This morning we walked to Paddington Station, where I had a meltdown because porridge isn't the same as oatmeal. So I ended up getting a toasted bagel at the Bagel Factory. We took the Bakerloo line from Paddington Station to Regent's Park, where we enjoyed Queen Mary's Gardens. Laid out in the 1930s, these beautifuly tended gardens lie at the heart of the park's inner circle and are a place of enchanting roses, delphinium, and a more natural setting including dahlias, sedum, sunflowers, hostas, bell flowers, coral bells, ferns and verbena. After walking through Regent's Gate, we took the Bakerloo line to Charing Cross Station. From there we crossed the Thames River, walking on the Westminster Bridge to the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel that rotates at one revolution per half-hour. Since it was 18.50 pounds per person, with super long lines, we passed on it but it was a supurb location for people watching. Karen finally bought her London, England hoodie, that met her specifications. It was nice to get a different view of the Parliament building and Thames River. To return to the north side of the Thames, we walked north along the Hungerford Bridge back to Charing Cross. Next, we took the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus, where we changed over to the Central line, to get to Nottinghill.

In Nottinghill, I half expected to see Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts walking around the parks, but what we saw was much different than Hollywood. The police presence was still in the area after Europe's largest street Carnival ended last night. They had over 200 arrests this year, which was less than 2010. We walked around a few shops and then walked over a mile back to our hotel. We jammed all kinds of souvenirs into our suitcases, checked in for our flights tomorrow, and then enjoyed a nice pub dinner (steak, pasta and burger) at the Pride of Paddington. It's been interesting people watching and seeing London on foot. If you're ever in a vehicle stopped at a red light, don't worry about paying attention to the light's color. The guy behind you will honk at you in 0.2 seconds when it turns yellow to green (lights go from red to yellow to green here). At least at home we typically give a five second grace period before honking, and then feel guilty about being so impatient. When walking the narrow streets, you do bump elbows with about every third person and the British politely say "sorry dear."
 
 
Monday- We departed our hotel around 9:30 a.m. and walked to the Lancaster Gate Underground Station. We purchased two more Oyster cards and reloaded the one Crista had given to us. Around 10 a.m. we arrived at the St. Paul's stop and walked around the St. Paul's Cathedral. It was in the low 60s today. We walked across the London Bridge (the Tower Bridge is the one most people picture) towards Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Located a minute's walk from the site of the original, it was rebuilt with painstaking detail. Noah and I took the theatre tour and learned that these days the theatre seats 900 people, 700 standing and umbrellas are not allowed. You must dress for the weather in the open air theatre. In the late 1500s/early 1600s, Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies were performed in daylight by only men. Acting was considered immoral and ungodly. The first theatre was burnt down when a cannon fired in a play, set fire to the roof. Back then, we learned that women could be prostitutes but not actresses. The King of England owned the brothels and would bring in what they called "Winchester Geese" to the plays. The women resembled white geese, dressed in white aprons, white uniforms, and would wave white hankerchiefs to attract the men, from the stage balcony. In that time period, there were two ways to get to the Globe. You either had to hire a rower to get you across the Thames River or you had to walk across the London Bridge, with swarms of people. The south side of the Thames was for fun and considered rubbish. People would come to the south side for fun and entertainment and then go back across the River. Currently, the cheapest ticket is five pounds if you can stand for three hours and they have seats for 15 pounds or shaded seats for 25 pounds in the "gentleman's room." Back then it cost one pence to stand, two pence to sit anywhere else, except for the gentleman's room (shaded private room), which cost six pence. The balcony, as they said, was the best place to be seen and the worst place to catch a scene. Now the musicians sit on the balcony. Heaven, Earth, and Hell are portrayed in all of the plays. To send the audience home in a good mood, even after seeing a tragedy, the actors still come out at the end and dance a gig. They've continued this tradition and they say it works. They are only open five months now and have no understudies. In 2012, in part with the "Cultural Olympics," they will be performing 37 plays in six weeks from 37 languages. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and they just discovered a 38th, which they are debating. Italy chose to perform Julias Cesar. There will be only two performances of each play with 20 minute intervals (intermissions).
We stood next to the stage while the workers were busy changing over the stage for an early evevning production.

