London Calling - The Graduation Adventure Day 1 & 2 (part 1)
Part 1 - Hello, London!!
May 22-23, 2014
I don't normally combine two days into one post, but unless something monumental happens on a plane, what do I have to say anymore about how we traveled to wherever?? Plus, I'm breaking this into two parts anyway, so who knows my rhyme or reason for anything I really do. Just ride along with me, shall you??
A few months ago, I told the story about why we are now in London. Long story short, Elias graduated high school. When he started high school oh so many years ago, I told him he could pick a place to visit. That trip would be his graduation gift. Four years of planning and thousands of dollars later (oh, this trip will not be a part of my "How I Travel Inexpensively" blog post I promise to write one of these days), we are in London. Right. Now.
It sometimes boggles my mind. Not only that this was a trip four years in the making, but that this is happening right now. And it still makes me pause when I think I have an 18 year old nephew. This is quite odd as I still feel like a 12 year old on most days.
So we are here.
The flight across the pond was uneventful. Sleep wasn't something that came easily to me on the flight, so I knew I would be in a world of hurt when we arrived in London. I was able to watch a movie or two on the flight (Monuments Men and part of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). And I had two glasses of wine. So, normal international flight.
Once we disembarked from the plane, we walked for a significant amount of time to the immigration area in Heathrow. We're walking and walking and walking and walking and stopped. Our immigration guy (possibly my Future Foreign Husband) spent a significant time asking questions. How were we related?? Who paid for the trip?? What school did Elias graduate from?? Oddly enough, Elias froze on that last question. Which...maybe I should blame on the lack of sleep?? More than likely, he stopped paying attention. Before too long, we got our stamps and were on our way.
I purchased tickets on the Heathrow Express just the other day. For £21 each, we could take a 15 minute express train from LHR to the Paddington Station, which is perfect as this is the tube stop nearest our hotel. And woah, what a station. This is massive. And it's the station we will visit when we travel to and from Cardiff next week. It's kind of a perfect location for us. It's almost like we planned this. We didn't. It was accidental. But it's awesome.
I actually did something for this trip I haven't done before. Yes, I purchased maps in advance. But the real something, though still map-related, was through Trip Advisor. TripAdvisor has an app called City Maps. It is a downloadable map that somehow is able to find you even with Cellular Data turned off and while in Airplane Mode. I think it is somehow wizardry.
Dark Magic or not, this little step has already paid off hugely. Normally, I will walk the opposite direction from my intended destination for forever. Not on purpose. Because I don't know where we are. Even with a map. Or I'll lose track of where we are and where we are going. Last year in Amsterdam, my famous quote was "We aren't lost. We just don't know where we are right now." And Elias is no help whatsoever. So, when Adele and I were in Buenos Aires last month, I was able to see first hand how the magical app works. And let me tell you...we have not gotten lost yet. Which...fantastic.
Our five minute walk to our hotel was easy enough. I turned the right direction on the first try and a combination of a map and the app got us to where we needed to be with no hesitation. Unfortunately for us, our room wasn't quite ready. We dropped our crap and needed to figure out an excursion, hopefully close, that could keep us busy for an hour. The map was clear. We were going to Kensington Gardens.
This was a short jaunt from the hotel, and possibly the perfect start to our time in London. We entered near the Italian Garden and marveled at the weather, the blue sky, the dogs without leashes (apparently this is a thing??) and the perfect moment we were having. The fountains of the Italian Garden were beautiful and everyone was enjoying the day. We kept walking.
We did stop at the Diana Memorial Fountain for some photo ops. Technically, this seems to be in Hyde Park, but for this story, no one cares. The fountain was lovely, kind of an infinity situation.
As we turned corners of the park, many different treasures were revealed. There was a statue of Peter Pan which was donated by JM Barrie himself. Prince Albert has an amazing monument looking over the city. A long corridor of flowers and signs telling people NOT to feed the squirrels was a lovely place to watch squirrels walk up to people's hands and eat right out of them!! Not us. I know the day squirrels evolve to have opposable thumbs is the day we will all be enslaved by them. I'm doing my part to make sure that day is far away.
By this time, I knew our room would be ready, but we were on the other side of the park and my stomach was getting ready to eat itself. Happily, we came upon a sausage stand. The Honest Sausage stand was a perfect early-afternoon snack. We shared a bacon sandwich. And I just want to say...the bacon...I love this so much. Very different from home. Elias liked the sandwich a lot, but the bacon itself, he doesn't care for that too much. Weird.
As we walked back to our starting off point, we passed by Kensington Palace. And we very much decided not to go in. Look, we haven't showered in two days and are kind of looking like the Walking Dead at this point, so mingling with the masses should be frowned upon. So we staged a photo op or two and made our way out of the park.
By the time we finished at the park, we expected our room was ready back at the hotel. Luckily, we were right. Our room is in a...I don't know, Mezzanine Level?? We can only get to our room if we walk up stairs and deal with several floors. It's a little awkward, but it kind of lends to the charm.
We unpacked and hung out in our room for a bit. Tea wasn't until 5p. So we figured out what channels existed on our TV. The problem is the longer we sat on the bed and relaxed, the more our bodies began to shut down. Which meant we needed to get moving.
Unfortunately, the weather decided to change the moment we left the hotel. It got chilly and rainy. Which, boo!! Come on, Mother Nature!! Don't you know we are visiting?? Lugging an umbrella isn't fun.
Up Next - Part 2: Chocolate Tea