Friday, August 24, 2012

Across the Pond

A memory...
My first trip to the British Isles
April 2001

In 2001, I was 27 years old and had never left North America.  I had only seen a bit of this great country, I had never been on a cruise and had never been on an airplane that held more than three people.  But I applied for a passport, recruited a travel buddy and planned my first amazing vacation.  I don’t remember why we picked the itinerary that we chose but we sure did pack a lot into those ten days, from castles and beef-eaters to famous cities and museums, B&B’s and European transportation. 

We spent a few days in London, a day trip to Paris, a stay in Wales and wrapped up in Ireland.  There are so many things I can (and along the way, WILL) tell you about in regards to this trip, but today I want to tell you about my first days in a foreign city – London, England.  I had wanted to go there for as long as I can remember and I was so excited to get there, despite my fear of flying and nervousness of being so far from home.

While researching for this vacation I found this thing called the London City Pass, brand new at the time, it could only be bought on line.  But the promise of being able to see over 55 attractions and avoiding the lines to these top attractions gave us a great jumping point to map out our days in the city of double-decker buses. 

We stayed in our first B&B, a small room with two beds.  There was little heat and even less space in the charming room and a bathroom with limited hot water, but I remember the stay fondly as it was my first European B&B stay.  The British food stood up to is reputation, lets just leave it at that. We wanted to hit all of the iconic things, double-decker buses, London taxi cabs and all the famous stops.

We started at the Tower of London; I am always amazed by a bustling city with a sprawling castle in the middle.  It was Easter weekend and the line wrapped around one wall of the castle and down the sidewalk.  But our London City Pass told us to go to the “Will Call” window.  We walked past all the folks waiting in a misting rain, we showed our pass and were immediately ushered to the front of the line.  The $70 US we spent on the pass was worth every penny.  We got to see Yeoman Wardens, the White Tower, the Crown Jewels, Medieval palace and the ravens while the line outside continued to grow. 

Yoeman at the Tower of London,
Not to be confused with

Backed up to the Thames River and that two level London Bridge, the city was meeting all of my expectations.  That famous subway system, The Tube, so efficient and clean with that mind numbing chant you heard every time the doors opened, “Mind the Gap” – something I think of every time I exit a subway or train to this day.  We visited a few different churches along the way including Westminster Abbey.

There was afternoon tea at the British Museum, we had tea after we saw the Rosetta Stone, ancient mummies, Greek statues missing their heads and so much more.  London is truly a city full of history that has met the modern era.  You will find palaces next to offices and West End theatre mixed with shopping and dining.  (We loved to watch The Witches of Eastwick on stage!  We got last minute tickets and had seats "in the stalls")  We even shopped at Harrod’s.  Friendly people, cobblestone alleyways, looking right instead of left to cross the street, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare and reminders of Jack the Ripper (a sign to watch for criminals while in White Chapel).

Some of the headless Greek figures.
We actually found of display of just heads...
I don't know if they fit these bodies.

It is hard to believe we saw and experienced as much as we did in only 4 days of being there.  Some people think that London is too rainy to be a vacation destination, but for me it was a great starter city to fuel my love of exploration.

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