I am pretty sure that by Friday my co-workers will want to kill me for saying, "By this time next week I will be...". And it will just get progressively worse as next week rolls by. Oh well, I'm going to London!
Matt, Patrick and I will leave SLC next Friday morning around 10 in the morning. We have a bit of a layover in Atlanta, plenty of time to get through the international terminal and all the extra security they will most likely have for those heading over to the UK. We are scheduled to land around 10:45 the next morning at Gatwick.
We had dinner with our friends from London last night to figure out when we are going to be meeting up for drinks (the boys' main concern) and if we should plan any other outings while we are there together. We didn't get too much accomplished, but I think we got enough to satisfy the fanatic planner in me.
I'll start packing tonight. It's never too early and I really want to make sure I have every thing I need. Wish me luck!
At this time, next week, I should be boarding the flight to Atlanta. And then off to London! Now it's hitting pretty hard. I really don't know how much work will be accomplished in the next 5 working days that I have left here in Happy Valley before the vaca starts. Probably not much.
I started to organize things to pack last night to make sure I have every thing that I need. At least what I think I need. I'm not really good with lists. So I just start the packing process early so that I can go through every thing a few (hundred) times. I am definitely going to have to take out some clothing. I know I won't need it all and I have us booked into places with washing machines and dryers. But the shoes are going to be a problem. Flip flops don't count as "shoes" do they? I hate packing for international trips. Wish me luck!
Seriously, at this time tomorrow I will be on a plane on my way to Atlanta and then off to London!!
I knew it would come, but now I can't believe it's here. I'm trying to work, I really am. There are things that I need to do before the end of today. But I am having the hardest time gettting myself to do them.
I'm all packed and ready to go though. That's a good thing. I could never be the kind of person who backpacks. I have way too much crap that I "need". And yes, I am taking an extra bag for all of the purchases I know I will be making. Thank goodness for flat packing duffle bags!! Matt has yet to finish packing though. There I was, trying to go to sleep while he was rummaging around in his closet and dresser, with the light on. If I hadn't been so tired, I would have gotten up and said some thing. Amazing what a glass of wine before bed can do.
Well, I'll try and write again soon. I know there are internet cafes all over the place. It'll just be a matter of finding one.
So this is the Atlanta Airport, ATL for Alicia. And this is me being a nerd. I know, you are all shocked. I just had to get some pics to commemorate the start of our trip. I would have taken some in SLC, but it was early and I hadn't had my fix of caffeine yet. When I did, it didn't really kick in till we were on the plane and I hate taking pics on an airplane.
The flights weren't too bad. I'm glad that the overseas flight was at night. It made it much easier to sleep. And I did sleep most of the way. Thanks Mom and Dad for passing on to me the ability to fall asleep almost instantly and almost any where and in almost any position. It's too bad the boys don't have it as easy as me. But they did pretty good with the aid of some adult beverages. Not too many though, there's still plenty of time for those in the next two weeks.
So we finally made it. I cannot believe we are actually here. We made it in a little late, but not too bad. Getting our luggage and our train tickets on the Gatwick Express wasn't difficult and we were on our way to Victoria Station where we took a taxi to the flat that we had rented for the week. The taxi was definitely the way to go. If we would have attempted to use the Tube to find the flat we would have been lost all day. Trust me people, if it's your first time in a country, taxis are worth the splurge. Just make sure to do your research as to which taxis are advised by the local tourist board because, like it or not, there are some not so good people out there.
The flat works out just fine. If any one needs a recommendation as to where to stay that is not too expensive, but still in a great location, I have got a flat for you. A business man who lives in Switzerland has a 2BR/1BA flat in South Kensington, about a 5-10 minute walk from the South Gloucester tube station. Warning, it's up a million flight of stairs. But it's in safe area, clean and convenient with a grocery store nearby too. I am deserving of a pat on the back for this find.