The Tate Modern, Britain's premier modern art museum, was next on our sightseeing adventure. The museum is housed in a gargantuan shell, that was once a power station. Colletions were displayed by theme rather than period. We spent a few hours enjoying work by Dali, Matisse, Warhal, Picasso, Diego Rivera, Mondrian, and David Hockney.
For lunch we grabbed huge salads from Marks & Spencer Foods by St Paul's and ate on the steps of St Paul's. We walked along the waterfront to the Tower Bridge and stopped for a soft-serve ice cream. The HMS Belfast is anchored there for tours. A large cruiser from Brazil was moving down the Thames and the Tower Bridge's drawbridge was up. We walked back to Bank Station to take the tube back to Lancaster Station. Karen wore her Garmin GPS and it said we walked 8.6 miles today (so yesterday was close to 20 miles, non-stop walking, no tube yesterday). There were a lot of police at the Oxford Station, due to the huge volume of people on the tube, heading towards the Nottinghill Carnival. We heard over 50 were arrested the previous night, and over a million people line the parade route each day, in Europe's largest street festival, so we haven't ventured out there yet. We had dinner at the Pride of Paddington Pub. The crowds in the tube reminded me of riding the jam packsubway around Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games.
 
 
Sunday- We walked to Paddington Station to see how the walk would be when we fly out on Wednesday, if we opt to take the Express Train to Heathrow. We ended up buying a Bagel Factory sandwich and coffee and saw the Paddington Bear statue. From there, we walked to Hyde Park and cut through the middle and south of The Serpentine Lake. We saw the bronze Peter Pan statue sculpted in 1912, the Princess Diana Memorial (contemporary granite fountain, across the Serpentine from the Boat House), the Rose Garden, and a lot of "stay out of the water due to algae" signs. Yet, there were still a few swimmers in The Serpentine in the swimmers section, which was roped off for laps. Next, we walked from Hyde Park to St James' Park. and Lake. We observed various types of ducks and wildlife. A giant building caught our eye, from there, so we walked over to see what it was. It was the Cavalry Guard. We took photos by one of the horses. We walked to Buckingham Palace and were hoping to witness the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard, a London tradition, that was sure attracting hopefulls like us. We finally saw a sign that said "No Changing today" so we left and walked to the National Gallery. We grabbed sandwiches and water and sat next to the fountain in front of the Gallery for lunch. The Gallery is the revered museum that dominates Trafalgar Square. The National is now home to some 2,000 works representing the world's major artistic periods from 1250 to 1900. The museum is free but they do ask for donations to keep it free. We paid respects to Michelangelo, da Vinci, van Gogh, Monet and Seurat.

Westminster Abbey was only a mile or two from there, so we walked there next. We stopped for pictures at Big Ben (the bell in the famous clock's chime)/Parliament. Westminster was closed for tours, being Sunday, so we took photos in front and walked around the gift shop. Then, we walked northwest towards Piccadelly Circus and Regent Street, for a few hours of shopping. From there, we had a 1.5 hr walk home. We refueled and rested our aching feet at an Italian eatery near our hotel in Paddington, called "Bizzarro." We clocked 9.5 hours of walking. We figured we'd take our GPS watch with us tomor to clock the distance we were walking.
 
 
This morning Karen went for a 5k run along the water, then her and I did one last swim (one lap) and she didn't wear a wetsuit. My shoulders felt a little better than on Wednesday but the left was still feeling funny. We walked to town in Deal and saw that the St George Parish was hosting a quilt show for the Bank Holiday weekend. Of course, we stopped in, with my mom being an avid quilter. For you quilters reading this, I bought two patterns for mom and some fat quarters. I think. We got to experience the Saturday market with lots of antiques, flowers, and books. And I can't forget the transvestite singer who was singing Barbara Streisand on the corner. I picked up an old metal sign that says "Deal & Walmer", a pillow cover for the couch with fish, a Cadbury pill tin, and a Ronan Keating Greatest Hits CD. We got directions to London and left around 12:30 p.m.

We drove to Samphire Hoe, thinking we could try to find Shakespeare Beach, where I began my swim, in Dover near the Marina. We walked along the breakwater past many fisherman and kids. The sun was shining and we spied some rocks and little caves. Karen led the way and we followed her down to explore the beach caves. That's when we heard it. Thunder! The front came through rather quickly and unexpectedly. We were trapped far from the car, and were pelted with heavy raindrops. I was screaming as we kept running, in misery. THIS was a downpour. We were miserable when we reached the toilets and car to dry off. Lots of tourists were changing in their cars and we got mooned by a kid. Noah lost his sunglass lense so once the storm blew into the sea, and I had on dry sweats, I walked back and found it for him. This is the same front that caused several Channel swimming boats to end their quest with 6-10 ft waves and 30 kt winds.

