Off to England

Sometimes deciding on a vacation means thinking outside of the box and that’s exactly what I did for our Thanksgiving plans. Normally we jump in the car and make the drive to New Hampshire to my husband’s parents’ home, but this year we wanted to do something different. Last year I won an 8-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s “Explorer of the Seas for Thanksgiving so we thought maybe another cruise might be a good idea. When I checked prices several months ago, a short Mediterranean cruise was really priced well so I decided that’s what we would do. Yes, it would be colder than ideal Mediterranean trip, but I couldn’t pass up the price.

When pricing airfare, I found that the price to go from Boston to Malaga, Spain where the cruise would begin and then Barcelona, Spain back to Boston was only a few dollars different than going to London first. I booked our flight so it would get us a few days in London before our cruise and we were off. As always, we always overpack our luggage. I don’t know when this started because I did have it down to a science until recently, but I should have known I lost my mojo when I went to TJ Maxx before the trip and bought a new suitcase. The new 25″ Calvin Klein suitcase called to me and I had to have it. Life with Calvin was not as easy as I thought it would be and you’ll see why throughout this trip. Our flight out was on American Airlines at 7:15 pm so we had time to get to the airport after work and school and not rush. Can you believe I had a great experience through security? Yes, I did and in fact, I filled out a customer comment card to boot. The initial people you see from TSA that check your boarding passes were so friendly and professional – it caught me off guard completely. Thank you TSA for making an effort to be nice to me before you pat me down ever so intimately.

The flight over was uneventful and we arrived at London Heathrow around 6 am. Instead of taking a cab or the Heathrow Express, I had arranged for a car service to pick us up. The driver was waiting for us and we got to our hotel in about 25 minutes. Whether booking for a client or for myself, I always look for the most efficient mode of transportation and I am so glad that we tried this car service. It was fast and efficient, but best of all, the least expensive way to get there. The hotel was located near Waterloo Station and it was easy to walk everywhere we needed to go. We checked in and took a short nap before heading out for a day of sightseeing. Having lived in England for a while years ago, we wanted our son to experience London for the first time, even if only for a whirlwind tour.

A short walk led us to the site of the hop on, hop off tour and we jumped on. I should have packed a winter coat because I definitely knew it would be cold, but I didn’t think about how cold it would be on an open air bus. Brrrr! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took on my trip which shows two London sights in one shot: Big Ben and the London Eye.

It’s always a good idea to try out the hop on, hop off buses even in areas you have been to before. Sometimes you see the city from this new perspective perched up high on a bus. This is true if you love photography and architecture, for example. It doesn’t matter if you know what the buildings, structures, or monuments are as long as you like what you see.

What trip to London is complete without the required visit to Tower Bridge?

Loved being under it and taking the picture below:

Of course, we saw Westminster Abbey:

Our tickets were for 48 hours so the next day we were back on the bus. We pushed on through the crowds at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I have more pictures of strangers than of anything else, but my son seemed to enjoy it.

Our hotel was near Parliament and Big Ben.

Although I have been back to England a few times since living there, the London Eye is still such an unusual sight to see, be it during the day or night.

Another popular stop is Trafalgar Square where we stopped for the requisite picture. I love how the blue of the water is so blue against the November grey of London. We then popped inside the National Gallery right there in Trafalgar Square. Since it’s free, why not stop in?

If you can get away for a weekend, you can travel abroad and still have a great time. You may not get to see everything on your list, but it shouldn’t prevent you from going. Just slip on your walking shoes and get going. Tomorrow, some of the unusual things I found in London. You know me by now and if there is anything strange to be found while traveling, I am going to find it.