We landed in London after a 2-hour flight from Bilbao, Spain. A plane flight was just as cheap as the train and saved us a day of travel.
Cope, our great English history buff, could hardly tolerate our newly acquired English accents, and refused to speak to us if we spoke that way in public. This of course just made speaking in an English accent that much more fun!
It was a bit of a headache trying to figure out how to get around London. We eventually bought “Oyster Cards,” which you load money on and swipe every time you get on a bus or subway. We finally figured out where we were going (a travel lodge 30 minutes from the city). Of course it would have been more convenient to stay right in the center of London, but alas, that’s what budgets are for. And again, the GPS was essential!
If you’re ever in London, here are some highlights:
Dominick and Danielle are great travel buffs and friends of my husband. It had been over 20 years since they had seen each other, when Dominick was a camp counselor with Gregor. At 19, Dominick dove off a New Hampshire pier and was paralyzed from the chest down. D&D are amazingly optimistic and even with Dominick in a wheelchair they travel everywhere! Dominick says Paris is terribly behind for disabled access and America is exceptional. Fish and Chips and “mushy peas.” Just as tasty as it sounds 🙂
Outside The Prospect of Whitby, is the Thames River (pronounced “Tems.”) The kids went outside with Danielle and another mate to hunt for treasure – because you never know when the crown jewels are going to wash ashore… We brought home some beautiful sea glass from the banks of The Thames. Paige and Brynne said this part of the trip “was the best part ever!”, which just goes to show, you don’t have to be fancy nancy to have fun! The gallows still hangs outside the famous pub. Look at that…the pub was built during the reign of King Henry VIII. Awesome sauce. In London, you best convert your dollars and euros into pounds. We also had to remember that paying by pounds meant almost double in American currency.
I wouldn’t want to give the impression that traveling is all fun and games. Oh no, this is just one of many moments of waiting for the bus. We also had a bit of a laundry issue as the travel lodge did not have machines and we were in desperate need of a real wash. We eventually found a laundromat owned by a muslim who did not speak English, but we communicated by nodding and pointing. While we waited, Nelson had a haircut next door in the fashion of Ronaldo. Just a different take on “pole dancing.”
Ugh. Figuring the subway out…
We decided to see the city of London by river cruise, which lets you on and off to see the sites (travel tip: ask your friends for advice. There are so many ways to save money and see the world if you ask the right people.)
We started at the famed London Tower. We really wanted to go in, but had already been through a castle in Spain and getting all six of us into everything was expensive. Instead, we listened to Cope tell tales of torture, of the three queens who were beheaded at the tower (including Anne Bolyn), and how the two sons of Elizabeth and Edward were kept here and mysteriously disappeared – it remains a great mystery today. You may want to consider bringing Cope along as your English tour guide.
A WWII war ship Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where live theatre is performed outdoors just as it was in Shakespeare’s day. Next time: see a play. The great London “eye,” where you can see all of London. The Thames at dusk A closer look at the Parliament building A panoramic view of London
Taxi!How Cheesy, can you get, right? I wish we’d tried a little harder for a Christmas card moment…Isn’t The Professor a good sport? I make him do these things and he loves me 🙂 London’s upkeep and cleanliness of WWII memorials and monuments is so impressive, especially given the 8 million residents and millions of visitors every year.
The inside of Westminster is closed the first day we visit. Cope vows to get in – “it’s the one thing I have to see! Do you know how many queens and kings are buried there? ”
The outdoor gardens are spectacular. A visit to “Number 10” (10 Downing Street) to visit the prime minister. The place is heavily guarded. And no, we don’t see the prime minister. We’ll have to reschedule.
And we love our Jack Minister! Jack played basketball for The Professor once upon a time, went on to play college ball, and now plays professionally in England. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has this great English accent and came down two hours from “Manchestuh” to see us. What a treat to see Jack again!
This is how we talk to Jack:
“It’s jolly good to see you, mate – have a great holiday!”
“I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s real dodgy.”
Cope was merely tolerating us.
We went with Jack to Churchill’s War Rooms, a war time bunker that tells the story of Churchill and his legacy. This is the bunker from which Churchill ran the war.Churchill said of the British airmen: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power…”
An English garden One afternoon we found ourselves in the middle of a giant parade and some street dance.When in London, you have to go to Hamley’s Toy Store, right? The kids overheard a frustrated father say: “Put it down, you silly sod!” and thought it was so hilarious they haven’t stopped saying it. Also, in London, people watch “the telly” and everything is “lovely” – unless it’s “rubbish” or “bloody awful.” I’ve really taken to the word, “bloody” and Paige tells me to stop swearing 🙂
On Sunday morning we attended an 11 a.m. Eucharist service at St. Paul’s cathedral. It was Anglican, very much like a Catholic mass. The boy’s choir was exceptional. The whole serve was absolutely beautiful. I definitely recommend it.
And it’s definitely in poor taste to take a photo…(we paparazzi have no shame.)
The Book of Mormon musical is huge in London. My brother described it as “crass, hysterical, irreverent, and surprisingly touching.” Someday I’ll have to see the show. Our last day we had only a few hours. Cope HAD to see the inside of Westminster, but the others HAD to see Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. What to do?
We split up.
Cope hopped on the subway all by herself (with no working phone!) and found her buried queens in Westminster. In the mean time, we found Harry’s platform (and it was actually free.)
The gift shop was not free…but never mind, it was very fun! Paige desperately wanted a Hermione wand and was willing to spend her entire fortune ($33) on it. We made her wait until we arrived in the U.S. and could order from Amazon; this was not nearly as exciting as bringing home a Hermione wand from London.
From there we had to hustle (as in sprint with those backpacks on our back) to meet Cope at 11:45, hop on a subway, and get across town to our 12:30 bus. We couldn’t find Cope. After a closed subway train reroute, crowds galore, great stress and mayhem, we were finally reunited and made it to the bus stop at exactly 12:31. Whew. We sunk down in our seats with relief.
Good-bye, London! A 2-hour bus trip from London put us in a beautiful seacoast town called Portsmouth. We bought some groceries, ate pizza, ate a most delicious English scone, and visited the home of Charles Dickens:
At 10:45pm we loaded The Brittany, a giant boat, for an overnight excursion across the English Channel. How charming and exciting it seemed! Crossing the English Channel by boat also saved a hotel cost.
It was very Titanic-ish. We observed the life boats and made bets as to who would live longest if the boat capsized. The darlings said I would die first because of my great intolerance of cold water. I disagreed with that assessment 🙂
The idea of crossing at night only seems more romantic than the reality. At 11 pm the lights went out. Our beds were big movie-theatre-style chairs. So if you can sleep upright, listening to other people sleep and snore, no problem. Gregor plugged himself into iTunes, listening to “bi-neural brain waves.” I however, had to change my miserable and tired mindset to, “This is a great adventure!” It kindof worked.
At 5:30 am the lights came on and just like that we were in Cain, France. Cheerio!