By 3 p.m. we stopped to fill up the gas tank on the way to London ($100 US). At 6 p.m. we had trouble finding the hotel and Noah was navigating the London motorways like a champ. Big Ben. Parliament. We saw Piccadelli Circus, Regent Street shopping, a rugby stadium, Buckingham Palace fencing, London Eye, and more. I don't know how but we finally found the Best Western -Paddington. We unpacked and Karen stayed in the room to relax. Noah and I ventured back to the hotel to ditch the rental car. We took the Express Train back to Paddington Station and finally got back to our room by 10 p.m.
 
 
Pouring rain throughout the early morning, so our swim and runs were delayed. We walked to town in Deal and enjoyed a hot coffee and Al's Bakery goodies. Finally the sun was shining and we walked to Walmer Castle, along the beachfront. I stopped for a soft serve ice cream cone at Deal's Beach Parlour and 10 seconds later, my cone hit the cement when the cone broke into two. Luckily, they replaced it. Karen eyed the jellied eel stand, but didn't buy anything. All of a sudden it started drizzling again. We watched the ball drop at the Time Ball Tower Museum, and paused in the protection of the Deal Lifeboat Station building, out of the rain. By the time we reached Walmer Castle, we were soaking wet. I was now wearing squishy socks and soaked mesh running shoes. The Walmer Castle was neat, but not as nice as the Deal Castle. The gardens were gorgeous but we didn't particularly enjoy the narrated audio tour (too lengthy). After we walked back home, Noah cooked fresh halibut, potatoes, garlic bread and veggies. Cheryl brought a meringue and we toasted with cider to victory.
 
 
We woke up around 7 a.m. and Karen and I walked to Al's Bakery, grabbed coffee and card for JP, Buttons the Monkey, and a book for Noah. Meanwhile Noah was on the phone with Hertz regarding our flat tire. We walked in after an hour of walking around town and Noah said, "There's good news and bad news." The good news was they found a tire for our rental car and it was free to fix, the bad news was it was north in Margate at Watling Tyres. Margate had a sandy beach and a lot of tourist stuff along the water. They changed our tire and in less than 20 minutes, we were back on the road again to Leeds Castle.

Next to Leeds' Castle is a nice golf course. While paying, we got 10% off for having our English Heritage Pass and our Leeds tickets allow you to come back within a year for free. Anyone want to go? In Leeds, we wandered through the Castle and gardens and then saw a birdshow. They showed us kite birds, an owl and a cockatoo. Cheryl, Dave & Jeanette, Noah and I got lost in the gigiantic hedge maze. When you finally reach the middle, you get to go through their grotto and see the giant green man and water falls. Karen was checking out the aviary listening to the bird speak. We also saw the Worlds' largest dog collar museum at Leeds. The majority of the collars were heavy metal with spikes, to ward off predators. The acres of gardens were most impressive with black and white swans, peacocks, ducks and sheep across the pond. When we got home, Cheryl made pasta with leftoevers: garlic, chicken and celery and Dave made some eggs.
 
 
I wondered when I would return to the water after my EC swim. It was today, Wednesday, August 24.  Around 8 a.m. I swam one easy lap to the pier and back with Karen. Karen did three laps. Cheryl and Dave even got in the Channel for the first time and swam a bit without wetsuits in the 63 degree water, while Jeanette played with rocks on the beach. Lynn walked to town to find out more about the train schedule back to London so she could fly home early. I only swam about 1 mile and my shoulders, especially my left, didn't feel right. It was very tough to left my left arm out of the water for the recovery phase. It was hard to watch Karen do another two laps on her own. I was her companion swimmer today and my arms wouldn't do it. I even put her fins on this time since she wore her wetsuit. So nice to share the Channel with my crew. Just didn't get Aunt Lynn in that water. Noah stayed dry today too. After a nice hot shower, I was able to get a massage for noon. Noah and I walked into town to the Physio Sports Therapy business. It looked like a place for physical therapy and chiropractic care. I had a massage and chat with Sophie, a very nice, young woman, also a swimmer and triathlete. I asked about the local sights & towns and she said I had some very keen observations of the local places that were right on. She was suprised that I was able to pick up on some of the towns in a short period of time. I was able to sleep better on my shoulders but the massage did bruise my left arm.

