Kathy and I fell asleep before our heads hit the pillow. It had been a long and exciting day flying from Boston to London. We awoke early and both agreed the beds were perfect and we wished we didn’t have to move to a different hotel the following night. Unfortunately, they could not accommodate us for two nights in the middle of our stay, so we had to move to another hotel. But, we would make the best of it. We both couldn’t wait to start what we came for, to do some bullion research at the National Achieves in Kew.
I showered first and noticed there were no facecloths along with our towels. Thinking it was a mistake, I asked Kathy to remind me when we went to breakfast to ask room service.
After we were both ready, we headed down the three flights of stairs (no elevator) to breakfast. Again, all meals were served in the pub. This was fine with us as it was so comfortable. I again experienced something I never thought I would in England; their morning coffee. It was absolutely delicious! The best I have ever had. Kathy drinks tea so she couldn’t compare. It was so smooth and rich; I believe I drank four cups that morning.
After a wonderful breakfast, we headed up the three flights to our room to get our things before heading to the Achieves. The front desk had given us directions and it would only take about 10-15 minutes to walk. It was a beautiful morning and we were both full of energy. The walk gave us time to discuss how we would approach our research. We had already called ahead and requested specific books. We would do this at the end of each day so they would be waiting the next morning. The streets were busy with morning traffic as well as people walking. I felt great and offered up a blessing of gratitude for being exactly where I was.
As we approached the National Achieves, it was even grander than the pictures I saw on the internet. The building was huge with lots of glass windows. There was a large pond of water in the front with natural grasses hugging the edges and plenty of seating to enjoy it. There were walking paths that extended beyond the building and through some beautiful gardens. We both knew we would take time later to explore
I took a deep breath as we walked through the front door into the grand lobby. I was going to be in the presence of history that was over 1,000 years old. We walked to the reception desk to check in and get information as to where we should go. It didn’t take long to realize how seriously they took their jobs. They were friendly but firm and you could tell enforced the strict rules of the building. We were given a map outlining where everything was located, from the café, locker room and the many reading rooms. We first went to the locker room to store our coats and then headed to the red desk area. This was where they would bring you the requested books or documents. After showing our Reader’s Card (we previously applied for) they directed us to find a desk. They explained they would bring the books to us. The room was large with architectural type tables. I assumed this was because many of the documents were so large. We found a table off by ourselves and settled in for a long day. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I was open to learning.
We were given a number of hard bound books and then instructed exactly how to handle them. No, we didn’t have to use white gloves, however, when you opened a page, you laid a 1’’ type weight that covered the length of the book. This kept it from loosening the binding. We got out our pads of paper (specific sizes that were allowed) our graphite pencil with no eraser and our cameras (no flash allowed).
It didn’t take long for both of us to be deeply involved in our research. We spent the first few hours just reading, forgetting to take notes or pictures. I found the information fascinating! Stories about gold, silver, bullion and diamonds being transported from one country to another. About who would authorize it and specific instructions as to where it would go and to whom it would be delivered. It made me think about how brave these men were. This was hundreds of years ago. The instruments they used to sail across the oceans were so primitive compared to what we use today. I couldn’t imagine having the courage to embark on a one to three year voyage, but many did.
Before I knew it, it was noon, so we closed our books and headed to the café. It was full with people reading and talking. I loved hearing the dialect throughout the room. We ordered sandwiches and decided to take them outside to enjoy the afternoon sun. We found a nice bench overlooking the pond and watched the ducks bath in the sunshine. After eating we walked the path around the building and enjoyed the many fall flowers that were still in bloom. It was truly a serene setting and a perfect way to energize us for the afternoon.
Once again seated at our desk we started comparing what we had read (quietly of course) and decided what we thought was relevant. There was really too much information to just copy so we pulled out our cameras. I am not mechanically or technically inclined and didn’t know how to shut off my flash, so each time I took a picture, it lit up. We would both immediately look around to see if we were caught and then grin when we weren’t. This was how we finished out the afternoon, and I believe we took 50-100 pictures each.
On our walk home we decided we had to find a drug store to buy an electrical converter. Our plugs for camera, blow dryer, etc. didn’t work in the UK. Our plugs were made for 120 volts where the UK is made for 220-240 volts. Why we didn’t realize this before we came, who knows, probably too excited. There were a few to choose from and after reading the backs of the packaging, we chose the one we thought would work.
When we entered the hotel, Kathy remembered about asking the desk about getting some facecloths. Upon our request we got a matter of fact answer, “We don’t supply facecloths, only hand and bath towels.” What, I thought, no facecloths? Nothing you could do now, so we climbed the three flights of stairs to our room. Once in our room, Kathy immediately opened the packaging for the power converter. Lo and behold, it didn’t work. We had chosen the wrong one. We looked at each other and both burst out laughing. No facecloths and no power….oh well, those were just little inconveniences. I loved that Kathy took it in stride just as I did. Compared to everything else that England had to offer, this was no bloody big deal!