Patrick and I traveled to London this past week. Here is a recap of our journey…
I was surprised to find it cheaper to fly out of Sioux City instead of Omaha since Sioux City is only a small (and I mean small) airport, but I wasn’t complaining as the commute was only one hour, compared to three, and parking was cheaper. This time I did the whole 3-1-1 plastic bag in my carry-on with my makeup and essentials and a change of clothes, just in case my luggage got lost once again (my record is 3 times this year so far). The plane took off a few minutes late, so I was hoping our next plane would be close with less than an hour between planes in Minneapolis. But it wasn’t. We ran from concourses F-A and were the last ones to board the plane, sweating and tired. We ate dinner, watched a movie (In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz), took a sleeping pill, and went to sleep…
We arrived at London Gatwick Airport at 9 am local time (they are six hours ahead of us). We stood in line for what seemed like an hour to get through Customs, and I was thrilled to see my luggage did indeed arrive! And I needed caffeine! Needless to say, there is no Diet Mountain Dew in London. My second choice would have been Iced Tea, but I couldn’t find that either! Londoners drink a lot of tea, but it’s hot tea.
The current exchange rate from dollars to pounds is 1 to 2.03889, definitely not in our favor, plus there are conversion charges. At the airport $20 netted me only £7.60. And a diet soda (that tasted awful) was near £2 – nothing is cheap in London.
We took the London Tube which at first my biceps cursed after hauling all our luggage through transfers and up and down steps and walking blocks to our hotel, but after my friend told me a cab cost him over £100 (over $200 USD!), I decided the £10 tube ride was okay. And learned to “mind the gap”.
We stayed at the quaint Kensington West Hotel. The hotel room had to be the smallest I’ve ever seen which I heard is common for London hotels. And the elevator was broken, so more stairs to climb with luggage! The oddest thing I noticed was no screens on the windows anywhere, and we kept our window wide open the whole time. I was scared a pigeon would fly in. And I never saw one fly or bug anywhere.
After a bite to eat at Pizza Express, we headed to the Ad-Tech conference exhibit hall where I stocked up on free promotional water bottles to save on buying bottled water.
That night we attended a sponsored party at the Firehouse Bar in Kensington and fell immediately asleep upon return to the hotel exhausted.
I wish I had taken a picture of the school children we walked by, as all the little girls were wearing blue petticoats and bonnets that reminded me of the movie, Madeline.
Luckily we did not travel the tube this day, as there was a bomb scare, and routes were shut down for hours.
Jet lag still had the best of me, and after a day at the Affiliate Summit conference and a few cocktails, I was ready for a good night’s sleep.
This was the day we reserved for sightseeing, and the London weather was kind to us with no rain! London is overcast more than it is sunny and umbrellas are a must. We took the Big Bus tour where we rode on a double-decker bus where we could hop on and off and even took a river cruise. I took over 200 pictures as I was just amazed by the architecture, of how old the buildings were, and how they just restored them instead of building new ones. I have pictures of The British Airways London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, The Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, and more.
Experiencing Harrod’s Department Store was a treat in itself. Six floors of anything you could imagine. We asked at the door if we could take pictures and were told yes, but several salesmen reprimanded us when we tried. Needless to say with the expensiveness of it all, I did not buy anything there. I did not need a £3000 silk comforter or a cut of lamb that we converted the price and kg to lbs to come out to about $72 per pound!
On our “tour”, we ate “fish and chips” (chips meaning french fries) and learned that in most cafes and sports bars (they like watching rugby), they do not wait on you to take your order. You order at the counter/bar and they bring you your order. And Londoners are not big tippers, and staff does not expect any tips. Although the city itself looks old, London is ahead of us technology-wise, as my credit card was never out of my site – they all used wireless transmitters to process my card. I’m not looking forward to seeing the conversion fees on my next statement!
I wish we would have had an extra day in our plan, as they offered several Paris day tours which I would have loved to experience. I did not realize that Paris was less than 3 hours away from London, but I did not have the wisdom of hindsight.
So it was time to say goodbye and journey back to the airport via the tube. Patrick was kind enough to let us take a different line with no steps (I really need to get in shape), but it turned out to be more transfer stops and a little more expensive. Again hindsight.
Leaving 3 1/2 hours before our flight, we thought we allowed enough time. Not so. Luckily they called out to the long line that anyone traveling to Minneapolis could go to the front of the line, and then “we must hurry” to the concourse. Security was pretty easy, but we were shocked that we forgot to take out our water bottles, and they let them through! And I got randomly picked at take-off for the royal pat-down.
We knew again we had a short time between flights in MSP and had to go through customs as well, so were nervous about missing the last flight. Well after someone had a heart attack on our first flight, and we had to turn around, we knew we missed our next flight for sure. I couldn’t sleep as well on this flight and ended up watching three movies – Waitress, The Ex, and Someone Like You (all fine chick flicks).
Turns out the flight we missed in MSP got canceled, so we were booked on the next flight out anyway. I was afraid we’d have to wait till the next morning for a flight out, but we only had to wait a few hours. And with the free apology vouchers, we were able to eat at Chili’s Too for next to nothing. The spinach pasta and cucumber/cheese sandwiches on the flight just didn’t quite cut it.
Note: Even though we both speak the English language, I still found some language barriers. I had a hard time understanding some of the accents, as they did mine. Asking where a “restroom” was left them baffled, as they call them “toilets” or “water closets”. And after saying “Thank You”, they will reply with “No Worries”, not “You’re Welcome”.
Now, I’m off to upload my hundreds of pictures (and maybe take a nap)…