When we got back, Lynn was gone on her travels back to London (Cheryl had driven her to the train station). Dave, Cheryl, Jeanette, Karen, Noah and I took two cars out to Canterbury for some sightseeing, shopping and exploring. Canterbury was very crowded with a lot of school groups and tourists. Naturally, we found the Sweetboy, a local sweet shop chain that we became familiar with in Deal. For lunch, Karen enjoyed a cream tea and scones and I had a chicken and spinach pizza. Noah enjoyed a ham panini. We were interviewed by a local radio station employee who was doing a bit for the Canterbury tourism. We left around 5:30 p.m. since everything was closing.
At 5:50 p.m., a flower pot bump out jumped in front of our car and punctured our tyre (yes, tyre in England). Noah called the AA (like our AAA in Michigan), who came out by 6:30 p.m. to fix it. Dave and Cheryl never went past us, as they got turned around leaving Canterbury. We made it home by 7:15 p.m. but we were told to call Hertz Rental Car in the morning and see where we could get the original tyre fixed.
 
 
We woke up on Tuesday 8/23/11 to a downpour so we took our time getting out of the house. Seemed like a great day to do our laundry so several of us walked into town to a tiny laundry mat. Once we reached the laundry mat, Lynn and I left Noah with the laundry and walked into town for coffee and take-away breakfasts. Cheryl and Dave joined us too, for the laundry adventure. The dryers only used 20 pence coins, so while in town for the take-away coffee, we asked for a lot of change. We had done one load of towels and swim gear a few days prior, but since there is no dryer, we were using the closelines and closepegs in the beautiful weather. With no where to dry all of our clothes, we took a wet walk to the laundry mat.

FAST's VP of Marketing, Katy Michalski, has played and continues to play an integral role on my Channel team. She scheduled a few interviews with media back in Detroit for that afternoon. First I talked to Alicia Smith on WXYZ Detroit live via Skype. This was only the third time I've seen Skype, so it was a learning experience. She asked great questions and I'm so glad they were able to show the viewers our Channel swimming clips. Next, I talked to TV20's Kila Peeples on the phone. She also asked good questions and was super nice--I can't wait to meet them. Finally I talked to David Wallace from C&G news in Farmington, live on Skype. He was terrific again, and asked to speak to each of my crew members to get their feelings on the swim.

After the interviews it was about 8pm in Deal so we were starving. We walked along the Channel and sat down at a picnic table outside the Kingshead Pub in Deal. Between all of us, we shared burgers, fries, steak and ale, fish and chips, beer, cider and mashed potatoes. Never slept better. Finally.
 
 
Karen, Noah, Lynn and I walked into town for coffee and the local scene. I was very excited to tell Darrin, of Jenkins & Sons Fishmongers, that I made it to France in 11 hrs 31 min 7 sec. He told me that if I broke 13 hours, I would get a special fish treat. When I saw him working, I said, "I did it!" Darrin asked if I liked lobster and picked out one fine looking lobster for our dinner. I proudly carried that little lobster throughout town that morning. Cheryl was out running but we went back for them. We bought our pastries at Al's Bakery and coffee at Costa. We picked up Dave and Jeanette and we all drove to Dover to pick up my swim caps from the Channel Swimming Association people.  They gave me an orange latex CSA cap and a yellow silicon cap, which are still in their packaging. It started drizzling but we walked over to the Dover Museum and saw all of the bronze age and WWII displays. We saw the huge bronze boat that they put back together, after archeologoists found it in the 1990s in Dover. The Channel swimming awards (trophy case) is displayed on the third floor. It was very nice to see the names, times and various awards. We bought Matthew Webb's book and a new one, written by the second man to swim the Channel in 1911. I got a Dover patch for my swim bag and a flag, with the Olympic sports on it outlined in the shape of England for my classroom.
Then we had fish and chips walking around Dover. We ate the best onion rings ever. We made a quick stop at the outlets so Lynn could repurchase the "Start/Finish" plate, so I could write my start/finish time on it. Karen found a few copies of Gavin Mortimer's The Great Swim. Aunt Lynn found a neat book with their sailboat on the cover.

