Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Lovely Time in London

Last Thursday I wrote that our passports would soon receive their first stamp. Well, they now have a lovely Heathrow immigration stamp, their first stamp, and hopefully not their last. We just returned from a 2 week vacation to London! It was wonderful and I wish we could have stayed longer. It was my first trip to London and SP's third. My mom went with us and it was her first trip to London. It was her 70th birthday present from dad. A while ago when we had been talking about vacation with them, we mentioned that sometimes we wished we had another person to help us at airports and such and when we started talking about a London vacation, mom expressed interest in coming along and helping. I'm really glad we got to share this experience with her. For one, dad isn't too interested in travel anymore. Mom is and she really, really enjoyed parts of our trip - her smile was so wide! Personally, I am glad she got to see England since in my genealogy research, I traced her maternal line back to 1600's England. 
She left it up to us to plan everything, saying she was just along for the ride. She said she wasn't going to make any decisions and she stuck to that! I should mention that mom rocked: on some days, SP's Fitbit said he had taken 15,000 steps so that means she was close to that, too! His record was 22,000 on the day we got "lost" in Cambridge, but fortunately, mom decided to spend that day by herself in London. Good choice because aside from getting lost and making a lot of wrong turns, it was cold, windy, gray, and then it poured on us for the entire 20 minute walk back to the rail station. Yes, that was our least favorite day of vacation.
Our trip got off to a bit of a bad start. Our plane from Newark had a dent that didn't pass inspection, so they had to find a new plane and we took off nearly 2 hours late, so instead of landing at 9:30 pm, we landed at 11 pm. Ugh! And then, there was airplane grease all over my wheelchair, which got all over SP's jeans and my then my shirt and then the hotel room carpet. Whoops. Sadly, the grease did not come out of the jeans or shirt. Happily, things got a lot better the next day.
Here's what we saw/did in London:
  • A driving tour of London
  • Walked around Trafalgar Square many times (our hotel was right there on the square)
  • Saw Big Ben & Parliament
  • Toured Westminster Abbey
  • Walked across Westminster Bridge (and a lot of other bridges)
  • Rode the London Eye
  • Toured Tower of London & Tower Bridge
  • Ate our way through the Borough Market
  • Gazed at art in the National Gallery

We also:
  • Went to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
  • Toured Buckingham Palace
  • Walked through St James Park
  • Toured the Churchill War Rooms
  • Took a boat cruise on the Thames to Greenwich
  • Took a guided tour of Greenwich
  • Toured Kensington Palace & walked through Kensington Gardens
  • Wandered through Covent Garden & Piccadilly & along the Strand
  • Walked up & down Whitehall many, many times
  • Toured St. Pauls Cathedral

We didn't just stay in London. We took several day trips to:
  • Windsor Castle 
  • Stonehenge (so happy it was a dry day and I could go around the entire circle)
  • Salisbury (seeing the best preserved of only four surviving original Magna Carta was amazing)
  • Canterbury (beautiful stained glass)
  • Cambridge (nerd delight for SP!)
  • Bath (my favorite day trip - beautiful place, wish we had planned 2 days there)
  • Oxford (more nerd delight for SP!)
The Mathematical Bridge at Cambridge

Looking at the Cambridge photos brings back nice, happy memories, but if I think about it, I remember the horrible construction noise and barriers blocking where we wanted to go, the constant back-tracking when sidewalks were closed, the crappy roads and sidewalks that were so bumpy and there were a lot of horrid cobblestones, I spent the morning shivering and being miserable, and then I got drenched in the afternoon when it rained. But from 11 am until 3 pm, well, it was pretty nice (except for still taking wrong turns and the bumpy roads!).
I kind of wish we'd had 2 days here, too, since it would have been nice to tour the Cavendish Lab & the Whipple and Fitzwilliam Museums as well as SP would have liked to go to the Center for Computing History. By the time our 2 hour tour finished around 1:30 (yes, late, but our guide had so much to share and she was really interesting), we had to eat, and then we saw one more college and the Round Church and then the rain started, so we headed to the rail station for the hour train ride back to London.
I would have liked two days in Bath. We saw everything I wanted to see (Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, Royal Crescent, Circus, Pulteney Bridge) but it's a beautiful, beautiful town and there were a lot of shops and restaurants to explore. The train ride was 1.5 hours each way, so we were only in Bath from about 10 am until 5:13 pm (which I remember because we squeezed on the train back just before it departed!). 

Aside from two 20-30 minute downpours (which, yes, drenched us) and one super rainy day (very miserable and cold), the weather was dry & sunny-ish. We both got sunburned noses! I miss London and I'd love to go back. There is so much more to explore and several places I'd like to see that we didn't get to see on this trip.

As for our return trip, well, our plane from Heathrow took off about an hour late so our time in Dulles was cut to about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get off the plane, clear customs, go through security again (this baffles me but whatever), ride a train to get to another concourse, find our gate, and catch our flight to Pittsburgh. Thankfully, we made it, but we really hustled and we kinda sorta got pushy in a few lines because there wasn't anyone directing people and there weren't any signs in Dulles and we weren't sure if, because of the wheelchair, I was supposed to go to a special place like in some airports or not and it just.... well, Dulles was a complete nightmare and it's best to not remember that time.

Instead, I'll remember that my new prescriptions kept me motion sick free on the plane (yay!) and I totally slept both ways across the Atlantic (yay!) so I didn't even notice the 7+ hours of flying each way. And I'll keep looking at the photos to help remember the fabulous things we got to see & do. Thank you, SP, for taking me to your favorite city, London, and for pushing me up & down all those hills and around on all those cobblestones and bumpy sidewalks and thank you for having my mom along, too. You're the best!

1 comment:

  1. Geesh, sounds like you guys had a really full (and fun!) trip!
    Someday you'll need to teach me how to sleep on a plane - I can't do it. The fact that you did it both ways just boggles my mind, and I'm jealous. :)