I had never been out of the country before and was so excited to travel to Europe! My husband was chosen to speak at an International Nursing Conference in Croatia, so our 16 years old and I tagged along. We decided that we would stay in London for 3 days with our layover and then head to Croatia for the conference. We were so excited to experience different cultures, languages, and activities. It was literally a dream come true. We wanted to make sure that we saw everything on our list and so to prepare we bought traveling books. We ended up with three. Rick Steves Europe Through The Back Door 2017, which is a complete guide to Europe. Eyewitness Travel Top 10 London for our time in London and Rough Guide Croatia for our Croatian adventures. This first post is being dedicated to London, and Croatia will come next.
We spent months planning and a week packing. It was finally time to go! We left 3 of our kids at home with their Nana and Papa. Then we headed to LA to catch a flight to Heathrow. My sister and her boyfriend Derek live in LA and so we were lucky enough to get to spend the evening with them. We enjoyed a great dinner and some time to relax together. We left our car at their place and off the airport, we went.
It was Finally time
Once we arrived at the airport my mind was blown by the mix of ethnicities that were in line waiting to check in for our flight. I loved it! People watching is one of my favorite things. I could have spent hours just watching, but we didn’t have time for that. We boarded our plane and we were off. The adventure of a lifetime. Our flight was an evening flight and so our plan was to take some Benadryl and nod off for a while. I watched a movie and then it was lights out. We landed in Heathrow, grabbed a cab and headed to our hotel in Chelsea. There was so much traffic. I couldn’t believe it. It was worse than here. Not only was there freeway type traffic but just the regular street traffic was crazy.
We got to our hotel and were so tired but knew it wasn’t time for bed. It was dinner time. We got all dressed up, for fun of course and headed to a Japanese Restaraunt that was walking distance from our hotel. It was delicious and well worth that walk even though we went the wrong way and walked a lot further than we needed to. Haha!
Anyhow the first night was rough. We went to bed around 11:00 pm London time and woke up at about 2:30 am. We couldn’t go back to sleep. To our bodies, it was time to be awake so what did we do? We sat in bed texting people back home and chatting away about how tired we would be later. We had a long day planned.
Our first day in London we had a tour scheduled. We had to be at the tourist office at 8:30 am. Our tour was phenomenal. We got to see the Tower of London, Borough Market, and Westminster Abbey as well as all the sights from the bus. Yes, it was a double-decker bus, but not just that, it was an old-school double-decker bus. Our guide was fabulous. I have to say that my personal favorite was Tower of London. It was amazing to me to see the structure and to imagine the kings and queens that were there along with the traditions of that time. The gates, the water passageway, the beheadings, everything! The history was just fascinating!
When we got to Borough Market it smelled delicious. There was such an array of foods and vendors. There were so many choices, you could eat there for days and never have the same thing twice. Our daughter found a stand that had macaroons galore and she was in earthly heaven. I think she bought six or seven different flavors. Westminster Abbey was as beautiful as I imagined but I found the history interesting. I personally felt that it took away from the beauty knowing that families were able to pay for their loved ones to be buried there. We did, however, get to have tea in the tea room. It was so cute and so inviting. The desserts looked amazing (being dairy-free I couldn’t actually eat any). My daughter seemed to enjoy them though.
Westminster Abbey was as beautiful as I imagined and I found the history interesting. I personally felt that it took away from the beauty knowing that families were able to pay for their loved ones to be buried there. I wasn’t expecting the inside to be memorial after memorial. The artistry was, however, breathtaking. I am glad that we had a tour to explain as we went or there are many times I wouldn’t have understood the significance of what we were looking at. At the end of the tour, we had tea in the tea room. It was so cute and so inviting. The desserts looked amazing (being dairy-free I couldn’t actually eat any). My daughter seemed to enjoy them though.
Then there were birds
When our tour had ended we went for a walk through St. James Park. It was beautiful and probably the funniest part of our trip. Our daughter is terrified of birds and the park is full of birds. At one point a bird came flying towards her face. She let out a scream and started running away. When she came back to me, a woman looked at her (not very politely) and said, “Geez, it’s just a bird”. I was dying of laughter. I couldn’t hold it in! The whole reason we were walking through the park was to get to Buckingham Palace. I am not sure what I was expecting but I know that I wasn’t expecting what I saw. It didn’t look palace like except for the gates around it protecting it from passersby. The Gates were beautiful with Golden designs and so much detail. It really was a sight to see.
Our evening didn’t end there. Off to the theatre, we went to see Les Miserables at Queens Theatre. We were exhausted, beyond tired, we were to the point that we were fighting and arguing over small things. This tends to happen when we haven’t slept much. There were times that our daughter was literally sitting in her seat holding her eyelids open with her finger-tips. We were all so tired.The theatre was beautiful and the play was beyond my expectations.
Our crazy adventure
Once the play was out it was time to hop in a taxi. That was the plan if you could get a taxi! We were struggling and then a very nice bike taxi pulled up. I looked at this young man and said, ” I think our hotel is a little too far, sorry.” He asked where the hotel was and so I told him. He looked at me and said, “Oh, that’s ok, I can go there. Hop in.” So we did. OH, MY GOODNESS! I had no idea that we were in for the ride of our lives. I was scared to death. The drivers are so crazy and then you add this bike taxi that is in their way, riding in the road, blocking other cars from passing and obviously not going fast enough. Cars were honking, flying by, getting way to close and there was nothing we could do.
He was lost
Not only was it terrifying but our guy got lost. He didn’t seem to have any idea where he was going. Finally, my husband spoke up and said, “Hey, I don’t think this is the right way”. Our guys reply: Um, do you have google maps, sir? Yes, you heard that right. Google maps! So now with my husbands dying phone, we are riding through the streets of London in the back of a bike taxi while this poor guy is pulling 500lbs of dead weight. It was 45 degrees outside and ended up taking us 8 miles and 45 minutes to get back to the hotel. We were spent! Laughing, almost crying and so cold. We always say that the Crawfords never vacation without an adventure. Adventure definitely got checked off the list!
Our first day in London was more than I could have hoped for. We were immersed in beautiful history, surroundings and events. I wouldn’t trade that day for anything. The next day…I don’t know if I can say the same. Come back for my next post. London continued…
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