We unpack and clean up. We are just going to power through the rest of the day to reset our internal clocks, if at all possible. Then we're off to explore some of the city. The first thing we do is attempt to find the Tourist Information office to pick up our London Passes (which I also highly recommend if you are planning on using public transport and hitting all the "major" city sites, it'll save you tons of $). After 5 minutes of standing on a street corner trying to figure out the address of this place, we finally get there. We were going to do a double decker bus tour today to get a lay of the land, but it was after 4pm by this time and it was starting to rain. Not to mention that we hadn't eaten since the flight over. Off to a pub.
Apparently the area where we had landed our selves, just outside Piccadilly Circus, was more shopping than drinking. It took a while to find a pub, but we finally found one. Pints and sandwiches, my first London meal. I was fine with the size of the sandwich, but it was nowhere near enough for the boys. The meals over here are a lot smaller than ones you would get in the US. We figured we would wait for John and Caroline and then go out and eat more later. When we finally connected with John and Caroline, it was getting to be around 7 or 8. Instead of heading off to dinner, we headed off to another bar. And then another. Things get a little hazy after that. Probably not the best idea to drink a lot after an overseas flight and the only thing in your stomach being a small sandwich. But it was a blast. John and Caroline's friends are amazing! I hope there will be more time to get to know them better.
A little bit of a rough start today. But we have to power through or we'll be sleeping till late and staying up even later. So we go and find the bus tour place. It's a pretty nice day. A little cloudy, but pretty warm. We see almost all of the things that I was hoping we would see and there are some things that I hope we can get back to so I can take a closer look.
I wanted to get off and walk to the Portabello Road Market in Notting Hill, but I missed the stop on the bus tour and I didn't feel like getting off the bus to find the tube to get us back there. I guess that means I'll just have to go back some day. Darn!
After the bus tour, we head off to Buckingham Palace for a closer look as the bus only went on the sides of it. It's amazing. And I can't believe we were standing right in front of it. There are gold accents every where you turn. All of the street lamps lining the street have little gold crowns on them. I never thought I would say that a lamp post was beautiful. Everything around there was beautiful. I love that the streets were closed off to traffic too. It made it so much easier to stop in your tracks and let your jaw drop where you stand.
Very full day of sight seeing was accomplished today. Time to eat dinner and go to bed.
I'm not supposed to be on my own today, but the boys had a little too much fun last night. I fell asleep on the couch and they ended up going out to find dinner. The next thing I know, I'm awake, they're not home and I am wandering the streets of South Kensington looking for 2 drunk idiots at 3 in the morning. Yup, pretty happy about it. They "rolled" in around 5 in the morning. Awesome. Hence, the on my own part today.
Well, to make the best of it and to calm down a bit, I head to St. Paul's Catherdral. Had already planned on doing the cathedral first thing in the morning, and I had no problem doing it with out them.
The cathedral is beautiful. And there is a section behind the altar dedicated to the military service people from the US that have fought and died along side British soldiers in all of the battles and wars of the past and present. Absolutely amazing. I also got in quite the work out when I decided to climb all 493 stairs to the top of the dome. I wish the day had been a little less overcast, but it was still a breathtaking view. If it hadn't been so cold and windy, and I hadn't been so hungry, I could have stayed up there for hours.
After breakfast, I head to the British Museum. It still blows my mind that I am in a city that I have only read about or seen on tv. And it only gets better. I turned into one of those tourists that you hate. You know, you're walking behind them and then all of a sudden they stop dead in their tracks and you (almost) plow right into them. Yeah, that was me when I walked into the museum and saw this. Amazing. No other way to put it. I just wish I could have gotten a better picture of the whole thing. And then I was that tourist again when I went to the museum section off to the left of the entrance and was greeted with the Rosetta Stone. THE Rosetta Stone. Holy crap! I couldn't believe it. I could have stayed and stared at it for a while. But every one around me seemed to have the same idea and I was getting claustrophobic.
If only I could have stayed there all day. But it was getting near lunch time and I needed to see if the dipshits were awake yet.