Next: Dover Castle. I was exhausted. We parked in the grassy lot facing the Castle. A little shuttle bus took us to the top. We went in to show our English Heritage Passes and get a receipt. I saw brochures at the register for the Castle so I picked one up. I opened the brochure and read tiredly while managing to insult the museum clerk, "2000 years ago, yadda yadda yadda." I need to work on my inner voice. He heard me and replied, "Mam, there is more to this Castle than '2000 years ago.'" I apologized and said I was tired after just swimming to France. I don't think he believed me.  So that was the joke of the day and remains our quote of the trip when we walk around reading signs.... "yadda yadda yadda." The Castle was magnificant: church, lighthouse and tunnels. We waited in a 30 min line for a tour of the WWII tunnels. Very impressive. It was a great presentation. We had to follow the rules and proceed when we saw the green light.  During the War, Operation Dynamo was able to rescue over 338,000 British and allied troops that were trapped at Dunkirk. They predicted they could save 28,000.  Dover was bombed for over four years by the Germans. On our way home, we stopped at the market for chicken and soup broth and crunchy bread. Lynn made chicken soup and warmed up that lobster.
 
 
Didn't sleep much last night, after the swim. I couldn't lie on either shoulder since both were just as sore. Actually, Sunday I was the first awake and came downstairs before 6 a.m. local time. We all walked to town for coffee after a quick breakfast of oatmeal at our house. We drove to Dover and arrived just after 10 a.m. Pilot Andy was also pulling in to park next to the waterfront. He saw us and opened up the chart he bought to give me. Using his electronic navigational instruments on the Louise Jane, he documented my swim course on a huge paper chart. He signed and dated the chart. I plan to frame the chart and display it on a wall at home. Thank you, Andy! Next, we walked to the area of the beach where the swimmers were congregated for their training. I hadn't gotten to meet any swimmers since I was doing most of my training swims in Deal, and most of the swimmers come to Dover on the weekends to swim. We had arrived on Sunday and I did my first swim on Monday in Dover but didn't see many swimmers. So our mission was to find the swimmers and share stories and well wishes. Within a few seconds we met fellow American Elizabeth Fry, who completed a double crossing on Saturday, as well as Stuart Johnson, who completed a double as well on Saturday. Also posed for a photo with Miyuki Fujita from Japan, Roger Finch from South Africa, and others. I was thrilled to meet King of the Channel, Kevin Murphy, who has 34 solo crossings. This was a jolly fine swimmer party on a rocky beach alongside in the Dover harbour. We exchanged handshakes, introductions and hugs. We bought seven pins for one of the swimmers' fundraisers, who is swimming to benefit cancer research and a Captain Matthew Webb bag from the Channel Swimming Association, or CSA. I was hoping to pick up my CSA swim cap to have as a momento. I was told if I came back tomorrow, they would have one for me. It was so great to meet other swimmers who spoke the "marathon swimming" language but I was also somewhat sad that we hadn't had a wekeend to swim in Dover with other Channel aspirants.

Next up: The White Horse Pub on St. James Street in Dover, where aspiring Channel swimmers meet and dream of one day adding their name to the wall or ceiling. It's a popular hangout for swimmers to meet and celebrate their successful swims. I waited to find the White Horse, until I accomplished my mission. When my crew and I walked in, we immediately split up into several directions, each walking towards a wall signature that caught our attention. Wow, I thought, look at the history here. I found names I recognized from my research and reading and took a photo of where a fellow Michigander, Brian Burke, signed his name in history. Then I noticed his time: 11h 30 min. I swam it in 11h 31 min. My heart stopped. My swim was over and I was still being competitive!

I shared a pint of summer ale with Lynn and Noah tried a dark ale. We had a great time, swapping stories with other swimmers who came to celebrate, namely Stuart Johnson and his wife, and Roger Finch and his crew. I wandered around and we snapped photos of the wall while I was locating the perfect place for my signature. I found it, right before you step into the back room, on the ceiling. First, I sketched out what I wanted to create on the wall, on a postcard. Noah grabbed a pencil and outlined the large old English D, for the Detroit Tigers, in pencil. Then I took my permanent black Sharpie and started to fill in the details of Saturday's swim. Please check out our photos above.
I filled in the top with my name, the bottom with my time (11:31:07) and date, and the side with Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. The cook was ill, so we just had the celebration drink, a few crackers, and then walked to lunch in Dover. We had a sit-down lunch and walked to the Dover Museum, hoping to walk around. The museum had closed 11 minutes before we arrived, so instead, we walked around the town. We made a late night dinner at the house. I was overwhelmed and very emotional reading the amount of e-mails and Facebook posts from friends, family, and people whom I had never met who wanted to offer their well wishes. Thank you for sharing this celebration with me. By the way, a shout out to my terrific massage therapist and friend, Jeff Kong, of Novi's Tri-Covery Massage and Fitness, for the awesome black jacket that says "English Channel 2011 Swim" that I proudly wore all day, while my face was beaming with excitement.