(2014 Note: These pages are transfers from my original site so I can better view the many pictures I have from that trip and so it’s searchable within WordPress Search. Here’s a link to the original page!)
Before we jump right into Day 1, I have a little secret to tell you. There was actually a Day BEFORE Day 1, which was the day we spent traveling to London from Denver International Airport. It takes quite a bit of time to go overseas, as anyone who has crossed the Atlantic can attest to (don’t you love how it sounds like we’re taking an ocean voyage or something?).
But anyways, on Monday, 26 March, Jeff, Susan and I embarked upon this awesome adventure herewith known as the London Paris 2007 Escapade….or you can just say we went to Europe. However you call it, we went on this trip initially to accompany Jeff as he was going to re-enlist one of his best friends out at Normandy in France. Well, from the time that plan came into being and when we got on a plane, the plan changed dramatically. At first, we had a very (VERY) ambitious travel schedule, with us first hitting London for a few days, then flying to Paris for a night, a train overnighter to Bayeux/Normandy, then back to Paris for a few more days, and THEN flying to Rome for about two days. It would have been ridiculously crazy. So, the first change was that when we finally actually sat down to plan the finances and itinerary, it quickly became apparent that we were trying to do too much. Rome was dropped. Italy in itself is its own trip, and to try to rush London and Paris in order to accommodate Rome is doing us a disservice. A few weeks before we went on the trip, we then found out that Jeff’s friend, Brian, was going to be unable to be reenlisted at the beaches of Normandy due to bureaucratic policies and an unwillingness to waiver it. So that part of the trip was dropped as well – so it became the London-Paris 2007 Escapade! Which ultimately worked out great, as you’ll see we were quite able to fill the time in with LOTS of sightseeing, laughter, fun, and good times.
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the trip journal!
So on Monday the 26th, we drove up to Denver International and began the epic journey flying to London Gatwick (didn’t go through Heathrow this time). Our flight left at around 2pm, which got us to Cincinnati. There was an hour layover there before we then flew direct to London for about 7 hours. I had bought some Anti-JetLag pills (all natural, of course!) and so I used those. Amazingly, I was able to sleep pretty decently. That flight was not full at all, so we were all able to spread out and get our own row, if we so desired. I was able to move from the central seating section to my own row by a window, which was awesome. Dreamgirls was the only movie that I stayed up to watch, and then it was sleepy-sleep time. As you’ll see below, we eventually arrived at Gatwick, with it being sunny and surprisingly warm (~50-60s! Sweet).
March 26, 2007: Denver to Cincinnati to London Gatwick
And 7 hours later, we were there! I had a fair amount of sleep (not exactly a lot, but a lot more than Jeff or Susan I learned) but still it is exhausting to fly that much. We got to England right at the beginning of the morning, so there really wasn’t much in the way of time to recuperate – once we got to our hotel and settled a little, it was time to go see London!
We took the Gatwick Express train from Gatwick Airport into downtown London at Victoria Station. From there we took our first of MANY Underground/Tube trips around the city over towards Paddington Station, which is sorta near where our hotel was. We stayed at the London Guards Hotel in the Bayswater/Kensington Park area, and for the price, we got a great deal with our triple room and a nice, quiet location. But I jump ahead, as it was kind of an early adventure just finding the Hotel. While we did have a few maps from Venere.com and the hotel website on how to get to the hotel, the maps that they provide are highly stylized and don’t exactly leave in all the little streets and such. So about a half-hour walk ensued from the Paddington Tube Station as we walked around the area. In hindsight, I think walking around like that gave us a little bit better of an idea of our environs, as well as letting us walk by a much closer Tube stop (Lancaster Gate) to our hotel. I know that at that point, Susan has said that she was getting annoyed, but we made it!
We arrived at the hotel around 11am or so, and understandably they said our room wasn’t ready yet. So we prepared to leave our luggage there and get ready to find something to eat until we could come back when it would be ready. While we were splayed out on the reception area’s couches, the heavenly voice of the desk clerk piped up to let us know our room just became available. Thank God. While I wasn’t as bad off for sleep as Jeff or Susan, I certainly wanted to take a shower to get refreshed. So we spent some time getting cleaned up and THEN embarked out into London. Our first goal was to find the ITT (Information, Tickets and Tours) office – which we knew the location of but really not where it was. So we made it out to the Oxford Circus area where it was supposed to be – this is a pretty busy area of town with lots of businessfolk and tourists – I think it may be a 5th Avenue of sorts. As we got to the location where it was supposed to be, our confusion was self-evident, as a friendly Brit informed us that the Navy Building no longer was inhabited; which also meant the ITT office was not there. Damn. Funny enough though, we were right near the American Embassy, so we headed over to check it out. It was a proposal to see if we could actually go inside and ‘check-in’, but as we rounded the building to the entrance, we saw the ridiculous line to get in. I don’t know what they all wanted, but I certainly didn’t feel the need to check in anymore. So it was definitely time for food, and we went to the closest pub we had walked by, which turned out to be pretty damn cool. It was very gothic inside and the bathroom in the basement was hidden behind a fake bookcase. Cool. After that much-needed pub stop (got authentic English fish and chips…and peas. Not sure who came up with that melding of foods.) we then went on to the Baker St area (I dug deep in my mind to try to remember where the Bus Tour was when I came here in ’02 – and I was amazingly right) to find the Big Red Bus Tour – ended up finding the Original Bus Tour instead, but honestly, it’s six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.