They actually got out of bed when I got back. Kind of impressed. Kind of. Mind you it was 2 in the afternoon by then. Oh well, I'm really glad that they made it back safely. Can't be too mad since this is their vacation too and they can do what they please. But if I have to go out looking for them at 3 am again, I'm pinning a note to their collar with the address of the flat and some money to "help" them home.
We actually have sun again. I love this place, I hate this weather. I could never live here. I like the sun too much and dislike rain too much. But the sun is visible today and we are going to make sure and enjoy it. We started out the day early and went straight to Hyde Park. The boys went for a run and I just walked around the Serpentine. It's beautiful, even with all of the birds crowding the walk and the drunk guy passed out on a park bench. No, I am not kidding. If I would have had my camera...
We decided since it was a nice day, we would do the Tower of London and the London Eye today. The Tower is amazing. I knew it was big, but I didn't realize how much is in there. There were people walking around in period dress that would answer questions and explain the purpose of some of the buildings. There were weapons and armor displays, as well as torture devices. The Crown Jewels are also there. They are just absolutely magnificent. I could have just stayed and stared at them for awhile, but they are pretty smart over here. They have moving walkways around the display of the major pieces so people can't stop and take too much time. Another thing, if you are afraid of birds, crows in general, you might not like this place too much. These birds are about the size of geese, without the long necks. (Pictures to come).
The London Eye was fun too. It was neat to see that section of the city from high up. When I was at the top of St. Paul's, this area was barely visible. (Other pics to come). And it was nice that today was a little bit sunny and less cloudy so we could see further out. Tip: If you are strapped for time and you don't mind spending an extra 10 pounds, Fast Track the line. The wait time by the time that we have gotten there was a couple of hours. But with Fast Track tickets, that you buy from a separate desk away from the general ticket line, we were through the line in about 10 minutes. Brilliant!
We finally got to try some of the Indian food that London is known for. We ended up at this swanky place with wonderful curry. Our friends from there told us that there are much better places to have curry that aren't this fancy, but I still enjoyed it. We also ended up going to a club instead of a pub for the first time. It wasn't too busy since it's a Tuesday night. But we're told that the place that we went to is overflowing on weekends. That would be fun to see, but we won't get the chance this time around.
Last official day in London and just a few more things that I just have to do. We walked from the flat to the Royal Albert Hall. I wanted to have a look around the inside, but we could not figure out for the life of us where the tours started. So I settled for pics of the outside, which is still magnificent. Then we walked across the street to see the Royal Albert Memorial. Man did Queen Victoria love her Albert. A little bit excessive if you ask me. Of course, if I were one of the richest countries in the world, I would erect monuments all over the place for my friends and family too. Just because I could. Then we walked through the park to Kensington Palace, the last official residence of Princess Di, and still used by royalty. The water garden is absolutely breathtaking. We decided to do the audio tour so we would know what we were looking at. The first part is pretty slow and the boys were about ready to hang themselves. So they rushed through a little bit of it. I listened to most of it and then met up with them when I was done.
I had been talking about wanting to do a picnic in a park while we were there and since it's the last day here, what better time to do it. Well, we should have done it yesterday. It was so dark and windy by the time we found a place to sit and eat. But it was still a picnic and I had a good time, albeit a little windblown. After we were all done, we met up with Caroline in Oxford to do a little bit of shopping. Finally, some thing I don't need a guide book for. There's a lot of chain stores here that you can find in the states so we really didn't bother with those. Caroline did take me to a place called Selfridges which is just a ginormous department store. I could get lost in their all day. But I didn't really find any thing that I just had to have. Then we went to H&M. I know that we have them in the states, but we don't have them in SLC. So I went a little nutty. But I only walked out of there with 2 dresses, 2 tops and some accessories. When Matt is impressed with my shopping, then I know I did a good job.
Then we were off for more drinking at more pubs. I'm trying to remember the last night I didn't drink. But this is what vacations are for right?!