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Date: 9/13/99

        Everything went very smoothly. Steve arrived and took him by taxi to the Sea-Shell on Lisson Grove for that great fried haddock. We took the tube back to the hotel and Steve and I did a run in Russell Square and then to the Vodafone stores, which were all, closed. Marcia spent the day doing the FINAL packing of 4 tons of junk squeezed into a mere 8 bags. An amazing feat. Took the tube from Oxford Circus to Holborn and found out times for Masses at St. Anselm & Cecilia (8:30,10,12) and then had a cap at Starbucks across the street. We then walked back to the hotel. We changed and caught a cab to Maiden Lane near Covent Garden for our dinner at Rules. We ate the same thing we had last time and again it was fabulous. This has to be one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in and the price is not outrageous which makes it even more special. After dinner we started to look for a cab, but being Saturday night and close to Liecester Square it was totally impossible. The tubes were shut down so we had to hoof it back to the hotel. It’s a good thing I have a photographic memory for city layouts, because I remembered exactly how to get back to Bloomsbury. Only problem was that Marcia was in high heels and they were killing her. So I exchanged shoes with her and walked all the way back in high heels. Why in the world do women wear these things?
        Steve got a room at the hotel and took a train back to Bright in the morning. For some strange reason, after going to sleep at 3 AM, I awoke without an alarm at 7:45 on the button. Just in time to make it to the 8:30 Mass or run first. I decided to do the former and actually arrived before the Mass started (unusual for me). Walked back to the hotel and then ran in Russell for the last time and then continued on to Oxford Street (largest shopping area). I found a Starbucks while I waited for the Vodafone store to open. The guy tells me that my phone will not work outside UK and I won’t get my 7.5 calls rebate until 9/17 (which, of course, is useless to me). So I gave up on that, caught the tube from Bond Street to Russell Sq and we got ourselves all packed and checked out of the Forte Bloomsbury. Lugging those bags into and out of the BMW boot for the last time. Two of them must weigh 100 lbs each. The GPS worked great getting us from downtown London out to the Forte Excelsior Hotel at Heathrow. We dropped the bags and it turned out that the Harms shipping agent was only a quarter of a mile from the hotel. We went through the check-through with Simon and said good-bye to our little beemer with an odometer reading of 9088 and about a liter of gas in the tank. Marcia drove 8000 of it. She is a very good driver. I had to pay him £75 ($120) in cash for coming in on a Sunday. The whole process (recording damage, etc.) took about a half-hour and since he wouldn’t give us a ride back, we walked back to the hotel. It felt funny being without wheels.
When we got back I went through the ordeal with the hotel to get email out. Usually I ask to tap into their fax line and it worked. Joe Pope and his kids Dominic and Ashley came to the hotel to join us for dinner. I gave Dominic the toy Corvette model I found for him. Joe drove us to a nice popular pub along the Thames River in a town called stains. As we were driving there a Concorde was coming in for a landing from NYC. It was spectacular being right under it and realizing we would be sitting on it in 12 hours. Got the landing on videotape. The dinner was so-so but the company was great. Got to enjoy my last two Guinness beers. Joe drove us back and we said our good-byes.
This morning Marcia had to bomb me to get me out of bed at 7 AM. Waited for the Hotel Hopper bus to Terminal 4 but it never arrived, so we took a limo car. As we’re pulling out the bus arrives. We get to the airport and Marcia does all the VAT tax credit stuff and then to the British Airways Concorde lounge. I called Dima to let him know we were taking off with the last £1.8 left on my Harrods telephone card. Also let him know that when I called Vodafone they told me they would block and unlock the cell phone so it could be used in Italy for £35 and they would deduct the £7.5 rebate I had coming. So this all worked out fine.
        Got on the Concorde (can’t believe they let us put all those bags on that little plane) and sat at the window seat this time. The take off was fabulous and I videotaped it all. The weather was great and got much better views of the earth’s curvature. After 20 minutes we were at 58,500 ft traveling 1,330 mph. Absolutely incredible machine for 30 year old technology. The captain said the temperature outside was –78 degrees F and the nose cone of the plane had heated up to 230 degrees F. They served us lobster thermador, which was excellent, and champagne. In 3 short hours I can see the NY coastline. The landing was as exciting as the takeoff, especially when those 3 Rolls-Royce engines retro to stop the plane.
        This time customs was a little easier than 2 years ago and they didn’t open one bag. He only asked to look through my wallet – very strange. I wonder what he thought I would have in there. I was so happy to be on terra firma again, we caught a stretch limo into Manhattan (only cost $20 more than a cab) so we wouldn’t have to fight with a NY cabby about the number and weight of the bags. Arrived at Gramercy Park Hotel and got settled in.
        We are now sitting in the NY Coffee House down the street, Marcia reading and I’m having a REAL cappuccino while writing this very last missive. I will miss sending these. Gives me time to pause and think about all we have learned on this long trek and the wonderful people we have met and the new friends we have made. The sites, buildings and historical ruins are great to see, but the people you interact with are even better – and last longer.
        Tomorrow Marcia flies home out of Newark at 9:50 AM (America West #2029 arrives 2:25 PDT) and I catch the Amtrak Southwest Chief from Penn Station at 12:45 PM. I will arrive in LA on Friday, the 17th at 8:40 AM.
Hope you have enjoyed some of my ramblings. Three and a half months isn’t really that long, is it?

KJH                                                                                     Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #44 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

KHofferMD@AOL.com            RETURN TO INDEX

Manhattan, NYC, USA

Sent 9-13-99

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