March 27, 2007: Getting into London; finding our hotel; eating at our first pub
Now if you’ve been reading this site for a long time, and by long, I mean since 2002, you’ll probably have seen these pics before. They’re obviously not exactly the same, but I did the exact same thing my first day in London when I got here back in ’02. I must say though that it is a great way to see the city and to get an overview of just where everything is. Plus, you get a chance to just sit back and take everything in without having to worry about which Tube stop to go to or how hurt your aching feet are.
Anyways, we jumped on the Original Bus Tour at the Baker St area, which is right next to Madame Tussauds wax museum. Again, I didn’t go to it as it costs nearly $50 to go to and the line to get in is ridiculous. For wax people? I’ll pass, thanks. The bus tour from this point winds its way around central London, taking you by Regent Street (a very fancy and hoity-toity shopping street) and many of the more esteemed playhouses first. You then head over through Picadilly Circus (London’s Times Square) and over to Trafalgar Square (where they built the monument to Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo – it’s also got those really crazy-big lions and a ton of freakin’ birds on the ground). Then you head over to Parliament and Big Ben in the Westminster area, cross the Thames and drive by the London Eye, see St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then drive over to the Tower Bridge area, drive over Tower Bridge (such a cool bridge), pass the Tower of London, and then head through the business part of London and finally over to the Embankment area and back near Westminster. We got off the bus at this point as it was getting late and we wanted to go on the ‘free’ river cruise that comes with your bus fare. If you continue on the bus, you eventually drive by Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St James Palace, and Kensington Park, among other things.
It was recommended to us that you could use your bus fare as a means of getting around London – and while that’s a decent idea, in practice I think it would try your patience, as at every stop, it seemed there were tons of people getting on and off. And with it seeming to be France’s week to send all its bratty children to England, it took FOREVER sometimes for the bus to leave a stop. I’d much rather take the Tube, and Jeff and Susan readily agreed with that sentiment as well.
The Thames circular cruise is another great and relaxing way to see the parts of London from the Thames perspective. You get to see Parliament from a dramatic angle, and with the sun heading down, it was a beautiful way to see those buildings illuminated with the golden sun. You then turn around continue up the Thames past the London Eye and then under all the many bridges that cross the River. With the weather we had, it was pretty perfect timing as it was very comfortable being out on the river at that time. You go under Tower Bridge and then head back to where you started. Our river guide was a great guide, and unexpected, as he said that normally the tour is automated. But he had one of those amazingly cool British accents so it made the excursion very nice. Unfortunately, he mentioned and pointed out to us that there was a Coat of Arms place that contains all the Coat of Arms from the world. He also implied that one could visit this place – and perhaps get your own coat of arms? At that time Jeff knew he had a mission – that mission was to find that place. More on that much much later. On the boat ride, we passed many of the river restaurants contained in ships, and we saw the Queen Mary one and decided that would be a good place to walk to for dinner afterwards.
Picture Note: Jeff, Susan and I took MANY pictures. Combined, there were nearly 1000. Because I am not a masochist, I am not putting up every..single..picture. Mainly I’m putting those up that contain pictures of us or good pics of scenery and landmarks. But not every single one. I do have a limit to my patience and I think so do you. So consider what you see on these pages those that I thought were the best. Some more may go up in a few months if I feel they deserve inclusion. (2014 Note: Since it’s much easier to use Shashin and Picasa together, I’m putting up pretty much all my pictures; even those of Jeff and Susan together, which at the time I did this site, things were a lot more delicate)
March 27, 2007: Taking the Original Bus Tour and the River Thames Circular Cruise
To conclude this VERY busy sightseeing day, we wandered over to the Queen Mary for a great dinner, and then we walked back over to the London Eye area, crossing the Thames and strolling up to the London Eye, as it’s not a visit to London without taking this breathtaking ride. It wasn’t very crowded by this time of the evening, but unfortunately we did find that there were, alas, more masses of schoolkids there. I think these were English, but still, more kids. My only hope was that we wouldn’t be trapped in one of the Eye’s pods with them, as that is a LONG time to be subjected to that. Of course, what happens? In line, we are surrounded by legions of schoolchildren. What we didn’t know at that time was that these kids had been grouped together into groups of 25, which is the max each pod is supposed to carry. So us being right in between these groups meant that as we stepped into the pod, that was it – the school kids had to wait for the next one. Hallelujah. And even more cool – we had our OWN DAMN POD. That is not something that happens very often. So we totally got lucky in that regards. And our timing was pretty cool – it was hitting maximum twilight time and all the pretty lights of the city were on or coming on. London truly is a beautiful city at night, and the pictures below confirm that. After a very enjoyable time aboard the Eye, we finally headed back to the hotel – the long way…as once we got out of the Lancaster Gate tube station (which only has an elevator up and down to the tracks – no stairs), we looked for the hotel we’d have to go to tomorrow for our Day trip, and after finding that, I thought I knew where I was walking to. Nope. Shortcuts and me are bad news. But we found our way and eventually got back, and promptly passed the hell out. Which was a common theme for most of the trip!