired of being a teacher and wanted to fight. He got his wish and became a tail gunner. He flew 24 missions and was credited with several kills. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. On his 24th mission, his plane was shot down over Quedlinburg, Germany. He was a Prisoner of War for 13 months in camps in Germany and Poland.

Once home after the war, he returned to the Edgmont Beef Co. until his brother died in July, 1970. He left his position at the Edgmont Beef to help my aunt run the small supermarket at 52nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia. He then bought his own market in West Philadelphia, on his way to buying 15 stores during his career. Early on, he bought underperforming stores that Acme and A&P no longer wanted, in areas they no longer wanted to be in.

Along the way, he taught me about life, sports, and business. He let me do things that kids with visual impairments probably shouldn’t do. I could also get him to do things he probably shouldn’t have done. “Dad, do you think this station wagon could do 85?” I asked on a trip to Pittsfield, MA. It could. My mom was nervous when me and my dad would test each other like that. I never got hurt too badly and he never got a speeding ticket while I was with him.

I am going to miss my dad. We spoke on the phone almost daily for years, talking about business, the stock market, the Phillies, and Jacob and Jane. He also would joke about ending up in Brookhaven. Thursday at 2.00pm, it won’t be a joke anymore. I just hope he doesn’t need any permits from the borough.

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